Poetry and the Politics of History: Revisiting Ee Tiang Hong
The Malaysian poet Ee Tiang Hong was troubled by the fundamental changes being introduced by the leaders to ensure that Malaysia (which Ee always referred to as Malaya) became centrally a Malay nation. Not only was Ee trying his best to dissociate himself from what he termed the â€œmimicry of foreign birdsâ€ (i.e. the language of the colonial masters) but he was more critically searching for a new idiom which would give freshness to the rendition of the Malayan experience. While this struggle was in process, the tragedy of May 13 (1969) struck: here was a blatant illustration of the extent to which greed and power could bring people into conflict, with the dominant ethnic group claiming victory over misplaced emphasis of national values. Unable to accept the new order, Ee migrated to Australia in 1975, forever lamenting the breach which thus occurred. Throughout his poetry are powerful reminders of what happens when a sensitive poetic mind is traumatised by prejudice writ large. For Ee the politics of history demanded urgent attention and in his own unique way he attended to this, giving us some of his best poems along this painful journey
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