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Candlesong -- Lee Tzu Pheng

Guest poem submitted by Ann Ang:
(Poem #925) Candlesong
 As my years burn down
 you put me to new use,
 place me upon the palm
   held up to you,
   that I may light
   a way for two:
   just so, in time,
   his light may be
   upon another hand
 outstretched, like me.
-- Lee Tzu Pheng
[Commentary]

This is one of those poems which are short, yet effective (yes, like a short
candle). The form of this poem, not surprisingly, looks like a candle if one
includes the title. But what really made an impression on me, was the simple
yet effective rhythm, slow and languorous in the first few lines, then
faster and faster, almost the way a candle burns: "that I may light / a way
for two" has two beats in each line, because of the fact that a light is
being passed from one person to another. It may also symbolize the passing
of time: tick-tock... though this may be reading too much into the poem.

Come to think of it, this poem has perfect symmetry, the narrator is at once
the candle, holding it and passing it on... well, I won't mangle the poem
too much, so you guys can enjoy it for yourselves.

[About the poet]

Lee Tzu Pheng is a Singaporean poet and was awarded the Singapore Cultural
Medallion for Literature in 1985 and the Southeast Asia WRITE Award in 1987.
All her three published collections of poetry 'Prospect of a Drowning,'
'Against the Next Wave', and 'The Brink of an Amen', have won the Singapore
National Book Development Council's award for poetry.

Actually, I have to say that Southeast Asian poets are rather
under-represented in this group, and Singapore isn't exactly the cultural
dearth that some people think it is, what with the 'national book
development council' etc...

Ann.

[Minstrels Links]

Today's poem is an example of emblematic verse - that is, verse formatted so
as to visually resemble its theme. Other examples to have featured on the
Minstrels include:
Poem #349, A Prayer to the Sun  -- Geoffrey Hill
Poem #497, Landscape: I  -- bpNichol
Poem #567, Easter Wings -- George Herbert
Poem #600, The Mouse's Tale -- Lewis Carroll

Here are some (near-)contemporary South Asian poems that we've run on the
list:
Poem #382, A River  -- A. K. Ramanujan
Poem #434, Extended Family  -- A. K. Ramanujan
Poem #767, A Scroll Painting -- Arthur Yap
Poem #603, Marriages are Made -- Eunice de Souza
Poem #682, Advice to Women -- Eunice de Souza
Poem #72, Madhushala (The Tavern)  -- Harivansh Rai Bachchan
Poem #617, The Cake that Floats in Water -- Ho Xuang Huong
Poem #662, Cat -- Jibanananda Das
Poem #446, Banalata Sen  -- Jibanananda Das
Poem #804, The Looking Glass -- Kamala Das
Poem #516, The Patriot  -- Nissim Ezekiel
Poem #579, The Professor -- Nissim Ezekiel
Poem #714, Night of the Scorpion -- Nissim Ezekiel
Poem #177, Where The Mind is Without Fear  -- Rabindranath Tagore
Poem #367, Krishnakali  -- Rabindranath Tagore
Poem #673, The Flower-School -- Rabindranath Tagore
Poem #642, The Poetics of Desire -- Rina Singh
Poem #843, Love in a Bathtub -- Sujata Bhatt
Poem #853, Stew Much -- Sukumar Ray
Poem #650, All You Who Sleep Tonight -- Vikram Seth
Poem #754, Protocols -- Vikram Seth
Poem #460, Round and Round  -- Vikram Seth
(Yes, they're mainly by Indian poets, that being the group with which Martin
and myself are best acquainted).

41 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

javahostindo web hosting indonesia said...

I have been searching for this for years. I was first read to me in class
during a very hot Australian summer in the early sixties and since my
school days have only ever been able to remembered the first couple of
lines. javahostindo web hosting indonesia. I don't know why this piece captured me but I am thrilled to find it
again.

Many thanks

DudiOke

cheung shu hui said...

What does the poem mean?

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