Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Academy and the New Worlds

Larina Warnock read my poem "Brother" on the Bench Press website, and liked it so much that she invited me to be the Guest Poet this month on the online discussion forum of the Academy of American Poets. She asked for a note on my poetics, and so I wrote something of my current thinking for her:

A forthcoming review of my new book says, quite correctly, that my language faces three directions: Singapore, England and the USA. Loitering at the place where three roads meet, my person cannot travel down all three and be one traveler, but my poetry attempts that impossible integration, and so records the successes and failures of that attempt. The disparate elements are not just those of place, but also of time, people, idea, feeling, and what lies below feeling. If modern life has been characterized by fragmentation, I sense a new—old—desire for wholeness. Wholeness not based on discredited formulas—for salvation, community or knowledge—but on new, and renewed, forms that realize the individual elements in the process of integrating them, temporarily. Poems are such a kind of forms. My poems work for that personal integrity: to be a fragment and a whole.


I have also joined the advisory board of Mascara, an Asian Australian literary journal, on the invitation of Kim Cheng Boey and Michelle Cahill, the editors.

A bi-annual literary journal founded in 2007, Mascara is particularly interested in the work of contemporary Asian, Australian and Indigenous writers. The word ‘mascara’ entered the English language in 1890. It derives from Spanish, Arabic and French origins, its meaning evolving from the word mask, masquerade, to darken, to blacken. The Arabic word ‘maskhara’ means buffoon.

The journal just added a new section called New Worlds, which features new voices from the postcolonial antipodes. I think my job is to introduce Asian American writers to the journal and vice versa.

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