Featured Poem

Since you told me
by Toh Hsien Min

 

Since you told me it hasn’t been the case
that I have eaten less or, worse yet, more.
I haven’t slept away my sunny days
nor tossed and turned at night till half past four.
I haven’t worked too hard, nor called in sick.
My boss agrees my recent work’s been great.
My clothes are not too shabby, nor too chic.
I haven’t drunk myself into a state.

The things I notice are the smaller things;
I do not know if they have always been.
The orchids in my garden have no scent.
The evening crickets do not bow their strings.
The sea has lost its coat of deep marine.
I do not know what these things represent.

 

Reprinted with the author’s permission, the poem was first published in Tumasik: Contemporary Writing from Singapore (Autumn Hill Books), edited by Alvin Pang and funded by the National Arts Council of Singapore. The poem has also appeared in De Lettres Marché in French translation.

 

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Photo by David Liew

Toh Hsien Min has published three collections of poetry, most recently the Singapore Literature Prize-shortlisted Means To An End (Singapore, 2008). His work has also been published in periodicals such asAcumen, Atlanta Review, the London Review of Books, Poetry Salzburg Review and Staple, as well as anthologies such as the Carcanet Oxford Poets 2013 and the W.W. Norton Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond. His work has been translated into Finnish, French, Italian, Russian and Spanish, and he has been invited to international literary festivals from Sweden to Australia.

In the 2013 Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry, his earlier work was described as that of “an observant traveller and inventive formalist, adept at casual rhyme, colloquial phrasing and poignant structural returns…. Means to an End… broke forcefully out of this mould in flowing O’Haraesque verse paragraphs reflecting on the enmeshed existence of the poet as a global consumer.”

Hsien Min also serves as founding editor of the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore.

About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

4 comments

  1. datta2014

    The smaller things the poet has noticed has propelled us to know the why into those observations.A very natural, woven in plain style of prose poem. Appreciate it.

    Like

  2. Donna Smith

    I always respect a poem that trusts me with some unknowns, makes me think and takes me in an unexpected direction. Much enjoyed.

    Like

  3. Thanks, datta2014, for your comment.

    Like

  4. Hi Donna, I agree with your observation about the poem’s astuteness in knowing what to leave in, and what to leave out.

    Like

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