For last month's Readings@Seksan's we had the gentle accompaniment of the cutting of tree branches, this month we had the sound of the delightful melody of pneumatic drills as the pavement down below was torn up. Is there a conspiracy?
Then we couldn't open the wine bottle and had to send out an emergency call to the guy who sold them to us to come with a better bottle opener.
Then the microphone was giving grief, screeching away and soundman Reza, who has no idea of priorities, was away at his sister's wedding. I shudder to think how we will be jinxed next month.
Still, once we got going things began to go well. We kicked off with Dr Shih Toong Siong was first talked very interestingly for a few minutes about his his book Foochows : A Historical Perspective and told us plenty we didn't know about this community which settled Sitiawan in Perak. Want to know how Sitiawan got its name, or how its most infamous son Chin Peng became a communist? Buy me a coffee and I'll tell you (and probably more besides because I bought the book!)
Robert Raymer read from his beautifully observed short story Transactions in Thai which is included in the new edition of Lovers and Strangers Revisited and also appears in Silverfish New Writing 7. Torn between desire and conscience, expat men negotiate with a hotel owner for women to take with them to Pucket.
Kathleen Choo, a young poet who is working so hard at her craft and mobilising other versifiers through Poetry Underground read us a series of poems, moving between very lively pieces like her excellent slam poem about dead white males, and Jesus was a Black Man (a piece about skin colour and prejudice) to quieter more sensual pieces like the one about the "serpentine" sea.
This is Zain who is trying to rope us all in to take part in his wacky Read While Waiting project. I have a feeling we might just succumb to his charm!
Someone snuck in and left a plate of delicious brownies. Someone told me that they were from Amir Muhammad. Subversive brownies then, although fortunately not banned.
After the break Sheena Baharudin read a poem Keling about being taken for an Indian. Will give her a longer slot further down the lien because the poetry is bursting out of her and I am afraid she will explode if I don't. I am sorry I don't have a decent picture of her. She always turns out blurry in my photos!
Jason Leong was almost the one who got away. Advice to self when you invite someone to appear at an event make doubly sure you actually have invited them and then confirm it! Luckily his other appointment for the afternoon was a reading at MPH Megahell so I was able to persuade him to come along afterwards and read to us from his new book The Twisted Stethoscope about his experiences as a first year medical student in Dublin.
Young Nic Wong, on holiday at the moment from Columbia University has added another poetry award to his list - the 2008 American Poets award. His poems are complex and you sense layers and currents underneath the surface images.The first was Takemitsu's Kitchen, named for the composer, then Wu Gui ("after Kungfu Panda"), then The Arsonists and a new four page poem about the wonderful sex-changing clownfish.
Singer-songwriter Azmyl Yunor and actor (and much more besides) Fahmi Fadzil gave us their Wayang Buku performance (which I first saw at an event organised by KLue). It's a quirky sequence of sketches which begins with a version of the traditional puppet play with books as the protagonists, then has Fahmi as a talk show host interviewing celebrities represented by books (How do you concoct the Malaysian recipe for harmony?) and then has a hilarious dialogue in which Azmyl tries to persuade Fahmi to buy a thick book which can be used for every reason it seems ... apart from reading. Their performance ended up with a very laid back piece of A4 paper getting interviewed!
So, it was a very varied afternoon in all. My thanks to all who read and all who came and supported. Thanks Shahril Nizam for making the poster. Biggest thanks are due to Sek San for the use, once again, of this beautiful space.
I hope to organise readings next month for August 30th and already have a very strong list.
More pictures on Readings' Facebook page.