casual poet library

Since my last post a month ago, I have fallen into a new adventure — I’m building a shared library in Singapore.

It all started from this Instagram post. I found a shop space within three days of the post and now I’m waiting to confirm our design plans before starting renovations. We have 180 people on board with us as bookshelf-owners. You can read some of the updates on this crazy journey via my latest posts on Instagram.

So what’s Casual Poet Library? It’s a shared library in the heartlands of Singapore run entirely by individuals in the community. Each individual pays a small amount of money every month to be a bookshelf-owner. On each shelf, bookshelf-owners share about themselves and their book recommendations via little note cards, and tend to their shelves like they are tending to a (book) garden. The library is open to everyone and all books are for people to browse and borrow.

I went into this thinking it was about books. After all I’ve dreamed about opening a bookstore all my life. But the more I worked on the project the more I realised it’s about community, about building bridges between people, about the revitalisation of actual places and also actual hearts.

Feeling really energised and excited about this and will share more updates along the way!

solitude and humans

Back from Japan (reluctantly).

Having a blog makes you realise how quickly time passes. Easily a month can pass by without any new entries here. But that month would feel like a blink to me.

So I did go to Japan for three weeks. I experienced moments of bliss/ecstasy there that would sound downright silly when put in words. But don’t worry, the only drugs involved were nature, rural fields, quiet neighbourhoods, long walks, silence, solitude, books…

I think I could easily become a recluse if I allowed myself to.

Even then, some of my best memories from the trip involve other people, mostly strangers. I made friends in cafes, izakayas, shops. We talked with the help of Google Translate and their kindness warmed my heart. I almost didn’t meet an unkind soul in Japan.

So that’s the thing – I enjoyed my solitude to the point of delirium, but so much joy and light and happiness were delivered straight to my heart from my interactions with other human beings.

Both things are true at the same time.

going into hiding

I enjoy not being found.

It’s my way of coping with an external world that is largely unknown and potentially dangerous.

‘I don’t want to be found, seen or heard from’ is a thought I constantly have. At the same time, I realise I have the need to communicate, but preferably in ways that allow me to be partially hidden (like writing in a blog that few people read).

Is this a desire for non-existence?

I don’t think so, because I do want to exist and I do want people to know I exist.

But I don’t want to be found.

Do you see the difference?

a letter by Georgia O’Keeffe

“To Anita Pollitzer

Canyon, Texas
11 September 1916

Tonight I walked into the sunset — to mail some letters — the whole sky — and there is so much of it out here — was just blazing — and grey blue clouds were rioting all through the hotness of it — and the ugly little buildings and windmills looked great against it.

But some way or other I didn’t seem to like the redness much so after I mailed the letters I walked home — and kept on walking —

The Eastern sky was all grey blue — bunches of clouds — different kinds of clouds — sticking around everywhere and the whole thing — lit up — first in one place — then in another with flashes of lightning — sometimes just sheet lightning — and sometimes sheet lightning with a sharp bright zigzag flashing across it —.

I walked out past the last house — past the last locust tree — and sat on the fence for a long time — looking — just looking at the lightning — you see there was nothing but sky and flat prairie land — land that seems more like the ocean than anything else I know — There was a wonderful moon —

Well I just sat there and had a great time all by myself — Not even many night noises — just the wind —

I wondered what you are doing —

It is absurd the way I love this country — Then when I came back — it was funny — roads just shoot across blocks anywhere — all the houses looked alike — and I almost got lost — I had to laugh at myself — I couldnt tell which house was home —

I am loving the plains more than ever it seems — and the SKY — Anita you have never seen SKY — it is wonderful —

Pat.”

Tokyo Story

I cried a lot watching Tokyo Story, my heart unravelling with the film.

The way Ozu does it is masterful.

There is always this sense that you can’t know what to expect next.

A tension that clings to your skin even though everything seems normal.

The cinematography is beautiful to the point of making me jealous – perfect black and white tones and a low, watchful camera angle.

So simple you fall in love.

And through the screen, Ozu somehow makes you taste summer.

I don’t want to write too much in case you haven’t seen it.

This is a film about elemental humanity and universal human emotions, and after 70 years, it still resonates.

It will probably resonate for as long as we still want to watch films.

Now I understand why they say this is Ozu’s masterpiece and also the film that Wim Wenders said has had a life-long pull on him.

I went down the rabbit hole and realised that Wim Wenders was so obsessed he went to the small coastal town where ‘the story begins and ends’ and made a book. I love it. The coolest coincidence? I’m going to Japan in a couple of weeks and I was planning to visit Onomichi!

interesting

I’m always looking for people who use interesting ways to say things or who use interesting ways to live life. In some weird way that keeps me alive.

At my core I am interested in people and their stories, even though I know people’s stories can be completely made up.

Recently I got interested in Fujii Kaze. I would use the word ‘interesting’ to describe him. When I dig deeper I think I’m attracted to him because he is okay with dancing badly on stage and posting ugly photos of himself on social media even though he is a great dancer and a good-looking guy. And also because he sings while playing the piano on the floor and eats a lot of vegetables and writes his own songs and once he said (and I paraphrase badly) “I am not perfect of course but I want you to know that there is a perfect being inside of you”. His charisma comes from his lack of aversion to showing his true self. He is comfortable with being ugly and dorky and weird and talented and spiritual. His comfort with himself translates into a sense of comfort that wraps the people who watch him in a warm cosy hug. It’s very healing.

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I keep wanting to go watch “Perfect Days” in the cinema but I keep putting it off. Procrastination is a bitch.

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I like the feeling of having a new thought. It’s not something that happens very often. Sometimes the same loops just repeat themselves until I get bored. But a new thought! It’s like a mini-firework going off in my head. The trouble is connecting that new thought to new actions. Maybe I’m a pragmatic person after all. When my thoughts are looping I know I’m only running on the spot, procrastinating or being stuck in my patterns. But when a new thought comes, it means there’s some breakage in the loop. This ability to consciously break the loop is the result of more awareness, I think. I hope. And now, to allow that new thought to take root and to become behaviour. That’s a different challenge.

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These days I’m trying to write whenever I have the time. Instead of writing only when I make myself sit down to write and doing it for an hour, and thinking that is the right way to do it, I’m trying to write whenever and wherever. It’s actually not too different from what I’ve always been doing. The difference is now I am also allowing myself to see that these little notes I’m writing are not just discardable notes but smaller parts of a bigger piece of work.

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Someone else’s thought that became mine: “It’s not about what we do but how we do things.”

small unknown complex life


Solo dinner in Tokyo, January 2024

I don’t know if it’s just me but I always get a warm and fuzzy feeling in my gut whenever I stumble upon an interesting blog written by someone who is living their small unknown complex life God-knows-where. I feel connected by our common humanity. We’ll never meet, but I can picture them sitting on their sofa writing on their laptop or using the computer in their kitchen, writing when the kids are asleep, writing in the morning, writing when the first snowfall arrives, writing about their new job, about losing their job, about moving to a new city, about this film they just watched, about their husband who died a few years ago. A blog is a small and beautiful thing and I am grateful it exists.

The other day I was on social media and I felt another wave of resentment pour over me. It was almost tinted with rage. I don’t like how the very structure of social media fundamentally changes the way we write and share our feelings. People say we can decide how we want to use social media, but that doesn’t change the fact that Instagram, to use an example, is built to manipulate us and our dopamine levels. When we enter the world of social media, it’s like walking into a casino that is determined to get us addicted. We become altered simply by being in these places and become a twisted, more anxious, more egotistical version of ourselves. Not only that, everywhere we look, there is a branding or marketing message targeting our backs. It’s annoying. Buy this. Follow us. Like and share. We have a vulnerable story to share with you today because actually this is an ad. Or. Because being vulnerable is cool nowadays! At the very least it makes you trust us more.

You can have a good experience on social media if you are very intentional and mindful. There are accounts I really enjoy on social media and I have found a lot of inspiration there. But I still believe the corrosive effects of social media outweigh its good, because I know for a fact that social media apps CAN be re-designed to be less addictive and less manipulative, and they are not because of the ultra-capitalistic world we live in. I’m not sure who or what I’m angry at or if it’s even anger I feel. Maybe it’s sadness instead.

All that to say, it’s easier to breathe and write here. The energy here is so much cleaner.

I turned off my phone today at 5pm and it’s now 11.13pm. I haven’t turned it back on. This simple action cuts me off from the world. It feels so good somehow. I guess I’m just in this phase of my life where I am tired of almost everything that is happening in the “mainstream world”. And of course, more than a little angry at all the injustice and destruction and consumerism and myopia that so many people in this matrix we call the world are caught up in, including myself at the best of times.

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Discovered midnight.pub recently and it’s been very fun to fall into a world of disembodied thoughts by random strangers from all over the world.

ooh.directory is another gem and I’ve already found a few interesting blogs there.

impatience

Where do I start?

I’m reading a lot again. Cormac McCarthy, Donna Tartt, Milan Kundera, David Foster Wallace. I am so hungry for words. I want to read ten books at once but it’s impossible. But I’m impatient about getting blown away by a good book.

TV bulletin. I think The Bear is exceptionally well-written. It makes me want to talk to Christopher Storer, understand how he created it. But watching yet another interview of Cormac McCarthy or Donna Tartt, not easy to find at all BTW because they are both rather reclusive, I am reminded of the futility of trying to get to know a writer. My basic curiosity compels me to ask, who wrote this masterpiece? Please come out and explain yourself to me?? But knowing the details of their life or even how they created the work doesn’t add anything to my experience of their art. It adds no depth, no pathos, no transcendental understanding. Maybe every artist’s work must be complete on its own.

Anyway, Cormac McCarthy:

“The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning.

The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man’s mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others.”

― from “Blood Meridian, or, the Evening Redness in the West”

And song of the day: Let Down by Radiohead. Heard on The Bear.