marcel barang

Young Thai poets (5)

In English, Reading matters on 17/09/2010 at 11:50 pm

 

…Another Siriworn-triggered dispatch a couple of days later was Pithak Jaibun’s Mother’s child has no nationality, published three years ago by Underground Books Publishing.
The poetry isn’t as bad as the packaging: clunky title (it sounds better in Thai, though), vomit-inducing cover, and an absolute waste of (cheap) paper: most poems could hold easily on one page yet are spread over four, so you end up paying 190 baht for 44 poems stretched over 208 pages, including six pages where a tiny naked baby floats in the middle of whitish nothing – how cute! – and fourteen of black-and-white photos of much dog-eared manuscript or typescript pages – how portentous! This is pushing too far a general trend in poetry publishing whereby too little text floats over too much paper. When it is done artfully on good paper in a small format, as Chaikhorp or Pajonphai are currently doing, the overall effect can be most pleasant. Anyway, eggheads say content is what matters…

Forty-year-old Pithak Jaibun, a native of Suphanburi, is a ‘writer, critic and journalist’. His strong suit is a weirdness of vision couched in unexpected juxtapositions and straight or reverse repetitions, sometimes meaningful, sometimes puzzling. His free-verse poems focus on incidents of daily or family life, children of course, (not so) ordinary people, and, invariably, the weather outside. Here are a couple of samples:

The old bookseller

It’s an old man in the City of Angels
Indulging in schnapps and naps
Yet someone who sees flowers before sunrise
Someone who wakes up in mid night

How many compass points to the world? How many steps to each?
Go now, now go into each morning
Each morning
Leave the house with a number of books

They say go out tell stories to people of the world
Go and tell stories of sadness, stories of happiness
Some, stories of sorrow
Or sit telling joyful stories, some quite lighthearted

Sit behind the bookstall
In the world of life life in the world there is
Look at the one bird; look at the trees, vehicles and people that are
Worth seeing; some, once seen, worth lamenting

It’s a Bangkok dweller
Though born far away, a Bangkok dweller, age-old
No real person, without self, without soul
Someone selling books to readers of books 

She called us several times

Outside the window, the stars have dropped off to sleep or what?
She has long been calling us, we don’t hear
In the room we are enjoying the play, sad, gay or very amusing or what? 

O moon, are you waning?
Some stars are farther than whistle can reach
She calls, she calls, we don’t hear?

So she fights and fights, as if she knows this is hopeless
But fleshy body is just bodily flesh, faint and tricky
Then he rapes and we gather for the kill

The thrill – in the end we gather to kill
That body to get some money’s worth of ours
To fritter away with her breath

He gets full value from us, he kills
Killing her worth, he kills her…
She was worth it. We gathered to kill her last night

PS: There is a limit to what one can do. My apologies to Ungkarn Chantatip [pr. ang.kharn jan.tha.thip] for not understanding a single line of his very euphonic and no doubt very deep, very pious 2009 offering, Honthang Lae Thee Phakphing (The way and the shelter). I can only say that I tried and found myself wanting. I’ll try again, as Thais have it, next life in the afternoon.

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