Poets Online Talking About Coffee: Jeremy Fernando

Where does your poetry and philosophy intersect?

In words, quite literally: i write what i attempt to write by writing it.

Do you see a tension between tea and coffee?

mmm as a drink not so much: that is only between the ones who drink them. Neither tend to stop banging on about which one is better, and – perhaps even worse – how the way they drink it is the best. Drink supremacists: all of whom, i’m convinced the drink itself has nothing but scorn for. And perhaps, that scorn is returned: after all, the fact that they talk about the drink more than they drink it suggests a certain disdain for the drink itself (this probably applies to so-called wine and whiskey ‘connoisseurs’ — or really, anyone who calls themselves an ‘expert’ at anything)

Between themselves though, i suspect they exist in a Manichean duality. And bring about a balance whilst maintaining their absolute singularity: thus, always in a relation whilst being wholly other to each other. For, one rarely finds something that is called pretty much by the same name (in the case of tea really only 2 variations, one from the Cantonese, the other from the Hokkien — but both from the same base language really), around the world. Even the gods tend to have more names.

So, perhaps they are of the divine. And occasionally allow us to catch a glimpse of beauty with a sip. Which might also be why devotees rarely cross over.

Unless you wear a cape, mmm like me :)

Where did you fly to celebrate fifty years of Singapore?

Physically, nowhere.

And, i was watching most of the parade on television really. After all, as John Paul II (Saint) says, “if it doesn’t happen on television, it didn’t happen at all.” Which, i suspect, is more than just a valourisation of the medium, or a great awareness of it’s power: he opened a very important point which everyone seems to have missed — something only happens when it happens at a distance, which is then brought to you. And it is this bringing to you that somehow writes itself onto you, explodes in your somatic being as it were: as my old friend Kenny Png likes to say, “television sutures itself into you.”

One could then say — without meaning to sound glib — that it was letting the celebrations fly into me. Perhaps in time i’ll be able to read what has been written, but in the meantime, i’ll have to wait and see how it plays out in my body.

How does your country of birth compare to Disneyland?

William Gibson’s notion of “Disneyland with the Death Penalty” should not be read so much as a critique—that would be too obvious, too banal—but instead as a challenge to think the possibility that the death penalty is precisely Disneyland. For, it is precisely absurdity that opens the relationality between the two—despite and perhaps in spite of the impossibility of doing so—keeping in mind that every duality brings with it an echo of a duel, if not by necessity, at least its possibility. After all, as Hannah Arendt continues to teach us, “the greatest enemy of authority is contempt, and the surest way to undermine it is laughter.”


Sketch by Kimberly Huang

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