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Seven Studies for a Self Portrait Paperback – January 6, 2011

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About the Author

Jee Leong Koh is the author of two other books of poems, "Payday Loans" and "Equal to the Earth" (Bench Press). Born and raised in Singapore, Koh now lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: Bench Press (January 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982814224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982814222
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,162,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A Singapore poet and essayist living in New York, Jee Leong Koh is the author of four books of poetry, including STEEP TEA (Carcanet Press), and a collection of poetic essays THE PILLOW BOOK (Math Paper Press). Shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, his work has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, and Russian.The co-organizer of the inaugural Singapore Literature Festival in New York, Jee also co-hosts the Second Saturdays Reading Series and curates the arts website Singapore Poetry.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jee Leong Koh is one of the more sensitively creative poets writing today. Those who have read his ecstatically beautiful collection of his poems - EQUAL TO THE EARTH - know his talent well. But with this new collection - SEVEN STUDIES FOR A SELF PORTRAIT - he introduces even more evidence that not only is he a poet of great style and substance, but his is also a painter of poetic images whose core is self investigation and observation with few peers.

Technically speaking this book of poems is divided into seven sections. The first section 'Seven Studies for a Self Portrait' is a set of ekphrastic poems (Note: Ekphrasis is the graphic, often dramatic description of a visual work of art. In ancient times it referred to a description of any thing, person, or experience) - each 'Study' referencing a painter (Dürer, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Schiele, Kahlo, Warhol, Morimura) in which he defines himself in the style of each painter. An example follows:
Study #4: Egon Schiele

Look at me, cock in my claws,
combcrimson from scratching.
Skinny arms kink around my back
but can't kill the screeching itch.
The hand can't scratch its bones.
I snap off the blackened arrows
but their featherless beaks stab
the crying katydids, their broken
feet catch in the scattered flesh.
I stretch the canvas on the rack.

The second section, 'Profiles', are free verse in form, interrelated and titled 'He Went', 'He Liked', 'He Had', 'He Knew', 'He Remembered', 'He Watched', and 'He Danced':
He Remembered

He estimated the cab fare
from sugar to quietus,
and carried the metal sum in his mouth
when he took his first trick home.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Jee Leong Koh's latest collection Seven Studies For A Self Portrait is by far his best so far. I have always admired Jee for his form and attention to language.

Section One: Seven Studies imagines seven artists' lives. Each portrait is an intimate and surreal still life in verse. My favorites are portraits of Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, and Egon Shiele.

Section Two are more intimate still lifes about an anonymous "He"

In Section Three "I Am My Names" the speaker of these series of poems is trying to understand his place in the world, while confirming his identity.

"My name is Mystery. I am a homosexual."

"What burden does a birthplace lay on the shoulders of maturity?" asks the speaker in S.
A question we may ask ourselves more and more as we grow further away from our youth.

In What We Call Vegetables these sparse, eloquent lines, are nearly biblical. "We stem from hunger..." "We sample Adam and so his sons name us yams..." "We boat sperm, barreledcheeked, and blow blood."

Translations of an Unknown Mexican Poet & Bull Eclogues speak of the uncertainty and often desperation that populates our lives. These sonnets, from the meditative "Marriage" to the outrage of "Oracle," are fantastic.

The final section, A Lover's Recourse, is composed of a series of ghazals, that takes the reader on a journey through the every day events of the heart. Romantic, erotic, full of humor, pain and irony was for me the most challenging section.

If I were to pick one line from the book that to me, sums up the complexity of Koh's writing it would be from this last section:

"The world holding so many things, so many nothings,
is best represented by the body and its wounds."

A wonderful collection from a writer that is always contemplating his world.
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