The Mental Life of Cities is Eddie Tay’s third poetry book published by Chameleon Press while his previous two poetry books, Remnants published by Etho Books and A Lover’s Soliloquy by the Sixth Finger Press.
This third poetry book is on the theme of “meditation on the modern city and creative life”. How does living in Hong Kong contribute to creative writing? Living in the city is the source of Eddie’s writing. Even nature is part of the city in his perspective. The Mental Life of Cities is a bilingual attempt of Eddie’s writing. Born in Singapore, Eddie is more comfortable in speaking and writing English than Chinese yet he wants to experience embedding Chinese in his writing. Chinese characters and short phrases have rich meaning. A good example is “十年樹木，百年樹人” but it take fourteen words to explain the meaning in English “It takes ten years to cultivate a tree, a century for a human being”. Language reveals our history. The moment we speak, our education and background are unveiled simultaneously. Being ethnically Chinese, Eddie is not totally confident in writing Chinese poems for the reason he does not know the history and Chinese literature enough to write it. This is a very humble and demanding requirement of a poet.
Eddie shoulders many responsibilities. He is an assistant professor in Chinese University of Hong Kong teaching children literature, poetry and creative writing. More, he is a review editor of a online journal “Cha”. How can he maintain his creative writing among so many responsibilities? He honestly admits the fact that he does not believing in muse. He believes in solid hard-work, meaning he would sit two hours by the desk in his office in front of the computer and write. Eddie may have disillusioned the typical image of a poet who should be drunk in the night club and whispering lyrical romantic lines. Not only that, Eddie also changed the typical image of a poet who is often frown and sad and living in a poor miserable life. Eddie leads a happy and abundant life with his wife, son and daughter.
A happy poet is one of the finest gems on earth: rare, special and treasurable!