The social issues addressed in Pantomime by Crispin Rodrigues particularly stand out to me. Perhaps it is due to the fact that the issues being tackled here have been covered in mainstream media over the last few years to much debate – identity, race, the status quo. In some poems, there seems to be an undercurrent of annoyance or even anger. I will admit that the strong emotions caught me by surprise, but the sarcasm and hints of humour delight me.
After all, how else might you find a better way to poke at a touchy subject? I can’t say that the newspapers are doing a great job, so.
With all its details and countless of real life references, most of the poems in Pantomime made me recall recent events that took place in Singapore and expand them in my mind’s eye from page to page. If you love working your vivd imagination, this book of poems would definitely be up your alley.
Crispin shares with Popspoken why he writes in both poetry and prose, among other things.
Popspoken: I understand that you write prose as well as poetry. In your opinion, what’s the difference in expression between the two?
Crispin: I find poetry more condensed in terms of expression and it captures a fleeting moment of an observation or a realisation as opposed to prose, which requires a more stretched out plot. I personally like the idea of economic expression better and I tend to gravitate to poetry more than I do prose.
PS: Your poems address plenty of social issues, specifically in Singapore. Share with me more about your inspirations or what drives you to write.
C: I am often interested in issues of race and religion, and how we are perceived based on these markers. One of my big bugbears is that I am always mistaken for a foreigner in this country and thus, the idea of foreignness and alienation is something that I also try to address in my work. However, I also write a lot on art and love, which I hope alleviates the seriousness of just writing about social issues.
PS: Favourite poem in your debut collection Pantomime?
C: My favourite poem is “The Weight” because the person it is dedicated to matters so much to me. I am also a sucker for love poems!
PS: What does it take for someone to be called a poet?
C: I am still undecided about being called a poet because there is this perception of what a poet should be and what the poetic process should entail. I feel that poetry must be sought out and it is waiting for you to document it through your experience with language.
A poet is someone who is dedicated to this act of seeking and experiencing.
PS: What do you think the written word provides that other art forms may not?
C: For me, the written word enables one to struggle with the expression of language on the page. It taps into a universality of how we read written language, but also how we may differ in understand how the language appeals to us. However, all art forms do the same thing within their own vocabulary of expression, such as dance or music. For me, I try to wield the written word as a dancer utilises their body, to constantly refine and improve my craft over time.
To purchase the book Pantomime and to find out more, look it up here.
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