Sunday, May 06, 2007


I am re-working the sequence, "There Is No Safety in Distance," into a chapbook collection of songs instead. Force-fitting the poems into a numbered sequence was a wrong idea, I think, since the sequence has little logical development. The poems may work better in a looser form, a kind of anthology in which each is complete by itself, though related in theme and imagery to others.

Using a method explained in the poem itself, I wrote a last poem for that collection.

Dies is a last word of my songs:
and headstone, colder, sea,
hoots, then dead, before very long,
and then the end of me.

The dizzy body calls, more wine,
the dimming soul, burn, blood.
Although in time they intertwine,
in time they stand, then stood.

In time they bark, and then they bite.
In time body and soul
fashion the other into bait,
fish in the gloryhole.

Cowards die many times before their death,
so death to Cowardice!
--except this coward feels his breath
quicken each time he dies.


Anonymous said...

This is great! Are your students as good as you? Have they seen this blog?

Jee Leong Koh said...

Thanks, Anon.


monkey said...

Hi Jee Leong,

I think the numbered sequence actually worked very well, and there are other sequences I like that don't have an obvious logical progression, such as Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" and your own "Ten Poems on the Plum Blossom". A poem in a sequence can still be read on its own, e.g. Auden's "Stop all the clocks ...".

But if you think they'll work even better in a chapbook, good luck and we'll all look forward to reading it!

Jee Leong Koh said...

Thanks very much, monkey, for your thought. "Thirteen Ways" has one clear theme, while my "Ten Poems" has a narrative thread, neither of which is present in "There Is No Safety in Distance." I am also thinking of my other hymn-stanza poems, and how to work them into any collection of poems. Thanks for coming in on this.

Jee Leong

monkey said...

Jee Leong, I think "There Is No Safety" has more thematic coherence than "Thirteen Ways" and at least as much progression of emotions as "Ten Poems". (There are various permutations of "Ten Poems" that would still work, although the order you chose may be the best.) I predict that your revisions will be as controversial as Auden's. :-)

Jee Leong Koh said...

I am certainly going to think over what you said, especially since you campared me, in however indirect a way, with Auden. :-)

Anonymous said...

some of your students wrote that anonymous comment, by the way.