Sisyphean, a poem by Skyler Pham, is based on the Greek myth of Sisyphus, the effort that never concludes, but must incessantly and infinitely renew itself. Elizabeth Lim paints bold strokes and illuminates this complex poem brilliantly. Pham has created a dialogue between the two inner beings of the creative artist; one that succeeds effortlessly in his artwork, while the other wishes to reach perfection but does not succeed. A parallel is drawn to Sisyphus, who was cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity. An air of resignation concludes the piece when the poet asks: “Penitence is it, Sisyphus?”
Enjoy the premiere of Sisyphean from WomenSing’s Songs from the New World concert in May 2010:
Elizabeth Lim, 23, has received numerous composition awards and honors, and her music has been performed throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. A Walnut Creek native, Elizabeth earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and is currently a graduate student in composition at the Juilliard School. In 2008, Elizabeth was named an Emerging Composer-in-Residence with the Berkeley Symphony. For Youth Inspiring Youth, Elizabeth composed music for Skyler Pham’s poem Sisyphean.
Skyler Pham is 18 and is currently in college studying Art Education. Skyler says, “At this point in my life my main goals are to be happy, stay positive, and create as much art as possible.” Recently, Skyler has been working a lot with visual arts, especially photography. He has also slowly been working on a novel.
by Skyler Pham
There was a time in my life
When I was the seagull, swallowing
Skin shed from all the flightless nights,
Sleepless nights. And everything
Seemed to resonate on the tips of my wings.
Then you came and laid a cold hand
On my head, fever nearly breaking my bones.
“Come on home,” you whispered,
“the oaks are miserable without you.”
And with that you returned to your home of leaves,
Made your bed with bees, and ate berries and seeds.
Meanwhile, I mended thirty pounds of weathered
Wings of all colors. I had been at the edge of town,
Reattaching the chords and breaking the boards.
Carving wood had never been a hobby of mine,
But I carved ten trembling towers that day.
You rose to your feet, as I rose to the top of the heap.
Dusting off the dangling beads, you wrote
A piece about the stars, and the sky, and the clouds.
Then I cried, fell to blistered knees and wept
For each word and rhyme that tickled my ears.
Penitence is it, Sisyphus?
I’d gladly clamber up that horrid hill
With you, only you.