Living poets' society

The winner of Thailand's most distinguished literary prize, the SEA Write Award, will be announced on Friday. The category for this year's competition is poetry, and to warm up for the big day, we talk to the finalists about their works and literary lives.

Jadet Kamjorndet

Phu Ok Bap Sen Khop Fa (Skyline Creator)

Like his 2011 SEA Write-awarded short stories collection The Morning Sun Is Too Hot To Sit Sipping Coffee, Jadet Kamjorndet's Phu Ok Bap Sen Khop Fa verges on reality and imagination. As the only free verse poetry competing for this year's prize, Jadet says he has been writing and collecting these short writings for quite some time but didn't realise what it was.

The poetry book is full of questions towards life, there's the searching and the waiting, and there is a range of emotions involved, from happiness, pain, to desperation and more.

"It's surrealist poetry. I want to portray things in an exaggerated way. I want to convey the emotions and making it into a short story would have been too complicated."

In a few words, what is your poetry book about?

Sleeping. Dreaming. Sleepwalking.

What is your work routine?

Normally, I wake up and make some coffee and open my laptop in case I can write something. I'll sit until noon and stop because the brain has been doing too much thinking and thoughts are becoming a mess. I go out and talk to friends. On days that I can't write at all, I'll go to a bookstore and come back to find something to do at home. On days that I can write two pages, I'll talk to friends longer and find something to eat and go buy some books. On days that my writing is quite satisfactory, I celebrate.

Apart from a pencil and paper or a laptop, what are other indispensible accessories when you write?

I drilled the wall and hung a hammock in my room, and the laptop is on a chair. When I can write one word, I go to sleep. I'm lazy and I can't concentrate for long. I like to sleep, it's so comfortable sleeping in a hammock. I don't open any music and there might be books lying around. Other than those, there's a window to look outside.

What do you do when you can't find words that rhyme?

As a poet, there has never been such a case, because I write free verse. It just comes out and I might polish it again later. If I can't think or nothing will come out, I stop and sleep or go out. It's the same thing with writing a short story or a novel.

In one sentence, what is poetry to you?

Is there anything that can be defined in one sentence? But if you would like it that way, poetry is true love. If you don't love poetry, you don't write it. If you don't love it, you don't read it either.

When did you realise that you are a poet?

Am I a poet now? Not yet. I don't feel a poet yet, I just write.

Which is your favourite poetry book?

I haven't read enough poetry so I don't have an answer for that yet.

If you could bring one dead poet back to life, who would that be?

I will answer this question when I love poets more than I do now. I don't know a lot of poets and don't read that much for it to stick in my heart.


Siwakarn Patoommasoot & Thamakon

Mekha Charik (The Pilgrimage Of The Cloud) AND Tang Tong Kan Kwam Mai Khong Phuen Thi
(Living In Differences)

It's not entirely wrong to say that Siwakarn Patoommasoot has two personalities, and both of them have the chance to win this year's prize. While under his real name, Tang Tong Kan Kwam Mai Khong Phuen Thi draws the subjects from the world, people and life, Mekha Charik under his pseudonym Thamakon deals with his journey to the inner self, focusing on the philosophy of life.

"For Tang Tong Kan Kwam Mai Khong Phuen Thi, I get to open the door to the meaning of existence for readers to explore. In Mekha Charik, I get to write through the experience of feelings and thoughts connected with nature, life and soul."

In a few words, what is your poetry book about?

For Mekha Charik, it's a path for stepping to the outside and back to the inside. For Tang Tong Kan Kwam Mai Khong Phuen Thi, it's a standing place of existence.

What is your working routine?

I live freely. Learn what I want to learn. Say what I want to say. Read what I want to read. Travel when there's an opportunity. I write when there's inspiration.

Apart from a pencil and paper or a laptop, what are other indispensible accessories?

A heart. Maybe some coffee or tea, clean and comfortable feelings, empty space, information, important thoughts, inspiring atmosphere, and a Galaxy Note.

What do you do when you can't find words that rhyme?

This usually happens when our process of thinking isn't yet complete, or when we have the inspiration but lack the story to carry to message. When it's like this, I stop and think it through first. Once we know a way to go, it's not hard to find the words we want.

In one sentence, what is poetry to you?

The art of language of the working between the feelings and the souls of poets and readers in an intellectually powerful way.

When did you realise that you are a poet?

I don't know. I have never thought about marking the time. Whenever you think I became one, let's have it that way.

Which is your favourite poetry book?

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It's poetry which is deep both in terms of metaphoric language about life and the imagination which connects everything together.

If you could bring one dead poet back to life, who would that be?

Let's not disturb them. Let them be immortal in their own ways. Even though there are things I want to ask about their lives and their periods, I want them to remain a mystery, continuing to tease our intellect.


Palang Piangphirun

Lok Bai Lek (A Small World)

Palang Piangphirun's Lok Bai Lek really exists _ it's a village in Kalasin province where he once lived as a child. The one in his book, however, is a blend of what it was and how it is now.

With issues from love, sadness and loneliness to life's struggles portrayed in each of the four parts, the poet explores the consequences of change that the modern day has brought about to the village's purity and tradition.

Lok Bai Lek has just won on the third stop for this year's ''7 Book Awards''. The book was published by the poet himself, and the purchase can only be made through his Facebook page.

''I think and do it by myself _ I have the freedom. I sell my book only through my Facebook because I want to connect and know my readers.''

In a few words, what is your poetry book about?

Countryside. Life. Soul.

What is your work routine?

My routine revolves around reading, writing and thinking. I don't dare manage the time. Mostly it's time that manages me, telling me to slow down or to sit down and write a poem. But then again it's nature that manages time, I surrender myself to both of them.

Apart from a pencil and paper or a laptop, what are other indispensable accessories when you write?

Messiness and a dictionary.

What do you do when you can't find words that rhyme?

That is when nature cuts off from us. We should switch to do something else, not force ourselves.

In one sentence, what is poetry to you?

A message which contains emotions and feelings that move the heart.

When did you realise that you are a poet?

To me, a poet is a state, a person who delivers the message. Therefore, I as a person who delivers the message, can't answer when I became one.

Which is your favourite poetry book?

Nattakam Bon Lankwang by Komtuan Kanthanu. There are various types of prosody and the words are so powerful. It's a stream source of my dream to write poetry.

If you could bring one dead poet back to life, who would that be?

No one. I don't know if they want to come back to life. I don't want to use this power even if it's possible.


Sukhumpot Khamsukhum

Ban Nai Mok (A House In The Mist)

Having been a primary-school teacher all his life, one of the subjects explored in Sukhumpot Khamsukhum's Ban Nai Mok is tragedies in children's lives. The ''mist'' in the poet's perspective is a representation of the gloominess in society as well as moral degeneration brought about by modernisation.

Like Palang Piangphirun's Lok Bai Lek, Sukhumpot depicts the past when nature and humans existed in harmony before moving on to the consequences of development.

''I'm not a poet, I just like to write. In Ban Nai Mok, it's about how you always have to sacrifice something in order to get another thing.''

In a few words, what is your poetry book about?

World. Life. Change.

What is your work routine?

There's no fixed schedule for my writing. I write or note down when I think of something. I polish what I have written when I have time. I'm quite flexible with my working. When I can't think of anything I go out, travel, talk to friends, find a book to read, or surf the internet.

Apart from a pencil and paper or a laptop, what are other indispensable accessories when you write?

Silence and concentration. Silence helps me think fast and thoroughly.

What do you do when you can't find words that rhyme?

I stop and switch to do something else like travelling or sleep. When I'm more relaxed, I come back to work. This works every time.

In one sentence, what is poetry to you?

The arranging of words in the most concise and meaningful manner.

When did you realise that you are a poet?

Until now, I have never thought of myself as a poet. I just write down stories with poetry. The word ''poet'' is too noble for a commoner like me.

Which is your favourite poetry book?

There are so many, and I can't pin it down to just one.

If you could bring one dead poet back to life, who would that be?

I would choose Sunthorn Phu. I want to meet him just once. I admire his ability to view the world with imagination and colour. I want to ask him: ''How did you do it?''


Chokchai Bandit

Khong Fak Chak Daen Klai (Souvenir From A Faraway Land)

Chokchai Bandit's Khong Fak Chak Daen Klai isn't quite like any of his previous works, including Ban Kao (An Old House) which won him this award back in 2001. The poetry book is about travelling, but unlike most travel writing, Chokchai's focus is on little things that may seem insignificant through other people's eyes.

There are 39 poems in all and though most of the subjects are drawn from common things in daily life, it's the poet's language together with his unique perspective that give the banality colour.

''Memories are worth more than money. This poetry book is [based on] experiences and impressions from travelling, and the small details are so important for a writer.''

In a few words, what is your poetry book about?

Travelling words in the wide world.

What is your work routine?

I'm an amateur writer. There's no fixed time for writing. I write when I want to write because I have another profession to help with my living.

Apart from a pencil and paper or a laptop, what are other indispensable accessories?

A dictionary.

What do you do when you can't find words that rhyme?

I go through each letter, from first to last, with the vowel that I want to rhyme with. If I really can't find it, I stop and come back to it later.

In one sentence, what is poetry to you?

The conveying of emotions with poetic diction or comparison.

When did you realise that you are a poet?

I'm not even sure if I'm one now.

Which is your favourite poetry book?

Lamnam Phu-kradueng by Angkarn Kalayanapong. His poetic diction is so varied and beautiful. I can read it over and over again and it also makes you think more about your own work.

If you could bring one dead poet back to life, who would that be?

Just let them be because their works are as immortal as their monuments. The new generation will get to create new works to continue to the next period.


Angkan Chanthathip

Hua Chai Hong Thi Ha (The Heart's Fifth Chamber)

Angkan Chanthathip's Hua Chai Hong Thi Ha deals with a number of issues in order to portray the big picture of what's happening in the world, from war, beliefs, conflict, violence, way of life, ethics, and environment, to culture _ old and new.

While in the first part of the book, the poet presents, through his experience and feelings, the society in various aspects of the past, connecting with the change modern days have brought, the latter part ''travelling tale'' depicts various groups of people's ways of lives, from minority groups around Thailand to the ones living in the capital.

''For a poet as a human being who interacts with other people, stories and problems, it's normal for me to want to communicate and present my thoughts and feelings I have towards what I see.''

In a few words, what is your poetry book about?

Humanism.

What is your work routine?

Everywhere and at any time.

Apart from a pencil and paper or a laptop, what are other indispensable accessories?

A story to tell, feelings and emotions, thoughts, imagination and words.

What do you do when you can't find words that rhyme?

I close my eyes and think of the colour, the atmosphere, and the story I am about to tell. Or go back over what I have written.

In one sentence, what is poetry to you?

Alchemy of emotions and feelings through words and stories.

When did you realise that you are a poet?

When I first felt sad when I was not writing poetry.

Which is your favourite poetry book?

There are so many poets and poetry books in my heart so I really can't choose just one.

If you could bring one dead poet back to life, who would that be?

Angkarn Kalayanapong. I want to know if his Panitharn Kawee (Declaration Of A Poet) will change and how will he write about the place he has visited in the afterlife.

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