Bukit Batok: A Special Place in Edwin Thumboo's Poetry

Ee Tiang Hong

Bukit Batok has a special significance for Edwin Thumboo. Here is where the 'deep recurrences' and 'shifting runes' of cloud formations touch three generations of his family, occasioning nostalgia and poignant memories. The older landscape was Thumboo's local idyll. Nevertheless, he does not insist on hill and plain, swamp and stream, remaining inviolate under any circumstance. Man will clear land, build ponds, road and temple. As 'Evening by Batok Town'[83] suggests, he is not so much in conflict with nature as extending the space for civic life and enterprise . . .

More recently, the growing township has included the inevitable high-rise and highway, food-centre and junior college, while the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) train passes through it, and a military radar network keeps vigil over it. New job opportunities arise, calling for new knowledge, skills and attitudes. Even then, it is possible to retain one's sense of the whole of the landscape and of inner proportion through contemplating the vicissitudes of custom and tradition, of friendship and a love of the beautiful (such as a tranquil recollection of Bukit Batok itself provides).

The preceding passage has been quoted from the late Ee Tiang Hong's Responsibility and Commitment: The Poetry of Edwin Thumboo, ed. Leong Liew Geok (Singapore: Centre for Advanced Studies/Singapore University Press, 1997. It can be ordered from Singapore University Press, 10 Kent Ridge, Singapore 119260 [GPL].

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