Friday, August 14, 2009

Equal to the Earth: Jee Leong Koh: Sea.




Jee Leong Koh’s new book of poetry from Bench Press is introduced to the reader/buyer (hopefully) by an appropriate image. The photograph by Kent Mercurio (a coincidental hermetical name) shows a shoreline, the solidity of matter, and beyond this the sea caught in a swathe of light.

Equal to the Earth is a compelling new volume of poems. It investigates with wit and intelligence questions about identity and how an individual finds his or her place upon Earth, how an outsider, oblique to the terrifying norm of life, can become equal. Throughout the collection, the sea surges as an image of the subconscious and the eternal.

As in alchemy, the sea represents the solutio. In the words of Dorn:

Ut per solutionem corpora solvuntur, ita per cognitionem resolvuntur philosophorum dubia.”

“As bodies are dissolved through the sea, so philosophical doubt is resolved through thought.”

The sea engulfs and protects. In the embryonic sea, identity and yearning are born...tides of thought from that moment are set in motion that demand a response… time past and time future meet in the sea.

At the close of Equal to the Earth, Jee Leong Koh writes:

The beach, burning up the air, was empty,
sucked me to it,
to the body
and I entered it. I opened my eyes
and I knew that something that rises and flies
from the Ocean had penetrated me.
(“Fire Island, ETTE. p.91).

What a revelation to have on Fire Island., to “enter” and be “penetrated”, to experience totality, for a moment.

Equal to the Earth is characterised by enquiry, technical curiosity and emotional questioning. It is enriching to see a poet write as he wishes to write, outside sterile debates about what makes a modern poet. The post-post modern poet, for Jee leong Koh, is a human being, not a credo.

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