Tag Archives: poetry

Books by Book Merah

Book Merah has primarily published the works of Stephen Black, the exception being Singapore Literature prize winner Cyril Wong.Book Merah is now open to discussions with writers.

Stephen Black's books and stories are often set in Asia, and combine research with storytelling. The links below lead to reviews, descriptions, photos and videos, as well as links to Amazon and Unglue.

I Ate Tiong Bahru

A bestseller in Singapore...
black and white book covers

Bali Wave Ghost

Obama Search Words by Stephen Black

Obama Search Words

Red chairs, and Cyril Wong: the cover of Fires.

Fires, by Cyril Wong

the cover of furikake; a photograph of a dancer on a farm, the title and the author's name, Stephen Black. Also on the cover is a description: short stories about rice seasonings.


The word 'Stephen', a rectangle of black and a red dot/
red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

Red Dot SAD

Publishing Magnates
Stephen Black , Book Merah CEO/author , with Stuart Rankin, Chairman of The Dundercats Multimedia Group.
Book covers of Singapore books
cover by Debbie Ding

Contact With Shadow

Lance, the moose from Secret Donut World, contemplates a skull, ala the poor Yorick scene from Hamlet.

Flame Magnet

Alphabet Spikes

Book covers from books by Book Merah. Authors include Stephen Black and Cyril Wong

Despite having produced one bestseller, Book Merah has done no marketing. Marketing will begin in 2020.

Hummingbird vs. Helicopter

The following is inspired by a piece by Gerald Leow on display as part of his solo exhibition at Chan+Hampe Contemporary until June 25.

On a material level, Manifold is simple: a dynamic, radiating metal sculpture made of copies of the same jagged line. These lines are like flattened appendages of a predatory insect, or sentences written in a spiky font. The pieces are colored asymmetrically; seven tones shifting between purple and orange. Manifold is bold, yet delicate-- an opening and a threat. Leow has been quoted as saying that he wanted to create works which are poetically violent. He has succeeded. Manifold is a beautiful but deadly tropical flower, 76 x 76 x 17cm.

The “edginess” of the sculpture is literal; the aggressive shapes on the edges of the lines form negative spaces which complete the piece. These edges are appropriated from the font and logo used by Judas Priest, a heavy metal band. Leow, who studied sociology, has a body of work based on the logo and the conceptual possibilities of heavy metal subculture. With Manifold, however, the link to heavy metal is not obvious, thankfully. Appropriation can be a one-trick pony; what is insightful and magical initially can later become an unrewarding burden for both artist and audience.

The exhibition’s title adds another dimension. I am Time Grown Old to Destroy the World refers to a comment Robert Oppenheimer made in 1945, when he witnessed the detonation of his brainchild, the first atomic bomb. The phrase is from the Mahabharata, specifically the Bhagavad Gita. A passage of 700 verses, the Gita documents the exchange between Prince Arujuna and Lord Krishna as they discuss war, duty and moral confusion.

contemporary sculpture in Singapore

Manifold from Leow's exhibition at Chan+Hori Contemporary Gallery in Singapore

Southeast Asian artwork made of mild steel, automotive paint and western pop culture. It is real.  It has universal significance. Manifold is an artwork worthy of its most serious sources of inspiration: the Mahabharata and the atomic bomb.


I am elaborating upon this essay, including other projects of Gerald's as well as some of our collaborations and personal experiences. The result will be included in red dot SAD which is updated periodically.


  1. Tourism, travelling, dislocation, diaspora, nothing is stationary from the universal point of view, invisible connections
  2. Portrait of time spent in Jakarta, portrait of Jakarta, documentation of travelling through Jakarta, documentation of interaction with the people of Jakarta.
  3. "All art is self-portraiture." Yasumasa Morimura
  4.  This is unBeat. I intensely dislike On the Road yet admire the marketing campaign that converted that lengthy piece of terrible typing into a touchstone for a generation.
  5. Working seriously with, for the first time, a mobile phone, an  "old" Samsung. Also utilizing every Facebook feature I possibly can.
  6. Though it is an impossibility, megaJakarta is created with a total disregard for the audience and the industries of Art, Photography Video and Literature. Those who suffer through this four day ordeal may see a reversal of this approach.
  7. Portrait of Jakarta, Documentation of time spent in Jakarta, Capturing moments in Jakarta, Documentations of Jakarta created in less than one second, Ignoring photography while using a camera in Jakarta, self-portraiture using Jakarta as a substitute for the self.
  8. Ignoring marketing principles, especially those connected to social media, to create an art and text based commodity.
MegaJakarta 1 is here.

What is the Language of Dreamland?

This post refers to this website. What is the Language of Dreamland? Dreamland is the name of a popular surfing spot in Bali. Bali attracts surfers from all over the world... Question: What languages are spoken in Dreamland? Procedure Twitter is the source for the data.Tweets containing the words 'Dreamland' and 'wave' were collected. Hitoshi Wada then wrote original programming to create this application as an answer to Stephen Black's poetic question. Please note that not all surfers in Dreamland use twitter and this project is not meant to be an accurate report. Project Background and Future Plans Hitoshi Wada and Stephen Black met at Hubud in Ubud on January 8, 2015. They decided to create a project combining art, creative writing and programming. Work began at 12:30 AM on January 11. The concept was defined and the majority of the work was finished nine hours later. A final polish occurred a few days later. During the creative process, many ideas were generated. A future project will compare the tweets of Balinese/Indonesians with the tweets of people from other countries. The topic of garbage may be the first to be presented. Hitoshi Wada A freelance programmer, Hitoshi is now completing his masters at JAIST(Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). He made this: and this: Stephen Black Artist/writer Stephen Black co-produced SPOKEN with Eugene Soh. SPOKEN is a virtual gallery/creative writing project. Stephen is now completing a novel called Bali Wave Ghost. www.blacksteps.tv Support La Bruschetta Restaurant in Sanur. Probably the best pizza in Asia. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g297700-d5812280-Reviews-La_Bruschetta_Italian_Pizzeria-Sanur_Denpasar_Bali.html Sanur Bagoes Guest House in Sanur Short and longterm stays. sanur.bagoes @yahoo.com

SPOKEN: text pieces by Carla Bonollo and Sjon

I am very pleased to present three word pieces influenced by the SPOKEN experience. Following are two works by Carla Bonollo, the Italian writer and blogger; as well a poem by Sjon, the noted Icelandic author. 

I thoroughly enjoy the works which follow. Not just the ideas, rhythms and structures of the pieces, but the fact that they were submitted in a spirit of open-ended experimentation. Expressive beyond words; trusting these pieces are...

David Severn's contribution to SPOKEN

Happy as Larry

Apparently the original English expression was “happy as a sandboy”. North America: plenty of clams everywhere; contented with what one’s got. Happy as a clam.

In an old dictionary (1823) the sandboy was “an urchin who hawked sand around the streets”. Was it illegal? I don’t know…later the expression became a synonym for being merry…basically Larry was happy because he had a few pints. Larry was also a reference to the Australian boxer Larry Fowley (1847-1917); oh yes that Larry, now everything is as  clear as a middleweight undefeated champion. Happy as Larry (Fowley). Larry Fowley was happy, it’s a fact. For those who love Thomas Hardy and his novels, “larry” was a dialect word meaning “in a state of excitement”. The US variation with clam came from the east coast, and to be even more precise, one should say “happy as a clam at high water.”

Having said that, I’m very happy to be part of the SPOKEN PROJECT, so here are a few “larry” connections.

Larry was already in the air in 1596:

The grey-eyed morn smiles on the frowning night,

Chequering the eastern clouds with streaks of light,

And flecked darkness like a drunkard reels

From forth day’s path and Titan’s fiery wheels:

Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye,

The day to cheer and nights dank dew to dray, I must up-fill this osier cage of ours

With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers.

(Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene III, 1059-1066)

Come, come with me, and we will make short work;

For, by your leaves, you shall not stay alone

Till holy church incorporate two in one.

Things didn’t go according to plan, but Larry was happy to play his role, Father

Laurence reappeared in a mysterious way four centuries later in a famous prog

song, Genesis’ The Cinema Show. He’s no longer Father Laurence but he’s Father

Tiresias, a blind prophet of Thebes, famous for clairvoyance and for being

transformed into a woman for seven years. This adds a new spin on

Shakespeare’s plot.

Home from work our Juliet

Clears her morning meal

She dabs her skin with pretty smells

Concealing to appeal

I will make my bed

She said, but turned to go

Can she be late for her Cinema show? Cinema Show?

Romeo locks his basement flat

And scurries up the stair

With head held high and floral tie

A weekend millionaire

I will make my bed

With her tonight, he cries

Can he fail

Armed with his chocolate surprise?

Take a little trip back with Father Tiresias

Listen to the old one speak of all he has lived through

I have crossed between the poles

For me there’s no mystery.

For us the mystery remains, Larry knows better.

What follows is Carla's second contribution.

In the city fields

Contemplating cherry-trees

Strangers are like friends.

-Matsuo Basho

What haiku do you want? was a collection of 68 haikus I wrote some time ago; 17 haikus for each season, following the rhythm framed in a precise sequence of syllables, 5-7-5 (=17 syllables). The original idea was to create a game of chance on an imaginary boardgame.

Here’s a small selection for every season, inevitably adding some variations in the English version, from Italy with love.

Think of a number between 1 and 17 and select the corresponding haiku.

And remember:

Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard - A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance:


Ghostly mulberries

Facing obscure lands

No goals in their life


Deserted avenues

Motorcycles whizz by

Just bullyboys’ races


The past perfect is

Like the present perfect mode

Undeniably past


A restless secret

Held inside for too long

Blooms and vanishes


Gentle cold wind outside

Whistles brief and intense sounds

They ring a bell, the same


Butterfly collector loves art

A PhD in French medieval history

Even part-time, starts NOW


I have learned the I Ching

Simply by reading and reading them

Perseverance is all


Looking at the golden sand

Nobody on the horizon

Just waves and waves



Under layers of moss and grass

A blue, rare mosaic


A red bud in the rosebush

Bows its head listlessly

A rose is a rose, is it?


I dream of going back

To places that I don’t inhabit

Any longer exactly like you


White lights crossing the sky

Bouncing quick intermittent rays

Waiting for the traffic light


Inside my heart I recognize

Voices that I hardly sing

More cautious than sorry


Snippets are dangerous

Un-solving the cryptic crossword

Not a sausage today


A sweet flute playing

A duet with a melancholic viola

The fugue is much better


Fast but not too much

A glass-house sails in the garden

Surrounded by pink stones


The bread was a rock

The Parmisan tasted like sawdust

Farewell, adios, addio, ciao.

Teeth and tea
Teethcups by Lily Su

The Dental Age Sjon

our world is young and still teething

front teeth grow on mountain ridges

in the corners of abandoned parliaments

incisors push out of the flesh

of bananas and window panes

canine teeth sprout from the finger tips of lakes

and from the backs of arm chairs

the molars speckling the black skin

of the western slimy salamander crush the sky

when it snows we salute

all the teeth lost by every human ever born

each morning we raise our cups

towards the teething sun

Teeth and tea
Blue, red and yellow cups topped with teeth

Books and music by SPOKEN artists and writers

This gallery contains 25 photos.

The overview of  SPOKEN  is here . This post is updated frequently… stop by again! Info on Chaos and Yeşim Ağaoğlu’s other books here. ロシア初のノーベル文学賞詩人にして小説家のイワン・ブーニンの恋愛小説集『暗い並木道』、『日射病』、『ミーチャの恋』、『最も美しい太陽』、自伝的長編『アルセーニエフの生涯』を中心に“イメージ=具体的表象”の視点から、“恋愛”“記憶”“死”を浮き彫りにしたブーニン文学の不可視な本質に迫る。 http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/stelarc   “… I Ate Tiong Bahru, your exquisite ‘lyrical documentary’ on Tiong Bahru,  gave me many … Continue reading


fires cover   More info soon. Cyril's Wikipedia entry is here and his homepage is here. An interview with Cyril, featuring my portrait of  Cyril. And no, Alex Pander is not one of my pseudonyms... Fires on Amazon.