Azwan Ismail went first. Now here is a very sporting guy! I'd called him up just the night before to ask him to read when another reader had to pull out, and was so happy that he said yes.
Azwan, and engineer by day and a poet full-time, is a regular at open mic sessions (usually wearing his trademark fedora!) and has just published a poetry zine called Mantra, which he was kind enough to give me a copy of. (I promised to pass him a donation for it and forgot. Next time, Azwan.) He read just three poems, two in Malay and one in English. I think the first was called Ada Seseorang Terbakar (There's Someone on Fire) which mixed images of snow and blood, heat and cold. I like this one called Satan & Angel which I found on his blog.
Reza Rosli was next. His first time in front of the microphone, but he grew in confidence as he read his pieces and in the end I think was enjoying himself. Reza has only recently begun putting his writing out into the world, though I've long enjoyed his writing on his blog. He read poems In the Glass House (written from a dream) one about his lovely little blue bubble of a Smart car (almost a love poem, and I don't blame him because it is a dinky little thing that I much envy ... maybe he should sell the poem to the company for advertising? ... earlier version of it here) , and another about kayaking in Thailand with wonderful imagery of the weight of the sky.
He also read a piece of prose Eh, Saya Muslim, Tak Boleh (subtitled Or, How Being A Muslim Saved Me From Getting Buggered) that had its genesis during my writing course (Got to be a proud teacher here!) the story of how he was almost sexually assaulted by a huge fellow in a dark back alley. We were all listening breath with bated breath to hear how he managed to slide out of a potentially terrifying situation with a bit of quick thinking. You can read the piece here, but Reza improvised a little on it, I think! (Which in a sense just goes to show how valuable it is to read work aloud to see how the voice comes through and the audience responds.)
I first met Alina Rastam a couple of years ago when we both gave a talk at Silverfish about reading groups of different kinds and I was very impressed that she was running classes in literature for adult learners ... because there is very little in this country for working folks who want to further their education in a more informal context.
Alina is a freelance writer and editor, and part-time lecturer in literature at Monash and is involved with women's movement in Malaysia. She hs written on literature for various publications including the New Straits Times and Off The Edge.
She read a couple of poems from her first collection Diver & Other Poems which I reviewed a couple of days back: Prayer and Morning Song the first written for a teacher who greatly influenced her life and the second which she wrote for her partner. Both were pieces in which she had poured out her whole heart - and she read obviously feeling the full emotional impact of the poems. We're hungry for more, Alina, so come back another day.
Tinling Choong was next and read to us from her first novel FireWife the story of the extraordinarily generous Zimi who leases her forehead as advertising space. It was so nice to hear the extract read in her voice. Tinling has been nominated for a Henry Miller Award for Best Literary Sex Scene. (As they say, Malaysia boleh!) It makes all of us, I'm sure, very proud to see a local author have a publishing success overseas ... and it says, hey, it is possible after all guys.
After the break (and I always feel such a spoil sport for dragging folks back when they're so busy enjoying the drinks and the conversation) it was the lovely Jit Murad who needs no introduction. Jit wanted to illustrate just how much further a playwright needs to go developing the back story of his characters so that he/she really knows them. He read us the monologues of two of his characters which you will actually never hear in the play he's working on (Mr. Metro) - both with very different voices, the first (Chris Tong who called himself Chris because it was the nearest name he could find to Krystal Carrington). Very enjoyable.
Last ... and the youngest, but by no means least was Priya K. I first met Priya when she did my writing course some time back and was very happy that she chose to read a piece (edgy, dark, mysterious ... almost graphic fiction in words) she wrote for that course, as well as a poem about KL she wrote when she did Jacob Sam-La Rose's workshop which captures the city very well. Priya has also been writing and performing with The Oral Stage, and is a law student.
My biggest thanks ... as always ... to those who read and those who came. (By the way it was lovely to see our Glenda and I do hope she can be persuaded to read for us another day!)
To Seksan for his kindness in letting us use his lovely space.
To whoever painted the intriguing picture of terrorists in diapers which was our backdrop. (It was part of the notthatbalai art festival.)
To La Bodega for generously giving us a crate of wine.
I hope that I can arrange the next "Readings" at Seksans on 25th August when we will have Preeta Samarasan among the guests joining us. Bernice is also organising "Readings at No Black Tie" on 5th August and a special edition for our 50 years Merdeka celebrations on 31st! Details to be confirmed.
There is a poetry jam on Friday night 3rd August at Bau Bau cafe at Central Market as part of the notthatbalai art festival, and on Saturday 4th July the Maskara readings happening again at Rumah Pena.
Don't you feel that lovely buzz of good things happening?
Sufian has some great photos mostly of those informal moments when you did not notice him lurking! Eternal Wanderer wrote the event up for KL Weekly. (Many thanks!)
Reza (aka Madcap Machinist) has written a fantastic piece about how the whole experience of reading. It is a pretty terrifying thing to do, especially for the first timers.
Lovely quote from Glenda:
Yesterday I went to a reading by some Malaysian authors and was impressed by the level of talent. Damn, but there are some good writers out there. And courageous ones too, who aren't afraid to stand up and say: this is what I am and you can't change it with your threats or your self-righteous religiosity...Amen! Who got the hotline to heaven better than inspired scribblers?