The Hermit Poet

January 16, 2007

Gung Haggis Fat Choy – Or How I Ended Up Part Dragon

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 8:05 pm

On the recommendation of Todd Wong, local Chinese Canadian poet and mover-and-shaker, I attended the World Poetry – Gung Haggis Fat Choy Poetry Night. Gung Haggis Fat Choy is a rather unique blending of the Chinese New Year celebration and the traditional Scottish holiday commemorating the birthday of Robert Burns. In part, it’s an effort to promote cross-cultural exchange and foster better understanding and appreciation between communities (wow, that sounded like a mission statement).

In any case, it was a fun night. We heard from a local piper who also plays classical Chinese flute. The reading line up included Fiona Tinwei Lam (Scotland-born Chinese Canadian poet), the president of the local Burns Club, a local Robert W. Service enthusiast, Todd Wong (in kilt), and Araidne Sawyer (World Poetry). As fascinating as it was to hear the background, accomplishments, and poetry of Burns (in a nice Scottish brogue no less), the highlight probably was Fiona Lam’s reading. Her work is solid, well-crafted, beautifully wrought poetry. There’s moments which remind me of lyricism of Li-Young Lee’s early work — a precision there as well.

The second highlight was the dragon dance — in the spirit of Gung Haggis Fat Choy, the dragon’s body was made from a long sheet of tartan. They asked for volunteers and I happily put my hand up — after all, being part-Scottish and part-Chinese, it was a given that I should be involved, right? Well, we stepped out into the hallway and they gave us a crash course on what to do as part of the dragon’s body. Mainly follow the steps and flow of the person in front of us, and try not to trip. And, before we knew it, we were out the door weaving our way through the auditorium. The dragon head dancer was actually the president of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team — a skilled and fit guy who actually knew what he was doing. So, we had the semblance of talent — at least at the head. Todd Wong was on stage describing the tradition and the dance. I had some unexpected free press when he took a moment to mention how appropriate (given my heritage) it was that they had me as one of the dancers!
I had a great time as part of the dragon – but found that doing so certainly takes a lot out of you. It’s hard work — no wonder dragon dancers are usually martial artists!

My one regret? I forgot to bring my camera with me. Hmm.. sometimes I can be dumb about things like this. Still, it’s good fortune to be part of the dragon.

4 Responses to “Gung Haggis Fat Choy – Or How I Ended Up Part Dragon”

  1. Lettershaper Says:

    Very much enjoyed my leisurely stroll through your world…as a poet and an avid reader, I found it both enriching and enlightening. I thank you…

  2. site admin Says:

    Glad you enjoyed reading through! I’ll be certain to check out your blog as well.

  3. Todd Wong Says:

    Hello Neil,

    Thank you for being such a great sport and joining our improvised Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon dance.

    Hope you can make the Gung Haggis Fat Choy Robbie Burns Chinese New Year dinner event on January 28th, or at least send your parents!

    Gee… Neil… It’s been 3 poetry events in 8 days that we’ve seen you at now. That’s impressive!

    Maybe you can join us up at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby Mountain campus for the SFU Gung Haggis Fat Choy Canadian Games… featuring Dragon Cart racing, Human Curling and haggis eating!

  4. Todd Wong Says:

    new website is

    Here is a Novus TV youtube video of the 2011 Gung Haggis World Poetry event

    January 24th, 2011
    Vancouver Public Library

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