Sunday, September 18, 2016

Why Write Poetry?

I wrote this piece and posted on this blog somewhere in 2005. Somehow, I think it is still relevant today as it was then.

Yes, you can say this post is partly inspired by Rosemary Nissen-Wades's excellent article at Poet's United.

photo by dsnake1

Why Write Poetry?

Why write poetry? Poetry don't sell, nobody reads them. Don't bet on that, but that's not the point. People write poetry because they love to. Just like you love a beer.

An author, I think it was Stephen King, once said that you are like an opened carton of milk in the fridge. You take on whatever flavour is beside you. But like he said, an author shouldn't just be that carton of milk. Yes, you absorb the flavours, it gives you different tastes, but you have to try to find your own voice.

My nephew once asked me about the secret of good writing. I told him there's really no secret. He looked surprised when I told him to read. And write. Lots of it. True, the two go hand in hand. It's like a guy wanting to win a marathon but having no time to do practice runs.

So go read anything you can lay your hands on, your thick reference books, the great SF masters, the Nobel laureates, pulp fiction, manga, your child's bedtime story books, the papers. And then go write some poetry. In your journals, sketchbooks, Moleskines, A4 papers, your blogs. And it will become your lifelong companion and friend.

I write poetry simply because I love to.

written 02/10/2005
revised 18/09/2016

"Those who read poetry do so for pleasure, for insight, sometimes for counsel. The least they can expect is that the poet who shares his visions and experiences with them do so with no hypocrisy. To compromise poetry through fear is to atrophy the psyche. To compromise poetry through expediency is the soft, small murder of the soul..."

--Lenore Kendel (1932 - 2009), "poetry is never compromise",

Shared on Poetry Pantry #320 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2016

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

only the dead have seen the end of war

I wrote this during the Chinese 7th month, otherwise also known as the Ghost Month in the Chinese calendar. My mind can act in funny ways, it wanders. Like those spirits.

Or maybe I have watched too many wuxia or Sengoku period movies.

image from

only the dead have seen the end of war

when i returned in the dead of night
to our little house
you were sleeping, holding our child
your eyelids trembled, just slightly
that cold draft of air
that ruffled your hair
is the howl from my throat
as an arrow pierces my breast.

you rose in the smoke-filled dawn
when the sun had not yet risen
over the rice fields,
the tiled roofs of the town.
you went to the Wall with our child
scanned the stone towers
with your eyes still red with pain.
you read every weary face
every returning warrior
and with each passing day
the smoke rose higher from the rains.

only the dead have seen the end of war.
only the dead see what your tears are for.

written : 26/08/2010
revised : 16/04/2014

The title is a quote often attributed to Plato, but possibly written by George Santayana.

Shared on Poetry Pantry #319 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2016

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Sunday, September 04, 2016

8 small stones

Recently, I took part in the "Awake August 2016" challenge at Writing Our Way Home. The aim is to write a small stone a day for the month of August.

So what is a "small stone"? First introduced by Buddhist priests Satya and Kaspa a few years back, a "small stone" is a short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment. [italics taken from their blog, you can read more of it here].

Usually, a small stone is very short. It can be a haiku, a monostitch, or just a sentence. Of course it can be much longer verses if you want it. There are no strict rules as to form, but often it should be concrete and specific, about ordinary things.

So I have completed the whole challenge and have selected 8 of my favourite small stones to showcase here.
If you want to see the whole nine yards, you can click here to go to my other blog. :)

8 small stones

Day #7

Day #8

Day #14

Day #16

Day #17

Day #20

Day #27

Day #31

So what do you think, guys? Can each be called a haiga? The drawings were done with free online sketch tools, Sketchpad 4.0 and Pencilmadness, and completed with editing tool Paint Shop Pro. I wanted to select only 5, but I could not resist adding 3 more. Click on the picture for a larger image.

And here is a small stone by me that made it into an anthology, pay attention : a river of stones.


another morning -

strands of hair
in the washbasin.


Shared on Poetry Pantry #318 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2016

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

coffeeshop, one morning in march 2011

This one may not be much, but it captures a slice of life in our heartlands. I wrote this for NaPoWriMo 2011.

Sorry, this is pretty localised, foreign readers may not know what i am writing about. :)

photo by dsnake1

coffeeshop, one morning in march 2011

the cleaner
rubs my table
with a greasy rag.

i do not know
where to rest
my cup of tea.

he looks at me
and smiles.
i thank him.


"Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?"

-- Edgar Bergen

Shared on Poetry Pantry #316 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2016

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Sunday, August 07, 2016

old graffiti

This is from my 2009 NaPoWriMo archives.

When I was younger, I used to write down my thoughts on paper with a pencil, in bound journals and ring notebooks. Most were just rants and doggerel. Much was thrown away. Maybe I shouldn't have. There were some decent and very good poetry (i think), like those in the period just after my military service, that were lost when I moved from place to place. My heart still aches when I think about it. :(

photo by dsnake1

old graffiti

it was just
rows of
faded pencil marks
on a yellowed page

scratched in a naive hand
brash but unsure
small steps
like a baby's

for words
for that
great poem

even the strokes
were angry
the mood
probably too

but the elusive
creatures,the words
stayed hidden

and that was why
that poem
never met
the light

of day


“Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough.”

T.S. Eliot

Shared on Poetry Pantry #314 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2016

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Sunday, July 31, 2016


Some time in the not-too-distant past, there was this little skill and past-time called letter writing. Words were not a string of zeroes and ones, but were ink on paper, and arrived in envelopes with postmarks. Sometimes, it takes weeks to reach you, which is unthinkable of now. But the joy of it, when you see the letter in the mailbox (a real physical box of metal nailed to a wall)

I had a pen-pal from a neighbouring country. We exchanged letters and first day covers regularly. And then, like all good things, it came to an end. The letters became less and less, a trickle, and finally ceased. I guessed we each had our own needs and priorities to attend to. But it was a great experience while it lasted.

pencil sketch by dsnake1


but it was not to be

i could have taken
a train
to meet you.
we could even have
met halfway
at Kluang
have a coffee
shake hands

but we just write
our letters

and then
other things
and took over our

and the letters
became less


and then

it was not to be.

nov 2011

to bernadette, wherever you may be.

"Thus having spoke she turned away and though I found no words to say
I stood and watched until I saw her black cloak disappear."

-- Uriah Heep, Lady in Black

Shared on Poetry Pantry #313 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2016

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

the letters

I have posted this story before, but i think it is a rather nice tale, so here it is again. :)

I wrote this short story for some competition. The rules are simple. The story will be completed in 3 parts and each part must be less than a hundred words. A key word is provided for each part of the story, and it must be present in it. When the first part is submitted, the keyword for the next part will be provided. When all the three parts are submitted, a winner will be picked.

The keywords were as follows : post office, discover, letter.

No, I did not win anything.:)

photo by Sergey81 at

the letters

I passed this quaint little post office on my way to and from work each day. It was a sturdy brick and steel building, nestled in a quiet neighbourhood. But what interested me was not the post office itself, but a pretty lady who was always around the place when I returned home in the evenings. Dark-haired, slim, so dainty that a rush of wind could blow her away, she sat on the steps of the post office, under the porch lights, reading some letters. As the days passed, she intrigued me more and more.

Finally, one evening, after much debate, I decided to speak to the lady, but she was not there when I arrived. And the following nights too. So on an off-day, I was at the post office sending parcels when I asked Sato-san, the postmaster, about the lady. With a quizzical stare, he told me her husband was away in the war, the Islands. She would be here at the post office, waiting for his war-zone letters . And then very strangely, he warned me to keep away from her . What I have discovered so far only deepens the mystery.

Now I know more about love and the human heart in these few weeks than in my entire life. You see, her husband never made it back from Iwo Jima. Day after day, she read that government letter, until her heart broke. They found her dead one day, on that post office porch, her tears still wet on those fair cheeks. And all this happened before I moved into this neighbourhood. I should be afraid, very afraid, but now I am not afraid anymore. As I stepped out of the porch, the fireflies scattered into the scented night.

Aug 2012

if i could pluck the stars
put them in a jar
will you come back to me?

--dsnake1, longing

Shared on Poetry Pantry #311 at Poets United.

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2016

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