Retailing and Retelling: Capitalism and Nature in “A monk walks along Orchard Road”

Zhengwen LU

Abstract


Analysing Rodrigo V. Dela Peña, Jr’s poem “A monk walks along Orchard Road,” this paper argues that Peña’s work characterises Singapore’s Orchard Road as an example of what Edward W. Soja refers to as “Thirdspace.” Contradictory in nature, “Thirdspace” questions the epistemic boundaries between binaristic categories. With Orchard Road, these include ostensible dichotomies such as nature and capitalism, urban and natural, asceticism and desire, and past and present. Such questioning is also reified through formal poetic techniques, including polyvalent images and enjambment, which in turn lead to ideological ambiguity. Focalised through the persona of the monk, this multiplicity of meanings paradoxically embodies both a Buddhist abstinence from desire and a hyper-capitalistic yearning after such desire. Thus, Peña’s poem ultimately depicts the very nature of city space as a realm of epistemic and cross-temporal flux. In Orchard Road, the contemporary, cosmopolitan landscape remains possessed by—and tied to—the imagistic residues of its agrarian past.

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@Journal of Ecocriticism. ISSN 1916-1549