Seemingly gentle on the page, the words surprise you when you take them into your mouth and read them out loud. Afterimage by Werner Kho catches me by surprise with the use of consonants and visceral imagery – the human body, familiar food and weather.
His debut book of poetry features an exploration of the process of loss and the various perspectives one can take when encountering it in different settings. The language draws you in through a microscopic lens and gives you all this space in your mind’s eye to imagine what exactly is the context or situation being written. I found a sense of freedom in reading Kho’s words because my mind was free to interpret his words within the perimeters of his text, though that brought me back to interpretations of loss held very personally to my person.
Does this speak more about me or the writing? I wonder. Though I have to say that Kho’s words have that ability to conjure up the most forgotten of memories and bring about a sense of reflection and maybe comfort. My personal favourite is Aftermath – finding tenderness in violence.
Popspoken asks the young poet about why he writes and about the theme of loss in this book.
Popspoken: What draws you towards writing poetry?
Werner Kho: Poetry always speaks to me because of how powerful it can be whether the poem is just a few lines in length or an epic. I write poetry because I always feel the urge to create also as a sort of documentation of my own experiences.
PS: In your opinion, what distinguishes good poetry from bad ones? Is there such a thing as bad poems?
WK: Writing is always subjective — what might be good to me might be bad to another and vice versa. I personally believe that so long as a poem speaks to you, it is good enough.
PS: Why the theme of Loss?
WK: Everybody’s early-twenties is usually a tumultuous period and mine was no different. Afterimage is almost a reflection of my life in that period and Loss has always spoken to me greatly because of how universal it is. In speaking about our pain, we usually start to heal from it so maybe it was a sort of catharsis for me.
PS: Favourite poem in Afterimage?
WK: My favourite poem has to be The Center of Every Poem is This. The poem is a found poem, which means that different lines from different sources were strung together to construct it, so it is not entirely original. It is almost an ode to all the poets and artists who have inspired me and I’m very glad for their words which show different takes on loss and how everybody experiences it.
PS: Name a poem that inspires you endlessly.
WK: Matthew Dickman’s Slow Dance. Contrary to my own poetry, the poem speaks about joy and the intricacies of human relationships. But it still continues to inspire me because it is a beautiful piece of work that shows the happier side of what it means to love another.
To purchase the book Afterimage and to find out more, look it up here.
BooksActually also has a Shophouse Fund to finally purchase a permanent space to house its books. Read more here.
Reads is a series by Teo Dawn on Popspoken. Learn more about local writers, their inspirations and what they think is worth writing about. After all, one writes about what one cares about. Got a book you want featured? Drop her an email here.