Monday, July 27, 2009

The poetry of Dr Wong Yoon Wah

I discovered this guy's poems in the National Library Singapore writing stacks. He wrote mainly in Mandarin, but one of his volumes, "Beyond Symbols", published 1984 (yeah, that was the clincher), includes original work in English as well as a few translations.

He's often descends into purple prose (check out his absurdly honorific "Fruis of Nanyang") but some of his work's rather good. I'm particularly alarmed at the fact that the eponymous poem sequence, "Beyond the Symbols", is an almost direct precursor of my poem sequence "Translations", published in "last boy" in 2006.

Basically, both of them are textual reinterpretations of the embedded images in Chinese ideograms. The main difference is that he uses ancient jiaguwen whereas I, rebelliously, use simplified jiantizi.

He's born in 1941. That means he's probably still alive out there. Hmmm. Any leads?

from "Beyond the Symbols"

1. Morning

The sun standing on a reed
is drinking wind
and eating dew.
It has vomited out the shadows of night
leaving them hidden under the dry leaves.

2. East

The sun nailed to a sacred tree
is facing the door of mystery
in the spring, summer, autumn and winter.

5. River

The rapid current
with its waves
cut me apart.
My voice is on the right,
While my body is one the left.

The wondering monk on the shore
on hearing my voices
is unable to find me in the river.

13. Man

Are you the man
who is hunch-backed
holding a stone ax in his hand
and crossing the frozen river
in the darkness?

He lives in the darkness of a stone cave.
Sometimes he bursts into laughing,
and stretches his long long arm
to draw out the fire from the heart of rock
like a poisonous snake.

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