Showing posts from February, 2007

Walking When It Snows

Snow does not walk on sidewalks but it grows
like a quick coral reef, sky skeletons
on skeletons, and crystal shells on shells.

The white reefs form on benches, on the flat
of the curved mailbox, on the balancing beam
of the steel fence enclosing the trimmed park,

even on trees that do not keep their arms
by their sides, even on the tip of tongues
rosebushes stick out at the thought of cold.

Disdaining roofs, their over-furnished rooms,
how can a face look up and not sprout reefs,
but to walk fast, and hope the road is clear?

Donna Ong, Artist

The totally cool website of this Singaporean artist.

Kanang Guni Man

(Note: In Singapore, the Kanang Guni Man is the equivalent of the rag and bone man.)

Tramping up estates, down apartment blocks,
he covers endless corridors. Endings
the man accepts--newspapers, clocks, books, clothes--
and pays their rates, weighing them on his spring.

A drab, stoop-shouldered figure, wearing a
ridiculous hat. You may still spy him
vanishing into holes, round corners, quick-
er than your eyes can blink or heart can whim.

Once, hearing his low, drawn-out call, we’d jump
at the odd chance to clear out of old flats
the moth-bitten linen, the monkey-blabber,
the images we’ve outgrown. But all that’s

no more. He’s now a curiosity.
They’d likely make the man an exhibit
of vanished trades, a symbol of a sim-
pler past, or turn him over to the poets.

PSA’s W. H. Auden Centennial Celebration

Last night I sat in the Cooper Union Great Hall in reverential anticipation. I didn't know what came over me but I had not felt that taut hush since I left the church. On a big screen on stage was projected a photo of Auden in his twenties, looking up and away, right hand tugging right ear. Too young to be a memorial picture, he was the dashing lover, the ambitious poet, the tweed-jacketed saint. A fear salted the tension, the same fear whenever I heard the Singapore Symphony Orchestra play Beethoven, the fear that the playing would betray the music.

When Alice Quinn introduced Auden as the love poet par excellence, I should have realized that the evening would present Auden lite. Though the program included such heavyweights as “In Memory of Sigmund Freud,” “September, 1939” and “The Shield of Achilles,” they were miniaturized in a misconceived chronological arrangement that began with the slight “Taller To-day,” written when Auden was 21, and ended with the popular “The More Lovi…

No Blessing for Same-sex Unions

"…seven conservative archbishops declined communion rather than celebrate the Eucharist with Bishop Jefferts Schori." --New York Times, February 20, 2007

I would compare the primately righteous
to Pharisees complaining about Jesus
feeding with sinners, except that,

in her clerical robes, Bishop Katherine
is not as hot as Mary Magdalene,
and Christ has been snapped up and shat.

Martin Ramirez

I visited the American Folk Art Museum for the first time this weekend, to see the major retrospective on the self-taught artist, Martin Ramirez (1895-1963).

Here's a first-hand description of him by Dr. Tarmo Fasto, a professor of psychology and art, who discovered Ramirez's work at the DeWitt State Hospital in Aubum, California.

He is a Mexican, about sixty-eight years old, who is classified as a chronic paranoid schizophrenic and considered incurable, having been institutionalized for over twenty years. His art activity dates back about six years. He is slight of build, greatly underweight, a former tuberculous patient who spends his time on his art. He does not speak to anyone but hums in a singsong way when pleased with his visitors. Conversation as an exchange of ideas is impossible.

His manner of work is unique. When good paper is not available, he glues together scraps of paper, old envelopes, paper bags, paper cups, wrappers- anything that may have a clear drawing area. …

Reading Thumboo's "Ulysses by the Merlion"

I've just revised a poem written years ago, a poem that delineates the different responses of four readers, of different generations, to the seminal nationalistic poem by Edwin Thumboo. Thumboo is reckoned to be the first major Singaporean poet writing in English. First, Thumboo's poem, then followed by mine.

(for Maurice Baker)

I have sailed many waters,
Skirted islands of fire,
Contended with Circe
Who loved the squeal of pigs;
Passed Scylla and Charybdis
To seven years with Calypso,
Heaved in battle against the gods.
Beneath it all
I kept faith with Ithaca, travelled,
Travelled and travelled,
Suffering much, enjoying a little;
Met strange people singing
New myths; made myths myself.

But this lion of the sea
Salt-maned, scaly, wondrous of tail,
Touched with power, insistent
On this brief promontory...

Nothing, nothing in my days
Foreshadowed this
Half-beast, half-fish,
This powerful creature of land and sea.

Peoples settled here,
Brought to this island
The bounty of the…

Chinese New Year at Washington D.C.

The first day of the Chinese new year, tomorrow, will be spent in D.C., with my sister and her family. The Year of the Pig. Now what will that bring? A new poem, I hope. Be back in NYC and to this blog on Tue. Happy Lunar New Year, everyone.

Launch of POETS WEAR PRADA Press

Thursday March 8,
Downstairs @ The Cornelia Street Cafe
6:00PM - 8:00PM

Launch Party for POETS WEAR PRADA, a small press based in Hoboken, New Jersey devoted to introducing new authors through limited edition, high-quality chaplets primarily of poetry.

Readings by Brant Lyon, Alex O. Bleecker, Bob Heman, Efrayim Levenson, Jee Leong Koh, Iris Berman, Susan Maurer, Peter Chelnick, Sheryl Helene Simler & others

Hosted by Editors/Publishers: Roxanne Hoffman & Herbert Fuerst

Editors and Authors will be present to celebrating the release of:

"Your Infidel Eyes" by Brant Lyon (Oct. 2006)

"Freak Show" by Ricki Stuart (Nov. 2006)

"Found in a Cord" by Alex O. Bleecker (Dec. 2006)

"Cone Investigates" by Bob Heman (Feb. 2007)

"Dances With Tears" by Efrayim Levenson (March 2007)

"The Little Book of Fairy Tales & Love Poems" by Iris Berman (April 2007)

"Payday Loans" by Jee Leong Koh (April 2007)

Reading and Signing. Cover $6 (incl…


I know I'm made of water.
Of water made I am,
one third mucus, three quarters
(ahem!) phlegm.

I knew I'm made of water.
Today I've proven it.
Two thirds vomit, one quarter
liquid shit.

I've always known I'm made of water,
gulping down the flood,
three thirds semen and four quarters
feverish blood.

Valentine to Volume

More than a point in time, more than a line
from first to second date, more than a plane
of three coordinates--the groin, the brain,
the heart--more than the amplitude of sine;

but less, much less, than the amassed incline,
the spike of rock, the muttering hoofs on plain,
on hatless scalps the drumming of the rain,
less than the density of shared design

measures your body, after we have played,
not by the glistening mesh of pubic hair,
nor the mechanical spring hook of knee,
not on the golden scales of shoulder blades,
but in the bathtub of my body, where
displaced water makes a discovery.

Dan Chiasson on Marianne Moore

Good article in The Believer. Tricia's blog alerted me to it.

Nine Lives

If you could have the cat's nine lives, would you?
To live not fearing death, not once, not twice,
but eight times, confident of landing on
your feet, and walking off to speak of it.

Would life be better lived having been lived
and having faced the biking accident,
the bungee rope snapping, the heart’s big break,
the bite, the bed, the bomb, the bone, the bug?

And what is death if it entails no end?
Nine lives means nine beginnings—not nine ends—
nine middles cramped with pain or yawned to sleep,
and insufficient training at bravery
to face with whip and rod the quiet cough
as green-eyed death stalks you on velvety paws.

Boy Bordello and Dirty Little Drawings

The Leslie Lohman Gallery is exhibiting drawings of the male nude, done by participants of the Queer Men's Erotic Art Workshop, in a wide range of styles and media. A friend, Kevin Maxwell, is also exhibiting.

According to Kevin, in the drawing sessions, models posed in various positions for increasing lengths of time. The first pose, taking off the shirt, was held for five minutes. The brevity of that pose explained why drawings of that position tended to be sketchier and less colored in, qualities that worked to great effect in some drawings. These drawings were tender, innocent or fleeting. Kevin’s Otisno (the one in upright purple frame in the corner) had a look of tender concentration on his face as he lifted a side of his tank-top.

The last pose, lying back and jerking off, was held for twenty minutes. Kevin said that artists worked furiously to get the pose down on paper but simultaneously kept an eye out for the model’s climax. When he came, the room usually burst out in ap…

The Far Ships

for Keith Wiltshire, my teacher

Your yearly letters make me smile.
Hammered on an old word processor,
they slash with slanted lines of bile
the madness of the world’s car-owners,

the British stock of nuclear shells,
how Singapore Immigration stopped
you at the airport, bade farewell
to future visits, and then dropped

you on the next flight home, without
so much as a reason (fear of infection?).
Your letters sound so clear of doubts,
the years a seamless flight connection.

You are as constant as your letters.
With equal passion, you taught us boys
Shakespeare: how not to heed our betters
as Hamlet heeds the ghostly voice,

and why, in Pride and Prejudice,
prejudice is the name of pride.
You read us Larkin’s poem “Next Please”
and the far ships came alongside

and then sailed on, leaving no goods,
giving no reason. Wide awake,
we saw from where we sat or stood,
waters that neither breed nor break.

Do you remember those good years
as good? I do, with thankfulness,
for though your letters do not bear
good news of wor…

Alternatives to Social Realism in Photography

The Chinese Conceptual Photography Group Exhibition, in Avant Gallery now (Jan 18 to Feb 28), gave me the same feeling as the Chinese photographic exhibition in the Institute of Photography last year. The photos felt derivative, and the concepts thin.

One group featured a full-costumed opera actress superimposed on industrial or urban landscapes: the incongruity of tradition and modernity. In another group of photos, a boy and a girl, wearing the red scarf of Communist Youth, looked out of faces painted like Chinese landscape scrolls.

For me, the photos lacked formal interest. Superimposition of images can be an interesting method. I remember Kara Walker's black cutouts of black men and women superimposed on conventional pictorial narratives of American history. The cutouts were both form and stereotype, both childlike and rigorous. Each black shape, stuck on top of the mostly white page, commented on and revised that page in a particular and thoughtful way.

The strongest image of t…

At a Photo Exhibition with You and My Ex-boyfriend

I live in double time: third date with you
xxxand weekly dalliance with my ex
taking place in one gallery. Or two.

In one, you talk about the photo next
xxxto one I like, its night roads lit
like our bodies after burning sex.

The other holds him staring at a chit
xxxof a girl scrubbing a doorway,
open to one returning from the street.

Though details can be edited, you say,
xxxdigital photography
can't get the black of these old prints today.

Nova Scotia

Here's a photo by Matt Chapin I like:


Girls are so kind.
They leave me notes
that speak their mind
on naughty poets.

Women, too kind,
quite pity me
and fear to find
my sympathy.

Men are unkind.
They do not mean
to be, but grind
my cock to keen.

You are not kind.
You are my love.
You are not kind.
You are my love.