2019 Winners' Interviews 

Chinese Category

Find out more about our winning poets and the inspiration behind their writing and works!

Ting Kheng Siong

Winning Poem: "安乐变形记 (Senang Metamorphosis)" (19 And Above, First Prize)

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

 

Poetry is the endeavours for pure and beauty, something that I could never dare to dream of in myself. Though impossible in my lifetime, but through poetry, I somehow feel slightly nearer to them.

 

2. What do you wish for people to take away from your poem?

 

Take away my creativity, take away my command of Chinese language, I am left with nothing, but just a skinny and lonely line of poem.

 

3. If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?

 

Be patience, what you lack in talent can still make up through perseverance,but if what you lack is passion, then don’t waste your time. You don’t need poetry, poetry doesn’t need you.

 

4. Describe what a poem means/is to you.

 

A good poem last forever. If you can’t appreciate a particular poem, that poem probably is not suited for you, go read what you like.

 

5. How does a literary success look like to you?

 

Literary success is not in the form of literary status, but people simply remembered what you wrote, moved by what you wrote and  look forward to read more of what you wrote.

Li Mei Yin

Winning Poem: "雨季不语" (19 And Above, Second Prize)

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

 

Poems are short, yet it allows me to condense my thoughts into a few lines or more. In Chinese Literature, there is a saying goes like this “在心为志,发言为诗” which means one writes poems of what he concerns the most. Similarly, my poetry works tend to question my identity and my concerns about the everyday problems in life.

 

2. What do you wish for people to take away from your poem?

 

My winning piece of poem is about mourning over the past of my teenage life. I think many young people today are commonly feeling lost in life and hopefully they can relate to it in a way or another. There are different phases of life and there are a lot of transition to be made, but don’t worry, have a rest and continue.

 

3. Do you have a favourite poet/author?

 

I think every poet/author has his or her unique sense of poetry and I would rather read broad than to focus on a few poets/authors. However, I do look up to local writer like Wong Koi Tet who introduced me to modern Chinese poetry and I also get my inspiration from overseas writer such as Xia Yu (夏宇) for her vivid metaphor and imagery.

 

4. Where do you see yourself in the future in terms of writing and poetry?

 

Besides writing poetry, I would also like embark on other genres of writings such as fiction and prose. 

 

5. Describe what a poem means/is to you.

 

Poem provides me with a space for imagination. I can capture my observation and express my thoughts with all kinds of metaphor.

Shao Xinning

Winning Poem: "葬礼上的情书 (Love Letter at the Funeral)" (19 And Above, Third Prize)

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

 

I aim for them to be an organic connection among the visual, the cognitive, and the emotional faculties - neither being too personal so as to lose that aesthetic distance, nor being purely formal and possibly alienating.

 

2. What do you wish for people to take away from your poem?

 

Nothing particular about the so-called “theme” of the poem, I guess, because I now am the reader to my own poem; but hopefully it could be a unique experience. If my poem could be a mini-gallery where people walk in and stare at the words for a while, I’d already be more than satisfied.

 

3. Do you have a favourite poet/author?

 

Yes, Tom Stoppard, the British playwright. His dialogues are almost like a live spoken word recital where we watch ideas collide into one another, physical or metaphysical ones.

 

4. Where do you see yourself in the future in terms of writing and poetry?

 

I try to avoid dictating anything for myself. but whether writing and poetry becomes the Road Taken or the Road Not Taken, it will always be an integral part of my life.

 

5. Describe what a poem means/is to you.

 

It’s the ‘human’ within each of us talking, using a visceral, universal language.

Zheng Jun Rui

Winning Poem: "穿过那条河流" (15 to 18 Years Old, First Prize)

1. When did you first encounter poetry?

I encountered poetry when I was really little. My family put a lot of emphasis on traditional Chinese culture, in which ancient Chinese poetry and other literary forms play a crucial part. Those simple poems like《静夜思》(Quiet Night Thought) and《咏鹅》(Ode to Goose) gave me a nice taste of the forms and imageries used in typical ancient Chinese poems and was a good starting point for my interests and passion in poetry.

 

2. Who or what inspired you to start writing your own poems?

 

I started writing my own poems when I was exposed to contemporary poetry. It resonated with me much more than ancient poetry ever did since it’s closer to our modern language, and the relatively freer format allowed for greater room of creativity and lyricism. The one poem that inspired me to try writing my own was《借我》(Lend Me) by Fan Xiaochun, in which the poet puts various provocative imageries in a simple yet elegant way. The consistent repetition lends the poem extraordinary emotional intensity, striking me with its woefulness. It demonstrated to me how powerful yet viable contemporary poetry could be and thus inspired me to start creating my own.

 

3. What is the process of you coming up with a poem?

 

Generally, I come up with an idea first, either from existing works or wild imagination, and then develop it with relevant interesting elements like paradoxes, ironies, themes and so on. After the idea is ‘poetic’, unique and sophisticated enough, I go on to construct a scene to look for the fittest imageries or other channels of expression. And lastly, I work on form, sounds and rhythms. However, such a process is very ideal; in practice, there is a lot of back-and-forth. Sometimes some mesmeric scenes or imageries strike me unexpectedly, and sometimes my ideas may be driven by even melody and sounds, so working with multiple aspects is also a norm for me.

 

4. What excites you when you write a poem?

  

To me, writing a poem is most exciting because it lends me the power to create and express my own voice. When I write a poem, the carefully designed lines slowly trickle into my consciousness, and through this process I have the genuine feeling of putting together a delicate, nuanced and artful work. Moreover, due to the oral tradition of poetry, I always feel as if some grand voice is narrating or reciting my poem, or my voice is broadcast to the whole world and the world is passionate to hear it. With sheer emotional intensity, this brings about a powerful sense of catharsis.

 

5. Do you see yourself writing stories/poems in the future?   

 

Yes, I am sure that writing stories and poems will be an irreplaceable part of my life in the future. I am probably not going to choose careers related to creative writing, but I will definitely not give up on writing stories and poems that serves powerful cleansing and introspective functions. They will be a good compliment to my life which is likely to be quite scientific and prosaic, such that I will live to my fullest.

Amy Zhao Chang Xian

Winning Poem: "翱翔" (15 to 18 Years Old, Second Prize)

1. When did you first encounter poetry?

 

Probably when I was a primary school student in China, we had to memorise classical poetry every week and recite it in front of the whole class. If you could not recite it properly, the teacher would make you stand at the back of the class for the entire lesson. When I was a bit older I started reading poems on my own, the ones I thought sounded nice, or had pretty ways of saying things. I read a book that taught me a lot of poems in the Victorian era/19th Century, I remember reading about Keats, Coleridge, Blake, Oscar Wilde etc. I really just thought the words sounded nice, but did not actually understand what the words meant.  

 

2. Who or what inspired you to start writing your own poems?

 

I don’t think I was inspired by anything to start writing poems, I think I was probably bored and wanted to experiment with a new form of writing. 

 

3. What is the process of you coming up with a poem?

 

I don’t have a very mechanical and structured process of writing poetry. If some nice-sounding phrases occur to me, and I just happen to have an idea/aesthetic I want to write about, then I would try to write it down. But most of the words that I  end up writing down would be really incoherent and messy, so most of my writing process is the time spent on piecing things together, editing it until it is a bit more presentable. 

 

4. What excites you when you write a poem?

 

The fact that I can look back at it when I am done, and read it again with a slightly different perspective. 

 

5. Do your friends like poetry as well? If not, what would you say to encourage them to start reading/writing poetry?

Some of my friends consistently enjoy poetry, some enjoy poetry because it is part of the syllabus. But I don’t think it is possible to “encourage” someone to start writing poetry because it is a highly personal process. As for reading poetry, I think anyone can appreciate good poetry, just like how anyone can appreciate, say, a good story. I would recommend Sappho’s poems. Her poems are very lyrical, very easy to read despite their age, and definitely relatable.

Chloe Lin

Winning Poem: "牡蛎珍珠" (10 to 14 Years Old, First Prize)

1. When did you first encounter poetry?

 

I first encountered poetry in lower primary, as my primary school as well as my grandmother, exposed me to simple poems in mandarin. However, at that point, I did not understand the poetry in depth. However, I thought they were entertaining to read and memorise.

2. Who or what inspired you to start writing your own poems?

My current secondary school Chinese teacher played a massive role in inspiring my classmates and I to try constructing our very own poems as she taught us how to analyse poems and read between the lines, allowing me to appreciate poetry on a different level. This gave me a chance to try my hand at poetry, while she guided and encouraged us along the way which inspired me to start writing my own poem.

3. What is the process of you coming up with a poem?

My thought process while forming the general idea, usually involves my emotions influenced by anecdotes or by exploring my imagination. Then, I think about my preferred structure to present my poem in, as well as the way I want to express myself, like the word choice. After constructing the poem, I would edit anything I am dissatisfied with and ensure it is the way I would want it to be.

4. Do you see yourself writing stories/poems in the future?

 

I would see myself writing stories/poems as a hobby in the future as I find it rather therapeutic to express myself through writing. Furthermore, there are no boundaries for your imagination in writing, providing me with a sense of satisfaction and joy, which will be of a great source of relaxation and to be a getaway from any worries or stress. Thus, I do see myself writing stories/poems in the future.

5. Do your friends like poetry as well? If not, what would you say to encourage them to start reading/writing poetry?

I have friends on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to their opinion on poetry. However, for those who dislike it, I would try to understand the reasons as to why they dislike poetry, and share the benefits of reading/writing poetry while exposing them to a range of poems that might interest them.

Lovelle Chiu

Winning Poem: "老" (10 to 14 Years Old, Second Prize)

1. When did you first encounter poetry?

 

I first encountered poetry when I was 3 years old. I loved reading when I was young and while reading fairy tales, I also came across some peoms that are meant for kids. I started to write a poem of my own when I was at the age of 5. However, ever since I enrolled into primary school, I didn't have much time and soon set aside poetry.

 

2. Who or what inspired you to start writing your own poems?

 

The Chinese home tutor whom I engaged when I was 9 encouraged me to continue writing poems and soon, my interest for poetry surfaced and I started to enjoy writing once again.

 

3. What is the process of you coming up with a poem?

 

Whenever I write poems, I always think of all the questions I had when I was younger because adults often couldn't answer them. I also tend to look at the world I live in from a different perspective, thus coming up with more questions which isn't really hard because I'm an inquisitive girl by nature.

 

4. Do you see yourself writing stories/poems in the future?

 

I definitely see myself writing poems in the future because I enjoy it a lot and it's a way for me to relax my mind.

 

5. Do your friends like poetry as well? If not, what would you say to encourage them to start reading/writing poetry?

 

I don't have many friends who like poetry because mainly, they don't have the kind of exposure that I have and nowadays, technology is so advanced that people barely think about somewhat philosophical questions anymore.

I would probably start off by letting my friends read some of my poems and maybe discuss about poems more often with them. Hopefully, this will help them pique their interest in poetry.

Eng Ting

Winning Poem: "蟑螂" (10 to 14 Years Old, Third Prize)

1. When did you first encounter poetry?

​​

I am not very sure when I had first encountered poetry in general, but my Mandarin teacher from school, Ms Jacqueline Chan, has certainly played a big part in encouraging my classmates and me to craft our very own Mandarin poetry and forming short stories. Without her guidance, I may not have been inspired to write Chinese poetry.

2. Who or what inspired you to start writing your own poems?

 

One of the other main sources of inspiration is Music as it weaves my dreams and fantasies together. It is Music that stirs my imagination and thus I find writing my own poems enjoyable; writing poetry enables me to preserve the beauty of a particular moment. (I usually write them in English though).

3. What is the process of you coming up with a poem?

 

I do not really have a methodical process of writing poetry but my fingers itch to write when I stumble upon fascinating thoughts, ideas, and/or feelings. I suppose that’s how it starts.

 

4. Do you see yourself writing stories/poems in the future?

 

Personally, I do not think I am an extremely competent writer thus I am unsure if I would dive deep into writing stories/poems in the future, though the idea of writing for fun intrigues me. 

 

5. Do your friends like poetry as well? If not, what would you say to encourage them to start reading/writing poetry?

 

I suppose some of my friends do enjoy reading poetry but they seem to be more inclined towards reading fiction books in general.

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