Technique and empire in the poetry of Ee Tiang Hong

David G. Butt*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    Despite his high profile in poetry anthologies and in the commentaries of specialists in South East Asian literature, the craft of Ee Tiang Hong has not been subject to close investigation. Systematic attention to the linguistic organization of his poems brings out Ee's command of resources more general to speakers of English than the localistic lexical items and idioms which are overt signals of his provenance as a sensibility, but are not synonymous with his technique as a poet. Ensemble effects in Ee's poems, based on grammatical selections from mood, transitivity, theme and clause combination (including subordination and embedding) are examined and interpreted here. Such textual ensembles are part of the poet's syntactic craft (Ee, personal communication) and invite comparison with strategies developed by other poets of English whose works tend to dominate university curricula in English literature (viz. Yeats, Frost, Stevens, Auden). Such systematic analyses and comparisons stimulate further reflection on terms, such as 'hybridity' and 'code-switching', which have directed attention away from a poet's craft and towards his or her cultural provenance. While Malacca, Singapore and Perth cannot be treated merely as background to Ee's work, further enquiry into motivated selection across the language of Ee's poems assists us in understanding what is substantial and what is misleading about the point of view implicit in terms like 'code-switching'. Greater attention to 'register' and 'class' may also help in another systemic domain crucial to Ee's sensibility - namely, what counts as progress in systems of education.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)365-393
    Number of pages29
    JournalWorld Englishes
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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