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sight We start off 2018 with a new portfolio, Sight. How can we trust the evidence of our eyes, when no gaze is ever neutral, and there are so many ways of seeing? In this compelling trio of poems, Singaporean writer Teng Qian Xi refracts and refocuses our line of sight, reminding us that rays of light don’t necessarily travel in straight lines.
Three Poems
by Teng Qian Xi





You imagine emptying
your bag of blood & bones

until it entices love
from the gazes of strangers and friends,

every retina a stray animal
you feed and name

until your life overflows
with their hunger.

Try mirrors:
we can see what is behind us,

look at gorgons.





Trying to pin your constellation
With accuracy

In the night house
Of my own mind

For each inch of longing is an inch of dust.


Someone diagnoses us as

I understand
The word as
Gazing at another

Through glass circles held
At a necessary distance
From objects

Surfacing years later
In the nights of your own world.


*        *        *         *        *


The constellation
Of my own

Accuracy is trying
To house your mind

Pinned in
Each inch of night

With longing
For an inch of dust.


The world held us
In glass circles

A word surfaces nights later

From another planet
Someone diagnoses

As telescoped as I gaze through
Necessary objects

At the deepening years
Of your own distance


*        *        *         *        *


In each inch of constellation
Is longing

Pinning night
To the house of dust

Within my own mind

For accuracy
Try an inch of yours


Later the telescoped nights
Surfacing from your own objects

I diagnose us
At a necessary distance

Circling through worlds
Gazing at glass years

As the planet of words deepens
As someone held another


Note: “Reconfigurations” consists of fragments from the poems “The Evolution of Language”, “Eye and Tongue”, “three love objects”, and “Night Poem”, published in Teng Qian Xi’s collection They hear salt crystallising (2010).





The transparent refuses to throw your face
back at you, forcing your attention
beyond yourself, itself.




The transparent as protection. Think of school labs:
what stands between your skin
and what burns.




The transparent as survival. The sun,
a magnifying glass, dark tinder,
a white point of light.




The transparent is smashed because you forget
it too occupies space until your skin
chances on its jagged edge.



Teng Qian Xi was educated in Singapore, Australia and New York. Her poetry has been featured in various platforms, including Over There: Poems from Singapore and Australia, Language for a New Century, the London Underground, the Singapore MRT, and most recently, Prelude. Her poetry collection They hear salt crystallising was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize in 2012. Her translations of Chinese poetry have appeared in Two Lines and Asymptote. She has also written political criticism for a number of Singaporean publications, including Today, BigO, and s/pores. Based in Singapore, she primarily works as an educator focusing on high school English Literature. She majored in Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia, and misses New York.

Phyu Mon (1960- ) is regarded as one of Myanmar’s most profiled conceptual artists. The Mandalay-born artist graduated from Mandalay University with a BA in Literature and studied painting under U Ba Thaw between 1978 and 1979. She earned a Diploma in Photography from the Myanmar Photography Association, and a Photo Creation and Editing Diploma from the High Tech Training School. In 2013, she accepted a Post Graduate Diploma from Yangon Art and Culture University. She is one of the very few women artists in Myanmar who currently works with digital photography and visual art. Though Phyu Mon had exhibited her Symbolic paintings in group exhibitions since 1985 and became a renowned poet and writer, she developed a keen interest in conceptual art from her husband Chan Aye. During the 1990s, when it was quite rare for a woman artist to present a ‘One Woman Performance,’ Phyu Mon performed Human Being Object, followed by a number of shows both in Myanmar and abroad. However Phyu Mon is best known as a leading digital artist. At a time when feminine art practice in Myanmar could be termed as ambiguous, Phyu Mon’s broad conceptual art practice included not only her digital artworks but also performance, video, sound art and installations. Phyu Mon initiated the ‘Blue Wind Multimedia Art Festival’ in 2009 at Myanmar National Museum. Her art works have also been exhibited in Japan, Thailand, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Denmark, Spain, USA, UK , Italy, and France. In 2016, she organized an art workshop at Aswara Art University in Malaysia.

The Transpacific Literary Project is a platform for writing from across East and Southeast Asia. Read work from our most recent project folio, Sight.

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