Book Review: Tilting Our Plates to Catch the Light

Title: Tilting Our Plates to Catch the Light

Author: Cyril Wong

Call No.: WON

Review: This is a refreshing step up from Unmarked Treasure – all the words here belong together, even as they change slightly like Vishnu to Mohini and back again. Like variations in the orchestra of his life, the persona articulates the delicate balance between love and death in the shadow of what must be HIV. Although this collection is clearly personal, Cyril just about avoids the navel-gazing brand of confessional poetry through his experiments with the form of the poetry collection.

The straightforward cadences and lilts of the words of Cyril’s free verse belie the structured way they have been arranged. Mythology, in italics, introduces one act of the collection, which is also referred to as a musical tempo. The last lines of poems repeat in (admittedly clunky) caps on the next page. My edition of Tilting prefers to split longer poems into half, printing them on either side of two facing pages, leaving more white space than necessary. This might be read as a contemporary striving towards a sense of the epic – the need to feel that one’s life has had some transcendent Meaning, despite the fluidities of life today that attempt to erode any certainties. Hence strings of free verse disciplined in a structure composed by the poet-balladeer himself.

In short, I like this book of poetry not primarily because of its fixation on lovers and love, nor because of its personal whispers, but because it seems that Cyril is also dissatisfied with talking about the everyday and the emotional. He’s attempting, successfully, to say something more.

Source: Reader’s Review: Hao Guang Tse, 2012,