marcel barang

Red vs. yellow: a poetic joust

In English, Reading matters on 10/09/2010 at 1:52 pm


Thanks to a colleague at work, I’ve belated become aware that, as urban warfare was going on in Bangkok in April–May, a war of words was raging on the net for a while ( between two part-time Thai poets, better known for other endeavours: Surawich Verawan is a senior journalist of the Manager/ASTV stable, and Sarinee Achavanuntakul a versatile and prolific female freelance writer, academic and publisher ( whose interests go from the stock exchange to computers and astrology  and from world finance to Thai law, arts and tourism, or so does Wikipedia say.
I don’t know exactly how this began, whether planned or spontaneous, but it was a rapid-fire exchange (in the tradition of Ayudhyan courtly jousting when some poets were said to never open their mouths but in verse) that involved half a thousand stanzas in only three weeks.
Much of it is a rehash of those arguments we heard bellowed at the time, but without the fisticuffs or the grenades – a fair exchange of honey-coated bullets that left neither injured nor dead on the ground and ended with Surawich quaintly wishing to see ‘yellow and red removed from our common world’ (หวังลบเหลืองแดงหล้าฟ้าเดียวกัน) and Sarinee’s pious hope to see ‘reconciliation stir Thais awake for good’ (สมานฉันท์ปลุกไทยฟื้นยั่งยืนเอยฯ). That was on May 6. After that, the guns spoke.
They had both versified themselves into a corner, but in a prophetic way, defining the next lure of state propaganda: sama-nachan (reconciliation) and its operative twin, khwamprongdong (compromise).
Which begs the question: Khun Surawich, Khun Sarinee, when is our next torment and your next tournament?

Meanwhile, here are their first shots.

กลอนสดกรุงแดงเดือด – Boiling red city off the cut

Sarinee Achavanuntakul – 20 April 2010 17:26

April’s bloody lament is no dream
Can’t we each take a step backwards?
Have the PM resign to world fame
And red leaders stop their stubborn urban rampage?

Surawich Verawan – 20 April 2010 17:58

How enchanting to the ear
This gush of words pleading for stepping back
Sounds good and bent on fairness
But how underhand the display looks

Like bandits storming a house at night
Getting all excited about being chased away
They rally their troops to demand
An end to the plunder by each going his way

SA – 20 April 2010 18:01

The mob isn’t just bandits, you know, brother
But people like you and me full of frustration
Blameless people at the end of their rope
How can the state claim unconcern?

SW – 20 April 2010 18:18

Bystanders getting hurt in bandit rampage
How pitiful indeed! This must be remedied
But letting the bandits get away
By demanding the house be relocated, how droll!

SA – 20 April 2010 18:47

Those bandits shouldn’t be let loose
They must be pressed everywhere to surrender
But if the state is unwilling to step back for real
The bandits won’t listen. So what’s the solution?

If everyone agreed ‘These are bandits’
Whoever actually suppressed them would be great
But if the bandits are heroes in the hearts
Of all Thais in trouble – one must be lenient

SW – 20 April 2010 19:13

People must be made to distinguish right from wrong
Know how to think, how to deal with confusion
They must be made to know the truth
Behind the tricks hatched to plunder the Thais

SA – 20 April 2010 19:21

I agree with what you say, brother
But doubt if it can be this time or when
If you don’t sort out short- and long-term solutions
I’m afraid there won’t be any Thais left to be wise on time…


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