Postcards from Chinatown - Analysis

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In “Postcards from Chinatown”, the poet examines how, in a place that had been renovated as a tourist attraction, the past lurks in the shadows of the present, which is unauthentic and seemingly all just a performance for entertainment. “An Empty Cinema”, on the other hand, laments the vanishing of Singapore’s past and heritage, likening the past to no more than just a cinematic film, where it is just a hologram projected onto a screen. In “Postcards from Chinatown”, the poet calls our daily lives “our performance”, and our proclaimed culture as merely a “stage”. But what can we draw from the poet assimilating the past to a stage performance? Firstly, stage performances provide the audience with a sense of intimacy as well as…show more content…
Interestingly, in theatre, downstage centre is always well-lit, with spotlights focused on it, while in the background; the lighting is dim and unspectacular. This is similar to how the “spotlight” meaning our attention, is always focused on the attractions of Chinatown, while backstage and in the background, the past is hidden. The fact that this stage performance is a parallel to real life, shows that the unique heritage and culture of our past has been consumed by the performance of the present, and only hints of it are left in the shadows, practically nonexistent if one does not observe closely. The title of the poem, “Postcards from Chinatown”, relates to how the place is fake, and in place merely as an attraction. Postcards show scenes of attraction, and typically, tourists purchase them as mementos. Oftentimes, pictures on these postcards are “perfect” in the way that they only show what people want to see, and not the whole picture. The authenticity of the past, consisting of some disarray which gave Chinatown some of its unique flavour, has no place in postcards which would naturally shoot the eye-catching present where scenes are shiny, polished and “picture perfect”, for the sole purpose of looking nice for its audience. This can be interpreted as bitter mockery on the poet’s part, as the present might as well be a “dead” picture instead of an elaborate stage performance

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