have been giving me funny looks for years.
how it goes: Run into a friend you haven't seen for some
time. Trade the usual pleasantries: ''How are you?'' ''What
are you up to nowadays?''
tells you about his latest dotcom venture, his MBA.
vaguely remembers seeing your face in the papers once or
twice, so you must be doing well, right? ''How do you do
it?'' he asks.
tell him you're a poet.
poor chap blinks. He pretends not to have heard you correctly.
It does not compute. You look so normal.
right, I'm sorry,'' he says finally, tries to smile. Escapes
first chance he gets to his BMW, and that's the last you'll
see of him.
it - works wonders on insurance agents.
think it's time I came out of the closet.
I'm a P-O-E-T.
not contagious. I try to mate words and combine ideas in
relationships no one has thought of before.
not like I'm having unsafe sex with pencils.
the page, I'm really quite tame. Nerdy, even. I won't steal
your girlfriend (or boyfriend).
don't wear earrings, keep long hair, dress grunge or bleed
gratuitously from the wounded vestiges of my tortured soul.
I behave at dinner parties. I shave.
bad enough what our cosmopolitan urban society is built
upon; it's obsessed with and feeds on material success.
and without protest, we've allowed our social and sexual
identities to be defined in economic terms: So and so falls
into the right demographic, X is our target audience, Ms
Y is an engineer making a Z-figure salary.
this equation, poets, honestly, don't cut it.
an anomaly, they fall outside the drop-down list. Try looking
to be that men were expected to bring home the bacon, so
any non-revenue generating activity (like, oh, say the arts)
was reserved for bored wives and unmarried daughters.
was something embroidered badly into ''Home Sweet Home''
wasn't real men's work.
so the story went.
mind the grand old tradition of Byronic word warriors, or
the gritty trench verse of war poets like Siegfried Sassoon
and Wilfred Owen.
that you're a poet and your manhood is immediately in question.
gruff young poet I once met was so anxious he came to a
gathering in a rugby jersey looking like a jock: ''Er, excuse
me, is this where the *ahem* poets are meeting?'' You could
read the italics in his body language.
that mucking about with verse and music and soulful contemplation
is supposed to rub away some of the rough macho edges afflicting
the male half of the species.
idea if you're gunning for Commando training. But great,
apparently, for chatting up women.
that women pull their own financial weight, the theory goes,
they can have the pick of the crop instead of staying home
independent women don't want to be manhandled.
they're looking for Sensitive New-Age Ga-whoops - Guys to
treat them right.
conversation, shopping companionship, taste in curtains,
the works. Here's where poets and other arty types are supposed
to score big-time.
perhaps, explains the sudden rash of young male, conspicuously
''poetic'' types at readings, in bars, off the shelf in
I'm not talking about the limp-wrist pale scholar types.
you've got to be controversial, have 'tude, or be gay in
order to be a bona fide poetica.
cringe-worthy, the kind of adulation or distaste poets get
at some of these karaoke gigs, coyly labelled ''poetry readings''.
the dingier specimens among us are supposed to be suffering
fashionably in honour of bohemia.
one's simply sloppy anymore.
got to be a walking commercial for some lifestyle trend.
at me, I'm a POET. Buy my CD.
poets are an endangered species, the genuine poet-slob must
top every last-chance-to-see list on the planet.
the real poets please stand up?
ones I know in Singapore, mostly male, have families and
respectable jobs - as engineers, lawyers, teachers.
couple have even infiltrated the civil service. Not exactly
your Cyrano de Bergerac types.
might be gay, sure, but then again, some drive Hondas -
that's just not what being a poet is about.
the women aren't bra-burning ''feminovelists'' either.
is, poets are ordinary people addicted to words, and like
junkies everywhere, tend to indulge their habits in private
and wash their hands afterwards.
have man-in-the-street problems, like COEs, housing loans
and bad hair days.
don't have time to be someone else's fashion statement.
we shouldn't take it lying down.
Poets of the World should band together and assert our right
to be messy, bad spellers, poor cooks, have mousy hairdos
and steady jobs.
- er, that's my wife knocking - well, it's something to
think about after I've made dinner and fed the cats.