Love Poems – class activity


Last week in class, we were given 15 minutes to write a love poem without rhyme, meter or any formal constraint and I came up with two (although now that I am aware, writing without formal constraint takes getting used to.) This is just for my collection.

Love Insomnia

A day without seeing you

is to be awake in the Arctic

during the winter solstice

awaiting the break of an elusive dawn.

Bumpy Landing

Love was us in a hot air balloon,

floating on tangerine clouds across Cappadocia,

bubbly light and high on champagne

Until we were shaken up by a bumpy landing.

——————————————————————————

Then we were told to write four-line tetrameter love poem in the form of a Ruba’i rhyme scheme.

What I want to hear 

Tenderly whisper in my ears,

the cherished words I yearn to hear.

How your heart burst with love for me,

and forever you want me near.

Immortal Love

He holds my body against him,

our eyes lock, our gazes are grim.

I smile and take my last deep breath.

His face fading as light grows dim.

 

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Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage by Alice Munro


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I must thank my lecturer Darryl for introducing to me the Canadian author, winner of the Nobel prize in literature 2013. I am not exactly a fan of short stories, preferring the company of long fiction to simmer into the story. However, I kept hearing the name Alice Munro from Darryl, I thought I should check her out after an excerpt of her story appeared in The New Yorker – and I was hooked. I love her prose, the intimate description she brings out of a seemingly mundane situation. All I wanted to do while reading is to soak into that sentence or paragraph and ruminate over and over again, as if I was the one experiencing the feeling of the character. Or perhaps I was, so immersed into that shared experience – not the story – that I felt she was describing me in another situation. In Post and Beans, Lorna was worried her sister Queenie would attempt suicide in her absence. ‘When they entered Stanley Park it occurred to her to pray. This was shameless – the opportune praying of a nonbeliever. ‘ This was I in the temples in Bhutan in June, feeling like a hypocrite while praying for my ill uncle, who passed away a few weeks after.

There are nine short diversified stories in the book, all of which are memorable but what struck me most about many of these stories is the common theme of falling in love outside of a long, tired marriage. In The Bear Came Over a Mountain, she writes ‘ Married women started going back to school. Not with the idea of qualifying for a better job or for any job but simply to give themselves something more interesting to think about than their usual housework and hobbies. To enrich their lives. And perhaps it followed naturally that the men who taught them these things would become part of the enrichment, that these men would seem to these women more mysterious and desirable than the men they still cooked for and slept with.’ How true when I think about I and other middle-aged women in my yoga studio flirting playfully with the young handsome instructors.

The stories in books are honest and touching and I wish I could write like her – with clear articulation to show and never tell. ‘A tremour of nerves there, an affected nonchalance, a hurry to get through and a reluctance to let go.’

Incidentally, Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage – was a game I used to play, except we used the shorter version of Friendship, Courtship, Hatred, Love – a game where I would write down my name and the name of the boy I had a crushed on, to predict if he shared the same feeling as I did, by first crossing out the common alphabets we shared, and then reciting Friendship, Courtship, Hated, Love to the remaining alphabets to see where it ended for each name. Amazingly, I googled the game and there are online versions to calculate the prediction in seconds, taking away the anticipation of doing it yourself.

If you would like a good literary fiction to warm your heart, read Alice Munro. I’m glad to discover a favourite new writer after the passing of  Maeve Binchy, and having consumed all the books of Ann Patchett.

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What’s next?


I’m on my half-way mark in my master programme (in creative writing, in case you do not know.) Having left a full-time job to pursue this course, a job which I had found easily despite a hiatus of sixteen years being a housewife, I am often asked by many as to what my plans are after I graduate. It’s as if I had been reckles abandoning a good job to do this study for a non-existing career or future. The question stresses me up, for I do not know. I do feel guilty not contributing to the economy and to the family. But then again, my life as a housewife for the past sixteen years, while not having any financial returns, did have its own tangible benefits. My sons have either graduated or are on their way, which was my objective when I decided to leave the corporate life in exchange for a dull, unfulfilling, and often frustrating full-time mothering job. (If you’ve been following my blog through these years, you would know.)

I want to go with the flow and subscribe to the saying of 船 到 桥 头 自 然 直(The path will straighten itself when the time is ripe) but then again, planning is crucial if you want to reach a certain destination. My destination is hazy and vague, and I don’t know what’s the GPS setting yet.

While the programme has been really enjoyable, I am often filled with doubt as to if I am really good enough to have a writing career, something I have been telling everyone what I will do when I graduate (what else could I say?). Am I wasting valuable financial resource which could have been put into better use? Would the 1.5 years be better spent earning an income?

My grades have not been good and I am beginning to realise that not having a literature/English/philosophy degree is a drawback. A chemistry degree is just not helpful when discussing Shakespear poetry or play. The books I have read, genre fiction versus the preferred literary fiction, did not provide the resource I need now. But much worse than this is the requirements to write critical essays which carry a significant percentage of the final grade. While my lecturer is sympathetic – we have signed up for creative writing, not critical writing – and he hopes to change this for future students, I am losing my confidence daily. Think of yourself as the soldiers hinged on the barbed wire so that others can climb over you safely was his metaphor for us – and I see myself slowly dying of pain on the barbed wire while awaiting the compressing weights of crossing soldiers.

So yes, the future is vague, and I am living out of my comfort zone, but I feel it is better to be uncomfortable than be complacently comfortable while not feeling completely satisfied. It’s akin to when I am struggling in a challenging arm-balancing yoga pose like forearm stand, trying to understand why I even bother when I don’t need to. Then I realise it’s a destination I had set myself up in my yoga journey, just like the book I intend to publish, or the biography of Grandma I had intended to write eons ago.

I may not reach my destination, but my GPS has a direction guiding me. And when I am feeling doubtful, when my confidence is shaken, I remind myself to return to my breath. Like now.

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Ironing Board


Another of my ‘thing’ poem experiment, also inspired by another play. (I’m doing drama writing and poetry this semester.)

Ironing Board

Tucked in a corner,

legs folded beneath,

like a surf board left drying

after riding the waves.

Instead, upright, it’s a bed

awaiting the weight of a heated press

gliding along fabric waves.

Once the star of a John Osborne’s play

where it rode the waves of fame.

It now looks back in anger,

and ponders its domestic end.

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Lipstick


As part of my poetry homework, I was supposed to come up with a ‘thing’ poem. I experimented on many things, and this lipstick poem is one, which came to me in the middle of Xinyao concert – weird. It took a turn on its own and got deeply influenced by Lysistrata, a play I wrote my critical essay on.

The Lipstick

He clasps my lipstick in both hands,

encases it between putrid palms in prayer.

After a moment of hesitation,

he releases it onto two calloused fingers

and pulls off its plastic cap.

Gently he twists the slim ebony pipette

to raise the cake of crimson erection.

He brings forth the lipstick

towards a five-o’clock shadowy pout.

The lipstick glides across rough parched lips,

paints them a pasty red,

to match the rogue cheeks and purplish lids.

He hears my pleading whisper,

‘what are you doing with my lipstick?’

The lipstick, now freed to its full glory,

no longer imprisoned by its tube.

I’m liberated!

He scrawls across the mirror in red

and breaks the phallic cake.

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee


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This book is a recommended reading for my drama writing class and it epitomizes drama in all 257 pages. The dramas are all self-inflicted – like some typical Saturday night prime time Taiwanese drama, minus the booze (or perhaps there might be some but I haven’t paid attention) which carries on in the same scene week after week without any indication as to when or how it will end.

I remember watching the movie, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as a child and I had wondered what the show was all about at the end. Nothing happened but everyone seemed to be quarreling all the time, very much the same feeling I have as I sit, either in Grandma’s house, or my in-laws before during my visits, while waiting for the quarrel on TV to end and for a change of scene because the old ladies are glued to the TV, and then saying goodbye, with whoever on TV still arguing an hour later.

This book is like that, and it gets tiresome after a while, especially when I am trying to erase negativity from my life. My lecturer would disagree, as she sees the language and dialogues as beautifully written.

The story is about a middle-aged couple, Martha and George, who invite a younger couple, Nick and Honey, over at 2am in the night after their university social event earlier. Martha and George then proceed to humiliate each other, as well as the other couple, in what they consider a game. Although clearly uncomfortable, the young couple don’t leave and thus get dragged into a spiraling negative conundrum, because Nick, like George, dares not offend Martha, daughter of both their boss. There is plenty of booze, and with that accusations, thereby also revealing their own inadequacy and unhappiness in their unfulfilling marriages and lives.

Readers get exposition of character flaws and back story (filled with lies) throughout the night, that, you wish Nick and Honey would leave earlier so that you too can exit the story.

 

 

 

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A Day – Korean Movie Review


(SPOILER ALERT!)

Watching movies for me now is not just for entertainment, but also research for my dramatic writing class – where’s the arc, are the characters likeable, what’s the central dramatic question to hook the audience? But last Friday evening, this wasn’t the case. The moment the movie started, I forgot all about my research and was immersed for the full ninety minutes.

If you’ve watched Groundhog Day, this movie kind of reminds you of it, with lots of thrills and minus the romance.

Dr Kim Joon-Young is sitting on an airplane returning to Seoul, having missed his daughter Eun Jung’s birthday but hoping to make it up as soon as the plane lands. He gives an autograph and a selfie to the stewardess.

On his way to the airport carpark, he saves a boy from choking, gives a surprised press conference and then drives off, only to be interrupted by a road accident, where he sees, to his horrors, his daughter dead in the middle of a traffic crossing. And then he wakes up, back on the plane, and wonders if he has just been dreaming. Yet, everything that happens gives me a sense of deja vu – the stewardess, the choking boy, the press conference… and he knows he will find his daughter dead. He rushes against time but arrives too late. And then he wakes up back on the plane.

And these nightmares return repeatedly, with Dr Kim trying to beat fate to save his daughter but always in vain. Then he meets an ambulance driver, Lee Min-Chul, whose wife is also killed in the same accident, and who is also reliving the same nightmare as him. Both of them then try to work against time to stop the accident, but always never succeeding, until on one occasion, when they think they have succeeded, for they have crossed the time zone of the accident, only to learn that the accident has been staged, and the killer, like them, is reliving that day, each time to with the purpose to kill Dr Kim’s daughter and Lee’s wife.

With the scenes having to be repeated so many times, the editing is crucial, and subtle ingredients are added in each time to expand the plot and hook the audience. At the end of the movie, we learn that the good men are never really good and a bad man is bad for a good reason, and we empathise with the murderer despite what he has done.

And that’s what makes a great script.

 

 

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