Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Boey Kim Cheng's "Clear Brightness"

These are poems of an assured mastery, of a voice arriving at itself, even as it speaks of loss. Although Boey has migrated to Australia and become an Australian citizen there, he cannot help but speak of Singapore--its loss due to time, urban redevelopment, deaths in the family, and migration. Poems such as "Dinky's House of Russian Goods" and "The National Theatre, Singapore" bring lost places back to the life. Sequences such as "To Markets" and "Chinatowns" are rich with details and associations, recalled in memory. Most impressive, to my mind, is "The Disappearing Suite," which produces from a very particular life a universal music. It touches the depths sounded in Eliot's "The Four Quartets," though without the latter's religious angst. Who said that a poet's task is to make of his or her life a symbol? In "The Disappearing Suite," and more generally in Clear Brightness, Boey has succeeded in doing so.

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