Showing posts from September, 2006

Tan Peng, gay artist

"Can't Sleep", 1993, pastel on paper

Artist's link

This voice you hear is not my voice

This voice you hear is not my voice
stuttering on the phone,
snapping at the ghostliest slight,
or singing all alone.

This voice you hear snags on the branch
of my pelvic bone.
This voice is small enough to fit
the span of the headstone.

Reading at The Stone

Here's a repeat annoucement: R. Nemo Hill's Active Ingredients is presenting a series of poetry readings every Monday in October. I'm reading with Jane Ormerod, Paco and Thomas Fucaloro on the first Monday. It'd be lovely to see friends there, if you are in New York.

Date: 2 Oct 2006 (Mon)
Time: 8 p.m.
Tix: $10.00
Place: The Stone, 2nd St. & Ave C

Honesty and Pride

How hard it is to be honest
and think well of myself,
hard to decide which ornament
to show off on the shelf.

One owns the virtue of diamond
cut to make it shine.
The other, fired earthenware,
is a vase I may call mine.

Men chase the value of the stone
in action and in word.
They embrace the other in love’s bed
or in the silent ward.

And I, much too poor to be proud,
much too weak to be good,
must leave the old shelf empty,
standing where it has stood.

Up the Stairs

You are afraid he will see you
escaping up the stairs.
You see the other seekers eye
their feet or someone's ass.

The river is wild, and I don't know why

The river is wild, and I don’t know why.
There was no rain yesterday. Too early
for snow. No tanker to upset the waves,
but motorboats, tossed from hand to hand
as if they're motorized and finned grenades.

Poetry and the Renaissance Machine in Singapore

Note: Please read Gwee's response to this post in the comments.

I read Gwee Li Sui's essay on Singaporean poetry (Harvard Asia Quarterly, Volume IX, Nos. 1 & 2. Winter/Spring 2005) in Cyril Wong's blog. The essay attempts to explain the lack of major Singaporean poets between Edwin Thumboo and Alvin Pang by analyzing poetry's withdrawal from the national sphere during the desert years. In his analysis, the interim poets disengaged from a national culture increasingly bureaucratic and economically-minded, and thus limited their artistic ambitions and impaired their poetic strength. Besides Lee Tzu Pheng, Gwee cites Boey Kim Cheng as another example of this impaired poetry:


We speak therefore of how poetry had only reassumed its pure space of freedom in the general failure of a stable sense of self and home to arrive distinct from infrastructural and economic concerns. We also assert that the catalytic conflict was indeed the key to its own mediation: what the …

Exile and the Kingdom

I'm reading my first Camus, his short story collection, given to me by Winston after he read my blog-post, Exilic Time. I like the stories with their variations on the dialectic between exile and kingdom. The most impressive one, so far, is "The Guest," set in colonial Algeria. The white schoolmaster has to decide whether to hand over an Arab, accused of murdering his own cousin, to the white police. His final action is both humane and plausible to the character. The writing is economically suggestive; every detail counts. The hilly and rocky landscape assumes symbolic significance for moral decisions in the midst of the dangerous political situation.

These Are My Hands and Feet

I could not count to ten till I turned eleven.
The chicks were softer than the straw in the set.
One, two, buckle my shoe, nine and a big fat hen.

They scratched the grass beside the shops for men.
They were the best present a boy could get.
I could not count to ten till I turned eleven.

Mother called out from above. That was when
I stepped back to answer her, stepped on my pet.
One, two, buckle my shoe, nine and a big fat hen.

The grass turned black. Its head was not broken.
Father could fix things but he was not home yet.
I could not count to ten till I turned eleven.

The Shopgirl cried out, Poke it back in! The mitten
with one loose strand was moving. It felt wet.
One, two, buckle my shoe, nine and a big fat hen.

My hands did what the woman said. Even then,
I could not save it. But I could not forget.
I could not count to ten till I turned eleven.
One, two, buckle my shoe, nine and a big fat hen.

Pine Cones

I have sat in this corner often
because of its good lighting.
Today I unbend

from my book of poetry,
dazzled, the library full of light
extended by windows that reach to the ceiling.

In the corner, a Chinese fan palm
vents through a flaking stem
a spray of green intensity.

Outside the window, pine cones,
not the ones seen on the road,
small crushed porcupines on dead leaves,

but hanging delicately from the tip
of a fir branch, bells
almost, a knot.

Mouths perfectly suited to sucking the fibrous teats,
they hang on with their teeth
for the one life they know.

One afternoon, strings unloosed,
they will descend
to join their fellows,

the journey long and different
from whatever
they experience and owe.

An Explanation to a Friend for Not Writing

You know letter writing requires a kind
of hibernation (the months I was silent).
The heart winters through it on minimum
nourishment. It lives by barely beating.

Then, mysterious as spring, the heart
takes a pen, breaks through the cocoon,
spins matter out of itself, develops feet
to crawl onto dry land, grows feathers.

I imagine you reading this in bed, your
cat curled against you, eyes opened,
wild to shred this fluttering thing
and eat, as one does after a long winter.