Monday, February 15, 2016

The other Merlion and friends by Gwee Li Sui

I was surprised to find myself enjoying this book of funny poetry immensely despite the unfortunate looking cover. This is the second time reviewing books published in Singapore where I must declare that the old adage holds true and that one really mustn't judge a book by its cover. 

Gwee takes inspiration from everywhere. He writes about poetry, Singapore, the government, food, education and more. 

I loved this one:

I got most of it except "M for God / N for country". Didn't quite get that even after I thought long and hard about it. Ah well. 

Anyway, Gwee references many things. I liked "Three-Word Sutra" that takes a leaf out of 三字经, a Chinese classic. Then there was a nod to William Blake in "Songs of innocence and experience" although the content for both veered into territory quite different from the originals. 

I really liked the rhyming bits. Some of it were a throwback to nursery rhymes. But most of it was just simply delightful. There are too many Singaporean poets doing free verse, so bring on the poets who rhyme I say! 

Loved the themes on food. 

And topics quintessentially Singaporean:

Like he said in one of his poems: it's impossible to translate. Especially with all the Singlish bits thrown in. Haha. 

It's an excellent piece of work that I would not hesitate to buy for someone who might be resistant to poetry. It is also a gift I would buy to teachers of Literature to get them to loosen up a little. 

I showed this book to a friend who used to teach GP in a respectable junior college and she laughed with great abandon at "Good Laws and Good People" and whipped out her phone to put it on Instagram. When your work is Instagram worthy, you know you've made it as a poet. 

So I say, well done Gwee! Love most of your drawings too. Just work on the cover man. 

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