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.