Title: Bitter Punch
Author: Loh Guan Liang
Publisher: Ethos Books
“The journey through our emotions rarely has a destination. Or a map. Guan Liang’s Bitter Punch, however, provides a beacon as we walk the roads of pitch-black uncertainty and brutal realities.”
That was the blurb I wrote when Guan Liang, a friend of mine, asked me to write a blurb for his 2nd book.
Coming out as his 2nd collection after Transparent Strangers, Bitter Punch traverses the reflection behind emotional and observational anecdotes, split into four main themes – Like Chinese Ghosts, Blunt Trauma, Listening Alone, and Point of Return.
Like Chinese Ghosts starts with an observation piece, depicting the two cities we see as we go about our daily lives – the city that’s presented, and the city we live in. Poems here carry on with this theme, societal structure and invisibility stark among his words. One particular poem, “Coolie”, struck out as a tale of resignation – standing at the sidelines, resigning that we’re unable to help another because we can’t even help ourselves.
Blunt Trauma brings the emotional punch to your face when you realize that all things happy had an aspect that wasn’t so positive. Below the surface of wide smiles and flashing teeth can be a pair of eyes glazing over, dead as the cracked make-up we put on our faces in our supposedly-monotonous lives. “Two Bedroom Poems” speaks volumes of the lies and truths we hide from each other, friend or foe, and how some of us react after, by either rising above or spiraling downward.
Listening Alone speaks of the convenience of taking on-the-surface communication with the same value of deeper conversation. “Like and Share” is the epitome of the pure keyboard warrior – of the one who believes they’re doing good just by ratting out behind an anonymous avatar, or the one who spreads chain messages to gather likes for saving the world.
And if the first three themes has you sinking into the sea of resignation, Point of Return possibly gives you the ladder to climb up. Set in a world which moves along despite our own issues, the collection’s final poem, “As They Say”, brings out our choices – do we resign ourselves and trudge along? Or do we move forward with the change?