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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Tham

the body electric 3+

Updated: Feb 18

Sing this to the grass. Repeat.*

Best Jury in the World, Marktoberdorf 2023

Grass appears to be a recurring motif in our anniversary years.

We sang to the grass when SYC turned 50, with words of Sam milled through the music box of Eric Banks. This year we turn 60. Whitman's Leaves of Grass forms the backbone for the body electric—the story of how a man (choir) came to grow and seed the future.

Sixty years of working into, above and beyond the soft slippery soil of Singapore, how did our garden grow? In Sam's words—

This is the present,

the heaving, backbreaking,

aching Present.

We ask ourselves where we are,

not really knowing that the answer

lies buried, still breathing.

Samuel Lee, Cover and Concealment

Where are we? Still breathing—knowing that the answer lies buried in SYC artifacts—we / I begin to write words for our new song about grass, re-purposing names and contours of felt things and body parts from old music.

after the poems of Samuel Lee

Phrases / words from the poems of Samuel Lee were selected and re-arranged into the 5-7-5 syllabic patterns of haiku. The haiku have been titled after the poem to which his words belong.

I A definition of affection

half-singing, morning—

mysterious construction:


II still life with radishes

blossomed, bodies lay—

the collective aesthetic

breathing old moonlight

III Poem Machine #3

deadened hands, pegging

language, stones, markers of place—

This is mine—counting

Words are place-making, we choose them in love and frustration, patterning the chaos that plays within, still breathing yellow, banana and white, brown black and dotty pink, and red! with electric stars and crescent moon. Repeat.

soft sift, an hourglass

fells of flanks of the voel**, vein

it crowds, tall way down

Jennifer Tham, haiku after Hopkins


*Samuel Lee, SYC alum, Logistics for a Garden Show

For SYC's 50th birthday in 2014, Eric Banks set the words of poet-member Samuel Lee to music. The text fragments are from different poems (including what Sam considers his B-sides) and become what Eric calls The Burnished Verses, each of the 12 verses a room full of curiosities and colour.

**bare hill (Welsh)

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