Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Life of a Poet - Hank (Kaykuala)

Kids, traveling around the blogosphere, I'm sure you must have come across Hank, (Kaykuala), at Rainbow,  a faithful participant at Poets United and other sites. It's always so cool to find a gentleman poet to interview, amongst all us hop aboard as we wing along to beautiful Malayasia, to see what life is like through Kaykuala's eyes.

Poets United: Hank, I visited around your blogs a bit, and am wondering what part of the world you live in? Are you still  in Malaysia?

Hank, "in Gay Paree, a long time ago",
as he wrote on his blog yesterday!

Hank: Yes, I’m in Malaysia right now. I’ve travelled to a few places overseas but that was a long time ago.

Poets United: So, to begin – would you tell us a little about  your family, and life in your part of the world?

In traditional dress: Azhar, Shadah, Hank and Hafiz

Qhaty, Hafiz's spouse, lighting the candles

Hank: I’m currently residing in Petaling Jaya, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur (K.L.) I’ve been in K.L. all my life, where I studied, and was employed. My loving wife Shadah is with me. My three children are also around nearby, two with families of their own. I have 5 grandchildren. They frequently come to visit on the weekends.

We have just celebrated Hari Raya (literally a day of festivity), which corresponds to Christmas. It was celebrated last Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 for this year. There were Hari Raya cards (similar to Christmas cards) sent out about a month before the event to friends. This practice was conveniently ‘discontinued’ by many with the advent of text messaging or through blog postings. Typically there would be visits to friends, relatives and corporate clients. We are free to make ‘Raya’ visits for about a month. 

Elder grandsons Norman and Kimie

Poets United: How interesting, Hank. We wish you and your family many blessings at this special time. You have such a beautiful family!

Hank: Life in K.L. can be quite hectic. Malaysian drivers are known to be fast drivers. We would normally avoid the roads. Shopping and leisure would mostly be on weekdays to avoid the crowd. Shadah and I would frequently travel the weekends to Seremban, a town 75km south of K.L. It  has a slower pace to the hustle and bustle of K.L. It is good to unwind and relax there as a weekend retreat.  From Seremban we may even go a little further south to Port Dickson (PD) and Malacca on some occasions. There’s  a white sandy beach in PD where I would stroll holding hands with Shadah with the soft sea breeze sweeping by brushing our cheeks, wow!

Shadah at the shore

Poets United: Hank, that sounds pretty romantic. How lovely.

Hank: Malacca is steeped in history dating back to 1400 when it was founded. Later in 1511 the Portuguese came with their galleons, followed by the Dutch in 1641. There are a number of historical sites still existing, attesting to their presence.

With Serena and Tony, our old neighbors, 
back from London for a visit

Poets United: It sounds like a place steeped in history!   Is there a story from your childhood you would like to share?

Bill and Sarah - younger grandson and granddaughter

Naqip - youngest grandson -
beginning his long journey

Hank: I grew up in K.L. A normal childhood if there was one, nothing spectacular in the early years. However, I was privileged to have studied in a prestigious school, and there are stories to tell. I was in the Royal Military College (RMC) for my secondary education (equivalent to an American High School).

The RMC comprised two separate entities, the Boys Wing and the Cadet Wing. The Boy’s Wing was (and still is) a full-fledged residential school like any others  in the country. The difference was that we were garbed in jungle green uniforms in class and were given to military training on Saturdays. We had the full works of parades, kit inspections, jungle bashing, weapons training, annual camps, activities others our age could only imagine. We even received monthly allowances at a given rate, according to our age. 

We were encouraged to put to practical use what we learnt  through organized activities at our Annual  Camps. We organized expeditions and activities during term breaks. The Boys Wing is one of the feeder schools to the Cadet Wing, which is styled akin to what you have at West Point or Sandhurst – training for young officers. I have posted  on Birdhouse of what my student days were:  In the Nick of Time (2),  Port Dickson Revisited, and Annual Camp.

Poets United: What an interesting background you have, Hank.  I see you have been blogging since 2008. Have you always written, or did it come to you slowly over time?

Hank: I began late. I started ‘birdhouse’ with the intention of ‘keeping a record’ and keeping track of the progress of projects that my partner and I started. It was just narratives, with some dramatics. I went through a learning process and blogging was something new with lots of experimenting and discoveries.

Whatever writings before were just little ones in student scrap-books. But we were lucky as the majority of teaching staff (at the RMC) in the early ‘60s comprised seconded expatriate officers from the British Armed Forces. They were from the Education Corps, some in uniforms with ranks of Captains and Majors, while some were ‘civvies’.  We had a fair share of English Literature from polished British gentlemen who made it a pleasure to learn. We had poems and poetry, Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, to be precise, and the works. They goaded us on, we  developed an  interest, but since it was just for studies’ sake, it didn’t go further with me.

Poets United: Who would you say has been the single biggest influence on your writing?

Hank: Yes, I can tell who have been instrumental in getting me appreciating poetry in the first place.  Earlier on during school days, an accomplished teacher in  English Literature, Mr PD Bond, was the one who led us most. We were raw on poetry and Shakespeare, but there he was, putting everything on the plate. Then,  a most versatile Mr Michael Loh taught us Art, Maths, English Literature and English.  A rare combination of expertise in one person, I would say. Both teachers had had a profound impact on my appreciation of poetry. In addition, a lot of pointers on Art came from Mr Michael Loh as well. It helped enhance my interests in sketching and painting.

However, two persons who came into my life recently were the ones who provided the direct impetus. It came when I needed it most. I had commented on Pak Cik’s  blog for some while then. Pak Cik took it upon himself to sponsor and provide for the under-privileged, the deprived poor and orphans, a continuing education in his private school. Invariably many of them given the opportunity did well and went on to further their studies. Pak Cik could see someone in need from miles away. 

I had commented on accomplished poet and author Madam Ninotaziz   whenever she made an appearance in Pak Cik’s blog, al-Manar.  Pak Cik saw my interest in Ninotaziz’s poetry and connected us. Ninot led me by the hand for quite some while, encouraging me on. Ninot introduced me to Tess’ Magpie and also mentioned other blogs that provided prompts. That’s how it all started. I’m practically new in the game, as you can see. I owe it all to Pak Cik and Ninot,  two kind blogger friends.

Poets United: What a wonderful story - it shows how small the world really is, and how this wonderful blogosphere connects us to the most amazing people, so generous with their support and encouragement. So, Hank, tell us: what do you love about poetry?

Hank: Poetry is a fascination. It challenges the mind to bring out more than what is obvious. It manifests itself in language that is beautiful, not restrictive, but open to varied  interpretations. The various forms of poetry open the horizons further, making poetry appreciation more meaningful.

Adura with Azhar in front of the Disney Castle, LA

Poets United: What keeps you writing it?

Hank: It is for want of something to do, and for the love of it. Age is equated to wisdom. The older you are, the wiser you seem. This, I believe, is true up to a point. You cannot have someone who is touching 90 years to be at the zenith of brilliance and becomes cleverer  still upon reaching 100. It doesn’t work that way. Mental capacity has to be nurtured to maintain sanity.

For that reason I cannot see myself trying to stay alert  doing crossword puzzles or doing memory exercises. Writing is a better option. Seriously, writing gives a sense of achievement and excitement . I couldn’t imagine I could write every other day. But that is exactly happening right now.  By year’s end I would chalk up a decent number of poems, I believe. While there is a tinge of regret for not starting earlier,  on hindsight I consider it lucky to have started at all.

Poets United: Absolutely, Hank! What makes a poem “good” for you, your own and others’?

Hank: I’m not schooled on the intricacies of writing poetry. Alliteration, meters and rhythm put a certain semblance of discipline into it. It’s good to be aware and conform where possible to enhance its value.  I would rather see poetry having a measure of mystery, humor and somewhat of a conclusion right at the very end; and, where possible, the dramatics of a punch-line where appropriate. I admire the talents of those who can write in a way that brings imagery to a higher level. I write in a simple and direct manner, and have yet to reach that level of sophistication!

Shadah and Hafiz

Poets United: Simple and direct works well, too, Hank! Is there a connection between music and poetry for you?

Hank: Absolutely!  Lyrics are all about poetry. It’s so pleasant to the ears when lyrics that rhyme are sung. Light music to accompany poetry reading can be mesmerizing too!

Poets United: What is the purpose of each of your blogs ?

Hank: I started out with ‘birdhouse’ which is  prose based,  recording events current as well as in the past. I needed  a ‘vehicle’  to record events.  I have lots of colored slides and I needed to do a running commentary when these were shown. I have now posted some in a ‘nostalgia series,’ which my children and grandchildren can access at their own time. I need to reactivate this again as I’ve neglected ‘birdhouse’ for so long.

When I started writing poetry it was still in ‘birdhouse’. It was cumbersome when I had to refer back and forth whenever necessary. I created ‘Rainbow’ just for poetry so as to get better organized. 

Poets United: What other interests do you pursue when you aren’t writing?

Hank: I golf with friends on a social basis (I am playing to a reasonable18). I do the Par Course quite regularly for exercise, and I read.

Poets United: On your Birdhouse blog, I see you have traveled to a few places. What was the most memorable trip you ever took?

Hank: I brought the family to Disneyland. That was the most memorable. Adura  was then 9 years old and Hafiz was 4 years. It was not so much Disney for which I was in awe myself. But it was the twinkle in their eyes being in Disney that gave me the satisfaction. We stopped in Hawaii on the way back and we  were in Waikiki for  some time in the day!

Shadah and the kids at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando

Poets United: I love  your children's beautiful names. Hafiz is one of my favorite mystics.......and I so love that the twinkle in the childrens' eyes was your satisfaction. As is the way with parents, my friend.

Shadah at Lake Tahoe

Hank: I would like to go to New Zealand again. The scenery was  fantastic. Lake Taupo was just like a big painting on canvas. The rivers were gushing with clear water and rapids. With 5 million people then, the pace was leisurely (despite 50 million sheep for company!)

It would be fun to go to South America and  Africa. These are ‘uncharted’ territories to me!

Poets United: Oh, me, too. Those two places call my name.  Do you have a favorite poem  you would like to include here?

Hank at the Serpentine, Hyde Park, London

Hank: Yes, not so much a favorite, but rather in remembrance of a paradise undisturbed. This was posted in my ‘birdhouse’ before.

Oct 18, 2010
There's a place tucked away in the mountains far north. It has to be seen to be appreciated. I was there for a week many years ago. The serenity of undisturbed nature was just overwhelming. It brought back fond memories to inspire this!


Much maligned,holiday blues
What am I in for?
Set me free, morning dews
Droplets, shining,pierced by the Sun…
Tell me more!

Rivulets of clear streams
Gushing down the mountain side
in the Kashmiri landscape
Say,am I dreaming?
No, say no more

Fly onwards to Gulmarg and Pahalgam
Bring me back the flowers, the blue sky,
the snow, gushing streams crystal clear
of lovely maidens, and rosy cheeks
of house-boats and Dal Lake
Kashmir, I remember thee once of yesteryear

Undisturbed, decidedly picturesque, untouched ,
yearnings beyond,
markedly wishing
for Srinagar again beckons!

Hank and Adura at the Eiffel Tower

Poets United: What incredibly lovely writing. May paradise remain untouched! Would you like to give a shout-out to  a few blogging friends whose work you admire?

Hank: Oh yes, definitely!  There are so many of caliber in the community. Among them are Brian, Pat, Claudia, Amy, Pam, Ninot, Mad KaneDave, Mary, JJ, Grace, Hedgewitch,  and many more that I connect with from time to time. It’s such a pleasure and a privilege being in their company. And not to forget you too, Sherry, my dear! 

Poets United: Why thank you, kind sir!!! Is there anything else you’d like to share with Poets United?

Hank: Nothing pressing! All are adequately covered, I would think. Thank you Sherry!

Poets United: As always, the pleasure is all mine, my friend.

Wasn't this an interesting visit, kids? And now it's time to fly back to wherever we belong. But isn't it true that the people behind the pens are some of the most interesting folks around? Come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows! It might be you!


  1. sir are amazing..i love visiting hank...and its great to get to know the man behind the art and poetry....i have a hank original hanging in my house...smiles.

  2. Wonderful interview, Hank (and Sherry)! Hank, you are amazing. I loved reading about your life and family, your travels, why you write poetry. I really have heard that Kuala Lampur is beautiful, and I would love to have the opportunity to see it. I enjoy your style of poetry. If 'simple and direct' is how you characterize it, I LIKE that style. I smiled when you said you wrote poetry for the love of it. I identify with that. Nice interview, Hank! (And thanks for the shout out.)

  3. Hank is just such a pleasant guy. His poetry is fun and positive, and his comment are always so encouraging. I really appreciate him, as a poet and good guy! Thanks Hank and Sherry to for sharing.

  4. "the twinkle in their eyes"
    Disneyland can do this and so can your poetry!
    Thanks to you both, Hank and Sherry, this interview helps us to know each other. Hank, I had no idea that you were a grandfather! Lovely family!

  5. BRIAN,
    Thanks a lot,Brian! You've been an inspiration right from day 1(that motivated me to do the sketch)

    Yes,Mary please do come over. It's nothing like seeing KL first hand. And thank you for your kind words. Still a lot of catching up to do, though!


    Been a long time since. Thanks for dropping by and also for your kind words.

    Thanks Susan! Gosh,as you can see, a grandpa 5 times over and still counting!


  7. Hank and Sherry,

    Thank you for bringing such great cheeriness into this rather dull and wet day here in Cheshire.
    Hank has always been a regular visitor to my Blogs over the years. I enjoy his style of writing and appreciate his good words too.
    An absolute gentleman and so nice to know that he is a part of our Poets united community and a regular contributor.
    Well done Sherry for this most engaging interview with Hank.
    Eileen :)

  8. Hank and Sherry, thanks for a wonderful interview. Hank, you have always been such a positive element the poeming world, keep shining on ...


  9. Holy crap! That was quite the interview, you're life certaintly sounds never boring. Thanks for the shout out too, always fun to go and visit you and to see if you can get #1 at my zoo haha

  10. Thank you for the wonderful interview of Hank ~

    I have been to Kuala Lumpur once (a long time) but I didn't get a chance to travel around. Great to see your family specially your lovely grandchildren ~

    Always a pleasure to visit you ~

  11. Hank, you are a true gentleman,always so positive. Your comments and encouragement around the blogosphere are appreciated. Keep shining! I cant get over how beautiful your grandchildren are! You must just gaze at them in wonder!

  12. very cool good to get to know you a bit better that you traveled so much...surely broadens the horizon and teaches us many lessons on life...nice..

  13. What a delightful, fascinating interview! It's such fun to get to know the person behind the poetry!

    And thanks Hank for the shout-out and for being such a wonderful, regular participant in my Limerick-Offs!

  14. Sherry excellent interview!! Thank you, Hank for sharing your colorful life with us!! I love this...

    "Mental capacity has to be nurtured to maintain sanity."

    This should be on bumper-stickers I think!


  15. EILEEN
    So nice of you to drop by, Ma'am! And so sweet of you for your kind words.I enjoy your writing too.

    Wildo Ma'am! And you're always there!

    You're the one and only
    Who never fail to tickle
    Lots of fun at your sea
    Rhyming and lots of chuckles

    Thanks for dropping by

    Come over again, there are many changes. Always enjoy your sensuous and romantic offerings. Makes one feel young

    You're a gem, Ma'am! Thank you for having gone through with me on this interview.It's exhilarating and lots of fun! Yes, they're around a lot for good company and making me 'young' by the day!

    Thanks Ma'am. Been to Cologne once before. Beautiful place!

    Your limericks offering is such a fascination. Unique among the community. It tugs at humor and I like that.Thanks Ma'am!


  16. HANNAH
    Yes,and you'll feel it as you age. It's something real and frightening. Thanks Ma'am!


  17. Miss M Kane mentioned about this interview. Pareng Hank thanks for mentioning me.

    You and your interviewer made me admire you
    more Pare!

    again, thank you for this...



  18. Dear Sir Hank,
    Glad to see this. I can see how the poetry blogosphere appreciates your talent and contribution. I am touched to see Pakcik and myself mentioned here. Thank you Sir Hank!

    Dear Sherry,
    As usual, great interview. Sir Hank is a good friend and I am so delighted to see his work appreciated.

  19. Hank you have such a wonderful, endearing spirit! You have a beautiful family and a giving soul~ It was so nice to learn more about you! What a lovely interview~ Well Done you two~

  20. Hank you have given an incredible interview. Bravo!

    Much obliged Pare. Keep the good flag flying

    Thanks Ma'am! As you've said there shouldn't be too many words to keep the attention span intact. That was for poetry. But I adopted the same principle for the interview too!

    Thank you Ma'am! And I like your style of prose relating to aspects of your observations. It's a welcomed respite from the usual poetry

    You're new to my blog. Thank you so much for dropping in. The crowd is wonderful here!


  22. This is the nice thing about blogging. We aren't "stuck" in our little spot in the world but can have our eyes opened to new people and places with our fingers touching the keyboard. I'm awed you know English so well! I enjoyed this.

  23. Another sterling interview Sherry - it was great getting to know you Hank, and your vast world ... now I'll be following your work even more closely.

  24. Fascinating interview Hank. I found it totally absorbing from beginning to end - and much thanks for the shout out.

  25. Hank, late to the party as usual! Sherry, great interview. Loved the pictures and insights into what got you writing, Hank. Didn't even know about your other blog, so I'll have to check that out. I appreciate being listed in your "faves," humbled, actually. Your work is filled with beauty, with mysticism, and kindness.

    My aunt and uncle lived in KL in the 60s. The stories and presents they brought back, especially the stories (and yes, some were about the drivers, but I've lived in New York City, so whatever...!). Keep on keepin' on, my dear friend. You have a lovely family and your traditions are such a large part of your life and your work! Love, Amy

  26. Hello Hank, great interview, thank you for directing me here. It is good to know the person behind the writings. Love, family and wisdom is what I read in Hank's poems.

    Hello Sherry of Poets United, thank you for hosting Hank.

  27. Wow Hank.. really I knew nothing about you before :P

    One thing that keeps bringing me back to your place is sheer simplicity, wisdom and love in each of your post. Great to know the man behind those powerful verses !!

  28. I'm glad I found a link to this interview almost a year later, Sherry. Fascinating to read about Hank's life. So far we haven't talked of traveling to Malaysia, but I've thought about it a time or two. It's just so far away, and I don't do well on long flights, but what fun it would be to meet Hank and his lovely family. First I have to get to Vancouver Island to meet you, because we have 60 years of did-you-know to cover, but then maybe we might get to Malaysia.
    Very happy to have read about your life, Hank!
    Luv, K


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