Showing posts from April, 2015


in the forsythia
green is overtaking yellow
false positive

Optimism and Haiku

Last night I had a very enjoyable evening watching a staged reading of Damon Chua's new play Optimism. Written and workshopped during his Emerging Writers Residency at The Public Theater, the play weaves together two different American eras--the 1964 New York World's Fair and early 1980s Wall Street--in an intricate and telling fashion, dramatizing the story of the American dream from the point of view of a young Chinese American, who grew up in Flushing, Queens. The actors, directed by Rebecca Taichman, were all terrific: Tina Benko, Bernardo Cubria, Sanjit De Silva, Karen Huie, Marc Damon Johnson, Peter Kim and Mariko Nakasone Parker. I hope some theater company will pick up the play and give it a full-fledged production.


april twilight
advancing deadline
for final proofs


it's too hard in spring
to study seriously
the curriculum of trees


two japanese women
stop by the cherry tree
and remove their sunglasses

FB Page and Haiku

Set up a Facebook page for my new book Steep Tea. Please like it to follow the book's adventures in the world.


the paint forsythia
flicks, dabs and trowels--
ground and figure


this london plane
an uncertain time machine
couples walk by

Oxford Poets and Haiku

Edited by Iain Galbraith and Robyn Marsack, Oxford Poets 2013 An Anthology is consistently enjoyable. Substantial selection of each poet's work. Particularly glad to make the acquaintance with the poetry of Gregor Addison, David Attwooll, Paul Batchelor, Andre Naffis-Sahely and Jan Wagner. The last writes in German and is translated in the anthology by Galbraith. His poetry is of a piece with his introduction, which strikes a chord with me:

A good poem can pool the maximum linguistic resources in the smallest of fields, harmonising opposites and paradoxes, allowing them to chime, amplifying musicality and meaning. t will also uphold the fundamental poetic virtues of surprise and transgression (whether in violating conventions of its own making or rules imposed from without), granting the greatest possible freedom in the most compact space....  The striking, original quality of a successful poem lies in its ability to grasp or say something that has not been put in the same way bef…


speaking of beach
time to get shredded
like pink glass

Reading and Haiku

Heard Kathleen Ossip read yesterday from her new book The Do-Over at KGB. The poems were beguiling and she read them very well. The bar was packed, there wasn't even standing room. CC and I came early and perched ourselves on a corner table. DH joined us, and we helped ourselves to the open bar after the reading until late into the night. There was much talking and a little crying. Trauma and the desire for trauma.


spring rain
returns all days
of rain

"Hand to God" and Haiku

Am so glad that SW bought tickets to Hand to God. She invited me and MB along, and we had a terrific time at the Booth Theater yesterday. Written by Robert Askins, directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, the play was hysterically funny and very very darkly psychological about the moral split in the human soul. A foul-mouthed and violent puppet. Raunchy puppet sex. Steven Boyer was wonderful as the wounded teenager Jason and his sock puppet Tyrone. His mother Margery was played with painful clarity by Geneva Carr. Michael Oberholtzer was perfect as the sullen bully who lusted after Margery, his teacher in Christian Puppet Ministry. Also lusting after Margery, and applying subtle pastoral pressure on her to give it up, was Greg, the church pastor, played by Marc Kudisch. Sarah Stiles was rightly understated as Jessica as she was the only sane one. Emerging into broad daylight afterwards, we remained in the spell of the play for long minutes, still struggling with the devil we had just seen …

Snakeskin and Haiku

Watched Daniel Hui's Snakeskin last night at the Film Society at Lincoln Center, and was beguiled by its mixture of fact and fiction, past, present and future, voice and voice-over, human and animal. The woman playing Salmah was particularly compelling throughout. The image of fire not as a creative force, but destructive, burning up books and films, and finally, inevitably, burning up the people who follow their cult leader into transcendence. Salmah's idea of film as evil, first learned from her mother, a former actor and dancer in Malay film at the height of the Malay film industry in Singapore in the 50s. When Salmah becomes a filmmaker herself, she learns that her mother is right, that film is evil, for in making a record of things in front of it, it makes a different version of things. The sense of the uncanny haunts her. During the Q&A, Daniel Hui admits to a similar fear of film, a strong feeling of responsibility for making images of people, and thus distorting th…


no smoking in the park
she tells her husband
beside the lenten rose


forsythia in bloom
very soon i will have forgotten writing
forsythia in bloom

Union and Haiku

Four poems in the Union folio of Singaporean and American poetry, published by Drunken Boat. Thanks, Ravi Shankar and Alvin Pang. Good reading for the weekend!


Minneapolis haiku

morning headache—
the insistence of birds
in loring park


no daffodil
but the stem tip glows—
cock crowing in the dark

Antonio Tabucchi's "Time Ages in a Hurry"

I am grateful to translators Martha Cooley and Antonio Romani for introducing me to the short fiction of Antonio Tabucchi. Time Ages in a Hurry collects nine stories: "The Circle," "Drip, Drop, Drippity-Drop," "Clouds," "The Dead at the Table," "Between Generals," "Yo me enamore del aire," "Festival," "Bucharest Hasn't Changed a Bit" and "Against Time." The stories are closely observed, often revolving around two people in conversation. The late Italian writer is profoundly concerned with the passing of time and its effects on memory, desire and fantasy. In the very poignant "Drip, Drop," a man waits beside his dying aunt, who has taken custody of not only him as a young boy, but also the childhood memories that he was too young to remember.

The stories do not stay in Italy but range across Europe and beyond. "The Circle" is narrated from the perspective of a woman from th…



Minneapolis haiku

through the lock and dam
paper boats


to the sun for a day
no extra charges


in my idle dream
ho chi minh is rafting down
the mississippi

Minneapolis haiku

I don't want to spread a false scare, so the following Minneapolis haiku is only a metaphor.

snow again
a bridge collapsed here

Minneapolis haiku

april snow
a bridge collapsed here
eight years ago

Minneapolis Haiku

the concierge recommends
the fried yam with shrimp
and catching the bus

Minneapolis Haiku

This Pisces, two fish knotted by the mouth, is going to one of the Twin Cities today. Which city will it be? Pain or Pleasure? Upriver or Down? Will he know which one even after he has been?

in minneapolis
a city made of water
release the fish

Tomorrow AWP

Flying tomorrow to Minneapolis for my first AWP conference - Association of Writing Programs. I avoided it for the past 10 years, because a conference this size would overwhelm me. This year, I am going mainly because I will be speaking and reading at two events, Union: Singapore's 50th Anniversary Reflected through American Literature, and Starry Island: New Writing from Singapore. If I can strengthen the bridge and widen the road between Singapore and the USA, I will. It's not about marketing, but about mission, born out of living between two places at once.

I'm also eager to look around the city, having never been there. I will be heading to two bars, The Nicolette, for a reading hosted by Kundiman, Kore and Kaya Presses, and Honey, for a reading hosted by Drunken Boat. I want to explore the Walker Art Center and the Weisman Art Museum. I want to roam the old Mill District, taking in the Open Book artspace, and cross back and forth the Mississippi on foot. I want to dan…


used toothpick
as apple cores


in the gay lake
the rowboats are powered
by spring wind

Cooper Hewitt Haiku

After years of refurbishment, the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum opens its doors to the public, but its garden is still a churn of red soil.

No lilacs bloom
in the ever-returning spring
for Abe’s black pall


The Brazilian movie last night has many simple but effective scenes. In one, slipping his schoolfriend’s red hoodie over his bare skin, Leonardo lies down in bed, sniffs the inside of the hood, and reaches for himself. In another, stealing out after curfew, Gabriel takes Leo on his bike to a special park.

an eclipse of the moon
to the blind


The movie was The Way He Looks (2014), directed by Daniel Ribeiro. Ghilherme Lobo plays the blind Leonardo. Fabio Audi plays Gabriel.

Vassar Reading and Haiku

I read at Vassar College yesterday, at the invitation of the Southeast Asian Student Alliance. The Vice President Suzie Shin was given my Pillow Book by a friend before she left Singapore for Vassar. She has lived in Singapore since she was four, when her parents migrated from Korea for her dad to take up a professorship at the National University of Singapore. Her mum is an artist and writer, who has just been published by Kenny Leck. The reading, co-sponsored by Wordsmiths, a student poetry group, and the Asian Studies Department, was well-attended. There were close to 40 people. I read a 40-minute set, the longest that I have ever done, and brought the audience along with me on my personal journey. Four stages, corresponding to my four books: (1) from Singapore to Sarah Lawrence College, (2) from Sarah Lawrence to New York, but also back to Singapore, (3) from New York to Self-Invention and Its Limits, and (4) from Self-Invention to Self-Understanding. The questions afterwards revo…

NaPo Haiku

Yes, I'm doing NaPo with PFFA again. Second day effort.

big dog sniffing by the veiny tulip stalks straining to pop


two weeks into spring
this tree holds up its leaves
traffic signal yellow