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Showing posts from 2016

Haiku

Thinking of Basho and Thoreau on this last day of the year.

At the heart
of the American elm
an old pond

Haiku

December rain
medical records
in a small filing cabinet

Ruth Ozeki's "A Tale for the Time Being"

Utterly absorbing. The somewhat annoying voice of Nao Yasutani--an ethnic Japanese teenager raised in California and returned to Japan after her father lost his job in the dot.com crash--took a little time to get used to but her horrific experience of bullying at school and her pure love for her great-grandmother Jiko, an anarchist-feminist writer turned Zen nun, soon render her more sympathetic. In contrast, the other narrative about Ruth, closely based on the author, is probing, stubborn, and tender in depicting her dislocation from New York City to a tiny island (Land of the Dead) off the coast of British Columbia and her loss of her mother first to Alzheimer's and then to death. The myriad ways in which the two stories interact to become one tale cast a brilliant light and a wonderful play of shadows on the gift of storytelling.  The invention of Haruki #1, the reluctant kamikaze pilot, shows the noble ideals that the author holds dear.

Writing the South Seas

Brian Bernards' Writing the South Seas: Imagining the Nanyang in Chinese and Southeast Asian Postcolonial Literature is an exciting study of the archipelagic trope and the activity of creolization in the context of postcolonial literature in Southeast Asia. Drawing on Frantz Fanon, Stuart Hall, and Edouard Glissant, Bernards distinguishes the archipelagic imagination from the continental one, as the former prioritizes "contact, exchange, heterogeneity, and creolization instead of racial, ethnic, or linguistic uniformity and singularity." Drawing on Benedict Anderson, Thomas Eriksen, and the Cuban poet Nancy Morejon, Bernards distinguishes creolization from both hybridity and multiculturalism. Creolization "recognizes culture as an ongoing process that cannot be reduced to a singular outcome, offering neither a finished product (hybridity) nor a composite portrait of separate, immutable entities (multiculturalism)."

Chapter 1 looks at "Modern Chinese Impres…

Haiku

December drizzle
nothing beats
eating an orange



Saying good-bye
with a chaste hug
moon behind the cloud

Neil Mukherjee's "A Life Apart"

Alienated from his new country, the literary immigrant wants to prove that he belongs, how else, but by credibly, and thus, creditably, narrating a story from the point of view of a native informant. In Mukherjee's debut novel, the protagonst Rikwit brings to life the bit character of Miss Gilby, an Englishwoman in Raj India, from the Rabindranath Tagore story "Bimala's autobiography." The story about how Miss Gilby becomes the tutor of Bimala, the wife of an enlightened zamindar, and subsequently falls victim to inter-religious conflict in Bengal is expertly told. The expertise is the point, for Rikwit who is anything but an expert in navigating the life of a queer Indian scholarship student at Oxford and then that of an undocumented immigrant. In fact, his life is a mess. He spends his Oxford career cruising for men in an underground public bathroom and goes down to prostitution in a very dark corner of London. He is most certainly not a model immigrant. I find mos…

Haiku

Snow falling like rain
tuk tuk speeding up
Tonle Sap

Haiku

Slowly on crutches
the sound of an axe
from the next valley

Smaller Is Better

Smaller is Better: Japan's Mastery of the Miniature by O-Young Lee
Japan is too often seen in opposition to the West, and so hides some of its peculiarities. This take on Japanese culture by a Korean writer, critic, and scholar capitalizes on his knowledge of the differences between Japanese and Korean cultures, so that what is truly distinctive about Japan-its penchant for making things smaller-comes thrillingly into focus.

Kokoro by Natsume Soseki, translated by Edwin McClellan
In his study Two-Timing Modernity: Homosocial Narrative in Modern Japanese Fiction, J. Keith Vincent explains very well the different camps of interpretation of Soseki's novel: a patriarchal-imperialist view that focuses mainly on the third section of the novel, Sansei's testament; a subversive view that argues for the narrator's betrayal of his Sansei, to the extent that he may have married Sansei's wife after the teacher died; and a gay affirmative reading that highlights Sansei's und…

Reading Frantz Fanon

The weekend was spent read Frantz Fanon. Yes, I'm late for the party.

Black Skin, White Masks (1952)
A penetrating study of colonized Martinique society and the colonized young man who thought of himself as French, only to go to the metropole of France and realized that he was black. A daring attempt to synthesize psycho- and social analyses.

A Dying Colonialism (1959) or The Fifth Year of the Algerian Revolution
Fanon's account of the Algerian War of independence. In the war the women learned to instrumentalize their veils as revolutionary soldiers and agents. Fanon shows why the rural Algerians first rejected the radio because it was perceived as the voice of the enemy, the colonial authorities and culture, and later embraced it when it broadcast the Voice of the revolution. In like manner Fanon argued for why Algerians first rejected and then embraced Western medicine. (After reading this chapter, I understand better now my own position on female circumcision.) In the chapte…

More an American than Ever

My longest, and last, interview about Steep Tea, with some thoughts on global literature, Singapore Poetry, and the political obligations of a Permanent Resident of the USA. Thanks, Nicholas Wong, for the interview, and Ching-In Chen, for publishing it.

Partial Accounting

I've not been keeping up with the recording of my reading that I wish to remember. So here is a very partial accounting of the books read in the period from July to now:

1. Basho and His Interpreters: Selected Hokku with Commentary edited by Makoto Ueda
-invaluable

2. Walden by Haiku by Ian Marshall
-interesting project of extracting haiku from Thoreau's prose, but finally unconvincing

3.  Two-Timing Modernity: Homosocial Narrative in Modern Japanese Fiction by J. Keith Vincent
-subtle and persuasive study of how the Japanese texts betray both the feudal past and the longed-for modernity. Insightful analysis of Natsume Soseki's Kokoro and its critical reception.

4. Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
- a most subtle tripartite structure: like a haiku?

5. Botchan by Natsume Soseki
-witty, a light work

6. State of War by Ninotchka Rosca
-too much exposition but memorable characters.

7. After You by Cyril Wong
-he does survival in different voices

8. Map: Collected and Last Poems by Wis…

Haiku

Nut-brown squirrel
quotation of the day
cost quotation

Haiku

Image
Two last leaves we were awake and then we drifted off

"Master Harold" ... and the Boys

Watched this Athol Fugard play last night with my XI's at the Signature Theater. A powerful play and a powerful production, directed by the playwright himself. Set in a tea room in the provincial South African town of Port Elizabeth in 1950, the presentation modulated subtly throughout until it closed in a painful act of disavowal. Hard-hitting performances by Leon Addison Brown (Sam), Sahr Ngaujah (Willie), and Noah Robbins (Hally).

Recurring Motifs

JH's memorial was held last Saturday, November 12, at 150w83. PB managed to get through his speech without breaking down. It was a fine speech, loving, modest, and gently humorous. "Jin loved me but he also loved Anderson Cooper and Brazilian ballet dancer Thiago Soares." JH's mom spoke of JH's hospitalization in Fukuoka and PB's care for him in his last days. She too was puzzled by JH's sudden death and speculated that it was due to radiation as JH volunteered at the Fukushima prefecture in the last two or three years he visited Japan. In his speech JH's brother asked himself why JH moved to NYC, and thought it was because the city gave JH the freedom to be himself, freedom he could not find in Japan. He ended by asking us to keep NYC free, to which call many in the audience stood up and applauded. I could not help relating this to the election of Trump. The moment made a deep impression on me. I am committed to New York City and do not intend to lea…

Haiku

A brown dog
mounting a black dog
an empty parking lot

The Dinner

Watched last night the terrific move The Dinner (2014), based on a novel by Herman Koch. Directed by Ivano de Matteo, the movie demonstrated, almost inexorably, the fragile foundations of our morality. Great acting from an all-star Italian cast: Alessandro Gassman, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Luigi Lo Cascio, and Barbora Bobulova.

Haiku

After the flower pots
the truck will return
for the rolled-up fence

"Attribution" in Vietnamese

Image
So pleased that my poem "Attribution" from STEEP TEA has been translated into Vietnamese and published by AJAR Press in ABRACADABRA, the publication of A-festival in Hanoi in August 2016. Thank you, Nha Thuyen, and congratulations on the successful inaugural festival!



Immortality and Revolution

TLS Aug 19 and 16 2016

from Hal Jensen's review of H. J. Jackson's Those Who Write for Immortality:

At the end of his third collection of Odes, right at the "back" of the bookroll, Horace placed a poem which, for 2,500 years, has remained the locus classicus of poetry's unique powers: "exegi monumentum aere perennius" (I have completed a monument more lasting than bronze - although every word requires a scholar's note). More durable than bronze, higher than the pyramids, immune to time and the elements. Horace's poetry guarantees that he will not wholly die ("non omnis moriar").

How quick we all were to buy into that one. How quick to forget what we found at the back of Horace's next bookroll, the Epistles, which appeared in 20 BC, just three years after the Odes. Here, the concluding poem is addressed to the very book (liber) in our hands. It warns of the realities of public life: once out in the world, there is no coming back; yo…

Haiku

Sun in November
nothing to ask for
nothing to ask

ALSCW Conference at Catholic University of America

Thursday evening, Oct 27, it was lovely to hear George Kalogeris read his poetry again.

Friday, Oct 28, bright and early at 8 am a thought-provoking seminar "Poetry and Translation": Marco Antolin's "Overcoming the Abysm of Creative Stagnation: Philip Levine on Translating Antonio Machado, Garcis Lorca, and Cesar Vallejo"; Mary Maxwell's "Correspondences: Baudelaire's Fleurs du mal and the Translation Tasks of Richard Howard and Walter Benjamin"; Diana Senechal's "Translating an Understanding of Poetry Itself: Tomas Venclova's 'Pestel Street'"; Nicholas Pesques' "Translating: Acting".

Followed by an exciting plenary panel "Literature in Painting, Painting in Literature": Deborah Epstein Nord's "George Eliot and John Everett Millais: The Ethics of Ugliness"; Rebecca Ranof's "The Occluded Portraits of Dickens and Van Goh"; Ruth Bernard Yeazell's "Henry James…

Art Censorship (Again) in Singapore

"Artist cuts himself, takes blood oath, after his performance piece was cut from Singapore Biennale"

Religious sensitivities be damned if religious sensitivities do not, or will not, understand the intent and context of a work of art. I wonder, however, if more is at work than what is stated by the authorities. Could it be that the real concern is not religious, but political sensitivities? That Chandrasekaran's performance piece about the harsh lives of Indian convict workers in 19th-century Singapore will provoke powerful resonances and raise important questions in the present day about the way we treat our guest workers, most of whom come from the Indian continent?

It's interesting that the reporter mentions that Chandrasekaran had spent 6 years abroad in Australia before returning to Singapore and responding in this defiant manner to the act of art vandalism by the authorities. Apparently, the audience at his Q&A, "most of whom were from the local arts c…

An Open Letter to NBDCS and My Fellow Shortlisted Authors

My book Steep Tea was not submitted for the 2016 Singapore Literature Prize because of a mistake made by my publisher. Not knowing the mistake, I had reasonably expected my book to be shortlisted in the English poetry category, and so was prepared to withdraw it from consideration in protest against Singapore’s anti-sodomy law. Now that the heat around this year’s prize has cooled down, I wish to address some of the larger issues around a state-sponsored literary prize by publishing my planned letter of withdrawal. My hope is that the letter will contribute to the debate about the role of a writer when confronted with legalized injustice.


An Open Letter to NBDCS and My Fellow Shortlisted Authors 

 I wish to withdraw my book Steep Tea from consideration for the 2016 Singapore Literature Prize in protest against Section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore, which criminalizes sex between mutually consenting adult men. My action is not directed against the National Book Development Council…

Third Annual IAAC Literary Festival

On Gopika Jadeja's invitation, I attended the third IAAC Literary festival yesterday. The 3-day festival, organized by the Indo-American Arts Council, was attended mainly by South Asian Americans. It was a fascinating glimpse into the relationship between them and Indians from India. The Americans were intensely interested in social and political developments in India. They were also captivated by celebrity culture, that of Bollywood and of nationalist politics. The panels on the the first biography of film legend Shashi Kapoor and on the secret diary of Kasturba Gandhi were very well attended.

I particularly enjoyed the panel "This Unquiet Land," also the title of the debut work of non-fiction by award-winning broadcast journalist Barkha Dutt. She has reported on a wide range of issues, famously on the disputed region of Kashmir. She was impressively sharp and articulate, and was well-matched by the nimble acuity of her interlocutor Suketu Mehta, the New York-based auth…

Queer Southeast Asia

An important project, a queer Southeast Asia lit journal. Thank you, Bry Hos and Cy Rai, for including me in the inaugural issue, together with Nuril Basri, John H. McGlynn, Khairani Barokka, Lawrence Ypil, Alwynn C. Javier, Paul Dominic B. Olinares, Gino Dizon, Jeffrey Pascual Yap, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Leon Wing, Danton Remoto, Nimruz De Castro, and Wilfredo Pascual. The journal is now on-line for your reading pleasure.

Dusie's issue of Asian Anglophone poetry

Proud to be included in this rich and varied anthology of Asian Anglophone poetry, edited by the very fine poet Cindy Arrieu-King. I first heard Cindy read at the Asian American Writers' Workshop literary festival called Page Turner, and I was immediately drawn to the delicate and resilient layering of stories and images in her poetry.

She took an earlier iteration of my on-going project "Does Grass Sweat: Translations of an Insignificant Japanese Poet." In this iteration, dated January 10, 2016, I appended commentary to the haiku translations. You may have read the haiku on Facebook, and so may be interested in reading the commentary. There is also a translator's preface that conveys the earliest inspiration for the work. The project is still evolving, so I'd be happy to hear what you think.

2nd Singapore Literature Festival in NYC (Sep 28 - Oct 1)

2nd Singapore Lit Fest ended on a high note on Saturday, with scholarly and passionate talks about Sonny Liew's The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye. I hope the panel is the first of many, many to come because the graphic novel rewards close analysis and open discussion. A favorite moment was when two panelists, Ying Sze Pek and Matt Humphreys, disagreed with one another. Is the depiction of Lim Chin Siong and Lee Kuan Yew as hero and villian an instance of the novel's oversimplification of complex people, or is it part of the novel's sentimentalist structure? Is it, in other words, a fault or a a strength? Another favorite moment in the festival is less of a clash and more of a clarification, when Alfian Sa'at asks Jason Koo whether he means "mean as fuck" or "mean ASS fuck" in a discussion about the depiction of race and sexuality in literature. Ha, ha, literature is full of double entendres. Then there was that awkward moment in the "Fictionali…

Haiku

Not the rain
but after
no false note

Haiku

New day
old shoes
the leaves are turning

Haiku

A black moth
climbing up a white wall:
a bad stutter

Haiku

His tank top
is the same hot pink
as his dog's collar

Haiku

The long summer
has led the bee astray...
the cherries will bloom again

in memory of Jin Hirata

Haiku

The sadness
of scraggy fields
where we sat

Bettering American Poetry 2015

Proud to have my poem "A Whole History" (from Steep Tea) included in the groundbreaking anthology Bettering American Poetry 2015.

From my interview: "I knew people back home would be pleased and proud that a Singaporean was being published by the esteemed UK publisher Carcanet Press. I wanted people to know, even if they don’t open the book, that this Singaporean is proudly gay. The anti-sodomy law, an inheritance from the British, is still on the books, and the LGBT community in Singapore still faces all kinds of discrimination and prejudice. If the country wishes to embrace my book, it will have to embrace my sexuality. I also self-identify as postcolonial for political reasons. Not only do I wish to assert my independence against the British empire of letters, I also want to protest the neo-colonial apparatuses of oppression inherited and exercised by the Singaporean state. These apparatuses include not only the anti-sodomy law, but also state control of the press, …

Haiku

Under the sky
and its September glint
an empty pedestal

Translations and Haiku

"In His Other House" and "Singapore Buses Are Very Reliable" have been translated into Russian by Dmitry Kuzmin. I feel very honored.

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What's holding up
the clouds
in the treeless sky?

Haiku

Crickets chirping:
illuminated numbers
on a digital clock

Haiku

Everyone’s here
but someone’s missing
maybe the moon…

for Tara Safronoff

Haiku and Vietnamese Attribution

Image
August evening
an anonymous music review
of a June night


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Very pleased to have my poem "Attribution" (from STEEP TEA) translated into Vietnamese and published in the festival pamphlet of the A-Festival in Hanoi. Thank you, Nha Thuyen, for the translation/publication and for your love of poetry from different places and languages. I hope to join you in Hanoi some day.

Title: ABRACADABRA (poetry collection of A-festival)
First published by AJAR press, Hanoi, 2016.
Language: Multi-languages: Vietnamese, English, Chinese, Thai, Tamil
Product Dimensions: 12x 20.5 cm
168 pages
ISBN 978-1536829075

And thanks, William Phuan, for the image.


Haiku

August evening
two balding men walking
their sausage dogs

Cambodia Diary

Wed, Aug 10 - Arrived in Phnom Penh. First tuk tuk ride from airport into city. Stayed at Patio Hotel., just off 51 Street, also called Foreigners' Street. Construction booming in the city. The skyline is blocked by buildings clad in green netting. Visited gay bars in the evening. The best one was Space Hair, which doubled as an hair salon in the day. The servers, tall and hunky, unlike most Khmers, were trained to sit and chat with customers. Ours moved to Phnom Penh from a village on the border with Thailand.

Thu, Aug 11 - Walked along the promenade adjacent to the brown Tonle Sap River and around the palace area. Had a gin and tonic at the Elephant Bar at Raffles Hotel. Had a nice massage in Patio the day before, and had another one, two hours, that day. Stress relieved!

Fri, Aug 12 - Van to Sihanoukville, where we took the boat to Koh Rong. Rough ride. It lasted an eternity. A skiff greeted us, and we finally arrived at the Lonely Beach, run by a Frenchman called Danny, who ha…

Into Russian now. What next?

Russian poet, critic and publisher Dmitry Kuzmin has just translated my poem "To a Young Poet" into Russian. He has previously translated my poem "Brother" from the Best New Poets anthology. The Russian translation of "To a Young Poet" comes hot on the heels of the Latvian translation. This poem has legs! Thanks, Dmitry!

Into Latvian

My poem "To a Young Poet" has been translated into Latvian and published in Satori. Thank you, Atdzejojis Ilmārs Šlāpins! You can read the English version here.

Magma reviews "Steep Tea"

"Both entertaining and thought-provoking, this book is also a serious conversation between poets and cultures, and an education." Thanks, Rob A. Mackenzie (editor), Jane Routh (reviewer), and Magma, for the glowing review of Steep Tea in Magma 63.

Putting Down "Taproot"

Thanks, Michael Broder of Indolent Books, for publishing my essay on my writing and revision of the poem "Taproot."

Singapore Arts Diary

Mudflats at Batam. Guy's photo. My poem.

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Sun, July 17: Watched Helmi Yusof's play "My Mother Buys Condoms." A skilfully crafted play, the dialogue reminiscent of Singaporean English TV comedies. Then it sprang its "ambush," with its nice analogy between our unreasonable disgust with both elderly passion and same-sex love. Part of the Wild Rice Theater Festival at Lasalle.

Wed, July 20: Singapore Unbound: the Transgressions Reading, at Booktique, with me, Ovidia Yu, Cyril Wong, and Tania De Rozario. Good turnout. Festival alums Jason Erik Lundberg and Pooja Nansi came. Other writers too, including Leong Liew Geok, Robert Yeo, Ng Yi-Sheng, and Toh Hsien Min.

Thu, Jul 21: coffee with Dan Feng certainly counts as a cultural event. Great library in his place, with books on translation, politics, and philosophy, and rare Singapore books, including fake translations. Must make time to consult the last.

Sat, July 23: Watched The Obs: A Singapore Story at the Proj…

Singapore Art Diary

Wed, July 6: Brought parents to watch BOO Junfeng's The Apprentice at Vivo City's Golden Village. I was probably too tired because I kept falling asleep, waking up only whenever FIRDAUS Rahman (who played the apprentice hangman) stripped, which was not a few times. My impression, in between shut-eye, was a powerfully shot film with an inchoate character at the heart of it.

Fri, July 8: Read my work at Thomas HENG's gathering at Caffe Pralet.

Sat, July 9: Attended Written Country panel with speakers GWEE Li Sui, ALFIAN Sa'at, and a Singaporean historian (Chee Kin?), moderated by Landmark publisher GOH Eck Keng. The event was held in Enabling Village, Lengkok Bahru. Some interesting discussion about the relationship between history and fiction.

Wed, July 13: Attended Epigram's Fiction Panel "The Great Singaporean Novel: Fantasy or Reality." My first visit to the Projector. Met O Thiam Chin for the first time. Bought his book and that of WONG Souk Yee. Edmun…

Emigres and Outsiders

TLS May 13, 2016
from Commentary, introduction by Luke Parker to "On Generalities," a talk by Vladimir Nabokov:

This condition--what we might call a poetics of future perfect--treats the present as it will have been remembered or memorialized. In the story "A Guide to Berlin" (1925), Nabokov's narrator imagines "some eccentric Berlin writer in the twenties of the twenty-first century, wish to portray our time", for whom "everything, every trifle, will be valuable and meaningful". For Russian emigres of the 1920s, tipped by Trotsky into the dustbins of history, the notion of an eventual vindication was comforting. After all, a posthumous critical redemption had long been the imagined asylum of under-appreciated artists, gifted and talentless alike.  *  In "A Guide to Berlin", one émigré tells another: "I think that here lies the sense of literary creation: to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in the kindly mir…

Difficult decision made esay

Eric Valles, the director of Singapore's National Poetry Festival, invited me to contribute a poem to the festival's ekphrastic-poetry exhibit. Since the festival is partly funded by the National Arts Council, I had to turn down the kind invitation because I have decided not to work with the NAC since its withdrawal of funding from Sonny Liew's political novel "The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye," followed by public statements from NAC CEO Kathy Lai and NAC Chairman Chan Heng Chee supporting the continued censorship of the arts. (For the thinking behind my decision, you could see https://singaporepoetry.com/2015/12/06/to-my-fellow-singaporean-artists-and-arts-lovers/.) I have also had to turn down a request to include my poems in a major formal poetry anthology, UnFree Verse, because the editors are, not unusually, seeking an NAC grant for publication. These decisions are taken not against the festival organizers or the anthology editors, but in protest of NAC'…

Four Poets

Smart, inventive, observant, the poems of Kay Ryan are a genuine delight. The lesser poems in this New and Selected are the fallouts of her strengths. When the love for epigram trumps the fire of imagination. When the final rhyming pair clicks shut but the box is empty. The Best of It allows through too much. Thin poems are best collected in a thin volume. "Things Shouldn't Be So Hard" affords a rare glimpse into the private life. It leaves me wanting more, not for the sake of voyeurism, but for the sake of the complete victory.

Brian Turner's book of poems Here, Bullet is about miscomprehensions as much as it is about the misadventures of war. The book foregrounds the Arabic language in the prelude poem, and in the titles of many poems thereafter. It is the book's contention that the poet has the right and the authority to deploy the language because he, and his fellow soldiers, has paid for it in blood. Turner was there fighting the war as an infantry team lead…

Complete Headrush

I've been trying to catch up with myself. Classes were over by June 10, but the very next week I taught my first summer poetry writing workshop for high school students, titled brashly The Complete Poet. It was/is open to students from my school and elsewhere, but as it turned out, only two students from my school signed up, both of whom had studied with me. Although the enrollment was tiny, I went ahead with the course. Better to get the ball rolling than to wait at the start line, to mix my metaphors. I'm so glad I did. We had a great time reading a poet a day, writing poems inspired by the poet, and workshopping the poems. First day, we read Kay Ryan's New and Selected called The Best of It. We discussed her use of nature for metaphor and commentary, and her spin on common idioms. Second day, we read Brian Turner's Here Bullet, about his experience fighting as an American soldier in the Iraq war. Here we focused on his use of Arabic as a way of understanding and mis…

Orchid Haiku

Image
A pot of orchids from my poetry writing workshop students! It was wonderfully energizing to meet ten eager young poets every Thursday at 7:20 am before the start of school, in order to read contemporary poetry and workshop their poems. Their dedication to learning, exploring, and changing nurtured mine.

Orchid petals--
streaky stains in the air
after rain

Haiku

For the fallen mums
I wipe the mud
off my shoes

Haiku Time

TLS March 11 2016

from Thomas Heaney's review of Vanessa Ogle's The Global Transformation of Time:

In the early 1960s, E. P. Thompson started scouring anthropological reports and journals for examples of peoples around the world with a less calculating sense of the passage of time. He was looking for temporal measures that were still deeply embedded in human action. In Madagascar, there was a word that designated "the time it takes to cook rice" and another for the moment it took to "roast a locust". In Burma, there were monks who started the day "when there is light enough to see the veins in the hand". In the English language, Thompson found linguistic markers closer to home: there were once such things as "a pater noster wyle", "a misere whyle", and there there had survived a rarefied measurement known as "a pissing while".

Summer breeze—
a pint of blueberries
from the store

Tyler Cowen's Good and Plenty

As the subtitle "The Creative Successes of American Arts Funding" suggests, Tyler Cowen defends the decentralized approach to arts funding adopted by the USA against the more centralized approach of the European states. The defense is, to my mind, thoughtful and thorough. Thoughtful because it takes into account both aesthetic and political claims, not over-stating either, but exposing excessiveness where he sees it. Thorough because it examines the long history and the contemporary context of American arts funding. The only caveat here is that the book was published in 2006, and so its data and findings need updating. The update is unlikely to overturn the book's conclusion.

The decentralization argument, or the use of indirect subsidies instead of direct subsidies, is the core of Cowen's thesis. It helps to answer not only the demand for more arts funding coming from the arts community, but also the demand for less funding, arising from Christian critics of immoral…

The Self-Propelled Island

Two Fridays ago, went gallery hopping with VM not in Chelsea, but on the Upper East Side. Saw a retrospective of David Hammons, the foremost African American conceptualist artist, at Mnuchin Gallery. The most striking work was his Basketball Chandeliers. Also saw portraits and landscapes by Jean-Michel Basquiat, including four paintings of cows and goats. We ended up at the Met, to look at Turner's whaling pictures, before having a drink at the gallery bar.

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TLS April 8, 2016

from Pippa Goldschmidt's review of Jules Verne's The Self-Propelled Island, translated by Marie-Therese Noiset:

By contrast, in The Self-Propelled Island, published much later, in 1895, this optimism is tempered with a greater sense of realism; now technology is primarily an enabler of hubris. The novel is set in an apparent utopia; a vast island inhabited only by millionaires which floats around the Pacific, hardly ever needing to dock in its home country of the United States. Only the very rich can…

David Hare's The Judas Kiss

Watched Rupert Everett in David Hare's play The Judas Kiss last night at Bam Harvey, and thought he was mesmerizing. We were too far away to see facial expressions, but the posturing, the collapse, the eloquence, came together for a terrific effect. The production, directed by Australian Neil Armfield, was first presented at Hampstead Theatre in London in 2012. The play itself juxtaposes two very different halves. The first, taking place in a London hotel room, is frenetic, as Wilde faces the prospect of imminent arrest, and is urged by his lover Bosie to stay and fight the prosecution, and by his good friend Robbie to flee into exile. It climaxes with the arrival of the police. The second half takes place in Naples, after Wilde's imprisonment and release, and it has the sadness of the aftermath of sex. The erotics of the play's construction is deliberate, of course. The first half opens with interrupted coitus between the bellboy (a dishy Elliot Balchin) and the chamberma…

Haiku

Make a home
of an old carriage house?
Make a tea house!

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Over the scaffold
by the side of the girls' school
a big butterfly net

Haiku

Old joke
in the rain you raise...
late spring in Kyoto

Haiku

Wrinkled woman
walking with a brown paper bag
shrinking as we speak

Vicente L Rafael's Motherless Tongues

Thought-provoking essays on post-colonialism, neo-colonialism, translation, and the insurgency of language. Looking at the Philippines at the time of its Revolution, American occupation, and "People Power" II, and at the USA after 9/11, Rafael traces the attempts by colonial and neo-colonial powers to master translation in order to subjugate local populace. Each time he shows that the powers fail because of the insurgency of language, that which cannot be translated. Particularly interesting to me is the idea of the radical welcome that Revolution shows to the Other. Also fascinating is the failure of American schooling to eradicate Tagalog and other vernacular idioms and accents. The Introduction speaks eloquently of the suppression of other languages in order to speak and write in scholarly English. The final essays on Filipino scholars--Renato Rosaldo and Reynaldo Ileto--are appreciative of their achievements while remaining alert to their limitations. Of the latter's…

Haiku

In the impaired ear
of the tall dark-haired boy
a small seashell

Arts Entrepreneurship Awards and Haiku

Last night attended Fractured Atlas's Arts Entrepreneurship Awards at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in Tribeca. The five awardees worked in the different fields of Indian dance, independent theater, on-line sketchbooks, activist museum curation, and ... I did not understand what the last one was about. The most interesting idea was Flux Theater Ensemble's Living Wage ticket scheme. Tickets to their productions are free. They tell the audience the different budgets for paying actors and crew a minimum wage and a living wage, and people pay what they wish on their way out. They have had more audience and more payments since the launch of the scheme. SLF events in September will be free and open to the public. This makes the important point that everyone is welcomed. I'm thinking, however, of asking the audience to contribute whatever they can afford towards the writers' next work. They can make a donation on their way out too. Last week I also had the idea of gi…

Now an E-book

Steep Tea is now available as an e-book around the world! The formatting looks a little wonky in the preview, but I've been assured by the publishers that the actual e-book looks good.

Last night, read for the NY Lambda Finalists' Reading at Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Good turnout. WL, WKN, YW, and AH came. WKN brought a friend who found my book in the Union Square Barnes & Noble. I especially enjoyed hearing Chinelo Okparanta read from her Nigerian novel Under the Udala Trees. I thought the audience was very attentive when I read "Attribution" and "Hub Caps as Big as Ashtrays." Wanted to distance myself just a little from the atmosphere of tribalism in the event, so stressed my Singaporean origins and biases.