Title: Transparent Strangers
Author: Loh Guan Liang
Publisher: Math Paper Press
“The Reserved Seating sticker / points to a lie: in a free-seating economy it’s all / about possession.”
Living in a city, we tend to overlook the humanity of the people, favouring the bling of city life. This collection of poems covers subjects like the community fixtures, hidden individuals, and even the dramas we watch with our parents during school nights. All with a perspective we may conveniently forget about.
“To (A) Pology”, “Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP)”, and “Big Sweep” are heavily influenced by the people we hardly notice in the “first world” environment we have. Words like “forgot”, “closed”, and “zeroed” bring out the reminder that while our lives are busy, we are not the centre of the world. In short, the hashtag #firstworldproblems gets a new slap in the face.
Loh has the ability to place an interesting perspective on the everyday things we take for granted. “Spaceman at the Butter Factory” brings the lively murals on the club’s walls to life, as if the colours were dancing with the music. “Talking” speaks of the under-appreciated act of good conversation, especially with people we claim to see every day but possibly hardly know or understand.
Apart from the metaphors and personification in the poems, the use of sound and comparison can be seen rather clearly in this collection.
Comparison between the poems and relatable topics are many, with these to name a couple:
- Places that Matter – Commemorating the dead in the world of the living, where niches are put up for graves to make way for urban development.
- Walpurgisnacht in September – Mythology of the Mid-Autumn festival
“Musical Chairs” represents the metaphorical game we play on public transport, eagle-eyeing seats and employing game-like tactics to get that coveted seat, regardless of whoever is around us (or playing the game, for this matter).
“No Thank You” personifies our constant ambition to want more, or a struggle between comfort zones and necessity. Through the words of a walking salesperson, the pacing and structure of the poem plays out in your head, sounding out a familiar scene.
Lastly, “Please Ree-vert” is enhanced through Loh’s play with sound, extending words to their basic syllables, a metaphorical representation on how we use speech and words to portray a better reflection of ourselves.
In the meantime…
See you all next week!