Thursday, October 27, 2011
SWF :: Midweek :: A Night Of Poetry
Themed 'Truth, Pain and Beauty', the first of the two 'Musée d'Orsay Readings' at the Singapore Writers Festival 2011 was held within the exhibition galleries of the National Museum's 'Dreams and Reality: Masterpieces of Painting, Drawing and Photography from the Musée d'Orsay'.
Seated amongst the artworks and facing Van Gogh's 'Starry Night Over The Rhone', one could FEEL art and culture oozing out of the walls. It's a beautiful venue to hold a poetry reading session by 9 poets and writers. Zhang Ruihe began the session with a rather fun 'A Third-Rate Muse's Complaint' on inspiration and dedication, and how it differs from the individual. (Read her poem on QLRS.)
Dawn Fung livened up the session with her little guitar and folk songs. Interweaving the theme, she sang sad little songs that tell how human life is filled truth, pain and beauty in order to have truly lived. (Check out her myspace site.) Chan Koon Chung (陈冠中) read a paragraph from his latest novel, 'The Fat Years' «盛世:中国2013» in Mandarin and English. I'm sure the English translation is fine, but hearing him read the short paragraph, in comparison, I prefer the expressive lines in Chinese. I haven't read any of his works, and would like to get a copy in Chinese.
At some point, I began to wonder, do poets' voices matter as much as their poetry, especially at readings?
Bishnu N Mohapatra's emotive voice read 'Justice'. This line stuck, "The earth doesn't ask for asphyxiation, it asks for justice..." Later on, he read a third poem in Odia which simply flew over my head. It simply sounded so musical in the rise and fall of his cadences. He's a keen social scientist who observes the progress of democracy versus corruption and the urban poor in India. (Read an article of his on Delhi's urban poor in The Scope) Concluding the 1hr 30min session was Cheran, a poet with a fiery voice, he pens his poems only in Tamil. His passion for his craft and cause showed through in his reading of 'The Healing of the Forest'. "No witness for the drop of blood still not dried." I tried very hard not to think about the political discussions about his career. It isn't a context that I understand, nor wish to delve into.
It was an enlightening evening to hear the poets read their works, and I tried to make sense of how they interpret it versus my earlier reading of it. Granted, I didn't know what poems they would read, and I could only take a quick glance at their works for a feel of their style and preferred themes and messages. Still nice to put a face to the names on the printed words.