Will Harris, RENDANG (Granta, 2020)
Jason Eng Hun Lee, Beds in the East (Eyewear, 2019)
Witty and experimental, RENDANG changes the way we see poetry. A prize-winning Anglo-Indonesian poet, Will Harris has developed a distinctive poetic voice, blending new poetic forms, language, and narrative to explore the many ways of looking at multicultural heritage and race, as well as self-perception through the introspection of one’s family and love relationships.
The preface positions RENDANG vis-à-vis various other terms starting with ‘Ren-’, drawing our attention to the power of naming and the similarity and differences between names. In ‘Break’, Harris shifts effortlessly from one ‘break’ or ‘breaking’ to the other – be it a line break, a song, a couple splitting up, or an intermission – and by this meandering of thought on separation, redefines the meaning and experience of it within the narrative as well as through his linguistic experimentation.
Harris’s poems delve into the complexity of identity, self-perception, and race in a personal, imaginative way. Interspersed with surreal dreams, ‘The White Jumper’ follows a Joycean stream-of-consciousness and opaque language: ‘[r]unning and jumping from one grassy platform to another I stop.’ The ‘white jumper’ constantly reappears, alluding to one’s preoccupation with racial difference. As the speaker walks past ‘Pret, Spaghetti House, Five Guys, Bella Italia’, it is impossible not to notice the visibility of the Other.
A dexterous prose poem, ‘SAY’ starts from a stone carved with the word, but is also thought to be about SAYLES, an old firm that ‘sold refined ...
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