Category Archives: Literature

Break going out

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It’s World Poetry Day. Here is my favourite poem by Michael Ondaatje:

To A Sad Daughter

All night long the hockey pictures
gaze down at you
sleeping in your tracksuit.
Belligerent goalies are your ideal.
Threats of being traded
cuts and wounds
–all this pleases you.
O my god! you say at breakfast
reading the sports page over the Alpen
as another player breaks his ankle
or assaults the coach.

When I thought of daughters
I wasn’t expecting this
but I like this more.
I like all your faults
even your purple moods
when you retreat from everyone
to sit in bed under a quilt.
And when I say ‘like’
I mean of course ‘love’
but that embarrasses you.
You who feel superior to black and white movies
(coaxed for hours to see Casablanca)
though you were moved
by Creature from the Black Lagoon.

One day I’ll come swimming
beside your ship or someone will
and if you hear the siren
listen to it. For if you close your ears
only nothing happens. You will never change.

I don’t care if you risk
your life to angry goalies
creatures with webbed feet.
You can enter their caves and castles
their glass laboratories. Just
don’t be fooled by anyone but yourself.

This is the first lecture I’ve given you.
You’re ‘sweet sixteen’ you said.
I’d rather be your closest friend
than your father. I’m not good at advice
you know that, but ride
the ceremonies
until they grow dark.

Sometimes you are so busy
discovering your friends
I ache with loss
–but that is greed.
And sometimes I’ve gone
into my purple world
and lost you.

One afternoon I stepped
into your room. You were sitting
at the desk where I now write this.
Forsythia outside the window
and sun spilled over you
like a thick yellow miracle
as if another planet
was coaxing you out of the house
–all those possible worlds!–
and you, meanwhile, busy with mathematics.

I cannot look at forsythia now
without loss, or joy for you.
You step delicately
into the wild world
and your real prize will be
the frantic search.
Want everything. If you break
break going out not in.
How you live your life I don’t care
but I’ll sell my arms for you,
hold your secrets forever.

If I speak of death
which you fear now, greatly,
it is without answers.
except that each
one we know is
in our blood.
Don’t recall graves.
Memory is permanent.
Remember the afternoon’s
yellow suburban annunciation.
Your goalie
in his frightening mask
dreams perhaps
of gentleness.

 

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Nine questions: Prabda Yoon

PrabdaYoon

 

Let me put this out first: I love bookshops.

Last month’s weekend trip to Thailand led me to Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre (BACC), where the treasure trove called Bookmoby Readers’ Cafe can be found. If you’re staying for less than 48 hours in a country, why would you spend more than an hour in a bookshop?

My haul from Bookmoby included a few familiar titles and a shirt with the shop’s logo. While paying at the counter, I also picked up a CD entitled Naming of a Storm and asked the staff if I can listen to it first. The album had me at “Bangkok Blues” so I got a copy.

Days after Naming of a Storm became my staple driving music, I took some time to read the jacket and found out that the the lyrics were written by Prabda Yoon, who also runs Bookmoby, Typhoon Studio and Typhoon Books. Prabda won the S.E.A. Write Award in 2002 for his story collection, Kwan Na Ja Pen. He has written books and screenplays, produced music and designed numerous book covers. His writings have also been translated to Japanese and published in Japan.

So why would you spend an hour of your short vacation inside a bookshop? Because it could be the door to a nation’s mind. And when you walk through that door, your trip continues even when you’re already back in your own country.

A week after my trip to Thailand, I found myself exchanging e-mails with Prabda Yoon. I’m so thankful that the prolific and influential artist took time to answer a few questions.

***

The Typhoon Band, Typhoon Books and Typhoon Studio, Naming of a Storm. Is there a story behind the names and title? It’s just from my interest in meteorological phenomena. Also, it’s a word that is the same in Thai and English which makes it easy to use alternately.

The tracks in your band’s album, Naming of a Storm, has been my driving music for weeks now, since I picked it up at Bookmoby. “Cuba, Bollywood” is my favorite. Will you be releasing new album or music anytime soon? It’s unlikely because music is not my main thing and I don’t have time for it at all now.

The album was released in 2008. I understand that you wrote the lyrics for the songs. How different will the words be if you were to release a new one today? If I wrote new songs now the lyrics would probably be darker. I am feeling a bit frustrated with the political situation in Thailand and I think I would enjoy expressing that through songs. The music would also be more punk.

You’re a designer, writer, translator, publisher and musician, among other things. Have you always wanted or planned to do these? I’d always wanted to write and make art in some ways, but no, I didn’t really plan any of this. I never really believed that I could make a living doing these things. I tell myself often how lucky I am and how it’d be a terrible shame to waste it all by doing bad work. That’s my inspiration. I’m trying my best because I’m grateful I can do what I love.

Can you please tell us a bit about what makes you passionate about all these things that you do? I’m really no good at anything else. I feel that I’ve found my place in the world and I want to make the best out of it. For me life is about work, more than anything else, because I don’t have much passion for other things. So I just want to do what I do as much as I possibly can.

How do you see Thailand’s literary and art scene? It’s developing and at times it can be exciting. But Thailand still has a long way to go.

You’ve mentioned that you’ve been to the Philippines for some time. What brought you here? I have some good friends in the Philippines. And in 2009 I received a research grant from Japan that allowed me to stay in different parts of the Philippines for 3 months.

Do you have a favorite place in the Philippines? I love Siquijor. I went there twice. I would love to go back.

Is there any chance of you coming back? Yes, but not anytime soon. I know I will be back though.

***

If you’re planning to visit Thailand, pass by BACC and spend time (at least an hour) at Bookmoby. You may also visit its website: www.bookmoby.com.

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