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Sunday: 29 Oct


It’s been 5 weeks since I’ve left Norwich on the very same date I arrived a year ago. Transitioning feels like jagged creeks and running detours but I am now about 7.5/9 Singapore and 0.5/9  elsewhere. There’s a 1.0 straddling a liminal space in which some clarity slowly twist into form. The state of movement evidence what is left behind, and it is in this left behind that I find something closer to truth.

My days now are full of uncertainty but also full with people. For that, I am grateful. I do not think it easy to find humans who make you realise it is possible to be yourself. Time with them keeps me focused on the larger picture, in both heart and mind.

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Bibliography (MA Literary Translation Dissertation 2017)


Ang, Thomas. Conversation with Thomas Ang (20 August 2017)

Boase-Beier, Jean, Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust: Translation, Style and the Reader (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015)

—————— Stylistic Approaches to Translation (Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 2006)

—————— ‘Loosening the grip of the text: theory as an aid to creativity’, in Translation and Creativity, ed. Loffredo, Eugenia and Perteghella, Manuela (London: Continuum, 2006), pp. 47-56

Barnstone, Willis, The Poetics of Translation: History, Theory, Practice (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993)

Barthes, Roland, ‘Rhetoric of the Image’, in Image Music Text, trans. by Heath, Stephen (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), pp. 32-51

Borkent, Mike, ‘The Materiality of Cognition: Concrete Poetry and the Embodied Mind’, Wreck, 3:1 (2010), pp. 6-12

Boroditsky, Lera, ‘How Language Shapes Thought’, in Scientific American (2011), pp. 63-65

Brandt, Line and Brandt, Per Aage, ‘Cognitive poetics and imagery’, in European Journal of English Studies, 9:2 (2005), pp. 117-130

Brower, Reuben A., Mirror on Mirror: Translation, Imitation, Parody (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974)

Demjen, Zsofia, Sylvia Plath and the Language of Affective States: Written Discourse and the Experience of Depression (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), pp. 20-21

Fowler, Roger, Linguistic Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986)

Eoyang, Eugene, ‘Literal and Literary: Language and the Representation of Chinese Poetry’, in Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, University of Toronto Press, 54 (2008), pp. 18-33

Empson, William, Seven Types of Ambiguity (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1930)

Evans, Vyvyan and Green, Melanie, Cognitive Linguistics: An Introduction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006)

Grossman, Edith, Why Translation Matters (New York: Yale University Press, 2010)

Harman, Nicky, Conversation with Nicky Harman (28 June 2017)

Kendall, Judy, ‘Translation and the challenge of orthography’, in Translation and Creativity, ed. Loffredo, Eugenia and Perteghella, Manuela (London: Continuum, 2006), pp. 127-144

Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (London: The University of Chicago Press, 2003)

Lee, Cher Leng, ‘Ethnography of Singapore Chinese names: race, religion, and representation’, in Lodz Papers in Pragmaticsm, 7:1 (2011), pp. 101-133

Leech, Geoffrey, and Short, Michael, Style in Fiction (London: Longman, 1981)

Loffredo, Eugenia and Perteghella, Manuela, ‘Introduction’, in Translation and Creativity, ed. Loffredo, Eugenia and Perteghella, Manuela (London: Continuum, 2006), pp. 1-16

Marasligil, Canan, ‘Building Bridges, One Line at a Time’, in Poetry Translation (25 May 2017), <; [accessed July 31 2017]

McIntyre, Dan, and Archer, Dawn, ‘A corpus-based approach to mind style’ in Journal of Literary Semantics, 39 (2010), pp. 167–182

O’Donohue, John, The Inner Landscape of Beauty, 31 August 2017 <; [accessed 2 September 2017].

Ota, Yashuko, ‘’Little red dot’ inherits Lee’s pragmatic diplomacy’, Nikkei Asian Review, 4 August 2015, <; [accessed 01 September 2017].

Oxford English Dictionary [online]. <;, [accessed 13 July 2017]

Semino, Elena, ‘A cognitive stylistic approach to mind style in narrative fiction’, Cognitive stylistics: Language and cognition in text analysis, ed. by Semino, Elena and Culpeper, Jonathan (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2002), pp. 95–122

Stockwell, Peter, Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2002)

—————— Texture: A Cognitive Aesthetics of Reading (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press)

Szirtes, George, ‘An attempt to categorise translated poetry’, Stephen Spender Trust (2014) <; [accessed 25 June 2017]

Tan, Chee Lay, ‘Writing as painting’, in 航海纪事,trans. my own (Singapore: firstfruits publications, 2015), pp. 8-15

Tang, Jui Piow, ‘Moving House’, trans. by Koh, Samantha, Spittoon, 2 (2017), p. 17

————— Conversation with Tang Jui Piow (31 May 2017)

Tsai, S-C Kevin, ‘Translating Chinese Poetry with a Forked Tongue’, in Yearbook of Comparative and General Literature, 54 (2008), pp. 170-180

Turner, Mark, The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)

Weinberger, Eliot, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei: how a Chinese poem is translated (London: Asphodel Press, 1987)

Werth, Paul, Text Worlds: Representing Conceptual Space in Discourse (Harlow: Longman, 1999)

Wu, Jianhsin, ‘Preface’, in The Way of Chinese Characters (Boston: Cheng & Tsui Company), v-ix

Yip, Wai-Lim, Chinese Poetry (London: Duke University Press, 1997)

陈维彪, 航海纪事 (Singapore: firstfruits publications, 2015)


Norwich: Spring

was late. As we waited
for milder days, hail
came, a storm
before calm.

Then sprung longer days,
deeper shadows,
turning shy poppies from
eyes of the night
into blossomed blood.

Sleep needs new tactics,
its turf reclaimed. Sun
nourishes as rest denies,
unfurling violet-lined eyes.

New leaves emerge
in darkness. I
now tap and not tread,
dance,  not dread.

Translators in an author’s oeuvre

One thing I’ve noticed in recent months is an increased sensitivity to how different translators translate the same author. It isn’t clear if it’s simply a matter of time and reading more, or trickle-down effect from the things I’m learning and doing in the MA programme. Probably a combination of factors, as most things go. Of course, without being able to read the original, I can’t be sure about if these differences belong to the author, or the translator. Yet a kind of distinction, strangely recognisable, is emerging as I read and reread certain titles. I hesitate to tap on the words ‘style’ or ‘voice’ — both so loose and arbitrary in meaning they’re not quite useful here — and still I struggle find words to describe that something. That something, that seems to belong to the text the same way the sound of water trickling does to a running stream. That’s just the right proportion and balance, almost like serendipity, or like the sort of magical feeling one gets when sun pierces through a blanket of pregnant grey clouds at the exact moment you step out from an absolutely shitty day. Almost like that, but as a flowing and undulating sort of energy, taking the form of these translated English words on paper.

When that happens, I start to pay close attention to the language, sometimes even closer than the plot. I flip the pages to double-check  the particular translator. I wonder about the musicality of the language, and whose song is. (Perhaps a symphony?) Thus far, the only two translated authors I’ve read a good number of their titles to notice this ‘noticing’ is Banana Yoshimoto and Haruki Murakami. In the case of the latter, translation seems to play a more prominent role in his own process of writing and publishing:

This calls to mind the act of translation — shuttling from one world to another — which is in many ways the key to understanding Murakami’s work. He has consistently denied being influenced by Japanese writers; he even spoke, early in his career, about escaping “the curse of Japanese.” Instead, he formed his literary sensibilities as a teenager by obsessively reading Western novelists: the classic Europeans (Dostoyevsky, Stendhal, Dickens) but especially a cluster of 20th-century Americans whom he has read over and over throughout his life — Raymond Chandler, Truman Capote, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut. When Murakami sat down to write his first novel, he struggled until he came up with an unorthodox solution: he wrote the book’s opening in English, then translated it back into Japanese. This, he says, is how he found his voice. Murakami’s longstanding translator, Jay Rubin, told me that a distinctive feature of Murakami’s Japanese is that it often reads, in the original, as if it has been translated from English.

‘The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami’, The New York Times Magazine

The rest of the interview is as fascinating as insight into the author, who I look towards largely for his process and not just his work (my favourite book by him is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, probably his most autobiographical — at least an unveiled one). The same article has a quote that’s a brilliant peek:

“Concentration is one of the happiest things in my life,” he said. “If you cannot concentrate, you are not so happy. I’m not a fast thinker, but once I am interested in something, I am doing it for many years. I don’t get bored. I’m kind of a big kettle. It takes time to get boiled, but then I’m always hot.”

As someone who struggles to reconcile equally developed and contrasting selves coexisting in the same body, topped with a bright, freshly-pickled marcellino cherry of ADD, his discipline, steady focus, and clear dedication are constant reminders of the muscles I need to continue working on.

Strand of thought sparked by a current reread of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.


the silence before the breath

I do apologise for the lapses between posts — they seem to be widening unproportionately to the strands of thoughts and reflections in my head. A substantial part of them go into the communal ‘swimming notes’ I share with two others who find air and clarity underwater as much as I do, and yet there are many more waiting to be drawn into less transient forms, untangled, clean. My journalling is turning into a classic Benjamin Button. It started flowing 14 years back, thick and hearty as any beard would be proud to be, but with time is returning to infancy as I battle with the intentions behind the sharing.

Do I share my reflections on reading — from Smith to Lessing, Barthes to Bhakti, Jacobson to Benjamin — when they’re only half-looking glasses, incomplete in context and breadth of knowledge? Or reflections essay-style, that are actually ‘drawers’ better opened at more appropriate timings? I am learning so much, so fast here. There is literature, philosophy, academic and literary language. When I arrived, I was only but a toddler in what I know and think, reduced over the years by focusing on different aspects, and in an environment which demands completely different priorities. I am still grasping to understand as a thirsty man does, but nowadays it feels a little less breathless, or maybe my lungs have strengthened.

My film photography has frozen with the winter; personal reflections and mutterings challenged every day, morphing too fast to crystallise into words, much less coherent posts. I’m questioning so constantly I feel like a walking curve, yet I seek no full-stops, only commas, semicolons, twists and games of punctuation. There will be a time when things fall into place enough for me to shape more coherency in this online journal, where my various notebooks and dried-out pens have not been scribbled on furiously for no reason, but till then, I am still here, always here, just in preparation, as silently as the minute pause before a breath is taken.

I update most on the books I read, and sometimes on Instagram.

Kashiwa Dasuke — Stella

One of the few ‘-‘ that always makes me feel the same way. I tried to describe how, but it brings so much—the balm of strings and an aching freedom, the breath of opera, the solid colours of good films, the bittersweetness of being, of knowing now is all is and at the same time nothing is right now—

words fail. But that’s why we have music.