Saturday, May 27, 2006

There Is No Safety in Distance

I am working on a series of poems on the body and the soul. One inspiration is Elaine Scarry's book, The Body in Pain, which has me thinking about the relationship between the body and civilization, the body and barbarities like torture and war. The tentative series title, There Is No Safety in Distance, a line in one of these poems, plays on the notion of safety distance, a term an Operationally Ready National Serviceman like me is all too familiar with. The series is divided into four sections. Some Body focuses on the body of an individual's experience. Any Body explores the felt disjuncture between body and identity. Every Body looks at what our bodies have in common, pain. Finally, No Body meditates on death. I experiment with the ballad stanza to see how its narrative capabilities can be used for conceptual thought; we feel our body in and through time, after all. I also think of the form as hymn stanza, in an attempt to re-direct reverential attention to the mortal body. In this, Scarry's insistence on the body's primacy in our thinking is, for me, exemplary.

4 comments:

Pam Hart said...

Hi Jee -- I was in a class with you at SLC -- Dobyns on craft.I have been enjoying your work here. Just to say that the Scarry book meant a lot to me as well in my reading for the work in my soon-to-be-published chapbook.
Another more light-hearted look on the body is a book called "Stiff," which has an interesting anecdote about a 19th century attempt to measure the weight of the soul -- 21 grams (the movie title too). Anyway, thanks for your work, which inspires me to keep up. Cheers
Pam Hart

Anonymous said...

hi! u used to teach english in my sec sch ccks right? found this blog while i was bloghopping...

Jee Leong Koh said...

Hi Pam,
delighted to see you here! Isn't the Scarry book something? While reading it on a school outing, I discovered quite a few of my colleagues read and loved it too during their graduate studies. Congrats on the publication of your chapbook! I'd love to get a copy. I still remember enjoying the good poems you read at the thesis reading.

Best,
Jee Leong

Anonymous said...

Hi Jee --
The chapbook hopefully will be published at the end of this month by toadlily press, if you'd like you can visit the website -- toadlilypress.com.
Yes, the Scarry book is intense. It was on my reading list as I worked on my book, which is titled "The End of the Body."
Best
Pam