'Till death do us part'. This is easier promised than done. At least this is true for the main character in EDDIE TAY's new poetry collection A LOVER'S SOLILOQUY. The first sequence of poems in the book (also titled 'A Lover's Soliloquy') suggests how death fails to put a brutal end to a lingering love between a nameless man and his surviving si...
'Till death do us part'. This is easier promised than done. At least this is true for the main character in EDDIE TAY's new poetry collection A LOVER'S SOLILOQUY. The first sequence of poems in the book (also titled 'A Lover's Soliloquy') suggests how death fails to put a brutal end to a lingering love between a nameless man and his surviving significant other. But this love is not necessarily mutual:
I was afraid
you would forget me,
like the words you forget when you read,
or the clock you forget when you glance at it
to check the time.
Perhaps it is exactly this sense of suspense, bewilderment, loss and insecurity that makes the poems in this first section enduringly melancholy. We sympathise, we mourn the untimely death, we sigh. Also, we are at times unashamedly aroused by the subtle hints of physical passion between the two lovers, moments which now reside warmly in memory:
Naked, you can be tasty as honeydew
or sour, like green lemons stolen
from a garden.
Here is a man who does not relinquish love in the face of death. He is lingering, haunted with words on the 'torn pages'. And this wishful desire is manifested in this:
Imagine me, perched high
above faceless buildings,
making love to you with words,
hoping that you bear
the fruit of my pencil's lust.
The second section, titled 'Versions' is a selection of poems by the late Tang sensual poet Li Shangyin freely adapted or reinterpreted by Tay in English. One needn't know classical Chinese to decipher the poems, yet those who are bilingual will appreciate the beautiful translation of the sense of the poems and the modern air of the English versions. Well-known Chinese lines are now rendered into elegant and easily readable English:
Coming and going
like an echo,
you carried away a promise
lodged deep in stone
Was I dreaming
I was a butterfly
or a butterfly
dreaming it was a man?
The latter lines remind the reader of the philosophical riddle of the Red King's dream of Alice, oops, or the other way round.
The final poems in A LOVER'S SOLILOQUY are grouped under the title 'Everyday Poems', no longer in the realm of Death or the Far East of the distant past but the domain of the supposedly familiar.
These poems have an overtly autobiographical tone, telling of daily experiences, quirks and laments. Family members are mentioned in 'Grandfather', 'Father', 'Travelling', 'Fashion Magazines', 'The Persistence of Memory' and 'Interview with a Beauty Queen'.
What else captures the poet's mind unfailingly if not writing itself? In 'Creative Writing Workshop', Tay is playing with the idea of a poet not able to conjure up a decent poem in a writing workshop:
It is my turn to read.
But my poem did not appear.
I think it's playing hide-and-seek,
prancing gleefully at my feet.
The concluding poem in this section, 'My Other', which is also often the poem that concludes Tay's public readings, spells out the conflicting identities of a city poet: the sane working 'self' and the more or less flippant and flamboyant 'other', that is, the poet