Koh Jee Leong's fine, if uneven, first book (Equal to the Earth, 2009) demonstrated at once his capacity for restraint and his willingness to sacrifice good taste in the service of a larger aesthetic aim. Sensibility and spirit have now crystallised into a mission, and Koh doesn't care who knows it. Or rather, he cares very much indeed. Not since kensai's ill-fated Maiden (2002) has a collection of Singapore poetry in English wanted to matter as much as does Seven Studies for a Self Portrait. Beginning with its summative, triply-alliterative title and its somewhat over-literal cover (seven photographs of the poet!), the book advertises its project loudly, erects its own museum placard. To top it off, Koh selects an opening quotation from Nietszche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra: "And this is all my creating and striving, that I create and carry together into One what is fragment and riddle and dreadful accident." A mighty epigraph, demanding a mighty book.
By my lights, it is exactly that.... More
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Nicholas Liu reviews "Seven Studies for a Self Portrait"
I think Nick has written an excellent review, not merely because he admires my book, and therefore shows good taste, but because he displays the informed and critical sympathy that a reviewer should have.