2020 Winners' Interviews 

Malay Category

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

Nurin Irdina

Winning Poem:

"Tindik" ("Pierced") 

(10- to 14-Year-Old Category, First Prize)

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

The philosophy is to be strong while going through challenges faced during one’s lifetime. It is to be able to overcome problems with a positive attitude and an open minded mindset. 


2. Where do you get your inspirations from?

My inspirations come from my Malay Literature lessons that I have in school. These lessons have helped me be able to expand my knowledge and understanding towards poetry. 


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

Don’t give up easily. Challenges & hardships will pay off eventually. In every bad situation, there is an element of good. 


4. Do you have a favourite poet/author?

Noor Hasnah Adam


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

Just because you don’t have strong vocabulary at the moment, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to write a good poem piece. You will achieve something one day. Believe in yourself! 

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

 

I think I’ll definitely continue to write poetry on my own timing. I feel that by continuing to write, my language will be able to improve and hopefully be more impactful for the next time that I participate in such competitions again.


7. What do you wish to see more in the literary world in Singapore?

I would like to see more platforms that enable the younger generation of poets to write and publish their works.


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

 

It is an expression of one’s feelings through powerful words.


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

Literary success to me is when one’s work is being published/showcased internationally and when one’s work is rewritten in other foreign languages. 

Nur Aisyah Lyana Binte Mohamed Satria

Winning Poem:

"SETERU" ("ADVERSARY") 

(19-Year-Old and Above Category, First Prize)

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

Poetry is short but powerful. After attending university lectures by Dr Azhar Ibrahim, I started to understand that poetry should not only consist of beautiful words, but the essence of poetry should be its message. Nowadays, I try to have one big message that I wish to convey to readers/listeners. With that, I opt for a better choice of words rather than spamming bombastic words (guilty of doing that in the past!) to convey the right emotions. I have also realised that using simple words and using the right diction is important for readers to understand the underlying message.

2. Where do you get your inspirations from?

Most of the time, I'm inspired to write when I encounter interesting news articles on current affairs. Discussions with my classmates and professors in my university tutorials also encourage me to be more critical in my writings. I also attend many conferences to bounce off ideas with other youths and activists on global issues. For instance, discussions on colonialism, race, gender, war, and refugees, always made me analyze the problems that need to be addressed in society and I get to reflect on my stance on the issue. But for this particular poem "Seteru" that I wrote for NPC, I was heavily inspired by Greta Thunberg's explosive speech on environmental activism.


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

I think overall that there is a greater consciousness on the environment and sustainability, but I feel that many people are still unaware (or remain ignorant) about the gravity of an environmental crisis. As I felt there seemed to be little discourse on the environment among the Malay writers in Singapore, I wanted to stress the seriousness of this issue through my poem. I think as a youth myself, my poem gives an insight into how (some) youths feel about the environmental issue. Personally, I have taken more conscious efforts to care for the environment by refusing plastic at shops and reducing my fast fashion consumption by opting for more sustainable fashion through StyleTheory. I hope that through my poem, people can reflect on the ways they have harmed the environment, and are encouraged to try out little adjustments in their lifestyle to make our planet more sustainable.


4. Do you have a favourite poet/author?

I appreciate Seno Gumira's works because his works are very easy to understand but they are thought-provoking and very critical of the political and social developments in Indonesia. I think that since Seno worked as a journalist especially during the New Order Indonesia, he is very receptive to issues which he is unable to write for the mainstream press, so he uses short stories and poetry as an alternative platform of news. That really resonates well with me, because we have a tight state-controlled media here, so I see the literary arts as another avenue to express critical or unpopular/unpolitically correct opinions. That aside, I also love Ramlee Awang Mursyid and Anthony Horowitz's thriller novels because the descriptions in their works are very vivid and immersive. These thriller writers also taught me that doing substantial research is crucial to make my story more convincing and realistic.


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

I would tell my younger self to read up more and to engage myself in intellectual discourse, and to not be easily influenced by everything I read without analysing the material. I would also tell myself to reduce the "frasa berbunga" and bombastic words. I used to think that those equate to good writings because I think it's how my generation has been conditioned by the education grading system. But as my thought patterns mature, I began to realise that writing beautifully does not hold much meaning/satisfaction if my message is ambiguous to the ordinary reader.

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

I hope to continue writing critically on political and social issues both locally and globally. Writing gives me the opportunity to consolidate and re-synthesize whatever I have learnt in university and give back to the community in the form of stories because I understand that university education is a privilege that not many has access to.

7. What do you wish to see more in the literary world in Singapore?

I really, really wish to see more youths writing in Malay, critiqueing Malay works or basically engaging in Malay literary works. I hope to see mentor-mentee parterships among the Malay writers with young, aspiring writers so that there is continuity in this niche art. There are plenty of opportunities for Malay creative writing in Singapore and I can attest to the wide experiences I have received since I started writing. However, there's a lack of young writers. I am optimistic to believe that there are many hidden gems among our youths but the challenge is getting them to be aware of their writing potential and polishing their talents to boost our literary scene.


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

Literary success is when the power of words in my works can spark a discourse in the community on the issues raised and subsequently revolutionize the way people think about certain things.