Showing posts from September, 2012


Christopher Ricks gave a brilliant reading of Hardy's poem "Wives in the Sere" at the ALSCW-sponsored panel at Poets House on Friday. He defended Hardy's rhymes from the criticism of John Crowe Ransom and showed how the two atypical rhymes in the poem "unknows" and "muser" carry the burden of significance. After the talk, EN and I walked from Battery Park City to the West Village and had dinner at the Irish pub Dublin.

S and R came to stay with us last night. In the afternoon they went by themselves to the Cloisters. Then we went with them to the Met, to the rooftop to see Cloud City, and the real city sparkling in the blue night. We whizzed through the Andy Warhol show. I looked only at his works and not at the work of his imitators and followers. I was resistant at the beginning, but at the end his work was so clearly superior to others around it. A consistent insoucience that dared to laugh at all the pretensions of serious art, its power was c…

Rineka Dijkstra's Mid-Career Retrospective at the Guggenheim

I have seen and liked Rineke Dijkstra's beach portaits of adolescents around the world, and so went to see her mid-career retrospective at the Guggenheim last Wednesday. The beach portraits (1992 - 2002) were as mesmerizing as ever, as were the group portraits of teenagers in parks in Amsterdam, Berlin and Barcelona. In the hands of a lesser photographer, the portraits could have been mistaken for advertisements for United Colors of Benetton, but the teenagers were seen so sympathetically and individually that there was no mistaking the artistic eye. The young people were wearing branded clothes, but they were shown to be so much more than their brands.

The Amerisa series, begun in 1994 and on-going, followed a young Bosnian girl who sought Dutch asylum through her gradual integration into mainstream Dutch culture. The last photograph shown was of Amerisa carrying her baby. I was also fascinated by Dijkstra's Olivier series (2000 - 03). It traced the physical and psychological…

6 more days...

... to the October 1 deadline for papers for Translating Asia panel!

 “A good translator is an exquisite ambassador,” writes poet and scholar Waqas Khwaja in his introduction to the 2010 anthology Modern Poetry of Pakistan. “Just as the creative artist suggests new ways of looking at the commonplace, the translator opens up to readers a whole new world, a whole new mode of perception and experience, they may hardly have suspected of existing.” The comparison with an ambassador suggests that a translator be conversant not only with the languages of composition and translation, but also with the different cultures. As Khwaja puts it, “How, despite what are seen as virtually insurmountable odds, can translation happen so that it does not undervalue, misrepresent, or (not an unknown phenomenon) utterly dispense with the original?” The panel aims to consider literature from South, East, and South-east Asia.

Jee Leong Koh's Pillow Book

Received my copies of The Pillow Book from Kenny Leck last week. The chapbook, fifteenth in the Babette's Feast series published by Math Paper Press, looks lovely with its cream-colored paper and clean design.

I like the stack of syrup-covered pancakes on the cover very much. The illustration is done by Anna Sai. The image refers to one particular section of the book where a very nice man made pancakes for me after we spent a night together. Food, sex, New York City and other delights are very much the subjects of the book. I hope the writing retains the delicacy of Sei Shōnagon but also joins with it a kind of voraciousness. That one can have both a big appetite and a fine palate.

The book is available from Books Actually bookstore in Singapore. Unfortunately it is not available on-line. I will be selling copies at the Brooklyn Book Festival tomorrow. Find the book at Table 100, Poets Wear Prada.

Asian American Poetry in Mascara

This special issue of Mascara Literary Review presents work by 17 Asian American poets. I'm honored to publish new poems by John Yau, our featured poet, and by many established and new writers of diverse ethnicities, regions and ages. The poetry covers a wide range of subjects and explores an exciting variety of forms. You will enjoy reading the work of Wendy Chin-Tanner, Floyd Cheung, Kim-An Lieberman, Jennifer Tseng, Lee Herrick, Katie Hae Leo, Jenna Le, Jeffrey Hecker, Yim Tan Wong, Rey Escobar, Tiel Aisha Ansari, Jason Wee, Vanni Taing, Jason Bayani, Minh Pham and Lisa Shirley.

In addition, in the prose section, Singapore critic Gwee Li Sui interviews Timothy Yu on his study of experimental and Asian American poetry Race and the Avant-garde; Meena Alexander reminds us of the "intimate violence" of racism; Jennifer Kwon Dobbs introduces the poetry of the Korean adoptee diaspora; and Joseph O. Legaspi explains the special place of Kundiman, a non-profit devoted to the …

Poem: "Hong Kong"

Hong Kong

some curio of the change
Tzu Pheng Lee, “Prospect of a Drowning”

We found it among the small antique shops in the Soho district of Hong Kong. Below Mao posters and beside porcelain Michael J.
stood at smart attention a terracotta soldier, an officer of some rank, the height of my hand. Factory plaster has been painted a gritty grey
and in the hair pulled back to show a broad forehead, in the protective vest, in the folds of his sleeves and in the creases of his shoes,
a brown as fine and light as sand as if he has just been dug up from a centuries-old grave. It was a lovely copy, meticulous, affordable,
but we were searching for a Mao statuette for Ty and Di. The only keepsake I wanted was not photos or knickknacks but memories.
You urged me to get it. You knew better than to keep me to my words when my hands returned to weigh the soldier again. Now he
stands guard over my laptop, eyes unblinking, under a moustache a steady, serious mouth. If he could speak, what changes…

Poem: "Steep Tea"

Steep Tea

A Traditional Autumn Kasen Renga

Started: August 25, 2012
Finished: September 11, 2012

Written by Rachael Briggs and Jee Leong Koh

sunset steeps the world in red
red maple, apple, bee balm bloom
we sip jewel tea

the fire temple disappears
a watery moon

chili dip
on a seaweed cracker
thesis antithesis crunch

oral defence 
visiting mum in Syracuse

cherry blossoms
soft artillery that liquefies in my hand
... or was it snow?

recategorized from 4C to 442 
swear unqualified allegiance to ... 

(le) poisson rouge 
Taka Kigawa 
Die Kunst der Fuge 

alien fauna of George Street
a kangaroo with gears for ears

you on the 
exercise bike, come share 
my yoga mat 

can we be Lion and Thunderbolt, Hero and King Dancer?
I'm in!

Mount Fuji 
the dance 
before the dance 

my skipping stone cavorts
between dust and river bottom

the moon 
cools her feet 
in a red basin 

tiptoe possum
stolen plum

hot off the press 
New Jersey doctor delivers 
new verse 

the Syracuse University of New Brunswick

impossible boys 

Rohinton Mistry's "Such A Long Journey"

Rohinton Mistry's debut novel is not an optimistic book. The communal courtyard of Khodadad Building, so lovingly described at the beginning of the work, is destroyed by municipal authorities for the purpose of urban development at the end. The morcha organized to protest peacefully against government corruption turns into a deadly riot. Ordinary Indian citizens are helpless against the powerful machinery of government, just as Gustad Noble the novel's kind-hearted protagonist is caught up unwittingly in the corruption of the Indira Gandhi years. The only things salvageable from the mess, but at great costs, are family, friends and art.

Mistry writes very well about the complicated relationship between fathers and sons. Gustad idealizes his grandfather, a strong man and a furniture-maker, and his father, an intellectual and a bookseller. He wants to be his grandfather and father to his son Sohrab, but the latter resents history's domination in his life.  He does not wish t…

What's New on Governor's Island?

Went with GH and SH to Governor's Island yesterday. We walked along the promenade to Picnic Point, where we had lunch at Eva's. Pulled pork sandwich, corn on the cob, blueberry pie, Shiraz, yum. We looked directly into the distant face of the Statue of Liberty, through the legs of Mark di Suvero's giant steel sculptures.

The Sculptors Guild was holding an exhibition titled "Process" in one of the old four-storeyed buldings. I liked Elaine Lorenz's organic-looking sculpture of fiberglass and resin. Jeremy Comins's work also caught and held my eyes. The wooden frame hung on the wall reminded me of homely shelf displays and of a box of children's blocks. The single figure sitting and clutching his knees looked quite sad. The work had a strange mixture of domesticity and isolation.

We sat down on a lawn, under another di Suvero piece, and chatted and read the papers desultorily. The New York Times told the history of New York City through 50 objects, begi…