Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Are you strong enough to be my man?

" the making of Axel Gunderson the gods had remembered their old-time cunning and cast him after the manner of men who were born when the world was young. Full seven feet he towered in his picturesque costume which marked him a king of Eldorado. His chest, neck and limbs werethose of a giant. To bear his three hundred pounds of bone and muscle, his snow shoes were greater by a generous yard than those of other men. Rough-hewn, with rugged brow and massive jaw and unflinching eyes of palest blue, his face told the tale of one who knew but the law of might."

- Odyssey of the North by Jack London-

*faints and fans herself*

Nope, they don't make them like that anymore......

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The End of his Orbit

In this creaky orbit, I recognize my own return - not to the self I left behind- but to this, my childhood home to pick up the things I still want to keep.

One of them is to learn to read, once again. The poetry thing -I thought when I went to law school and gave up my honours year in NUS, that I had left it behind forever. I left Singapore to escape the past with its horrors, and unknowing, left part of myself behind as well.

But no, wandering into the Marine Parade Library today to pick up travel guides for an upcoming trip to Bali, I glanced around and felt the desire awaken, to once more open a book and have the words illumine, grip my chest with a fervour. I had a craving - for poetry.

Borrowed then read Cyril Wong's second collection of poetry - The end of his orbit - and found myself inexorably pulled back into the love of words. No discernible poetic verse forms, but chains of words falling slowly down a page, linked, always linked to circle back in the end.

A charter of emotions - but with none of the exhausting verbosity one normally associates with most confessional poets. There is instead a deftness with word and metaphor - a coolly calculated use of every phrase, every hyphen and space to coil the reader into the poem.

Thematically, he deals with the quotidian, of half lived lives and the inarticulate desires of the pedestrian man on the street - a poetry not so much set in Singapore as marked by it. In his poems, behind the words, you see the flats, the everyday of Singapore enlarged with detail before your eyes, the quiet unutterable pain and urban loneliness that lurk behind the smiles and brightly painted gateways to HDB flats.

This is a poet who goes behind- HDB flats, people's eyes, altars, delves into ipods - he is strongest when dealing with the poetry of journeys, both to and from relationships.

Then the orbit becomes clear - Penelope's loneliness, mermaid's choices, the universality of wolves and those who wear red hoods feature quietly in the last segment - the movement away from the MRT trains and familial disputes to the classics, from the geographically specific to the culturally universal then back again to show that even in the land of myth and fable, the journey is the same.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded,
there I am a lie.
And I want my grasp of things
true before you. I want to describe myself
like a painting that I looked at closely for a long time,
like a saying that I finally understood,
like the pitcher I use every day,
like the face of my mother,
like a ship
that took me safely through the wildest storm of all.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. by Robert Bly

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Joyful music lead us sunward

In January this year, I wrote this:

"if you'd asked me to describe myself in one word in 2004, I would have said - Damaged. If you ask me now,I would say - Alive"

The journey toward life - a greater embrace of life - had its beginnings in this post.

"The story goes that when John Lennon first met Yoko Ono, he met her at one of her wacky art shows. As he toured around the strange white shapes, he came upon a ladder in the corner. At the top of the ladder, the ceiling. On the ceiling, a magnifying glass dangling down. As he climbed up the ladder, he expected to see something in the magnifying glass like Stop the War, or Fuck You. He expected it to be incendiary and confrontational. Instead, when he reached the top of the ladder and peered through the magnifying glass, he read, in teeny tiny letters, yes."

Yes. Yes to good food and people. Yes to learning more. Yes to leaving fear and negativity behind. Yes to leading a greater,more fulfilling life. Yes to focus and self control. Yes to the love of life.

Yes to discovering that I have flame within and not tepid waters.

I want to be, all that I can be.

There is this hunger to reach out, touch and learn, from everyone,from everything.

There is the desire...

to read - everything but especially, oh especially poetry again.
Re-read Elizabeth Jennings several days ago and it was akin to greeting a long lost friend. There is so much I left behind,so much I have not done, read, seen.

Ben Okri, Steinbeck, Robert Graves, Arundhati Roy, Carver, Eugenides, Diana Wynne Jones, Dorothy Sayers, PD James, my divine and beautiful Shakespeare, AS Byatt, Webster, Ishiguro, Pratchett, my beloved John Donne, Philip Larkin, Banana Yoshimoto - All my old friends, I want
them back in my life and to make new ones too.

to write and write - anything, everything. Journal entries, blogposts,doggerel verse, poetry, stories, letters to friends, random scenes and lines.

The day this desire to write returned, I felt loved once again. I am near tears writing this- so great was the rush of mingled joy and relief - that I had this within me, all the while. That it has come back at a time when I had almost given it up for good. Never mind the rust and unfamiliarity, never mind that it has been so long ; it is here again and I have it locked in the fiercest of embraces.

to learn - about God, about music, about dance, about diving, about food, about film, about writing, art, photography - there is just so much!

to sing - schmaltzy chinese pop, schmaltzy english pop, and with all my heart, the hymns I know.

to have fun - laugh, crack stupid lame jokes, to run with wind in my hair, watch comedies, silly films that I can make fun of, embrace friends and jump, laughing, into every swimming pool that I see.

to have great conversations, to meet great people and to live fully and joyfully, every single day.

Oh and finally,

to dream - great big cartwheeling dreams that fill up my night sky with stars and fill my day with light.

It started with the telling of a story and has ended with this - Life. It has only taken 10 years, two relationships and much much heartache. But I sleepwalk no longer.

No, no drugs - recreational or otherwise - involved here. Merely that I am alive, deeply and thrillingly alive. The kind of alive that caffeine and rollercoaster rides could never give you. The kind of alive I never thought I'd be.

No more room for fear, if only, should have been or regrets. There is only now, this life and all that it can be.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Shortcuts: Mismatched pieces

One - The opening of a wine bar/restaurant

She smiled nicely for the society magazine photographer,relieved that she had taken the trouble to dress - the black dress with a deep square neckline that had reminded her of Audrey Hepburn in the shop, a string of pearls, solitaire diamond studs, heels - simple and effectively unobtrusively elegant.

She slipped,still smiling, amongst the crowd, trying the New Zealand Chardonnay, the Portuguese ports, the Rieslings from France. She handed out her card to those who asked for it, didn't flinch when well barbered older men grasped her hands in a display of friendliness and poured her more wine.

It had been years since she'd attended one of these events and the crowd remained unchanged. Men,with that indefinable air of ease that only wealth can bring, talking affectedly about the stock market and the wines, pretending to be oenophiles (or perhaps they were,she couldn't tell), women with thousand dollar handbags and tired perfectly made up faces waiting by.

Later, making conversation with the anorexically thin, well dressed girlfriend of one of the firm's clients, she had a flash of understanding that the older man who'd asked for her card earlier had probably envisioned her in such a role.

Just then, her boss called out to her and suppressing a shudder, she turned to go with some relief.

Two - On the steps

She sat on the porch steps ruthlessly swigging water: it worked, she could feel, as she always could, the alcohol quietly leaving her head. Perhaps the months of OD-ing on prescription medication hadn't quite killed her liver yet.

Z appeared silently out of the darkness and slipped his arm around shoulders. He said nothing, just held her and the first sobs shook out from deep within her chest and out into his arms.

She tried to tell him, but the words and the sobs were fighting for air and in the end she gave up the effort and let him have the tears.

Three - Picture

There's a picture of us, taken at some Christmas party. It's not on my computer or yours but floats ephemerally on some cyberspace picture site which I sporadically access.

I'm wearing a blue dress with a silver pattern. My head is on your shoulder and I'm smiling at the camera. You have a half smile on your face and didn't shave that day so there's stubble but mainly...

The frame is filled with blues and reds and glowing silver: it could have been Christmas Easter Chinese New Year Halloween and there could have been a party hat a halloween mask a flower lei around my neck

and the air is almost thick enough that the camera strains to commit to film an invisible image of ... the intangible, the nothing, the contentment, the everything.

after, when I saw it, when I saw it I half believed the African tribesmen who say that photographs trap pieces of your soul because staring up out of the computer screen was my your our souls in contentment and love.

Let her tell stories and dance in the rain

On Sunday, one of dearest and oldest friends gave birth to her first child and watching her cuddle her little baby daughter made my heart ache with joy.

My Blueberry Girl is a poem written by Neil Gaiman for Tori Amos when she was pregnant with her daughter, Tash. It has been turned into a picture book for children, with gorgeous illustrations by Charles Vess. Read the reviews of it here and here.

I came across this video via Neil Gaiman's website yesterday, watching it, I thought of my little sister(who isn't so little anymore), of 5 day old little Amelie,who has finally graced us with her presence and teared a little.

To HF and M - I reserve the right to buy this book for Amelie when it comes out in stores in Singapore.

It has found me

May happiness
pursue you,

catch you
often, and,

should it
lose you,

be waiting
ahead, making

a clearing
for you

A. R. Ammons

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Moment of beauty: Lights at the Esplanade

On my way to the Singapore Flyer to meet friends on Monday, I walked past the main hall of the Esplanade and swam into light and colour. I stopped, thankful that in the midst everything else going on in my life, I could have this moment.

I stood and took shot after shot, trying to capture the colours and textures.

The second picture is a blurred shot, taken when I tried to turn my flash off. I was struck when reviewing the pictures by the realization that this is the way they would have looked to me if I'd taken my glasses/lenses off.

Astigmatism is an optical disorder that changes the way a person perceives light.That and myopia combine to turn my night world into a blurrily beautiful world of floating lights and colour.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reason and emotion

I have come to recognize that I speak and by extension, write irresponsibly and emotionally. I find that disturbing, this realization of my own lack of thought.

It becomes clear now, how many of my decisions are based on my fluctuating emotions and how I often let my imagination run away with me.

I try harder now, to put thought into the things I do. I write out objectives and try to stay on track but habit and lack of practice makes it difficult.

Focus. Will. Determination. Strength.Mastery of myself.

There is a chance, a real chance to re-shape myself and change the way I want to live my life.

There is nothing charming about a wastrel who spends her time and her life wandering and unfocused.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Some beauty

Not alot to say.

No. Rather there has been so much in my life recently but so little that I'm willing to share on this public space.

What is left to share is some of the loveliness I have come across.

So first, prose. This article by Christian Wiman in The American Scholar piqued my interest,awakened my mind. He writes gently,lyrically,without a trace of mawkish sentiment, of poetry and life, love and faith. Wiman is a poet even in prose.

Below are excerpts:-

"Then I fell in love. I say it suddenly, and there was certainly an element of radical intrusion and transformation to it, but the sense I have is of color slowly aching into things, the world coming brilliantly, abradingly alive."

"I was brought up with the poisonous notion that you had to renounce love of the earth in order to receive the love of God. My experience has been just the opposite: a love of the earth and existence so overflowing that it implied, or included, or even absolutely demanded, God. Love did not deliver me from the earth, but into it"

Second, an old favourite. Poetry, what else? When my mind is roused in some way, when I am distraught or too overwhelmed with new experiences to focus on a full book properly, I crave poetry. This month,it was John Donne.

This poem, A Valediction Forbidding Mourning kept thrum-thrumming through my head.

"Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do. "

I want that.That bone deep, soul deep connection. Where you know another person so intimately that you know,instinctively how they'd react to anything. When you just know.

I want that. That kind of happiness. The laughter.The passion. A passion that would bring down all of my reason and yet, is my reason.

Poetry does that to me.

Prose, then poetry.

Then now, music. A video too, but it isn't the video that's the point here.

The point is the delicate,impish piano. The voice breathing over the keys. The intertwining of the two, lovemaking in the air.

So rich that on hearing it, I thought I could almost taste it, smell it wafting about me. When one sense is so awakened that the others come to life.