a few months earlier i stared at my early Nov calendar and realised i had a 4-way clash:
- Hong Kong International Literary Festival 4-12 Nov
- Singapore Inside Out: Sydney 3-5 Nov
- Singapore Writers Festival 4-12 Nov
- Literature Across Frontiers - Sing Lit Station Translation Bootcamp 1-5 Nov
ok the last two were somewhat by design, as we had intended to stash our international and singaporean translators in a bungalow in malaysia for 5 days leading up to the festival so they could showcase their material in a reading at the festival (though it did mean they would miss half the first weekend of events)
- i wanted to attend HKILF to launch Twin Cities: an anthology of twin cinema from Singapore and Hong Kong, co-authored with the Empress of Cha, Tammy Ho Lai-Ming;
- i wanted to go for SGIO to put on an exhibition of prints from Ten Stories Below, my infinitely-work-in-progress graphic novel with Tim Wang and Adam Jay;
- i wanted to go for SWF because, well, SWF;
- and i wanted to go for the LAF-SLS bootcamp because SLS was hosting 4 european poet-translators alongside 4 southeast asian poet-translators, and alexandra buchler, the director of LAF was in town too, so i felt a bit of host responsibilities.
but the 4-way clash meant i had to make sub-optimal decisions for all:
- i would have to bail entirely on SGIO and count on the team to put up the exhibition.
- i would have to mostly bail on LAF-SLS and count on the SLS team to run the show, because i couldn't get any more leave (because of previous bali / vietnam exertions) but in concession to my sense of hostiness, i would drive up to malaysia on thursday night after work to hang out with them for dinner... and then drive back.
- i would attend the opening ceremony of SWF on friday, and a sprinkling of SWF events on sunday (more on this...)
- i would fly to hk first thing in the morning on friday, do the launch, do a reading at night, and fly back to sg first thing in the morning on saturday.
so here we go.
at this point i must pause and say that twin cities is really quite an amazing (toot our own horn) collection. you can read more about it at the minisite, or buy it from this webstore, but it's really a foundational collection that keys both on the connection between hong kong and singapore, and on this amazing form that yeow kai chai pioneered and david wong further developed, to some extent after ashbery. landmark did a bang-up job on the iconic cover and the squareish, spacious design leaving tons of breathing space for the lines. and i'm really happy we got an even representation of hk and singapore poets, with big dollops of the younger generation coming forward to show their formal chops.
i've fiddled with quite a few twin cinema myself over the past month, none of which are in this book, but if this goes on i might be able to put out my own twin cinema collection after a year or two...? i do want to work with tammy and cha again - let's see when the next collaboration will happen!
aaand i experienced another rush back to singapore - by planning myself on a 7am flight back. i thought i could check in in the city - but when i got there the scoot counter wasn't manned. i waited and waited and finally was informed that the 7am scoot flight to SG was the ONE FLIGHT that did not allow in-city check in. so i boarded the first airport express at... 6am, and hit the airport with 40 mins left. i reached the scoot counter with 30 mins, which was in a different terminal, only to be informed that the takeoff gate was IN A DIFFERENT TERMINAL and that i probably wasn't going to make it but they would still check me in as a courtesy. there was another guy in my situation just in front of me who was dithering a bit, but when i got my ticket i took off running with my book luggage clattering behind me and after a moment's hesitation he started running after me. i hit immigration at a full sprint, ducked into the diplomatic queue mouthing EMERGENCY EMERGENCY and they waved me through (i think i lost my tail here, he went to the normal queue), and i made it on the plane with minutes to spare. so that's two dramatic plane trips in two weeks - my dear heart.
and after all this... SWF started. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
so i went to bali nominally to attend APWT's annual conference, but then kicked off what Amanda Chong calls a "tragicomedy of errors".
let's just do a visual narrative of this literal shitshow via my fb feed...
how does one explain the ajar a-festival?
i find myself flipping through my photo roll again. Watch this 20 second video.
random paper planes filled with printed questions being thrown around a hipster cafe while people read poetry in the background and a media projection appears in the background with no lights on.
does that describe a-festival better?
"the festival i enjoyed most in my entire career as a traveling writer". is that better? here, back to random photos.
another video, this one a workshop hosted by Greg Nissan and Jake Schneider, the editors of Berlin-based SAND journal - in which they challenge us to translate the untranslatable! including horrible monsters like Hamid Roslan's "This One Also Sonnet". (foreshadowing: Hamid's work is actually translated a few weeks later into 6 languages in the Sing Lit Station-Literature Across Frontiers Translation Bootcamp in Malaysia...)
at times it seems like the festival navigated every hipster venue in vietnam possible. not for them the traditional conference room or air-conditioned office space, or even the repurposed black box or school lecture hall. every single venue involved a mysterious street number which showed no signs of habitation from the main road, then a jaunt down an abandoned alley, a twist under an awning or a climb up a hidden stair past old men smoking or dripping rain, and then poof, magic hipster cafe on rooftop.
very much the heart of the festival - the amazing organising team of kaitlin rees, nha thuyen, quyen and hai yen. (and yen san, small boy). just in terms of the embrace of multi-disciplinary, inter-language madness that they consort in (while running a multi-city festival), they are so far ahead of singapore writers that i cannot even explain. what is confessionalism? what are our silly forms? these girls are really pushing the envelope of language as art as translation as movement as i do not know what is going on.
please invite me back please please please please.
many things. where do i start?
1. SING LIT BODY SLAM
oh, here. how do i explain this nonsense?
the world's first collaborative multi-genre theatrical smorgasbord extravaganza between professional wrestling and performance poetry. yeah that doesn't really mean anything. what was Sing Lit Body Slam about?
(unless otherwise indicated (watermark shots from Grapple Max and the last group shot), all photos are copyright Jon Gresham 2017 igloomelts.com)
anf- - Carthere are no words.
but here are a bunch from online sites archived on our webpage.
here too, also is a mini-essay by Hamid Roslan, excerpted here:
"Thus the essential point of why the entire thing damn well worked: poetry was told to inhabit bodies and speak, or otherwise tackle an adversary to the ground. But it was not told to lie low in printer ink and play enigma. It was strangely ironic to watch David Wong’s persona as Mr. Uppity-Highbrow-Poetry in the first segment participate in this somatising of poetry (always the highbrow child of the arts) even as ‘he’ denigrated the smelly classrooms ‘he’ would teach poetry to less-privileged kids in. All not real, you see— and yet, there he was. "
just a smattering of hyperbole:
"Complete and utter GENIUS!!!" - Carolyn Oei
"Mad good mix of wrestling and poetry" - Min Lim
"Sticks and stones have nothing on this shit. 😏Blown away at #singlitbodyslam 😍" - Zhihui Ho
"it was the craziest idea to combine pro-wrestling with poetry. but was it crazy enough to work? HELL YES. so glad we came to see this historic moment in singapore arts history..." - Jocelyn Suarez
and a slightly longer review:
"The #SingLitBodySlam was wild! This was really wrestling as theatre, as the wrestlers unabashedly took on larger than life personas with patently staged moves while poets yelled verses at each other to embody warring binaries: poken word vs page poetry, Raffles vs Farquhar, English vs Singlish. This was not always consistently poetic but it was visually spectacular and wonderfully nuts. #sglitftw #sglitwtf"
- Ng Yi-Sheng
and of course, some thoughts from the poets themselves:
"I've spent hours on YouTube watching wrestling videos and documentaries, days at Sing Lit Station with other writers collaborating on pieces, trips to Grapple MAX Dojo to take wrestling lessons(!) and devise something that could be described as "experimental performance improvised theatre spoken word", but it's the sweatiest and grimiest and LOUDEST I've gotten as a writer and a spoken word poet." - Joses Ho
"there was a time when people said "wtf how the hell would anyone combine poetry and pro wrestling"... but we did." - Stephanie Chan
"I mean, how many people can say they got to verbally castrate a historical figure with incisive rhymes while wearing a regimental outfit?? (Well, other than the cast of Hamilton...)" - Rajita Jay
If you were where I was tonight, I've got two words to say to ya: THANK YOU
Thank you for giving this weird brainchild a chance; this could've been a creative bastard child but you gave it a home, you made it legit, you made the show stand on its feet by getting on your feet."
....those who weren't there, you'll have to wait for tomorrow to catch more....OR DARE I SAY #SINGLITBODYSLAM 2 ?!?!" - David Wong
finally, more self-absorbed masturbation by me.
and i think that is all i have to say for a while.
...until SING LIT BODY SLAM 2!!!!
a singaporean poet with an unhealthy addiction to forms.
all content copyright of joshua ip 2012