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Hard Seat from Shenzhen to Shenyang Chapter 1


by Katrina Hamlin

She woke up to the smell of chicken bones and fangbian mian. She tried to sit up.

Her head hit the thick metal springs. She had been sleeping underneath the seat.

The night before, she had met an American boy celebrating the end of his teaching tenure and the beginning of his winter travels. He’d been gifted two bottles of baijiu from the school. They finished the first one together.

She remembered being very sick, and declining his offer to share a joint in the squat toilet.

He had left the train at one of the small dark stations in the early hours.

She had tried to sleep in the carriage aisle; but the rice trolley couldn’t get by, so the other passengers rolled her under the seat, with the chicken bones and discarded fangbian buckets.

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The Queen of SLAMHAI!II Susie Gordon

Queen of SLAMHAI! Susie Gordon

Another year almost gone by, and another winner of the infamous SLAMHAI! Competition was tight this time around, not the least as ruling champion Mark Butler came back all the way from his cozy cocktail fueled comfort down in Thailand to defend the title. 10 poets started out in round 1, one stronger than the other. Susie Gordon, the flying Lasky brothers, Ginger wRong Chen, Mark Butler, Katrina Hamlin, Danielle LeClerc, Darcy Fischer, Willow Neilson, Hunter Braithwaite and Tom Mangione…

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The Broken Comb

by Katrina Hamlin

I live alone, apart from the cockroaches. My room is on the ground floor, down a lane. The house is as old as the People’s Republic. Damp is climbing up the walls, and the paint is peeling. I lock up my bicycle outside. At night, someone tucks it in under a blue tarpaulin. I have never seen who does this.

A line of chamber pots sits along the wall behind the bikes, drying in the wind. Further along the lane, the elderly couple keep tortoises in a porcelain basin. They settle a plank over the basin at night. The couple has a friend from one of the upstairs rooms. The man is old in an ageless way – he could be fifty, or one hundred and fifty. He comes down to the lane in his slippers. If the weather is warm, he doesn’t bother with trousers: He teams a bobbly sweater with dirty white long johns.

Around the corner from the tortoises’ basin, by the main entrance, there is a passageway to the street. Every morning a shabby mash of boxes unfurls into a dumpling stall. They sell vegetable jiaozi, tea boiled eggs, toufu patty and pickled greens. I think the proprieters are somehow related to the elderly couple. I exchange courtly nods with them  on my way to work, and the customers scoot on their stools to let me pass.

When the gate is shut at night, and my heavy door is locked, I feel as though I am in a fortress. Or a prison cell. I don’t really have windows, just little chinks the size of a catflap, too high for me to look out. That’s why I couldn’t see what was happening, though I heard everything.

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SciFi Sessions: Restricted Areas for Aliens in China

by Katrina Hamlin

The first alien showed the second alien the document. The second alien studied the text in silence. As he read, his companion wrapped an enormous hand around the thimble of beer. He delivered the flat liquid to his cavernous mouth in a graceful swoop.

The nervous waitress hovered nearby, trying to decide whether or not these giants could drink more. The first alien held the bottle up to feel its empty weight, caught her eye, and nodded.

She hurried over with a new bottle, and levered the cap from its neck as quickly as she could. Then she backed away to her plastic stool in the shadows.

The second alien reached the end of the page, and looked up. He released a stream of atonal sounds.

The first alien replied in the same unwavering pitch, and poured out two more thimbles of beer. He pushed one across the table for his friend.

The second alien swept yellow hairs from across his forehead, and raised his thimble for a toast. He made a short, sharp noise, and they downed the beers.

The waitress listened, and watched.

When they left the little restaurant for their lodgings along the street, she looked at the paper they had abandoned on the table. The white sheet made her think of their ghostly skin.

She couldn’t understand any of the characters on the paper. But after an evening of listening, and watching, she had started to see that the aliens’ expressions were the same as her own, warped across exaggerated features and thrown into stark relief against their complexions. Like emotions painted on a mask, she thought.

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Superstars of SLAMHAI! 2010

September 22nd saw the first ever SLAMHAI! go down with a proud line-up of 6 poets, and a friendly though surprisingly dirty minded audience (you know who you are). All to our delight, goes without saying. We put our poets through three stages, producing highlights such as Kathrina slammin’ Bring da Ruckus, and Estelle improvising verses on pulling her skirt up in the world’s finest squatter toilets. Not to forget misfit Morris, Hunter (where is it?!), and Butler, whose musing on lesbians are a bit shocking even for this site (or even the Internet…) And last not least, our own Susie Q:

And everyone says
That poetry’s for losers, geeks, library goons,
But I’d rather have this than those modern tunes
Give me Ginsberg, give me Eliot (I don’t want to be an idiot).
It’s the papercuts that matter
When you think about it.

We couldn’t have said it better. Big thanks to all of you, poets and audience, for helping us make SLAMHAI! one of the coolest evenings Shanghai has seen since the glory days (Ho-Tom, Christian, Simon, Morgan, and Brother J – love you guys!). See you around Christmas for the next one, drop us an Email to get on our mailing list,


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The Soup Shop

by Katrina Hamlin

‘Is this mao cai?’

The man in the cap heard the halting words. He looked at the foreign girl.


His Mandarin was careful. She needed it. So did he. He missed his home dialect in this city.

‘What is it?’


The words were alien. Still, she thought she knew the scent and the colour of the soup; and she wanted something known.

‘From Sichuan?’

Behind a boy prepared trays of cold nuts and beans. The boy paused to listen to the unfamiliar tones. He couldn’t understand the common tongue yet.

‘Yes.’ Continue reading…


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