2018 Winners' Interviews

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

Soon Le Wen Levonne

Category: Below 18, Chinese

Winning poem: "By Our Side" 

 

1. When did you first encounter poetry?

The first  encounter was when my brother took place in the NPC in 2017. He was thirteen years old meeting the minimum year to qualify for the competition. I fell short by one year.

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

Having read the past years’ Winners and Finalists’ poems, I thought I could also try to pen something.

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

Firstly, I have to understand the theme, which is the first big step for me at this age of limited life experiences. Relating what I have heard or seen to the theme, penning down honest but fragmented thoughts every now and then, and re-organising them time and again to illustrate what I want to portray.

4. What excites you when you write a poem?

It’s cool when the presentation of my thoughts and feelings through choice of words started to take shape. It does not matter if it is good in the eyes of others. 

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

In today’s context, there are lots of things that are taking time, attention and focus from my friends and me.

I would tell to “Set thinking, write a poem that sets us thinking”.

6. Do you think more people should write or perform poetry? Why?

Writing poems can be therapeutic as it is a way to allow us to sort our thoughts and let them out.

People should try at least once in their life time, to give themselves time (space) to let their thoughts wonder, and to share them via poetry.

Vadivu Sathiyaseelan

Category: Above 18, Tamil

Winning poem: "In Spirit" 

 

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

I see life as a journey and I am a traveller. It gives me different experiences, every moment depends on the speed of travel from one place to the other. I extract my thoughts from my journey in my life and learn from the people, culture, customs and creeds, and from their lives too.

2. Do you have a favourite poet/author?

Yes, I have two favourite poets... one is mother nature and second is my real life experiences... both poets narrate the life of Earth of humans and tells us to love everyone, help each other and live in peace and harmony.

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

To younger creators like poets, I would tell them to see the world around them with their own eyes, think for themselves and describe it in their own words in any language that they know.

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

I want to see more and more youngsters getting into the world of creativity and create new poems, literature, and epics than following others in the modern digital world.

5. Describe what a poem means/is to you

It depends on the readers but for me it is an extract of my experiences and how I see my life with my eyes and describe it in my own words.

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

I don't know how to measure success in a literary work as each creator and his/her creations are unique and not comparable. I wish my poems to create a positive impact and a smile in each reader's face and mind. That will be my scale of measure to see its real success.

Elizabeth Chen

Category: Above 18, English

Winning poem: "My Mother Sings a National Day Song" 

 

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

 I like simple and beautiful things. I don't think poetry needs to be grandiose. I like looking at ordinary things from a different point of view to see the beauty in them.

 

The things that we remember in life aren't always the big things. It's often the small moments, the very ordinary sorts of memories that, when you recall them, bring back the feeling of who you were then. These are moments you don't even think of as significant as you're experiencing them, but later on, becomes so meaningful to you. Sometimes who you are is distilled into moments like these. And these have poetic value.

2. Where do you get your inspirations from?

In terms of poetry - reading other poets and discovering new works that I like is very inspiring. After I pick up a new book of poetry I always end up writing more poems! I prefer short poems because I haven't got a very long attention span. I like poems that have a musicality and repetition to it. I also have a soft spot for funny verse!

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

I don't have a roadmap for my writing and poetry. It's the writing itself that gives me pleasure, and the finished work, and I don't feel like it has to take me somewhere for that to be worthwhile

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

Not so much for the literary world, but I hope one day to go to a kopitiam or void deck and just see random uncles, aunties, random people, random Singaporeans, reading books written by someone from Singapore. I think that'll be cool.

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

When an everyday, ordinary person - like a supermarket cashier or a bus uncle - recognises me as a poet and says they like something I wrote, or better yet, quotes a line from something I wrote - that would be success of a sort. Kind of like a TV actor being recognised! That's a secret dream of mine.

Isabel Lee

Category: Below 18, English

Winning poem: "Masterpiecers"

 

1. When did you first encounter poetry?

 

Encountering poetry first began in the singsong nature of nursery rhymes (Mother Goose, Rhyme Stew and A Child’s Garden of Verses). But the love of poetry first began with No Other City, a local poetry anthology by various writers about urban life in Singapore. You could say we (my friends and myself) were ‘forced’ into it because we had to study it in Secondary school, but for me it gradually became a passion.

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

 

I believe to be a writer you are first and foremost a reader. Your output is only as good as your input. Some of my biggest influences were Lee Tzu Pheng and Edwin Thumboo - ‘nation-building’ poets who wrote simply because they wanted or even needed to. They never wrote for an audience or for a purpose - most of their works stem from a reflective, meditative outlook on life.

3. What excites you when you write a poem?

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” Dr Seuss. It excites me to know my work can be read by others and can inspire others.

4. Do you think more people should write or perform poetry? Why?

I don’t just think more people should write or perform poetry, I think more Singaporeans, especially my generation, need to write and/or perform poetry. Our culture and heritage is what we make it, what we record and what is is eventually ingrained into our local history. However many Singaporeans especially millennials tend to brush off the significance of crafting poetry as “oh, Singapore doesn’t have any interesting heritage or history to write about” or the sheer lack of creativity due to time constraints. We need to diverge from the mainstream, overwhelmingly entrenched Singapore narrative to find our own voice. Poetry is a great platform to start.

Tan Xiang Yeow

Category: Above 18, Chinese

Winning poem: "Medical Questionnaire"

 

1. Do you have a favourite poet/author?

 

I have so many favourites! I like Ted Kooser’s precision with language, Claudia Rankine’s courage in dealing with racial complexities, Tania De Rozario’s bravery and brittleness. I like the wit in Joshua Ip’s pieces, the lyricism in Rodrigo Dela Peña Jr.'s books, the thoughtfulness in Nicholas Wong’s words, the keen observations in Yong Shu Hoong’s collections. I’m currently reading a few anthologies of Chinese poetry as well, trying to absorb the music inherent in the Chinese language. I’ve a habit of filing lovely poems in a digital document to savour, slowly. Poems steep well in time, which is testament to the beauty and malleability of words.

2. If you could tell your younger writer self any thing, what would it be?

 

Read more local literature! There are many wonderful books published by Ethos Books, Math Paper Press and Epigram. Don’t be mistaken, I do love poems about snow and red leaves and falling leaves and horses. It is a completely different and utterly lovely experience, to see one’s reality reflected on pages – HDB, playgrounds, ERP, Merlions. Hmm, maybe not the Merlion poems. I do enjoy The Merlion To Ulysses by Lee Tzu Pheng.

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

I’m thankful for my group of friends who give very thoughtful and critical feedback about my writing. I’m very thankful to Sing Lit Station which offers our writing group a space and nurtures many fledgling writers with a rich cocktail of activities. I’m thankful to Professor Shirley Geok-lin Lim for her encouragement ever since I took part in her university module so many years ago. I hope to keep writing - no matter how threatening work becomes -  sometimes, I imagine my work to be a slave master whipping me with a cheap rattan cane which can be bought from many neighbourhood shops - and to celebrate the writing of my friends and family.

Chng Tsu Pang

Category: Above 18, Chinese

Winning poem: "In Spirit"

 

1. When did you first encounter poetry?

 

I was introduced to classical Chinese poetry from a very young age. My first encounter with modern poetry though was only in secondary school. I used to think that I would never write any modern poems as I couldn't understand most of the modern poems that I had encountered.

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

I happened to come across several poems that I could fully understand and appreciate. And poetry competition was certainly a motivating factor that led me to write down my first poem.

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

 

It is always difficult to tell where and when you start to write a poem. It might be a little idea or a single line of good sentence. And from there on you start to form the next one or two phrases, you mix and match them, and keep repeating the process until you can't change even a word of them. The process can be painful and fun at the same time. Sometimes you can complete a poem within a few minutes but sometimes it may take days.

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

 

More Chinese literature reading and writing with the understanding that the translated version of a poem can be quite different from its original.

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

No, only a few of my friends read poetry. Introducing them some good poems which are easy to understand would be helpful. Exposure does better work than encouragement here.

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

An appreciative reader is better than hundreds of blind followers. Having hundreds of appreciative readers would be a sign of success to me.

Carissa Cheow

Category: Above 18, English

Winning poem: "you need a very small space to read this poem"

 

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

 

For me, I write poetry to say things that I don't otherwise know how to say without using poetry! Think of it this way: every day, there are many things we can simply say just like that, and then there are things which we cannot express without, say, comparing it to an analogous situation, and some of these situations would only make sense when put across in poetry. I'd like to think my NPC entry piece, 'you need a very small space to read this poem', is one such example: I actually wrote it five minutes before a lesson I was going to attend; I was getting ready to go to class and I suddenly just had the idea, "wait, what if we need a permit to write and recite poems, as with many other things we need to seek permission for?" and - I decided to pen down my thoughts, and ended up with a poem!

2. Where do you get your inspirations from?

 

The story I mentioned in the previous question, that is actually quite frequently how I draw inspiration for the poems I write. So when something suddenly comes to mind, and I just somehow have the words to describe it at that particular moment that I may completely forget later on, I tell myself, "write first, edit again later"! And I do this so that I can come back later on, after the moment has passed for some time, and I can re-examine that moment again using a fresh pair of eyes. Much of my writing explores the intersection between a person in transition and a nation, or society, or even a world in transition, and how we survive and even find our own new ways to thrive in 'very small spaces', conditions of constraint.

 

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

 

Much, much more support for speculative fiction, particularly fantasy! Many of my writer friends who write fantasy have remarked that they find it far more difficult to get their work out, to seek support in terms of workshopping, networking, and advice, because there is very little "precedent" of such work being published prior. Shout-out here to LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction (while it lasted) as a great first step in this; let's have more of this! I want to see greater recognition of diversity in what constitutes "literary merit": let's continue to have high standards, but let's also acknowledge that this can come in forms that look nothing like the stuff we used to have. Maybe one more thing I want to see is more spaces where new writers can meet other writers, because many writers I know who are relatively newer to the local literary community remark that they don't know where to find other writers, and the existing groups that do exist can feel out of reach. In the long run, I want writing to be a pursuit that Singaporeans can take up as their primary career and source of income, and not one that doesn't or cannot pay enough that one has to juggle it with a "day job" to pay the bills. I want writing to be a necessity we die-die must afford.

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

 

A poem is a way of putting something across, by playing with the words, the language we use, finding new and creative ways to arrange them differently so that a reader can read more than one layer to it. To me, anything can be a poem, but a poem is most effective when you can revisit it immediately, or a week later, or even sixty years later, and each time you revisit it, the poem carries its own special meaning and significance at that point in time.

Nur-El-Hudaa Jaffar

Category: Above 18, Malay

Winning poem: "Warisan/Legacy"

 

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

I would like my poetry to capture my thoughts, questions and responses to things that impact me emotionally, and hopefully engage the reader (who would likely be just me) into further exploration and understanding. My poetry tend to veer towards isolation and distance, questions about my identity and place in society.

2. Where do you get your inspirations from?

From observation of human interaction, nature, and my own response to events. And works by other people.

3. Do you have a favourite poet/author?

Maya Angelou and Usman Awang for poetry.

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

Don't waste time dreaming. Kidding. But actually, yeah, don't waste time dreaming that you'll write something. Just start writing and things will come together as you go along. Stories and poems take time to coalesce, but you'll get nowhere unless you write them down.

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

I see myself honing my craft, learning and learning. I write in Malay now, and I should start writing more in English.

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

More translations, so people can read more works from other communities in Singapore.

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

A poem is a mirror, an open door, a pool. A poem is also a challenge.

Gabrielle Ang

Category: Below 18, English

Winning poem: "Pantang"

 

1. What excites you when you write a poem?

New perspectives entice me. I think many poems would be analysed differently by each and every person that reads it, and that excites me - I want to know how people have interpreted my work. It’s very refreshing, seeing an old piece of work being interpreted into a different light - just like all the different adaptations of old novels like the Phantom of the Opera, right? My Michael Crawford could be someone else’s Lon Chaney Jr. Someone else may have Gerard Butler in mind - and yet, whether we like these new interpretations of an old, well-loved novel, we have to admit that the story certainly isn’t stale - it comes fresh. Also, the thrill of performing some poems is absolutely satisfying, because I tend to include humor in some of my poems. I’m not sure if the nature of my performances are poetry slams or stand-up comedy, really. It’s always easier to stomach a somewhat niche art form with a good laugh, in my opinion. That’s what made performance poetry so attractive and enticing to me, especially after I watched Ng Yi-Sheng at the Singapore Writers’ Festival in 2017.

 

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

In the earlier days of my poetry writing, I would be easily triggered by everything around me and could produce poems in - bam, five minutes or less - but some of these works, more often than not, make me look back and laugh. Nowadays I would just type a trigger into a Reminders list onto my phone so that I could go back to it and try to produce a poem. If a trigger was strong enough, I would have the willpower to complete a poem based on it. This method sort of worked for me this year, when I was faced with lots of incomplete poems cramming up my Google Docs and in my notebooks, and it helped me a lot with quality control on my poetry. Although I used to write a lot more and got inspired way more often when I was younger, I feel that this process has helped me produce works that I feel prouder of. Sometimes writing poetry, for me, is a spur-of-the-moment thing where I would immediately type everything out and edit it later. I suppose that’s the most satisfying process for me, personally!

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

OF COURSE. I hope that I get to put together an anthology, and another, and another… The list goes on. There’s a lot I want to do in the Literature scene. Maybe one day I’ll have students crying over my poem in an examination, or perhaps they’d love me for making their “O” Level Literature paper a lot more manageable. I think I’d love to not only write more, but also perform these works- because writing alone doesn’t cut it. Who knows, right? It’d be definitely cool if I got to tour around the world performing poetry as well as my own brand of comedy.

4. Do you think more people should write or perform poetry? Why?

Definitely! We need some fresh, new voices in this scene. The Sing Lit scene isn’t exactly tiny or colossal, but I think having some young blood in here would freshen things up. Currently, the vibe of the local literature scene is very cozy and intimate and I certainly wouldn’t want that to change- but it’d be great if poetry was written and performed on a larger scale. Imagine a Zouk poetry slam night. That’d be quite fun, right?

Varadarajan

Category: Above 18, Tamil

Winning poem: "Chiffonades Of Noon"

 

1. Where do you get your inspirations from?


I get my inspiration from the emotions of the people I meet in my daily life, their emotions and interactions. Their insecurities, helplessness, loneliness affect me and I pen down those in words.

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


I wish that the people would stop for a moment in the midst of their busy life to notice the people who are left behind (in the race) and acknowledge their presence. I wish my poem would make them more empathetic towards such individuals.

 

3. Do you have a favourite poet/author?


Kalyanji, His poems were the one which made me look life from another person’s perspective.

 

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


As a young writer I have written poems which I feel now, are silly. But they are the ones which taught me how not to handle words. I would pat my younger self on the back in reassurance and ask her to keep going.

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


I would like to see the real slices of life in Singapore, especially in Tamil literary. Most of the Tamil literary now portray the greener side of life here; at the maximum, it talks about the issues faced by the foreign workers. That being said, the other components are equally important.
 

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


A poem is one which portraits a glimpse of life and emotions of a living, sometimes even non-living things, with select words. It is a camera which portrays the world from different angle.

Chong Kai Qing

Category: Below 18, English

Winning poem: "_____ in the blanks"

 

1. When did you first encounter poetry?

Ethos Books once set up a pop-up bookstore in my school when I was a Year 1 or 2 student. I bought the poetry anthology & Words: Poems Singapore and Beyond edited by Edwin Thumboo, and it was then when I first encountered poetry – poetic forms, local and overseas poets, glimpses of multitudes of communities. All in one book.

 

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

My teachers have always been very kind and encouraging, recommending various poetry collections and introducing me to local literary events. Whether or not they teach Literature or taught me, I have to thank my teachers for talking to me about my interests and leading me to believe that I could write my own poems that matter.

 

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

Many of my friends are Literature students who read poetry as it is a given. While it is their duty to engage critically with the poems, I think the orientation of poetry is bound within the classroom and their understanding of it as a reader is tied too closely to assessment. Then there is even greater hesitation when one thinks of who is “good enough” to write poetry. I think we should move away from believing that poetry is only for certain people who can write complete essays or think selected thoughts. Some of us should also stop trying to be the sum of all the poets we have studied and constantly measure ourselves against perceived expectations. It is good to start thinking about what we want to read, which lines comfort, probe us, and how might we respond most truthfully to all that we have seen. If we write, it is okay to let a poem remain private. Or submit it, or put it up on social media. Poetry has a space for everyone and we should let it.

 

4. Do you think more people should write or perform poetry? Why?

People tend to regret that they can only retrieve facts of past happenings at best, and that they are not able to confess how they felt or how deeply they felt. Personally, poetry has both functions of documentation of the self, as well as of contribution to the archives of one’s community. It is a way of remembrance. I think those who write, draw, create etc. have similar sentiments. Page or stage, poetry or not, I hope more people will explore ways to voice themselves creatively.

Nur Muhammad Hidayat

Category: Above 18, Malay

Winning poem: "Pemangkin/Catalyst"

 

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

 

For me, whenever I write something, it is always going to be an extension of myself as a person, there are instances where I too have asked myself countless times, what is my philosophy in poetry works. I have came to the conclusion, I only write about things that are true and honest. I don’t see a point in trying to put myself into someone else’s shoes. It might not just fit. No matter how beautiful it may have come out, but if it’s not true to me, i won’t be able to relate to it. My philosophy in writing poetry is to always stay true, and relatable to who I am as a person and how i feel as a being.

 

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

 

I would certainly wish that people would be able to relate to it in a way or another and make those words I’ve penned as a form of motivation to tell them that whatever they are going through or have gone through don't just happen to them. They are not alone. When people don't feel alone they have more confidence in going through their worries. I certainly hoped my words have in a way or another help someone or anyone.

 

3. Do you have a favourite poet/author?

I don’t actually have a favourite poet/author, however I certainly looked up to local writers like Mr Farihan and Mr Rafaat Hamzah.


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

A poem to me is something that touches a soul without even trying to caress the skin. It can be words in paragraphs or just a word, if it touches. That’s poetic to me.

 

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

 

A literary success story is definitely about sending out what one has to say to the widest of audience. The more the number of people who have read my works, the more the satisfaction and that is a success story I'm aiming for - to reach out further with my words.

Vishnu G

Category: Below 18, Tamil

Winning poem: "Heartbreak"

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

 

My mom was my biggest inspiration in writing poems as she gave the underlying meaning to songs or poetry that I came across.

 

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

I listen to various genres of Tamil music and rap is a  genre that intrigued me a lot. Writing a Tamil rap with good meaning was something hard to come up with and that motivated me to write my entry as a rap for the competition.

 

3. What excites you when you write a poem?

I write my poetry as songs usually, which forces me to string the best words possible that fit into the tune. That challenge excites me.

 

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

 

Yes. Poetry has given me a good exposure in the arts field and has improved my language vocabulary in Tamil. I am interested and willing to try to write more in the future.

 

5. Do you think more people should write or perform poetry? Why?

Yes. Many teenagers in Singapore think it’s not so cool to be into poetry and peer pressure results in the wrong mindset in many. Thus, more workshops should be conducted in schools to encourage students to engage in poetry.

Chitra Ramesh

Category: Above 18, Tamil

Winning poem: "Time's Perception"

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

 

I enjoy writing something creatively. It could be a poem, short story or even a small write up about a news or an event. It gives me great pleasure to write and read the final version of my writing. My philosophy towards poetry writing is that a poem should happen naturally. It could reflect the idiosyncrasies of our life, absurdity of the society we are living in, it could reflect a feeling of a moment, it could be romantic or realistic poem. But it should be enjoyed by the readers in the same way how I enjoy that poetry. Poetry or for that matter any written work should reflect goodness in life.

 

2. Where do you get your inspirations from?

I get inspiration from the world around me. I observe people especially when I am travelling. These experiences give me inspirations to write. Any incident that affect me, hypocrisy, people showing their power to do injustice to others, nature, children, friendship and the list goes on. All these are inspirations for my writing.

 

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

People should just get the experience in the same way as myself and should feel elated after reading my poems. You really cannot describe how a lotus flower blooms early in the morning when sun raises. But when you see it you will get that experience of watching the lotus slowly opening the petals. My poems also should be passing the same kind of experience when the reader reads them.

 

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

 

If you are interested in writing, please start immediately. Do not hesitate to write. Show to your peers or to a senior writer whom you can consider as your mentor. Do not expect praises or fame immediately. Accept criticism. Constructive criticism will always improve your writing. Try to develop your own style of writing. Be confident about your language flow and vocabulary. Understand the modern trends in writing and try to inculcate modernity in your thoughts and writing. Become a good reader.

 

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

Literary success does give me a recognition in Singapore. But that success is a very insignificant and short lived for that moment only. The real success is the intrinsic feeling that you get after you create something. The satisfaction that comes after you write a poem is the real success. When you receive a review or a complement from an unknown person after reading your creative work, that is the real success hidden beyond this explicit awards and prizes.

Nicole Lim Re Gin

Category: Below 18, Chinese

Winning poem: "Leaving Yet Returning"

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

My Chinese home tutor showed me some of his poems and gave me some Chinese poetry books to read, suggesting that maybe I would enjoy reading Chinese poetry. He then assisted me in analysing and discussing some interesting poems. Soon after, I found that the play of words and literary techniques in Chinese (for example using words or phrases with more than one meaning) actually piques my interest, and so I tried to model after the writing style of famous Chinese poets, eventually writing Chinese poems.

 

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

I usually start off with finding a style for presenting the poem, making sure that the mood matches the message I would like to bring across. I have the tendency to express my poem in short and concise sentences because I would like the readers to be a part of my poem by having their own interpretations of my words.

3. 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, but I think it is because they don’t realise that poetry can come in many other forms too, for example songs are also a form of poetry, just that they are sung instead of read. To those who do not have an interest in poetry, I would suggest to start by enjoying the lyrics of their favourite songs, and try reading poetry of their mother tongue language instead. Hopefully, this would pique their interest in poetry!

 

4. Do you think more people should write or perform poetry? Why?

Poetry, in my opinion, is already being appreciated, written and performed by many others unknowingly. Take nursery rhymes for an example, those are simple poems recited by many children over generations. Poets are also lyricists in collaborations with composers to make new songs for tomorrow. Therefore, yes, more people should continue to write and perform poetry for educational and entertainment purposes.

Chua Poh Leng

Category: Above 18, Chinese 

Winning poem: "Night is Pouring like Splash Ink"

1. What is your philosophy towards your poetry works?

“Philosophy” needs competency in putting complex things in a systematic way and explains them clearly according to the audience’s capacity. This is challenging to me. I go by an easy way. When composing a poem, sincerity and truthfulness to myself are important, then, the reader second. My feelings should not be betrayed, especially when informed by my intuition. To me, there is a “knower”, “he” checks my words and lines, layout and composition, what is allowed and what is not before giving a green light. Of course, the drive and ignitor are emotion, we are a vessel of imagination and emotion.  The beauty of a poem sustained with words which is imputed by the poet, needs cultural depth to appreciate them in deep.

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

Like it, enjoy it and love it, allow multilayers of interpretation to flow. When readers engage your poem with an open mind, it proliferates in its own course and prolongs the lifespan itself. This is the beauty of it.

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

Diversity, inclusiveness and keen to learn attitudes. More interaction between writers of different languages. It is a pool of hidden wealth, especially in such a multiracial and multicultural society like Singapore. In a globalised setting, the whole world, or universe is ready to nourish, groom you and for you to explore. The question is, are you ready to embrace them?  Are you able to communicate effectively, cross your comfortable boundaries and foster understanding with the others? Only when “self” and “otherness” unit in harmony, the conflict between both can be resolved and the suffering of duality can be eradicated.

 

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

A poem is a sincere, unfabricated record of the poet’s very activity of continuum and feelings during his creative process. It cannot be completely replayed, repeated and enacted. However, when preserved by beautiful words, the readers are able to enjoy the appropriation approximately. A good poem really awakens you from a dull and damp mental state - very refreshing, if not spiritual.

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