January 18, 2012
Keep on Dreaming!
A wink at the dreamers, the believers in utopias, the pursuers of ideals, that is the theme of the Writers Unlimited Winternachten Festival 2012. Writers and thinkers from the Netherlands and from afar speak out on their dreams, they dream with us about freedom and how it can be realised. Writers Unlimited Winternachten Festival 2012 offers a mixture of current affairs and literature, music and film in a varied programme in Theater aan het Spui and Filmhuis Den Haag. Most of the programmes are in English.
The festival begins on Thursday afternoon 19 January with the presentation of the Oxfam Novib PEN Awards. In the evening followed by the Winternachten lecture by the Nigerian writer Helon Habila (Oil on Water), who gave his speech the title Literature as a Way of Seeing.
On the evenings of Friday 20 and Saturday 21 January the Winternachten take place with varied programmes in five halls. With a ticket you can freely walk in and out of dozens of programmes with writers, films and musical performances. In addition to literature there are films and there is music, and at the end of the evening everyone dances into the night. This year for the first time there is an opportunity to have dinner in the theatre at 6.30 pm before the programmes.
On Saturday afternoon the NRC Readers’ Club discusses The Great Gatsby and on Sunday morning the live broadcast of VPRO’s OVT Live can be attended.
On Sunday morning VPRO’s OVT broadcasts live from the festival.
The festival ends on Sunday afternoon 22 January in the Koninklijke Schouwburg with a Tribute to Hella, a festive occasion, celebrating the life and work of Hella Haasse, with performances of among others Loes Luca and Willem Nijholt. Following it the Jan Campert Awards of the Municipality of The Hague will be presented, including the Constantijn Huygens Prize.
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night the Filmhuis presents a series of films with introductions and post-screening discussions round the theme of ‘Keep on Dreaming’. On Wednesday night Theater aan het Spui presents the screening of Mahabharata, by Marjolijn van Heemstra and Satchit Puranik.
Meet the foreign authors in our Meet & Greets, in Theater Dakota and Theater Concordia among other venues.
Post taken from: Writers Unlimited Winternachten Festival 2012
(Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, 1968) is a Malaysian writer, poet, actor, photographer and filmmaker. She graduated with a B.Ed in English Literature and TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) from the University of Winnipeg, Canada, and has worked extensively in the arts for over 20 years. Of Chinese and Punjabi parentage, her work stems from the desire to tell stories, and she has worked with marginalised communities from sex workers and refugees to indigenous peoples, in mediums that incorporate film, photography and prose. She has published two collections of poetry, going there and coming back (1997), The Book of Sins (2008), a collection of short stories, Lost in KL (2008) and a critically-acclaimed memoir Growing Up With Ghosts (2011), an exploration of grief, personal and political history, and bloodlines. She works in both Bahasa Malaysia and English, and her work has been exhibited, screened, published locally and internationally. She is also the founder of Readings and CeritAku, two live literary platforms in Kuala Lumpur, now in its eighth year. She lives in Kuala Lumpur with her two daughters and she keeps a blog of her work at bernicechauly.wordpress.com.
November 22, 2011
At some point in everyone’s lives, we need to know where we came from.
WHAT stands out for me when I think of Bernice Chauly’s book, Growing Up With Ghosts – A Memoir, is the story of her father’s death. It is where the book begins and Chauly’s dreamlike and poetic description of how her three-year-old self deals with the sudden loss of a beloved parent is, for me, the most heartbreaking and compelling thing in this book.
Later, when introduced to the young Bernard – the curious, adventurous trainee teacher, the passionate young lover, the idealistic newly wed – it is my initial vision of him as a loving, devoted father that fixes my attention and makes me want to learn more about him.
His death affected Chauly powerfully, but it was just one of many losses her extended family had to endure. Deep in the heart of the book is the family curse that Chauly seeks to understand. Its almost gothic details, including a pilgrimage to India to visit an ancient snake temple, imbue the book with a sense of mystery and deep, devastating horror.
In our interview (conducted via e-mail recently), Chauly, 43, said the real reason for writing the book was to find “the root of the curse”, and understand why all the men in her family died. “I grew up haunted by grief, and my grief became a ghost, I had to confront it and finally let it go,” she says.
She goes on to say that she used “ghosts” as a metaphor “for many things – for untold histories, for the voices who lived through difficult times, who were never heard; for things that scare you, and things that come back to haunt you, for the dead whom I mourned, for the dead that my ancestors mourned, the dead who became ghosts, who were forgotten, who never told their stories and who were never heard, and who never got a chance to exorcise their grief.”
Writing the book, Chauly says, was “cathartic in every way”, an exorcism of sorts that allowed her to make peace with the “ghosts” and with herself. The author uses the voices of her grandparents and her parents to tell a story of struggle and of hardship, of hope and of love. Chauly’s own narrative binds the different voices together and represents the link between the past and the present.
How did you decide on the way the book is presented? What was your aim?
I did not want to write it in a straightforward narrative style – meaning one singular narrative throughout, mine – as I felt that this would be too conventional and did not best serve the stories I wanted to tell. I wanted to redefine memoir writing. History needs to be told from many perspectives and I didn’t want to be the sole voice. I needed to be honest to my ancestors, to use their own words, and to re-tell their stories.
My Punjabi grandmother was illiterate and my Chinese grandmother could read and write basic Mandarin; the men on the other hand, were literate and educated. I wanted to include their voices, their stories. The aim was to have a tapestry of voices, to use existing words that were left behind and to piece together something that was indicative of real people, to celebrate oral history in ways that may challenge the notion of the conventional memoir.
Why did you decide to use original documents – letters from your father to your mother, your mother’s journal, your letters to your mother, etc – in the book?
My parents kept everything – photos, letters, cards, clothes, books. A lot of these things I still have, but their letters, journals and scrapbooks are the most precious. My grandfather’s letter is one of my most treasured possessions. As a writer, I appreciate these documents very much. It just seemed to make sense to use them all. This is a work of non-fiction. If I had chosen to write a work of fiction, it would have been a completely different book.
Why didn’t you write about your marriage or the birth of your children (Chauly has two daughters)?
I saw that as a part of my life that was separate from my personal history, my Self. That those were issues of a different nature, that related to me more as a woman, a mother, a creative person, my personal politics, someone struggling to find her voice, her art, make sense of the world. I think my poems reflect this more and that is what my poetry is for. This (book) was about me coming to terms with my personal history, of being the product of two distinct cultures, of coming to terms with who I am, first and foremost.
What appeal do you feel the book will have for those who are not part of your family or close friends of the family?
I think it’s a universal story, a search for bloodlines. So many of us come from different places, it’s the search to find roots, one’s place in the larger scheme of things, to acknowledge that we share similar histories, to study the Punjabi and Chinese diasporas and how we came to be where we are. It’s acceptance of who we are, and to not forget where we came from.
What are your plans now that this book has been published? What are you working on at the moment?
I had plans of wanting to adapt it to a one-woman play, to have it staged. The Australian writer/photographer/performer William Yang has done something similar with his own family stories, Silence, which was a multi-media performance with slides and film. It was very inspiring when I was grappling with this work. But I think the weight of the book has now been lifted. I want to let it go and move on. I am currently working on curating a writers festival in George Town (see story above) and doing research for a novel. I have also started work on a new collection of short stories and a collection of poems.
Growing Up With Ghosts by Bernice Chauly (ISBN: 978-9834484583) is published by Matahari Books and is available in most Malaysian bookstores and from Amazon online.
Post taken from The Star
September 18, 2011
MEMOIRS are, by definition, works in progress. They should, for all intents and purposes, take a lifetime to write. They should communicate change. They should symbolise growth. They should be reflective. In an age where everyone is looking for their 15 seconds of fame, we have come to expect so much more from these sorts of things. We want revelation. We want honesty and candour. We want to be surprised. For what is the point indulging in such reading if we didn’t actually learn from it, something new, something that would, God forbid, further enrich our reality.
Suffice to say that Bernice Chauly does not disappoint. It has taken her over two decades to put this book together and it is an absolute masterpiece. A magnum opus about family, love, death, the plight of star-crossed lovers, the diaspora of all those displaced by time and by space. It will tear your heart out. It will make you bleed. It will likely be the most Malaysian thing you read this year. Why? Simply because this story, of Chauly’s parents, of their forbidden love, steeped in passion and punctuated by tragedy, is as much hers as it is ours. Also because we have all had startlingly similar experiences, be it in our own lives or in those lives close to ours and this quest — of self-discovery, coming to terms with one’s sense of self, dealing with those complex questions of identity — is something we’ve all undertaken, or likely will, at some point in our lives. Why is that? Well, very simply because it comes with the territory. It is our tendency — the inescapable consequence of our curious living arrangements.
This book is nothing short of a labour of love. It is a work suffused with so much blood, sweat and tears. Every sentence is steeped in sentiment, in emotion so raw, so natural and instinctive, that its appeal is nothing short of universal.
There is a wonderful quality to Chauly’s prose. It is a style that stems from her well-established poetic roots. It is lyrical. There are moments when it borders on verse. Arranged with an almost metrical rhythm. Like when she writes of her origins. “I am Punjabi, a sardarni of the Khalsa. Of the pure, from the tenets sprung from the loins of Guru Nanak. From the plains of the Punjab, and the wheat fields of Amritsar. I am Chinese, from the port city of Canton, from Fatshan, from Lam Soy Chea, from the village of fishermen and of joss stick makers.” It possesses a choral character that demands to be read and read out loud. This is because Chauly has written more than just a memoir, she has compiled more than just a poignant catalogue of letters and diary entries and personal observations and scrapbook excerpts. Growing Up With Ghosts is an inadvertent play for voices.
Growing Up With Ghosts is many things. It is a biography, a diary and a history. It’s also a love story, a searching journey into the heart of the Punjab and into the Guangdong province and the story of an ancient curse. But most of all, it is the story of a little girl just looking for her father.
‘… leave my mother alone! Take me!’ This space is dedicated to publishing new writing from local and foreign writers. This month, we’re highlighting Growing Up With Ghosts by Bernice Chauly. Here, an excerpt of the memoir Loh Siew Yoke. Jelapang, Ipoh. 1944 They were older than me actually and I must have been about four when they died. I don’t even remember their names. They were always sick so they had to be sent away. My mother never talked about them at all. My dead sisters.
When the war broke out, I was sent to live in Jelapang, I lived with my eldest sister, Third Aunt and my grandmother, Ah Ma. My mother lived in the shophouse called Ying Woh on Leech Street with my father and Ah Yeh, my grandfather. Third Aunt was quite sickly as well. I think she suffered from heart disease. My grandparents favoured boys so my father and uncle were treated differently. Third Aunt was very good to me, took care of me and she used to sew me clothes. She was a good tailor. I remember she had to eat raw liver all the time. We believed that you had to treat blood with blood, you see. So Ah Ma would chop raw liver very fine, pour boiling water on it, swirl it around with chopsticks and Third Aunt would have to drink the liver water. She died when she was 28 or 29. She was so young, her body was so swollen when she died. I remember touching it. She was cold. Swollen and cold.
We lived on sweet potatoes for almost two years. There was nothing else to eat during the war. The shophouse sold pork but there wasn’t much meat then. I remember my stomach got so big once and Ah Ma said I had worms. It was from the sweet potatoes. Maybe because it wasn’t cooked long enough, maybe the water wasn’t clean enough. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I was barefoot all the time. I had sores on my feet and had to soak my feet in hot water every day for hours. Just sitting there for hours with my feet in a tub of hot water.
Then one day, they came. The Japanese came. The house was old, wooden, and in the back there were jambu trees and then there was the jungle. I loved to climb the jambu trees. So one evening, they came. There was a commotion outside. I thought it was from the neighbour’s house. There was a lot of noise outside the door. They barged in, two or three of them, they had guns. They were talking very loudly and one of them went into the bedroom and started ransacking the drawers. I shouted at him in Cantonese, “What are you doing?” He turned around and slapped me. I ran to hide. They found nothing. They must have thought we were rich because we had a horse cart. We went from Jelapang to Ipoh in a horse cart in those days.
Then they dragged Ah Ma by her hair out the door and Third Aunt said, “She’s old, leave my mother alone! Take me!” But they were already out the door. We were crying, hugging each other, not knowing what to do. Somehow the news got to Ying Woh and then the rest of the family came. My father had to make a police report and the policeman came to ask us questions. Ah Ma had been kidnapped by the Japanese. I cried and I cried. We could not sleep that night.
The next morning, I got up very early, I went to the window to look out. And I will never forget this for the rest of my life.
I saw her running. Ah Ma looked as if she was flying, she was running through the air through the back of the house, through the jungle and the jambu trees. Her hair was wild. She ran into the house and collapsed onto the floor. Her feet were swollen and torn. She told us that she had escaped in the middle of the night when one of the Japanese soldiers went off to urinate. She had started running and ran and ran until it was dawn.
She said she was guided out of the jungle by a white butterfly.
post taken from New Straits Times
August 22, 2011
It’s the story of her parents and her ancestors. Her mother, a Chinese, and her father, a Punjabi, fell in love and got married despite fierce family objections. Their first child brought peace to the family but then tragedy struck.
The 43-year-old author shares some intimate details of how the memoir came about here.
What motivated you to base this memoir on your parents?
This book is not just about my parents. It’s about the Chinese and Punjabi diasporas and about how my ancestors (from China and India) came to this country. It is 100 years of my family history set against the history of this region.
I managed to trace five generations of my family from both sides and I have taken some creative liberties in telling their story. I call it ‘fictive’ autobiography.
The book is told in six different voices, so it has many narrators. I wanted to give voices to my ancestors. I have also used existing documents to tell this story.
My parents left everything behind, almost as if they were saying: ‘Bernice, here are our letters, our journals, our scrapbooks, our photos, so tell our story.’ And that is what I did.
What is the appealing factor of this book?
I think many Malaysians will be able to relate to this memoir because so many of us come from mixed marriages. It’s a very Malaysian story.
It is about the history (of Malaysia) told by ordinary people. It is about knowing that your ancestors lived through great difficulties – how they had struggled and survived.
It is about coming to terms with who you are and about bloodlines. It is also about love, death, grief and acceptance.
Tell us the process of writing this book.
I knew I would have to write this book since I was young. I started collecting my family stories and writing them down when I was a teenager in university.
But the actual writing and structuring of the book began about fours years ago. It was my mother’s death in 2007 (she died at the age of 66 from cancer) which propelled me to finish it.
After her death, I went to Verka in Punjab, India, where my father came from, to get answers that I needed for the book. I spent two weeks in India, and I came back a different person.
What motivated you to be a writer?
I lost my father when I was four. We were swimming in the sea at Miami Beach in Batu Ferringhi, Penang. He drowned in four feet of water. He was a good swimmer and he was only 33.
Death does many things to you. It takes away the people you love and mortality hits you in the face and you really don’t take time for granted.
My dad’s death made me a writer. His death evicted me from the world. I had to find myself in the world again and words were all I had. I had to make sense of what’s happened. I had to confront myself in many ways. It was not easy but I had to do it.
All my writings – my poems, my short stories and even this memoir – were a part of this process.
Since you are a filmmaker too, do you plan to turn this book into a movie?
We shall see (she smiles).
Growing Up with Ghosts, priced at RM40, will be launched on Aug 23, after which it will be available at all major bookstores and Amazon.com.
Post taken from theSundaily
July 3, 2011
A recent gathering of authors elicits descriptions like ‘inspiring’ and ‘entertaining’.
IT’S been several years since Kuala Lumpur played host to a literary festival, so the city’s book lovers were understandably excited when Malaysian writer and poet Bernice Chauly announced the Writers Unlimited Tour KL/Makassar 2011 a couple of months ago.
At the time, there was some doubt whether the festival would happen as the organisers were having problems raising the necessary funds (a common problem faced by arts and literature groups all over the world). Fortunately, Chauly’s appeal for RM22,000 was met in the nick of time by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Institut Terjemahan Negara Malaysia.
The event was jointly organised by Writers Unlimited and Readings@CeritAku. Writers Unlimited, formerly known as Winternachten, is an initiative that organises an annual international literature festival in The Hague, as well as literary events abroad, in cooperation with local partner organisations. Readings@CeritAku is Chauly’s creation, a showcase (held at KL café-bar No Black Tie) for Malaysian writers, and a continuation of Readings, the platform for published and unpublished writers that was started by book blogger Sharon Bakar and that is now a monthly event in the Klang Valley.
Chauly met Writers Unlimited director Ton van de Langkruis at the UtanKayu Literary Biennale in Jakarta back in 2009 and through him became part of the touring festival. She is the first Malaysian to have toured with them and this is the first time the festival has come to Malaysia.
The festival in KL lasted for three days and comprised readings at Taylor’s University, readings and panel discussions at the Annexe Gallery, and more readings at No Black Tie.
I attended the readings and panel discussions on the second day of the festival and was inspired as well as thoroughly entertained by what I heard. The Annexe Gallery at Central Market was an ideal venue for these sessions, being small enough to create a sense of intimacy between the writers and the audience.
Two sessions split the nine featured writers into two groups. Gündüz Vassaf (Turkey), Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia/US), Dipika Mukherjee, Uthaya Sankar S.B., and Kee Thuan Chye appeared in the morning, while Rodaan Al Galidi (Iraq/Netherlands), Abeer Soliman (Egypt), Chua Guat Eng and Dain Said appeared after lunch.
The writers read published and unpublished works, and then answered questions posed by sessions’ moderators Amir Muhammad and Umapagan Ampikaipakan as well as the audience.
Central to the discussions was the idea of how the truth may be presented in various ways. This was in keeping with the festival’s theme, Writing The Truth – Fact Or Fiction?, which was decided jointly by van de Langkruis and Chauly.
Said Chauly at a later interview, “I wanted to work with a theme that would resonate with readers, writers and audiences here. Issues like religion, identity, nationality, conflict, corruption are issues that we deal with along with people in many parts of the world. And so we began working on the theme which would deal with writing and truth.”
The blurred lines between fact and fiction are what Chauly is more than familiar with. Her most recent collection of poetry, The Book Of Sins, is a deeply personal and painfully truthful exploration of life, love, death and disappointment, while her latest work, Growing Up With Ghosts (to be published by Matahari Books in August), is a fictive memoir based on her Chinese-Punjabi family’s history.
Unfortunately, she did not read from her work at the sessions I attended. However, the featured writers I did hear presented richly diverse material in a variety of voices and styles, all reflecting their lives, their experiences and the places they’re from. Based on truth, the work was written and presented as fiction.
Maaza Mengiste said, “Fiction gives us breathing room – gives our imagination room to play and helps us fill the gaps left by memory.”
Her novel, Beneath The Lion’s Gaze, is set in the 1970s and describes life in Ethiopia under the repressive and cruel Derg regime.
“Writers confront the facts,” she said, “but fiction allows us to get into people’s hearts – it’s a more visceral connection. If writers remain silent we have lost everything.”
Mengiste and the other visiting writers showed how fiction is used to explore reality. Abeer Soliman, whose blog and book (Diary Of An Old Spinster) deal with the problems single women face in Egypt, spoke about how literature is used by writers in the Arab world to “run from restrictions”. She described how a certain writer got around the impossibility of writing about religion by depicting god as a mysterious and powerful man. “Reality is more surprising than fiction but we can use fiction to manoeuvre around the truth.”
I was incredibly moved by the work read by Soliman, Mengiste and Al Galidi. Al Galidi’s poems I found especially affecting. They are based on his experiences as an Iraqi refugee in The Netherlands, and, in translation (Al Galidi performed, with panache, the pieces in their original Dutch, but English versions were projected on to the wall behind him), the nonchalance, whimsy and wry humour of the pieces underline all the more the bitter irony of the situations they describe.
I had a less favourable reaction to Dipika Mukherjee’s reading of the prologue of her soon-to-be published novel Thunder Demons. The piece describes the murder of a beautiful young Tibetan woman at the behest of a corrupt Malaysian politician and sounded to me more like gossipy reportage than creative fiction.
While I don’t deny the importance of writing about controversial events and “outing” leaders guilty of committing atrocities, I feel that there is no merit in simply presenting the same “facts” as discussed in coffee shops and taxis up and down the country. Sorry, but a bunch of adjectives and fictitious names doesn’t make it good fiction.
I would much prefer our country’s troubles and foibles be explored through the depiction of how they have impacted ordinary Malaysians. Perhaps Mukherjee’s book goes on to do this and if so, the prologue is misleading.
Chua Guat Eng, in answer to a question on why writers choose to write fiction, said that this was a form that allowed her to explore things and leave them in a state that allows for further exploration. It seems to me that this approach helps a writer avoid the pitfalls of preaching just one view point, thus coming across as didactic.
To avoid didacticism, Gündüz Vassaf advised writers to avoid dealing with only one truth – their own. He stressed the need to view oneself and one’s beliefs with a critical eye, questioning them constantly.
Kee Thuan Chye read an amusing story that left no one in doubt about his politics. He has always worn his heart on his sleeve in any case, and is admirably forthright in his articles for online news sites MalaysiaKini and Malaysian Digest. I think he has the potential to create powerful and affecting fiction. But first, he needs to stop writing stories as though they are op-ed pieces. (Kee was an associate editor at The Star and also editor of the paper’s Mind Our English column.)
One of my favourite stories from the sessions was Uthaya Sankar S.B.’s Cat, an absurdist tale of a multi-lingual feline who learns that the most successful civil servants are seen, not heard.
The story ends with Uthaya stating his point rather too plainly, but at least the rest of the story manages not to suggest that Malaysians are unable to draw conclusions without the aid of an instruction manual. And I have to say, the writer’s deadpan expression leads me to believe he would do well as a stand-up comedian.
I left the sessions wishing there were more such events to look forward to. When I e-mailed Chauly to ask if Writers Unlimited would be back, she replied, “Writers Unlimited has had its share of budget cuts in the arts and there is a real possibility that they will lose their funding for these tours in two years.” However, we should not rule out the possibility of Chauly organising an event of her own.
“I think its important to have a regular literary festival in KL,” said Chauly in her e-mail. “I think the model that I have learnt from this festival and from the tours is that it’s important to keep it small enough to engage the writers and the audiences. I also have a sense of how the literary scene works here, having organised readings for so many years now. So, as an organiser, a writer and a reader, I have a better idea, more so now than ever, how to make a literary festival in KL work.
“Rodaan Al Galidi took me aside after the final reading on Sunday and said, ‘For 11 years I have been to literary festivals, and this is the first time I have been to a festival like this. It is so great, thank you.’ ”
My sentiments exactly.
(Post taken from: The Star: Truth in Fiction)
August 11, 2010
‘A sense of belonging’, was the theme of a combined writers’ tour by Winternachten to the Dutch Carribean and Suriname. For two weeks, from 13 to 24 April 2010, writers Bas Heijne (Netherlands), Yasmine Allas (Netherlands/Somalia), Bernice Chauly (Malaysia) and Iman Humaydan (Lebanon) travelled through the Caribbean. They performed before a general audience, and for students and school pupils in Sint Maarten, Curaçao, Aruba en Suriname.
Winternachten collaborated with four partner organisations who organise the events on the spot, and who were responsible for the local element in the programme, by inviting writers and musicians from the region. On Sint Maarten, the programme was organised by Philipsburg Jubilee Library, on Aruba by the Bibliotéca Nacional, on Curaçao by the Fundashon pa Planifikashon di Idioma (FPI), and in Suriname by Stichting Literair Festival Suriname.
De public programmes in the evenings consisted of literary readings, music, sometimes also with debate and film. An important part of the tour are the performances of writers in schools and universities.
(post taken from: Winternachten Antilles/Suriname 2010: ‘A sense of belonging’. Please visit the website for more information)
August 11, 2010
Bernice Chauly (Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, 1968) is a Malaysian writer, poet, photographer and teacher. She graduated with a B.Ed in English Literature and TESL in 1990 from the University of Winnipeg, Canada. She has published two acclaimed collections of poetry, going there and coming back (1997), The Book of Sins (2007) and a collection of short stories, lost in KL (2007). Her poetry and prose is largely personal and she works in both English and Bahasa Malaysia. She has worked as a journalist, publisher, editor, travel/food writer and has also written for the stage and screen. She is passionate about telling stories and is concerned with issues of marginalization, human rights and identity. Her work with refugees, AIDS, sex workers, indigenous peoples and masters of folk traditions has been documented in award-winning works that span photography, monologues, plays and film. Her work has also appeared in many international and regional anthologies. She is currently finishing a memoir, part of her MA in English Literature/Creative Writing, called Growing Up with Ghosts on her Chinese-Punjabi ancestry; a diasporic, historical and factional account of her family history in five voices. A seasoned performer for the stage and screen, she is also a key organiser and founder of literary events in Kuala Lumpur.
Tori fu dya nanga abrawatra — Stories from here and overseas
Crusa Lama — Aruba
Krusa Laman — Kaminda rais a kue tera/A Sense of Belonging – Curaçao
Krusa Laman — Curaçao
Crossing the Seas — Sint Maarten
(post taken from: Winternachten: Bernice Chauly)
March 21, 2009
March 2, 2009
Photo by Bernice Chauly
October 3, 2008
My first collection of poetry, published by Rhino Press in 1997
when i was a child
my parents were angels
who fell to earth because
they wanted to love
i was their fruit
ripe for the picking
always in season
then my father died
his angel wings were
further and further
until they became white foam
and merged with
the ocean spray
i died with you
my young soul screaming
like unripe fruit
in the hands of
the fruit pickers
i remember that afternoon
when we lay
the leaves dropped gently
and left a dappled light
dancing with no shadow
this is beautiful
I can see your soul
and the tune your
spirit dances to
come, my love
let me lick the earth
from your fingers
sweet and love
when I am with you
and am reminded
of humid nights
heavy and sweet
as I inhale – deep
the scent of
sandalwood and ambrosia
I hear you smile
as you enter the
from the golden light
that you came
to which you must now
until you and i
seed of your seed
fruit of my womb
energy-egg into flesh
our love union
child of light
you are free to roam
the realms of nameless souls
and child -spirits
until we meet again
and part no more
Feb 16 1995
an extended political fart that occurred in the early afternoon
Piss on practical committees, cohorts are inept, as sarcasm, expeditions to Egypt, King Tut was too optimistic, My
Fabulle, “who put that genital in my rum?” satisfied? “who me?” we’re such frigid rascals, two listless women and
homosexual monkeys who suck on their mother’s milk for the capitalists – “ ooh mommy, give me that, oh forsaken
godly supper, ooh, to taste the fresh trickle in my mouth makes my tongue, you, the master, said with nihilistic truths,
anarchism farts you in the face, pricks are noble friends, the voices of the socialist gods milk the cows to sleep, their
teeth aren’t as appropriate as Caesar’s remarks.
your body is racked by the pains,
the coarse, viscous streams of viruses
in their prime,
penetrating your resistance,
weakening you into deep slumber
i am your nurse, mother-like,
inducing you to a slow, steady health
and I think of what I am lacking -
your touch, your kiss upon my worried brow
and I think of what I want -
not expecting, not questioning,
because you are
again, I remind myself,
perhaps my dominance,
my brash, fearless assumptions
are diminishing you
i cry into oblivion,
recalling a moment of union
when we embraced
lips locked, eye to third eye
heart and groin
searing a blinding infusion of blue orbs
tantrik thankas, minuscule buddhas, smiling
breeding a fearless energy
I will give you myself
regardless of who I am
and who I am not
to heal and to love
to greet the woman only you have known
give me your pain,
your illness, your foul breath
(still thriving on the energy of
your semen-seed, of blood and water)
and I will heal you
as you lie in silence
in my dominance.
your handsome face
now worn and weary
lined with irreconcilable grief
your hands callused and thick
always smelling of sweet chappati
your breasts heavy and sobbing continuously
cradling the head of your son
trying to wrench one last breath
from his cold lips
your cries are lost
in the sea
of flowers sweet spiraling
and the luminous veils
a mere act
i am considering
why we seek to speak and write
eminently expecting to rise to
to be remembered
why so desire immortality?
when every second, every breath
every step forward
as most profundities are gone
as soon as they come
each better than the last
each a crisp snowflake
on your eager tongue.
it was in the fall
in the prime of our essence
you were the sun
I was the moon
the night was magic intense
we whirled like dervishes
silvery and wet
we hungered in the silence
of the river
our dancesong of love
the branches swayed swooned
it was the night
on the edge of the four worlds
it was the night
I died in your arms
and emerged anew
in the exquisite
playing with one’s mind
prism of flowing emotion
inducing vision, perpetual motion
reflecting over dualistic natures
condemning life to structure and conformity
In pleasing oneself, must one please another?
for those who wish only to please
superior minds, pillars of perpetual wisdom
for those lovers of the myth and of the past
imprisoning arrows of poisoned wisdom
defying systematic traditions
altruistic memoirs of time and places
I choose to surround myself
in a fluid orb of colourful scents
flavours for each mind
O, Lady of the Roses
your oracle for unlearning
mitigating forces of a solitary mission
for one who has chosen
each learning to fit in
adapting to demands
exposing potholes of a dual nature
perhaps a third mind
enclosed in sublime nothingness
a cryptic light
voices drawl like stone on paper
permeating this arid room
letters formed in the mind
rising in each esophagus
speech, we call it
grunting and nasal
sweet and sublime
gushing, glutinous like
damp moonbeams, sinewy
fluid, curt like pistol shots
releasing word molecules
word collisions in the air
converging, air containing
this is language spoken by millions
over thousands of years
living world created by words
human beings leaving invisible tokens
rising into the air, higher and higher
word layers, molecules thick
word rainbows, fraudulent
immersing yet containing
Do words die?
Moon hovers behind you, draws life
ocean, hair, smile, sweet longing
scent of dew on skin
Neptune’s deafness grinds to a halt
backwash, you can feel it clearly
it’s right here
sea, unburdened sorrow lifts, drifts
deciphers the wind
talking is a sign, unreadable
she drags a hiss between teeth
tides noisy gritty breath
hovers between the neck of the sand
it forms a sound of joy, scrubby sand
leaves the leaves with salt
the season is late, the flowers in the garden rot
a newt slides under
it speaks , it is not
the eye or ear? clear as the laughter of a fairy
spouting rhyme and rune
comely impenetrable wall of death
she sees how it works
brine and gall to blind you
growl of mortar and bricks
surge of multiple ringing
hovers , flashes against the edge of the red wind
arc of the sea, eyes dance in empty sockets
ears repeat the monotony of speech
oar of the sea
hovers, gathers a bounty
tosses her arms, arc of fluid motion
her hair strings of moonbeams
mouth that speaks no wrong
rise to leave, feet sink in sand
dead man meets man and woman
in the early hours of ecstasy
there is no place for the luxury of sin
moon is also the sea, seen world of dreams
mortals wishing, struggling to define
between the sea
am at the edge of
brews a storm of voices
decided to play god
armed with your deadly toy
ruthless coward you
aimed at the objects of your
severed the life
of not one
in their prime
shattered their dreams
shattered our dreams
of a vision supreme
took your life you
let your blood flow
mingle with theirs
contaminating the innocence
of those delicate petals
fresh unbroken unplucked
by the wrath
(in memory of 14 women who were shot dead in Montreal December 6 1989)
regurgitation on a day when I was out walking
i am clinging to the effervescent
desire of loneliness, the blue incandescence
swirl of emotions, tenderly slaving across my skin
this monumental figure of a silent yearning
this colossus befits my becoming nature
the will compels
I am to be my own master of fears
to be this is human
to succumb to the lowly plight of death
the voices of the children are lost in the breeze
in placating a woman moaning in grief
for all the lost souls who were deceived
I grasp this congested fluid
I move away from the frenzied collision
For both our weaknesses, the distinct human truth that lies in you and I
Does my love, love me?
I saw you smiling, eye between shining center, colliding emotion
building a slow ascension into your heaven
I saw you crush your meagre disabilities for a slow liberation
I saw you turn the other way, in shame and dissolution
I saw you hide your demonic light, radiating in it’s twin shadow
I saw you descend into the cursed hell of fire and tallow
As I write what dreams refuse to let me see
who we really are – a myth shrouded in a cloud of conspiracy
I saw your lips descend and claim the uncoiling essence
A thousand loving thrusts of truth poised an ready to strike
I saw you seek abandonment in the flesh of the divine tree
I saw the golden orb surround us, laughing in glee
I saw you bask in the love of our making, confiding, reminiscing
I saw you shatter the barriers of cunning, absorbing
Claiming your unwanton reality, hovering in ambiguity
Touch uncovering, unflinching, layer after layer
I saw the phantoms rise, unrelenting thoughts writhe
I saw you depart into oblivion, love unforgotten
Unreality depicting personality
I saw the other clasp you like a broken feather
Advancement toward power and mockery
I saw the other touch me like a rose on a sword
Subtle precision, deadly in matter and force
Essential sorrow dwells and thrives
I saw the dying surge until the angel came to greet you
Embracing a raging penury, pleasures of a bitter grace
I saw the wonder of words breathing distinctly, silently
I saw the gaiety of ecstasy stealth upon a weeping tree
I saw you beckon the one who lives, yet alone
I saw your wise frown, weary keeper leading thy grave to thee
I saw you teach majesty, touching radiance and anger
I saw you hold conversation with the mind
I saw your intuition flow into logic, a cry for humanity
The one that lies in each other -
Divine ability to kill and bring to life
Thus we are three, living within a laughter of reality
I saw you embrace the other and merge together
recoiling in the smell
In Dreams I See Beauty
In stark light
I see the beauty of a creator
Curious scenes glistening
imposing dilemmas of many minds
Striking a contrast
similarities of nature
light bodies merge and separate
The avenger comes, initiator
stepping into a dream
frightful demon within
inducing madness likened to a lunar scorn
Clutching each fibre
extroverted yet secluded
bringing me closer, at a distance still
(orbit spiraling , reaching into nothing
deceptive maneuver, risky flight)
Ignoring persuasion, recognizing manipulation
storing pain, exhibiting happiness
numb to everything
Consider me – my alter ego – doppelganger
contrasting my will, the sword that severs
illusion from reality
offering the comforts of a mother’s womb
Take me to another universe
connected by a singular silver thread
to earth my solitary bed
In dreams I am bathed in orbs of glowing colour
creatures of the id surround me
they speak in waves of matter
In celebration of my womanhood
recalling a process of living and dying
In celebration of a dream
goddess and woman embrace lovingly.
The Hanged Man
I shuddered , asking
“Does the future exist here?”
brazen eyes flashing, slithering smile
throwing me into the pit
where everything is of sin -
the world engulfed in it’s own flames
seeing the chronic disease that
racks the human mind –
mother of all inventions
touching the death and decay of it all,
the room changed
and we were entwined in a lair
of spinning, luminous threads
of grey, silver and green
you were saying that I am going through
what others never do
that perhaps I will die knowing
who I was
because of this
the mirror cracked
my face splintered into pieces
I held my still heart in my hand
and sliced it this way and that
it emerged fresh and whole as before
envisioning the visage of intelligence
bringing no more fear
but realization of the price
for loving you
The problem of persuasion that lies in the human heart is only foretold…
tumultuous ocean lies bereft
of all thought and emotion
stay clear of impending doubt
beam your way
past the fog
that keeps you tied down
light hearted frown
smooth the waves
silken and shine
beach your fears
tie the anchor down
suppress the dreamer
you will overcome
ease the fliers that
cool the breeze
seek the diamonds
thru the leaves
to answer the problem
of persuasion that lies
in one’s liberation
An Answer to Matter
I felt a surge arising
after passion rekindling
piercing gaze , engulfing matter and spirit
invincible war unwilling to abate
a rose choking on its own thorns
a wrenching grip that’s too tight to relinquish
staying afloat and watching the sun rise
setting sail for an impossible voyage
a pressure that builds to a distant height
This is the answer to Matter
God is a pressure
I think about my vulnerability
an open wound, a scarlet thorn
drawing this life to answer this call
denying the scent of a benign nature
cowering beneath a shroud of rapture
a nation with an invisible army
a knight still radiant without a sword
thunder of crushing rock and sulphur
watching a fortress crumble with age
observing a sage diminish with haste
This is the answer to Matter
God is a pressure
I dreamed a serpent fell from the sky
and separated into the twelve beasts of creation
standing in one line, each touched my eye
striving to uncover a secret configuration
unrelenting in the greeting of another nation
another who usurps a present leader
an arrow that strikes against a burning sky
bridges crossing, sttempting to unite
a raven watching an eagle in flight
This is the answer to Matter
God is a pressure
I saw eight pedestals converging
and each revealing the petals of each path
motioning a steady momentum till time for merging
marring a hasty retreat before the aftermath
However light, however heavy
However weak, however strong
However it is, however it chooses to be
This is the answer to Matter
God is a pressure
An Uncursed Cry
Models of negation
We rise to this occasion
to seek an uncover this
Hail! Fury! Fly! Death and Resignation
to complete deliberation
Ignore this perforated sheet of time
freely speak this mind
the centuries of oppression
relied on divine conception -
the dichotomy of Eve and Mary?
Picture in your mind’s eye
the notion of this archaic equation
see Her shine
see yourself shine in glorification
rise up and shine to this
Sweet, oh sweeter still
the enduring chase of timeless oblivion
if Eve did err, “twas for knowledge and discretion”
who? being framed by God’s deliberation
religion was only an example of this manifestation
Hail! Fury! Fly! Death and Resignation
Oh! let me be cruel
love still and be so kind
thrust this sword into the fire of time
consume this heart’s inhibition
motion still, heart’s a plunder
wield this sword of power
to unchain this “error of nature”
Seek not and deny this endless procrastination
slither and shine in the serpent’s eye
airy phantoms rise
unbind the corsets that shield our precision
rise up and confront this blatant manipulation
this beauteous nature
define this sublime causation
light on shadow, verse in mind’s meadow
sing forth the essence, the illumination
pursue the winds of the east
where eagles fly and follow
renew this age-old illusion
forget the temptation
create another time and endless adoration
seek the light, vision the shadow
today or tomorrow
dwell not in sorrow
it’s time to envision
divine love, divine nature
to ease in a new tide -
a notion of our own creation
14 Leech Street
of finding beads, ancient and worn
in the suitcases
belonging to my grandmother
of climbing the old staircase
coated with multiple layers
of emulsion paint
of climbing the stairs
no longer there
of dusty memory boxes
vials and tubes of
old clothes and books
among the days and nights
of cobwebs strung in
my smile decay
wither into the dust
filtered by the longing
of those unfulfilled memories
of a Chinese childhood
2 malay poems
orang tidak bermoral tinggi
sudikah engkau hidup begini?
bangsa dan negara?
tidak mengurung diri
dengan yang begitu dan begini
layu dan sepi
semua sudut instituisi
At Impressions after the Van Gogh movie
I am thinking
this almost empty coffee cup of
onto a painting – yes
the trashy Northern Lights
blue, yellow , white streaks
and watch the ceramic
splinter – white
In the midst of their chess game
I am spectator to
the battle of egos
I will run berserk into the kitchen
grab a knife – the one that cuts the lettuce for the salads
crumbling green bits still sticking to it
whirl and twirl it around
I will roll my eyes
make a fool of myself
shattering the mindless states
of these transient fools
and drink and
but never drain the
endless coffee cup
while I sit and
scream and watch
the shattering of minds
when you were seven
your world erupted into the war
cursing your generation
you saw the crowds
the crazed, mesmerized glints of
Nazi boots echoing the alleys of Bonn
you saw Hitler and was bewitched
by his fatal attraction
you saw the persecution
in the flames that raged your homeland
when your parents died , you were alone
now, you are still alone
your life has been haunted by the ghosts
of the past, faces of children you once knew
of those wounded, of your husband you nursed back to life
who died . of the son who was struck dead by lighting
and the one who does not acknowledge you
you spend your days in the room that smells of dog-hair
dusty books and paintings, you read Rilke again and again
you have no friends, only the world that is out to get you
as I listen to you ramble in German, the lush, guttural music
that I love as I listen to your silence, your loneliness, your despair
you shared your life with me over a plate of broccoli and cauliflower
drenched in sour cream, crouched in your corner, you shake your head
over and over again as the memories, the pain drift through your eyes, misty
hands squeezed tight as if in prayer
sweet and low
half haunted by the light of our love’s evening
I wait like the last customer of the night
standing in my shadow
as you emerge from the depths
of the street
come, my love
let me lick the earth
from your fingers
with your swift hand
your lightning strokes
upon this canvas
with your swift
scalpel scent of
grey hospital walls
you left me
to retrace the paths
of your loneliness
to answer to despair
to consort with the ghostly
memories of your smile
to live, to die
to let the devil in you
discovering you’re imperfect
minds blended into one why not feel different
because I refuse to transcend this state of mind
blended into a huge cauldron of steaming emotions
sweat brow upon this present reality he is so far away from me
I want to draw him closer to touch soul on my soul
ushers in a new dawn
coming home from school
to find her within her tiger’s eyes so shine
and look in between the tides usurp the throne of wonder
why I ponder soft past intermingling like tiny moonbeams
of light on shadow what do you want from me
ability to claw at the sky? home for the blind? set me free
to mind ambivalence within his ego
turbulent dreamer of sanguine and sublime
overcome like leaves sweeping forth
to blend in with the endless coming forth
let’s make up our minds
why do you say what you don’t mean
your perniciousness baffles me
you are like a bug on a tree strong
wanting to be alone at night
love has left me behind
turbulent winds breathe in the tide
you mock me with your devious smile
resounding earth pound and fly
your mastery blinds the eye
seek the dreamer in your mind’s smile
soothe away the pain
change the way the wind
blowing cast light to guide
instinct right rule like a
chain of roses
lush and kind to me
he thrust his sword
anger looms from behind - no
refuse to end
swooping down from the cliffs of time
mask shield your disguise
ask for my endless throes
of majestic abundance
to light and shine
pave a rocky climb
shadow soar above this
seething pool of
Thinnest of Strings.
Time passed. No one really sees him these days. He lives within the confines of his books and his emotions. He has chosen to overlook the tides and winds of change that have affected us all. The persistent realities of harsh, bitter fate.
Where did we go wrong?
“For the Divine Cause”, we said
“You’re just a fucking kid” he said
“You read too much shit
You talk too much shit
You’re full of shit”, I said
He tripped over his ego many times. It amazed me sometimes with his brilliance, his genius. We played a game of manipulating life through its many guises and forms.
You twisted me like a guitar string.
Your nude pictures baffled me. You invited prostitutes to your apartment to pose for you. You drew your erect penis.
You were my teacher. And yes, I was in love with you.
He liked sex.
“The light that shines from within,” he said.
Why are they all goddam musicians?
“You’re on a fucking ego trip,” he said
“I’m here for the experience”
“Then it’s not worth it is it?”
Your aquiline nose has grown. Your face is caked with lines of cynicism and bitterness.
Ha! Mockery is blissful.
I was ravished. You weren’t my teacher.
A year passed.
He still wears his spandex tights. He made me swear to secrecy once. We did a ritual in his room – everyone called it the economy suite.
“Never tell anyone”, he said.
Strength is in Silence.
He was reading a lot of Franz Bardon. It was a strange time in his life. He scrubbed his body till his pores gleamed.
He rolled his eyes eight times deosil in a basin of water.
He was too nice to be mean, too practical to be irresponsible, too smart to lay down his values for useless dreams. We were friends after all.
And so they were three.
I read what I did.
We were self- elected instruments of God. Consider the possibility that God is Dog spelt backwards?
Creativity can be really destructive. Sensitivity is essential. Compassion was lacking. Cowards.
We were words. Our meanings changed.
And the leaves of the trees will bring the nations together…
in this quiet abode
oblique – metaphysique
we boldly speak
it is not yet
Let us live suddenly!
Suck the green from life
Move away from muted shadows
Cast energy into light
past the teeming crowds
faces, different smiles
wizened faces of souls
past the shophouses
that have withstood
of warm finesse
past the grueling heat
insistent fruit sellers
food vendors, gurkhas
on hot soggy nights
strangers from afar
smelling the scent
of the street
musky and sweet
underneath it all
the city sleeps
You’re a Ham
let me wear
my silks and make up
paint my nails
make my entry
like a lady
let me lose my head
O Lady Lady