It's a page from a fashion magazine in Myanmar. Most of the text is in Burmese, but notice the words in English - "Gilbert Koh" and "December Shopping". Yes, one of my poems got translated and is now circulating in a Myanmese magazine called Crown.
The translator is Zaw Myo Nyunt, a Burmese national and Singapore PR. Zaw comes from a rather literary family - his father is a publisher; his mother is a novelist; his brother is a journalist and his sister runs a bookstore. Zaw had read my poems, he enjoyed them and he wanted to try his hand at doing a translation. So that's how my poem December Shopping ended up in Crown.
A Burmese fashion magazine seems to be an odd place for Singaporean poetry to appear. Zaw's explanation is that many Myanmese people are very interested in all things Singapore. They want to come here for work, education, medical treatment and yes, for the shopping. So that's the excuse for December Shopping to appear in Crown.
Anyway, here's the English language version of the poem. It's really about the materialistic and consumerist side of the modern world:
- December Shopping
Here comes Christmas. Take it, strip it down
wash it clean, then doll it up, prettify,
package, add a ribbon. Now offer it up for sale,
an orchard road product made new again.
See the santa claus reindeer at centrepoint,
touch the gold-dusted wings of angel
mannequis, feel the softness, the warmth
of cotton-wool snow, meltproof against
the little coloured blinking bulbs.
Do you not rejoice, would you not sing
along in a fa-la-la-la-la sort of way?
Meet baby jesus and holy mother,
starring as takashimaya decorations,
the three wise men as props.
The crowds are awful, the roads too long,
for roads that lead nowhere,
but the lights are bright and the sales -
oh, the wonderful sales! - are truly
a shopper's paradise. What you buy is
what you are, and what you are is here,
on display, for sale, at a discount,
very, very cheap. What joy! What happiness!
What a birthday bash! Give thanks
for the power of visa, the size
of your December bonus, for this
great offering of material things.
Let us eat, let us feast like gluttons,
swarm like flies, drown in proverbial milk
and honey - it's christmas, after all,
Singapore's greatest shopping season.