marcel barang

Rewat 1992 | Rewat 2007

In English, Reading matters on 01/09/2010 at 2:37 pm


Rewat Panpipat, born 1966 in Suphanburi, is a writer of short stories and a poet of note, winner of the SEA Write Award in 2004 for a collection of poems, Mae Narm Ramluek (Recalling the river). As a poet, he is equally at ease, it seems, with meticulously crafted classical verse (ฉันทลักษณ์ – chanthalak) that defies translation as with free verse and prose poems. Even his short stories (judging only from the two I’ve read so far) are couched in poetic terms, strong on atmosphere, subtle in feelings, if light on plot. His is a seductive mixture of the colloquial and the inventive, the anecdotal and the high-minded, with a dose of irony and the occasional bout of anger with social evils when he ventures beyond the homely – the youth that was, the people, animals and things that surround him and the reflexions they inspire.

In the half-dozen publications generously provided by his editor, Ora-Ong Chakorn, I’ve picked up at random the following two short, free-flowing poems, fifteen years apart. (Thanks to her as well for assessing these translations … she found wanting on half a dozen points.)

Rewat 1992

Today’s news headline: Poet Holds Up Bank


I’ve worked for a long time
But never hungered after money to distraction
And never allowed money to force me to toil
And sit in state a credulous fool


Many experiences in life
Have morphed into poems penned for sale
In the search for sundry raw materials
Pig shit, dog pooh, cow dung remind one
Not to value output in terms of dumb banknotes
Nor weigh work by the pound of petty cash
A poet’s dreams climb up celestial stairs
And swim down creeks and cracks to the nether world
Hunger doesn’t matter, does it now, darling?
Come and drink strings of chiselled words
The rice dish may be close to bare-bottomed
But what we come up with is beauty
No money in the bank, no nice house either
Only clad in loose trousers and singlet
Unmindful of time of day or night or era
Plates of rice and bowls of water as forever daily fare
Don’t claim you sit spinning tales by candlelight
That is, it’s hard to answer when you don’t want to say
With electricity bills piling up without mercy
Finally you utter, Alright, cut it off
And even do without peddler pills or hooch
Squat the rented room to sickness come
The wife asking in fuss, ‘What’s life?’
As she is carrying someone else’s child


I’ve worked for a long time
But never hankered for money to the point of confusion
Yes sir – dire poverty forcing a true poet’s hand
To hold up a bank
           [First published in Sayarm Rat Sapda Wijarn, March 1992] 

Rewat 2007

You talk, talk, talk…
Write, write, write…
Talk as if there’s no tomorrow
And wrestle with writing to certain defeat
Don’t you pity your window and coffee cup for what they have to hear?
You never leave the page lying fallow for a season or two
As neither do rice growers their paddy fields these days
Nor politicians of all times their antics
Do you know? The mountain is watching you through the open window
Birds are calling out for you
The river is taking a trip in the sky by way of clouds
Reflected in the blindness of your eyes
Wind and sunlight are calling you
In the garden the call is there too
Until finally you wake up
You do not speak
You do not write
But a smile notches a corner of your mouth all the time
You’ve undergone strenuous training in thinking all your life
Only to find the spare time
To let go
Last night you dreamt of the Buddha

              [From Nok Cheewit (The bird of life), 2007]


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