Showing posts from January, 2015

A Simple and Clear-Cut Constellation

The New Yorker, Feb 2, 2015
from Alec Wilkinson's profile of Yitang Zhang "The Pursuit of Beauty":

The British mathematician G. H. Hardy wrote in 1940 that mathematics is, of "all the arts and sciences, the most austere and the most remote." Bertrand Russell called it a refuge from "the dreary exile of the actual world." Hardy believed emphatically in the precise essence of math. A mathematical proof, such as Zhang produced, "should resemble a simple and clear-cut constellation," he wrote, "not a scattered cluster in the Milky Way."   * The books on his shelves have titles such as "An Introduction to Hilbert Space" and "Elliptical Curves, Modular Forms, and Fermat's Last Theorem." There are also books on modern history and on Napoleon, who fascinates him, and copies of Shakespeare, which he reads in Chinese, because it's easier than Elizabethan English. *  "Bounded Gaps Between Primes" is a bac…


on my narrow chin windswept limestone cliff a fledgling beard

Haiku and Archive

After keeping indoors for two days to nurse a cold, I venture out to the park newly opened since the snowstorm. Walking on snow is like walking on a beach, with the difference that I have too much clothes on.

sand so white
it has given up the ghost
of a sea


Started talking with Alvin Pang, Joshua Ip, Jennifer Champion and Jennifer Crawford about setting up a website with the poetry archive that Jen Cr. has collected. We decided that Alvin will take care of the website, Josh the general management and fundraising, Jen Ch. the media editing and I the text editing. Everyone is pitching in, because we really want a website devoted to Singapore poetry. We are now thinking about a good name for it.


cup of black coffee
before the sun is up
to meet blank snow

Less Can Be More

TLS January 16 2015

from Paul Davis's review of The Complete Poetry of Robert Herrick, edited by Tom Cain and Ruth Connolly:

In fact, Herrick was a pioneer of print authorship, as the exemplary scholarship on Hesperides in this edition confirms. It has long been recognized that Herrick was the first English poet to see a collected edition of his own verse through the press, but here we learn how closely he involved himself in the production process, perhaps even to the extent of demanding in-press corrections not only to rectify printing errors, but also as las-minute poetic refinements.   *  The various forces pressing editors towards ever more maximal feats of scholarship need to be answered by a counterbalancing impulse towards selection and concentration. Attempting to compete with online databases on the score of comprehensiveness is a fool's errand; nor should print editors be cowed into confusing comprehensiveness with objectivity. They need instead to play to their dis…


a blizaard warning
my half-year sabbatical
is in effect

Tse Hao Guang reviews "Payday Loans"

"[PAYDAY LOANS] is clearly the poetry of the bounced cheque, the bummed out, the delayed pay day, the day-to-day." My first book of poems reissued by Math Paper Press. 40% off at BooksActually this week only! Thanks, Tse Hao Guang, for the kind review!

Camus's "The Fall" and Haiku

After reading "The Myth of Sisyphus," I went on to read Camus's three novels one after another. The Stranger is deliberately provocative. The Plague goes beyond provocation and arrives at the realm of perfection. The Fall speaks in the ultra-subtle voice of the judge-penitent who is also the tempter. The narrator in his pleasurable anguish reminds me of the unnamed Man from Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground. All this reading leaves a very powerful impression on the mind, the chief part of which is an ethical imperative: do least harm.

on a leafless twig
a caterpillar of snow
will change to nothing


i take the long way
to see the frozen waterfall
i have never left


here, a winter marvel
falling water
halted in mid-air


on a national holiday
i sense the onset of a cold
snow flurry


in the winter sky
an indian arrowhead
of ducks flying


the legacy
of the winter sky
for an orphaned time


On the subway, sitting across from me is a young man with whom I’d love to speak.

book in hand
skateboard between his feet
yoga mat on his lap

Albert Camus's "The Stranger" and "The Plague"

The Stranger is deliberately provocative. Could someone kill another human being without meaning to? And when he does, how would society judge him?

The Plague goes beyond provocation and arrives at the realm of perfection. It is so clear in its conception and so direct in its execution. It is everywhere intended and inevitable. It reminds me of the perfection of The Iliad and of Henry James's The Golden Bowl.


it's too cold to walk
i run for the crosstown bus
and miss the ducks

Shadows of Japan

Guy and I put together this folio of photos and haiku in December. The photographs were taken during our visit to Japan last August. The haiku were inspired by the trip too. The folio will be available at the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC in April, and at the Brooklyn Book Fest in September.

Kin Poetry Journal published six of my haiku. Thanks, Eric Norris, for inviting me to submit.


At Kitaro, my go-to Japanese restaurant, an American child stops jabbering and wails that she does not like the food.

how i wish
you could be sent to a corner
of a bowl of soup

Albert Camus's "The Myth of Sisyphus"

The absurd, according to Camus, arises from the tension between an inhuman world and our human longing to make sense of it. To kill oneself is to try to escape the absurd. Camus recommends, instead, living in lucid acknowledgement of this tension. It is not easy. In his view, existential philosophers such as Kierkegaard evade the problem by positing transcendence, or God, as beyond human reason. They abolish human reason in favor of the eternal. On the other hand, the phenomenologists such as Husserl claim to attend to the phenomena of the world but end up finding essences in them, analogous to Platonic forms, and so abolish the unknowability of the world. Instead of destroying or weakening either of the terms, Camus prefers to live fully and creatively in the gap between mind and world. For him, the figure of Sisyphus embodies this attitude of heroic futility. Unexpectedly, Camus finds a happiness in Sisyphus' plight.

All of Sisyphus' silent joy is contained therein. His fate…

2015 Carcanet Catalogue

Thrilled to appear in the same 2015 Carcanet catalogue as Jon Silkin, Elaine Feinstein, Sujata Bhatt, David Morley, Tim Liardet, Tom Raworth, Kate Miller, Sophie Hannah, John Ashbery, Willis Barnstone, Sheri Benning, Les Murray, R.F. Langley, Muriel Spark, and Grevel Lindop. 

"Singapore-born poet Jee Leong Koh's first book to be published in the UK is rich in detail of the worlds that he explores and invents as he follows his desire for an unknown other, moving tentatively, passionately, always uncertain of himself. His language is colloquial, musical, aware of the infusion of various traditions and histories. 'You go where? / I'm going from the latterly to the litany, from writs to rites.' The poems share many of the harsh and enriching circumstances that shape the imagination of a postcolonial queer writer. Taking leaves from other poets - Emilia Lanyer, Eavan Boland, Xunka' Utz'utz', Lee Tzu Pheng - Koh creates a text that is distinctively his own.…


the himalayan pine
a transplanted cross-dresser
tucked up with needles


bits of christmas trees
left behind on the sidewalk
three-day-old champagne


winter rain collects
in the long cracks of the road
and small depressions


the topmost branches—
no movement
on new year’s day