Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Thow Wei Xin on the Merlion anthology

Just read Thow Wei Xin's 2010 review of Reflecting on the Merlion: An Anthology of Poems, edited by Edwin Thumboo and Yeow Kai Chai. He made many just comments on individual poems, but what was more striking was the call for deeper exploration to establish who we are.

Ultimately, Reflecting on the Merlion is perhaps the most useful for collecting the previously scattered poems on the Merlion in a single volume, thus serving as a guide to what has gone before, revealing which sentiments and expressions have become conventional and clichéd, and encouraging future poets to think more deeply and originally about issues of identity and how the Merlion—problematic, yet emblematic—can participate in such considerations. 
Or, to borrow one last time from the Greeks: don't just be Penelope picking at a shroud. Be Telemachus: make your sacrifices, pour your libations to the everlasting gods, and set forth on deeper waters to establish who you are.

He sent me a link to a personal note that he wrote as a follow-up to the review.  There he points out how often Singapore poets castigate the masses for being soul-less. It ends:

But rather, if the government has already created an atmostphere where the individual is sacrificed or goaded to ideology and nation, then the poet, in confronting this, should remember the citizen with a measure of compassion and understanding rather than pity and scorn.

No comments: