WE SAT IN GRANDMA’S KITCHEN, Irene Toh

We Sat In Grandma’s Kitchen
by Irene Toh

When body was presence, mind
distilled whispers out of sight.
On weekdays, we ran up the steps
gathering leaflets, first
treasure hunters–and on Sundays,
grandmother bowed mauve
in a kind of halo.
We sat in the kitchen–
grandma’s chicken cooked in wine,
fried meatballs a slow feast–
made a psalm of a bowl.
Only the end shall quiet
brief tirade riffling grass
in enigma of faded sun.

Irene Toh graduated from the National University of Singapore. She is co-author of an online collaborative poetry collection, Duet (Red Wolf, 2014). She thinks poetry is a practice, and what better way to write poems synchronously, even obsessively, than to play to weekly web-based prompts. She thanks the Internet for facilitating an international gathering of poets. She is co-administrator of Red Wolf Poems, a poetry prompt site. She was co-editor of the inaugural Red Wolf Journal’s Spring 2014 issue. Her poems are word paintings. She really likes soulfulness and surreality in poems. Mostly she’s inspired by the moon and the stars. She blogs at Orange Is A Fruit.

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New Poetry Collections

Poets have an online presence these days. Over time, a prodigious volume of poems has been posted in blogs. Blogs garner international readers and are not confined to ivory towers. The accessibility of poems posted on blogs is remarkable. Self-publishing is either a levelling up or a dumbing down. Both are true.

Blogs help facilitate the creative process in another way. A notable strategy of Internet poets is to write to prompts. A writing prompt gets posted and within a day or two, you’ll see poems written in response by poets from all over the map. I myself fall under this category of poets. Call it speed poeming. It is a moot point as to whether poems can be any good if they’re written fast. Such arguments are facetious as one judges a poem on its own merit and disregards all else. A poem can definitely be revisited and improved upon if necessary.

There is, of course, the real question of which poems make the cut. It is a question worth pondering. In any case, this is the context which I’m vested in and in which I am now writing and making a small announcement.

Red Wolf Editions is pleased to announce the release of two poetry collections in PDF format.

The first is a collection of 50 poems by Christopher Hileman. The poems arose precisely out of the context of which I have spoken—posted on the poet’s blog. I have made a selection and put them together as a poetry collection. They are meant to be representative of the poet’s mesmerizing work.

Having Taken Vows collection cover

Cover artwork: Carmen © by Catrin Welz-Stein

HAVING TAKEN VOWS
By Christopher Hileman

Christopher Hileman’s poems in this collection shine. But if you feel the blaze in the words, you feel the ashes too. These poems are courtly, filled with longing, passion, gratitude, despair. Startlingly accessible in their human range, they oft use the lover as mage, always part of a spiritual quest. The poems feel like soliloquys. You’ll feel the tenderness and poignancy, hope and truth, dream and reality, flight and fall, all tangled up, finely wrought. As if the poet had sat at an overnight loom as he formed a blanket for spiritual comfort. In all of this, amidst all of love’s yearning, God is never far.

“I live in squirming under
God’s wide ranging eyes
And all things would shift, and I
Love you for this dream.”
–“Having Taken Vows”

These poems are about finding truth in heart.

Download the collection here.
Having Taken Vows First Collection

The second is a collection of 118 poems written in collaboration between Christopher and myself. It was a series of poems which addressed the other. Most of it happened at a daily pace over April 2014. As poets, we were writing in fantasy, or in a fictionalized mode. Stepping out of it now, fevered pitch gone, it felt like the poems had fallen out of the sky. For being forged in an intense process that lasted for as long as it did, the collection has raw and fortuitous energy.

DUET collection cover

Cover artwork: The Moon Ship © by Catrin Welz-Stein

DUET
By Christopher Hileman and Irene Toh

Poetry duets work as a kind of dialog, not unlike the old haiku orations of the teahouse that were made up on the spot and traded back and forth by poets gathered there of an afternoon. These poems were written in collaboration. The first poem was written on 27 March 2014, inspired by the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian plane, MH370, on 8 March 2014. It was carrying 239 passengers. The plane’s wreckage was never found. If there’s any connection at all to these poems, it is perhaps the mystery of life on our planet. We come up with stories. That’s all we can do. These poems mythologize, speak a kind of ineffable love whose essence is both permanence and fragility. In the process, they seem to weave a precious, breakable thread that runs through life and art. The last poem in this collection, dated 20 June 2014, may be viewed simply as part of a piece of tape that had been snipped off.

“So which secretion is yours,
from ripeness and sun
and which mine from sour
grapes all in a bunch?”
–Christopher Hileman, “I So Very Much Love You”

“What is heaven except in stooping
to sweet apples fallen? Sphere
an Edenic fruit: to know is heaven.”
–Irene Toh, “Heaven Is A Deacon”

Download the collection here.
Duet Collection

These two collections birthed on the Internet are a testimony of the times in which we live. They’re the hippie version of publishing: belief in community and free love in the pursuit of poetic vision. The reason we do this is of the highest order. I leave you with a quote by Walt Whitman:

[and that the world is not joke,
Nor any part of it a sham].

–Walt Whitman, “I Am The Poet”

THE WORLD IS IN ME, Irene Toh

The World Is In Me
by Irene Toh

New moon. Smudged words I had been trying
to read. Dizzyingly thick, plots flew into
a witch’s pot. I tried tetchily to transcend.
What to toss? My faltering sight spiked.
Cupping eyeballs. Pray do not leave me now.

Prelude to change. Tempest unreconciled.
Green bottled drink. Lines break. Sensations
as discontinuous threads. A layer of moss.
Clumps sprung in green. My son begins
a new road. Gift of a rare red plume.

Time grew mythical. All my life sharpened into
a point. Then a wrecking ball. Which remembers
more, mind or body? What do we fear, having
nothing to remember? When both dissemble,
a crumbly matter. Others bear dull witness.

This February morning, bathed in the memory of
another. We have courted, opened as flowers.
Aquariums never die. My nephew sits, watches
corals, how the goby fish burrows sand. Who is
watching? Dry-eyed now. My term ending.

We’re a series of births & deaths evolving.
Spring’s rebirth. The memory of incidents
faded. Mouths opening like fish. I know now
what I want clearly. This is what was given me.
In the velvet of petals, filaments of desire

remembering, yet not of the mind, nor of the body.
Words seived in the receptacle: I am not in the
world
. Sand danced around the spongy edges of
radial corals. My son looked through the glass.
What could be a greater truth? The world is in me.

SAY IT. LIKE YOU MEAN IT, Irene Toh

say it. like you mean it
by Irene Toh

Calm is the feeling of big rock
not ousted by ravaging waves,
dampness seeped into boulder’s
blunt edges, slippery-like
fins ruthlessly circling,
smelling blood.

It is a numbness forbidding
love, the wintry cold smoking
plumes of fog. Michael asks,
must it always be like this.
Achingly beautiful corpses,
walking hope.

Say you don’t need cheering up.
You do. Say you won’t disappear
into the ether. Say ether.
Say it. Like you mean it,
holding a book, curling dog-eared
at the edges. Say I love you so much
you won’t bail.

KEEPSAKES LIKE A BREATH, Irene Toh

Keepsakes like a breath
by Irene Toh

My mother wore jade,
heaven made,
with no twist in fate
to unbend her, except heavenward,
life so sweet, if unmade.

I stared at the lilies
so pink, stayed in
the present tense, rumble
in the music,
in some chronological
sense, because it took as long
to figure out.

That time isn’t meant to
be one long string
tied to your ear,
it bends, it gets into
terrible knots,
creating sensations
like strings,
like music.

That gold glitters on
my sister’s neck,
linking her back to
a heart of diamonds
so sweet, my father’s
little keepsakes.

Irene Toh lives on a tropical island. She writes about fall and plums, spring and lilacs, summer and fishes, winter and bears. Mostly she’s inspired by the moon and the stars.