Speak­ing Easy

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Lit - Lawrence L. Ypil

Afew weeks ago, I read a few po­ems at speakeasy here in Sin­ga­pore and while I am tempted to talk about po­etry, and the power of words to ex­press our deep­est selves, and the power of the poet to heighten our sense of lan­guage, per­haps it might be more ap­pro­pri­ate to talk about how po­etry can bring us to down to earth, to gather peo­ple to­gether, to make us lis­ten to each other.

Cu­rated by Sin­ga­porean poet Pooja Nansi, speakeasy is a spo­ken word se­ries that has hosted the va­ri­ety and diver­sity of voices that has con­sti­tuted Sin­ga­porean iden­tity. In a mul­ti­cul­tural coun­try that has a long and dif­fi­culty his­tory of racial re­la­tions, what has al­ways stood out for me was how pro­grams like speakeasy pro­vide spa­ces in which those ideas of racial har­mony go be­yond in­sti­tu­tional dis­course and oc­cupy the space of the ev­ery­day — or at least in this case the ev­ery few weeks.

In an age ob­sessed with tribes, with mark­ing one’s borders, with de­lin­eat­ing the ones “who are with us” and the ones who are not, po­etry, writ­ing, the arts, pro­vides the pos­si­bil­ity of a space in which mul­ti­ple points of view can if not agree with each other then at least con­gre­gate. Po­etry is usu­ally seen as “high brow”, as “ex­clu­sive”, but my ex­pe­ri­ence with it — writ­ing it, shar­ing it, teach­ing it, has al­ways been one of ex­tend­ing my own borders. It has al­lowed me to meet peo­ple I other­wise would n’t — if I stayed with the fa­mil­iar, if I merely lin­gered with what I was used to.

The love for words gath­ers a mot­ley crew: rebels, lovers, cram­mers, ob­ses­sive com­pul­sives, but then what is so wonderful about meet­ing other writ­ers is that how­ever dif­fer­ent in dis­po­si­tion or in­cli­na­tion, there is al­ways a com­mon agree­ment on the value of lan­guage, a re­spect for its power, and a sense that if used wisely it could po­ten­tially change who we are.

Many peo­ple come to po­etry to so­lid­ify their sense of iden­tity. I’ve al­ways thought it had the power to make us for­get it — so that we can re­mem­ber every­thing and ev­ery­one that we are not. When I read that night, I was think­ing of how vi­brant po­etry is in Cebu, it felt like I was so far away. But it also felt like I was home — be­cause I was with them — the dream­ers, the wish-mak­ers, the shak­ers of feel­ing, kin­dred across seas, the one’s who are with us, ev­ery­time we write, or speak, or sing, or dance, or just sit on a chair, easy, for the time be­ing, here where we are both ev­ery­where and nowhere.

“When I read that night, I was think­ing of how vi­brant po­etry is in Cebu, it felt like I was so far away. But it also felt like I was home — be­cause I was with them” Dog-ears in the Wrong Note­book

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