‘Quixotica, Poems East of La Mancha’: a poetry collection that interprets the themes of Cervantes’s classic for Hong Kong and East Asia.
In spring 2016, the publisher ‘Chameleon Press’ called for poetry submissions for ‘Quixotica, Poems East of La Mancha’ meant to commemorate Cervantes’ magum opus. The aim of the collection was to interpret the universal themes of Don Quixote, projecting them into our dimension, and more precisely into Hong Kong and East Asia’s reality. I accepted the challenge and I was honoured to have my poem ‘The Illusory Army’ selected.
The conflicts between pragmatism and vision, reality and illusion are part of Don Quixote’s life and quest for adventure. The knight-errant’s wish to revive chivalric virtues crashes against a reality that is quite different from what he sees. As honest and idealistic as he is, Don Quixote becomes an isolated and absurd figure, albeit a lovable one, and this makes this novel a tragedy and a comedy at the same time.
There are many interpretations of ‘Don Quixote’, and we should truly be ‘Quixotic’ to understand its real essence. As Harold Bloom wrote in his article ‘The Knight and The Mirror’, published on ‘The Guardian’ in 2003, “No critic’s account of Cervantes’s masterpiece agrees with, or even resembles, any other critic’s impressions. Don Quixote is a mirror held up not to nature, but to the reader. How can this bashed and mocked knight errant be, as he is, a universal paradigm?”
The aim of this collection of poems was indeed to reveal the different impressions that each poet had from ‘Don Quixote’ and witness how these could apply to a modern context. Exactly because the themes could be so widely expanded, interpreted and re-interpreted, at first it seemed to be quite a challenge to draw on the novel’s main leitmotifs and give them a twist while moving ‘East of La Mancha’.
In reality, especially in this fast-paced world and in ever-changing Asia, pragmatism and illusion easily crash, often producing discontent, rebellion and sense of loss. Therefore, the themes of ‘Don Quixote’ and the knight’s idealistic vision of the world found a fertile soil on Asian poetic land. The stories narrated through these poems express indeed ideas that not only concern private personal experiences, but they also highlight a changing reality that unavoidably affects our life. Hong Kong, in particular, becomes a stage for many Quixotic battles.
I found this collection truly fresh, original and very imaginative. This – again – is a testimony of how ‘Don Quixote’ is a great and timeless novel, which explores themes that are still, and forever will be, part of our human quest, pursuit in life and role in society.
I’d like to thank the editors of ‘Quixotica’, Juan José Morales, Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, David McKirdy and Germán Muñoz, as well as Prof. Ilan Stavans for his foreword, Juan José Morales for his afterword and Chameleon Press for publishing the book.
‘Quixotica, Poems East of La Mancha’ is available from: Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Book Depository and other booksellers.