Poetry and Chinese Restaurants

It may seem niche and perhaps surprising that some great poems have been written in this context. Here is the one which carries ecclesiastical overtones:-

This interesting poem seems to be set in some town with spires and appearing in the early sixties examines the racial tensions between the conventional attitudes of the clerical customers in the slightly exotic atmosphere of the restaurant and those of the Chinese staff. Its tone is sardonic and wistful. There is a definite culture clash going on as well as some confusion over philosophies and belief systems.

I am not quite sure why the owner’s brother is burning money and the theme of incense seems to resonate throughout. Has he a drug habit or is he having to pay protection money? Both seem possible. The attitude to the Africans seems indulgent as well as racist. It is not entirely clear if it is the poet or the Archdeacon who takes this view over them. There again the eating habits of the customer’s are much disapproved by the Chinese traditionalists and authorities.

A somewhat sifferemt but related poem by D.J.Enright may be found at https://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/dreaming-shanghai-restaurant

 

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