The Singer and Other Poems
Read Shirley Geok-lin Lim's introduction to The Singer and Other Poems.
THIS TITLE WILL SHIP ON 25 FEBRUARY 2022
In his elegy for his late wife, ‘Michiko Dead’, the poet Jack Gilbert writes about a man learning to carry ‘a box that is too heavy’, testing different ways of carrying until he ‘can go on without ever putting the box down’. It is a poem about learning how to live with loss and death, and an instance of the art of carrying‚ the poem as an act of bearing.
When I was younger, poetry carried me posthaste, high on the fuel of experience and freshness of thought, from initial impulse to final form. In middle age the roles are reversed – I am the mule, the porter, learning the weight and heft of the poem so I can carry it long-distance – over months and often years.
Perhaps the change occurred the moment I became a migrant. There was the baggage lugged from a past life, the freight of memories. There was the weight of new experiences, and the weight that came from being in between places – new and old mixing in a load hard to measure, harder to carry. And there was the weight of absence, the deaths of parents, the counterweights of the births of children.
Now I move in slow time, listen to the poem as I carry it, and let memory tell me where to go – to deliver the poem, and be delivered.
–Kim Cheng Boey