Never underestimate the power of words in Singapore. Get into our local literary scene with five of our favourite poets, writers and authors...
It’s a funny thing that the founding father of Singapore — Lee Kuan Yew — once said that “poetry is a luxury that we cannot afford”. With more reading local lit, and local art festivals to promote the local arts, the on-the-ground support for local writers, poets and literary artists just keeps getting stronger. While this just the tip of the iceberg, we’ve shared four of our favourite minds from Singapore’s literary scene to get acquainted with…
Amanda Lee Koe
Her debut collection of short stories, Ministry of Moral Panic, was a standout for Singapore literature as she took on taboo subjects such as rape, sexually precocious youth and more – but it was a risk worth taking and her work won her accolades. With her bold voice, this is one writer to watch.
Must reads: Ministry of Moral Panic
Balli Kaur Jaswal
Local novelist Balli Kaur Jaswal doesn’t shy away from the difficult stuff. In her work, she covers topics like mental health, race, discrimination and dysfunctional families. Her debut novel Sugarbread was a finalist for Singapore’s 2015 Epigram Books Fiction Prize and was a refreshing and also confrontational take on identity and culture. All the makings of a riveting read!
Must reads: Sugarbread, Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows
Cyril is one of Singapore’s most well-known poets and has been featured internationally across literary festivals, an interview in TIME magazine and also published a number of books, making him one of the most established writers in Singapore. His poetry also typically emanates ruthless honesty on the aspect of sexuality – a true confessional poet.
Must reads: Unmarked treasure, Tilting our plates to catch the light
Like a true artist, Sebastian Sim has taken on various roles as a bartender, a restaurant manager and even a prison officer before he finally published his first English novel at the age of 50. Let’s Give It Up For Gimme Lao! Is a humorous and also dark take on ‘The Singaporean Dream’.
Must reads: Let’s Give It Up for Gimme Lao!
One of Dave’s most memorable books, Gone Case, a gritty coming-of-age tale seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy living in an HDB estate. Though published in 1996, the book as gone to become a cult classic in the scene and has since been adapted into a two-volume graphic novel series and also a telemovie.
Must reads: Gone Case, The Beating: And Other Stories
Despite the National Arts Council (NAC) withdrawing its grant after Jeremy Tiang submitted a first draft of his novel State of Emergency, which traces the leftist movements in Singapore’s history, the full-time writer soldiered on and kept on writing anyway. (It’s a familiar narrative: many know it also happened to Sonny Liew when the funding for his award-winning graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye was cut off by the NAC for “sensitive content”) While contrived sentimentality is often employed in local literature, Jeremy cuts through phoniness, without even sounding bitter. Real talk done right.
Must reads: State of Emergency, It Never Rains On National Day
Playwright, poet, and perhaps the most prolific author in Singapore, Alfian Sa’at has never shied away from tackling difficult topics like national identity, racial relations, various forms of ingrained oppression in his work. To put it simply: things that most of us have thought about but have never said out loud – Alfian’s satire is a masterful blend of subtlety and fearlessness. You can also catch him at this year’s SWF at Bedtime Readings: Writings from the Naughty Side.
Must reads: Corridors, Malay Sketches
For something more light-hearted, Imran Hashim’s debut novel, Annabelle Thong, is a sassy page-turner. If an easy read is what you’re seeking for that commute home, then check out Imran’s work.
Must reads: Annabelle Thong
Wondered what "Listening to Mukesh" would sound like ever since we posted that extract on Tuesday? Listen to Pooja Nansi read it (and more) in full on www.poetry.sg!
Posted by Sing Lit Station on Thursday, September 28, 2017
Educator and Singapore’s first Youth Poet Ambassador Pooja Nansi is a strong believer in the power of words. She explores in her poetry issues ranging from identity and belonging to love, and the construction of a contemporary feminine identity. She’s also active in the spoken word scene so catch her in action at a session.
Must reads: Love Is An Empty Barstool