The Delere Press intent “to provide a home for text and images that may not have a home otherwise, no matter what its geographical origins,” and to attempt to do so with hard copy, illustrated texts, choreographed by literary troupe, in this digital age, is remarkable.
A poem may try to evade its predators (its digital critics) by hiding in a book:
Even as it might be chuckling, perhaps always
le rire du poeme
That is from Jeremy Fernando’s “Et tu…A Prayer for Lim Lee Ching,” an afterword. Other parts of Lim Lee Ching’s book include an introduction by Neil Murphy (“Lim Lee Ching: Bounded by Beauty”) and drawings of birds spread throughout the book by Britta Noresten. We are told the poems were sequenced by Mary Ann Lim and the layout composed by Yanyun Chen. All of those collaborators are called “contributors.” The poetry becomes a question of community more important than mere self-expression.
“The path is not tongue-tied,” Lim Lee Ching says. Yet poetry comes without directions. Critics may provide some directions, using a kind of rear view mirror to describe the path now behind them. The critic’s notes may prove useful maps; then again, the reader may feel lost on the path, may want to be lost.
Beginning with “Ode to Everman” [sic], we hear repetition and a counting (accounting of things): cadence, marching, peace and piece, music piece, measured. Every man [who has ever marched, marching in a line, in a poem, to a tune, attuned]. Circumstance, the silence of Beckett (a ringing in the ears). Military “boom time,” “armed,” “beating.”
We hear words connected by sound: “cravat advocate.”
“Of fight, of fright, / And frenzied feeding against stained walls” (17). Desire is impotent. Who will teach that?
Then a drawing of a bird, the feeling of a bird in flight, perhaps in the night, or a fog, or over a grey sea. What a world this must be, to a bird. To cull is to pick, peck, at words.
We keep to the first word of each line capitalized, giving the line that authority accustomed poetry, but the lines are not necessarily sentences, not in the usual sense.
Who inhabits the space of an idea? “…not…king, colonel or clown, / Nor the realm of whisperers seeking to please.”
An idea (ideology is not ideas, Trilling said: Ideas malleable, suitable for poetry; ideology fixed). “Not ideas about the thing, but the thing itself,” Stevens said. “Say it, no ideas but in things,” William Carlos Williams said.
“Bookmarks” of Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell”:
The source of ignorance may well be reluctant pursuit…
The cult of stability and singular meaning
Diminishes ascendant beauty, delight and breath-hope…
Persistent therefores are fallacious,
They bind while unleashing the gateward push…
Prayer, cadence, repetition. Whose tongue is tied praying, writing, reading poems? The scat of the song solves the stutter, and the poet’s many tools are not obtrusive:
Whispery songs of woven trances,
Of ancient wisemen oozing.
Cadence as old steps (“the fragrance of remembrance”) might lead to disappointment, even depression: “Accord each a place in abjection.”
We move forward (in desire, in anxiety) and backward (in memory, in loss). The poet spends time in a backworld, where the citizens speak backward.
“Penance is the province of princes, not poor men,” which brings us to T. S. Eliot, where “The faces put on meet the faces within.”
If ideology is a “contagion,” is poetry the antidote?
Something lonely about the bird drawings. The birds are not in nature or in the city, but alone, each its own wordless poem.
“Song”: Blake of the Songs – song, rhyme, cadence, hope, safe, heart. Can the reader, too, be one of the “players of the heart”?
The “tenderizing songs” of Elvis. And “Plastic Jesus” – the perfect image on the dashboard desires deconstruction, a theory to explain its presence, or disappearance.
Writing as accretion, addition. Hear the two word form in “Shallowbreath”: “ribboned arches…winded depths…cobbled many…meddled few…celebrated warmth…allayed smokememory…displaced upon…hounded the highroad… …warmed eyes.” We could be in London or Singapore or Dublin. Joycean, that “smokememory.”
The poems seem to call on a philosophical muse, hard thought. Yet that thought’s softness comes through in poetic style, the form and shapes, the lines, the breath, the flows repeated and measured. The writing seems logical, in the same way that Kafka may appear logical, or Borges, without dismissing the nonlogical. The first person is not paramount. Others are.
Little poems of “love and faith” (65). What more can a reader ask for? The reader comprehends the poetry without necessarily every line understanding it.
What I have read, I have read. When the poem laughs, is the reader the goat? To read is to experience. Any attempt to make some other sense of that experience is a different matter.
(This review is extracted from a longer verison which can be found at Joe Linker’s The Coming of the Toads website.)
Lim Lee Ching. Pure and Faultless Elation Emerging From Hiding. Singapore: Delere Press, 2017.
Joe Linker is the author of three novels, Penina’s Letters, Coconut Oil, and Alma Lolloon; a children’s book, Scamble and Cramble: Two Hep Cats and Other Tall Tales; as well as Saltwort, a collection of poetical writings. He has contributed to Berfrois, Queen Mobs Tea House, The Christian Science Monitor, The Oregonian, Glasgow Review of Books, Rocinante, The Sultan’s Seal, VerseType, Miriam’s Well, and Silent Quicksand. Joe Linker’s regular writings can be found at The Coming of the Toads.