All the Bodies We’ve Embraced by Sheena Baharudin

I first heard of Sheena Baharudin during Art for Grabs at Urbanscapes last year. I had a booth opposite the stage and while it turned out to be a very quiet market sales-wise, my perfectly located seats gave me an excellent view of the events that took place throughout the weekend. And oh, what a great AFG it was for events.

It was one of those open-mic poetry sessions and Sheena impressed me with her poem, “Mother”. The words and presentation, all delivered while she wore a baju kurung no less, left me curious as to her work, but it was only at the next (or next, next?) Art for Grabs that I saw her book sold and decided to get a copy.

Let me say now that I’m not really a big fan of poetry, and after reading All the Bodies We’ve Embraced I can’t say I’m anymore interested in it now than I was before. That’s not to say that I don’t like poetry at all. There are a few pieces I do, the roads diverged and all, but I think I generally prefer my rhymes in song form and the written word in long form.

My disconnect with poetry is probably because I feel it requires performance. It needs to have attitude, drama, feeling, which I find difficult to conjure up in my own head. Poetry is quite personal and it’s not always clear what frame of mind or tone of voice the poet was expressing her or his self with. Those years of literature classes in secondary school only serves to emphasise this fact, and I was never one for dramatics and expressing myself so openly like that. Plus all those lessons on iambic pentameters and whatnot just kept flying over my head.

Please bear in mind that my meh-ness for poetry is not a reflection on Sheena’s writing at all. I thought her pieces were well written and gives you an insightful peek into her soul and emotions. Besides “Mother”, I also liked “Mixed messages” – something us unmarried women in particular have to deal with at every single family gathering. I also liked the short and succinct “Angkor Wat” and her non epic type of love poem, “Chukai”.

Sheena also writes in Bahasa Malaysia, sometimes mixed into her English, sometimes on its own. I’ve always thought BM was a particularly poetic language, more so than English if I am being honest, and this was beautifully exemplified in “Kain.”

So if you’re one for poetry, especially the female voice in poetry, Sheena’s work is definitely worth a read. It’s a short book and truth be told I read it all in one go in less than an hour or so – a plus if you’ve got a target number of reads and need to make up those numbers stat.

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