Mirroring parallels

Recently I (I had originally written “quite by chance”, yet everything is a butterfly effect, leading me to this point in time and space now) found myself looking at the poetry of my father’s supervisor during his studies in English Literature at Cambridge, the prolific British poet Jeremy Prynne. Looking at Prynne’s poetry was a strangely illuminating experience – having, in the last year, edited and been deeply entangled with the massive volume of over 500 poems my father had left in the hopes of being published before he died – I could see Prynne’s influence on my father, interwoven between the words. 

My dear father had compiled the hundreds of poems he had written over the decades of his life – in Thailand, England, India, China, Australia – into one document, trailing with endnotes at the end, secrets to the soul, with clear intentions of getting it published one day, with different collections set out, the exoteric layer, the visible display and the format of the poems each perfectly placed and set, and the esoteric meaning of the words drifting beautifully on each page, waiting to be released out into the world and be lead back, both coming together to form this strangely mysterious compilation.

I initially attempted to have it published by the ECNU (East China Normal University) Press – where he held his final position, as head of the Anthropology and Sociology department, but years later, there still shows no signs of the Chinese government issuing a book number for the publication of this book. I began to submit samples of 15 or so of his poetries to small poetry presses in the UK and US, but found myself facing the massive difficulty of publishing poetry posthumously.

In this journey of getting his collections published, I found out that my father had self-published his father’s, my dear grandfather’s, writings himself. Looking at the introduction my father had written for his father as I struggled to put words down on paper for the cover letter I sent into the poetry presses, I had the feeling that life was repeating itself; feeling myself an ironic, inevitable part of the cyclical nature of life, reminded of Nietzsche, but feeling closer to him, as though he were right in the corner of my heart, as I wrote those words, remembering the words he had written for his father’s written works after he had died.

I felt, as I was pouring over his poems, night after night, that this must, surely, be the footprint of his soul – and when faced with such a thing, one will know. One will know beauty in the face of beauty.

As I work towards a PhD one day, the meticulous research of supervisors was what led me, in the past few days, to reflect on my father’s own supervisors. It led me to Jeremy Prynne, who had written extensive commentaries on Wordsworth, who was also one of my father’s most beloved poets and who had a large influence on his writings, and to Andrew Turton, my father’s PhD supervisor at SOAS in Anthropology, who I remember attending my father’s memorial service in the UK a few years ago. I was sorry to find out just yesterday that he had passed away last August, may he rest in peace.

Alas, I felt quite alone, yet with the alone.

These uncoverings are, to me, an ode to the strength and beauty of the relationship between a teacher and a student; the mirroring of two souls, the sharing of ideas, fears, hopes, dreams – the archetype of which we can always look to Rumi and Shams.

Those before us will leave, those after us will continue, and all we can do is enjoy, learn, repent, love, worship, and cry.

A few from Jeremy Prynne…


There’s no mystic moment involved just

       that we are

       is how, each

       severally, we’re

       carried into

the wind which makes no decision and is

a tide, not taken. I saw it

       and love is

when, how &

       because we

       do: you

could call it Ierusalem or feel it

as you walk, even quite jauntily, over the grass.


From, “News of the Warring Clans”

This is the ace

of all desire,

fed by the smoke

and flame of this

exhausted fire.



And from my father:

the woodcutter’s tale





saw Li Kuan


with a smile 

in her hair

she waved me


the fire I


like grasshopper –

the moon still shines

and Li Kuan is happy

by its light



mist on the roof-tops

clouds in my head

the room is darkness containing

the memory

of another’s light

burns softly in the corner

with a candle

my handwriting shrinks

and dwindles :

                      some strange formations in the sky


                      I wonder what they signify

                      my love

2 responses to “Mirroring parallels”

  1. Amanda!! Thank you so much for sharing this – all beautiful poetry. For what it’s worth, I see your father’s influence on your poetry too 🙂


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