April 20, 2021

KITAAB

Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Words, Verses, Fractals… – Kitaab review of Tammy Ho Lai-Ming’s Hula Hooping

2 min read

by Joel Gn

Hula Hooping by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming, Chameleon Press, 2015, 108 pp.Hula Hooping

The “beauty”, or should I say cardinal difficulty, of poetry is that it deviously thwarts any attempt to construct a factual narrative. This, of course, does not mean that the poet’s experiences are inauthentic or false. On the contrary, all kinds of verse become coloured fractals, masking a myriad of impressions that allow the reader to catch, if not feel, a world that is neither familiar nor foreign, but embodied and imagined. In this way, poetry, like all other works of the imagination, embraces difference with and for us. To quote Roger Scruton, the poetic work “interrogates the world, not as religion interrogates, to sniff out heresy and error, but in order to spread itself in sympathy”[1].

It is thus via this sensitivity of the written word that poetry seduces more than it dictates, for the reader is not expected to know or ascertain if the words are abstracted as fact or fiction, but is impelled to relish the ambiguity between the two. Of course, such a movement, on the onset, might seem awkward, if not somewhat disconcerting, but therein lies the possibility of an affection for the work itself, an encounter where subject positions are effaced for the play within and between every verse.

The collection of poems in Tammy Ho’s Hula Hooping revolves around such playful encounters between loved ones, lovers and her love of places. These are woven together in heartfelt and visceral moments that vividly capture the vicissitudes of singular characters and their social fabric. Especially whimsical are the works in the section titled “Story Poems”, where she muses about the marriage of a painter and sculptor; peculiar women who offer gifts of weal and woe; and her inner struggle with names. Both poignant and picturesque, the verses in the collection melt into and transfigure the mundane, as elegantly rendered in a stanza from “Suggestions for distributing your poems”:

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