July 28, 2021

KITAAB

Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Sightlines: How Marc Nair “sees the world in a grain of sand”, much in the tradition of William Blake

1 min read

Book Review by Kaiyi Tan

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Title: Sightlines

Author: Marc Nair

Photographer: Tsen-Waye Tay

Publisher: Math Press, 2019

I must first confess that I did not like Sightlines when I first read it. As I absorbed this book of poems with photography by Marc Nair and Tsen-Waye Tay, I couldn’t help but feel that a certain song-like lyricism was missing. Usually, my first instinct is to judge verses based solely on the quality of sound alone. Meaning can be secondary, as long as the words form a particular harmony. Knowing that Marc Nair is an established poet in Singapore with a huge reputation for spoken word, I was slightly disappointed.

But on my second reading, something very simple happened.

I followed the recommendation in Mr. Nair’s introduction: I read the poems with the images in mind. And suddenly, like Blake’s experience of seeing a world in a grain of sand, the entire book changed for me. Mr. Nair’s words, together with the stark and beautiful photography of Ms. Tay, emerged as mini-narratives of their own.

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