i've been really bad at sending out work to journals in years past - but a trickle of amusement through my subconscious in the last few months has finally gotten a couple of pieces by me into two of my favorite asian journals.
Cha: An Asian Literary Journal first published me in 2013, and i've been wanting to submit more to them for a while - the "Writing Japan" issue poked me in the eye and a poem called shigata ga nai (仕方が無い) popped out. i have written pieces about Japan (in the context of Singapore) before - one called 'Liang Court', about Japanese stereotypes in Singapore, one called 'oh green frog', about sakae and the extended metaphor of conveyor belt sushi, but the piece that made it in is in one of my favorite forms - the meditative, elegiac pantoum, and is not immediately discernable as being about japan - but i am glad that the editors found it to contain a sliver of that particularly (to me at least) Japanese sentiment. The Writing Japan issue drops in Jun 2017. (Separately, the current rhino issue also has an essay by me about Sing Lit Station and the good-ish work we do that reads more like an infomercial/advertorial, but i must declare that no financial gain accrued to the editors of Cha as a result.)
Quarterly Literary Review Singapore is the old grand-daddy of Sing Lit, and young me coming up through the ranks always saw having work in QLRS as the gold stamp of achievement. i was rejected several times before, and thought i was lucky enough to sneak a piece in in (coincidentally) 2013: ingrown from making love with scrabble tiles. however, MLWST actually dropped before the QLRS issue, and it had to be pulled it from the journal as a result. a few years on, and several books into my literary career, i finally have a piece in QLRS - defensive architecture. my precociously talented intern who is more than a decade younger, Ang Shuang, also has her first pieces published in QLRS at the same time, but i'm just happy to finally be there too.
i do have one person to thank for both poems and getting into both journals, but she knows who she is.
separately, i've kicked off a couple of different projects. after kicking myself off the editorial team for SingPoWriMo 2017: The Anthology this year (three years in a row is enough), and terminating the A Luxury We X Afford series, i've found myself anthology-less after spending the past few years doing two series of them. (Unfree Verse, being a historical anthology - doesn't immediately lend itself to a sequel). but in the past few months i've found myself (to various degrees) walking down the paths of two more anthos!.
1. i wrote a twin cinema about the Hong Kong elections that went down pretty well, and Eck Kheng of Landmark messaged me shortly after about the possibility of doing a twin cinema anthology dedicated to the form. i was already in talks with a friend about doing a HKG-SIN anthology, and it seemed like the perfect marriage of form and theme - a twin cinema, twin cities anthology. hence, i'm excited to be editing the first ever twin cinema anthology, titled Twin Cities: a twin cinema anthology of Hong Kong and Singapore poetry, together with the irrepressible Tammy Ho Lai-Ming. open call ends 3 Jun 2017 - check it out!
2. in the middle of SingPoWriMo, this happened. Stephanie Dogfoot dropped a prompt that said "Write a poem about a place in Singapore that no longer exists" and nostalgia-crazy Singaporeans went all over the map. in the end, there might well be enough pieces for an anthology of its own - but again, a publisher came forward to chope this idea, and we should soon be having an open call for an anthology of lost location-based poetry in Singapore. I do need a co-editor, though...
- excited to be doing new work, with new partners.
there are a lot of things to say about Sing Lit Station but for once i'm not going to say them! just wanted to drop a few updates on things that have been low-profilely pottering along separate from SLS:
1. i've been working on a "pedagogical song" for teaching musical concepts in schools for the Singapore Teacher's Academy for the Arts - a collaboration with Professor Bernard Tan. it's a suitably rhyming metric run-down through all the stations of the east-west line, creatively entitled "East West Line"! congratulations to all the children who will be tormented by horrible puns for the foreseeable future.
2. separately, i've been working on another musical piece for MOE primary schools together with Liong Kit Yeng, tentatively titled "Little Red Dot" - it's still coming along, but developing quite well in a very national educationy way. getting back to my lyricist roots has been quite an interesting experience.
3. finally, i'm curating a small selection of Sing Lit for three issues of The New Paper as part of a campaign that-shall-not-be-named-until-it-is-named! i really hope that (some) Singaporeans enjoy it - and that they go on to find out more about where these works came from, and hunt down bookstores like BooksActually and go on to buy more Sing Lit and keep on doing so and write about it online and post pictures on instagram and tell more people that SINGAPOREANS ARE WRITING THINGS WORTH READING and that will be worth it.
Around the middle of 2014, Christine Chia and me got whiff that LKY was ailing. It had long been a common point of discontent for the two of us that for all the anthologies Sing Lit had put out over the past decades, none of them had engaged with the gigantic figure of The Man, despite his shadow looming large over anything "SG"-branded. So we did a mini-open-call + emailed a ton of other writers. There was no lack of a response - we managed to put the whole thing together in under six months: an anthology of poems that ranged from a secondary school student and a 95-year-old American; short-ish prose from ringers like Amanda Lee Koe and Jeremy Tiang, and even a play extract from Robert Yeo. It launched in Dec 2014, alongside the first SingPoWriMo anthology.
People said nice things about the antho, and it seemed to capture a bit of the zeitgeist - the affection from some, the angst or even anger from others, all overlaid by this sense of having grown up in a country where it was impossible not to know his name. I like to think we got in ahead of the wave of overblown emotion / gross hagiography / reactive cynicism that hit once he passed a few months later, and were able to present an honest perspective on the whole range of feeling the country had for The Man. It quickly sold out its first print run within a year and is now in its second, which is unusual for any poetry anthology anywhere in the world.
Around the middle of 2015, we got a bit antsy again - things were stirring in the national pulse. The wave of post-LKY-ness had just dissolved into this tide of SG50 celebration, which then rippled into a snap election, all overcast by uncertainty about the future. We put out an open call that began on National Day and ended a week after the elections, to allow those feelings to bubble to the surface. And we dragged the young wunderkind Cheryl Julia Lee on board to resuscitate our aging editorial team with a breath of fresh air.
The result is A Luxury We Must Afford - another zeitgeist collection, but operating in a very different space from its sister anthology. If ALWCA was the history of everything leading up to SG50, ALWMA contains the hopes of SG51 and beyond. Singapore after The Man, newly easing into its mid-life crisis, against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world and region.
The book's launching on 15 Jan, in the same place where The Man used to hold court - The Chamber at The Arts House at The Old Parliament. Do drop by and listen to some poetry, and maybe some music.
I'm ending this lengthy plug with a short poem from the first anthology. Its sentiments are the starting point for the second.
THEY GOT YOU ALL WRONG
by Norashiqin Toh
I know. What you meant to say is:
We cannot afford poetry as a luxury,
for poetry is not luxurious.
It is simply necessary.
Check out the event here.
So basically there is so much cool shit going on with Sing Lit Station that I don't know where to start:
- our inaugural Manuscript Bootcamp open call ends 15 Sep - send in your work into the jaws of hell and hope that it isn't chewed up and spat out! We're looking for 3-4 really promising novels, short story collections or creative non-fiction - the full criteria is on the site.
- Sing Po On The Sidewalks (SPOTS): we want to put invisible poetry on Singapore sidewalks, because being uniquely Singaporean, we copy Mass Poetry from Massachusetts (ba dum tssss). vote for your favorite pieces here, and an indiegogo fundraiser will be up soon! our first SPOTS will be coming to the civic district at the end of this year, but contact us if you're an institution and would like to host a piece of invisible poetry on your open-air spaces!
- Ten Year Series is launching the remaining 4 books from last year's Manuscript Bootcamp - the first two, Tse Hao Guang's Deeds of Light and David Wong's For The End Comes Reaching have already hit the ground running with rave reviews. The next four are:
- Amanda Chong's Professions
- Daryl Lim's A Book Of Changes
- Samuel Lee's A Field Guide to the Supermarkets of Singapore
- Jennifer Anne Champion's Caterwaul
like the Planeteers, all of them are DIFFERENT and UNIQUE and DIVERSE and WTF but only when you combine all of them together do you get CAPTAIN PLANET so buy buy buy all when they launch at SWF this year!
- also launching at or before SWF - the long-awaited SingPoWriMo 2016: The Anthology! you want to know what else is long-awaited? A Luxury We Must Afford, also launching at or about then, and Unfree Verse from Ethos Books, which will launch early next year! launchlaunchlaunchlaunch NUCULAR
- other cool things we're brewing - a publication for the BuySingLit campaign next year; another run of SingPoOnTheMRT in Feb/Mar; a potential LITERARY ESCAPE GAME with a large national heritage institution combined with an inscrutably puzzling poetic chestnut... the list goes on for the mad, mad minions of Sing Lit Station, #nevernotworking to drive the Singapore literary scene into a tizzy!
- (separate from SLS, i'm also (1) making my first forays into translation. more on that soon. (2) have secured time to attend the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Festival in Guangzhou - i pangsehed the Manila edition last year but i'm looking forward to coming back this year yayayay. *collapses in a pile of releasing hot air*)
I remember a period of time in the '90s where you would still actively see poetry in the pages of the ST, in Life. Like actual poems, commissioned about various events, not just book reviews. Oh, and the poetry book reviews then would be half-page dos with glossy photo, not the single column you get these days... You'd even find the odd image of a poet or two (perhaps once a year or so) on the front cover of Life. And then it died an unheralded death somewhere along the way.
So I volunteered to write random satirical bits for The Middle Ground a while back, because - poetry shouldn't, can't, mustn't disappear from mainstream notice. It shouldn't be cloistered in the high halls of academia, or the reference sections of the National Library. It needs to get out there. Even if it means getting its hands dirty. (My run lasted only a few months before I had to tap out for the master pun-ster Felix Cheong himself, but I'll be coming back very soon.)
Back to the Straits Times: poetry still peeks out of random nooks and crannies in Life, but thanks to the efforts of Chua Mui Hoong, it's coming back in a big way in the Opinion section of the main paper - real serious all! After the obligatory piece by Prof Thumboo and some fiery work by Tania de Rozario in the past weeks, I have a satirical poem in today's Opinion section, next to the brilliance of Amanda Lee Koe. Though my piece is really for the lulz, please do go and read hers. Shots fired!
Maggie Tiojakin talked to me a while back to submit poetry to the Jakarta Post in another newly launching initiative, and it's actually happened, oddly, on the same day that my ST piece dropped, i.e. today. She picked a piece - tongues - from "making love with scrabble tiles" that I thought was uniquely Singaporean/ Singlish-focused, and hence incomprehensible to "foreigners". Till I realised that the same awkwardness of an evolved, Asian, multi-cultural patois in a mono-angmoh Western context translated pretty well. I've sent in a pile of other pieces to the Post, and am hoping to create that Southeast Asian bridge - in the months to come, I'm going to try dragging other SG writers across too - we have a lot we can share, and a lot we can learn from a place different in many ways yet kind of same same in many others.
Lastly, this weekend kicks off yet another newly launching initiative - "That's Life", a literary podcast pioneered by Lydia Vasko for the Straits Times. Alvin Pang, Deborah Emmanuel and me were locked in a studio in ST for more than an hour, and much passion ensued. Ostensibly we were there to talk about SingPoWriMo but it kind of ran wild, as events with Alvin Pang tend to do. I mumbled a lot but managed to sneak in a first reading of my crazy flying sushi duel poem from SingPoWriMo '16 as a sample of the madness that goes down.
People are beginning to pay attention to the poetry we have at home - or at least journalists are. Stay tuned for more developments and the launch of... deng deng deng... SING LIT STATION!
POETRY. IS. COMING.
No energy to write about it yet, but here's a bunch of links from mainstream/alternative/student media - the movement is gaining traction!
"Book-ends", Lee Jianxuan, The Straits Times, 3 Apr 2016
"Singapore poetry in motion", Daryl Chin, The Straits Times, 1 May 2016
"Thirty Days, Thirty Poems", Shao Kai Chng, Kent Ridge Common, 1 May 2016
"This interactive MRT map features a poem for every individual MRT station", Thet Nyi Nyi, mothership.com, 28 Apr 2016
"Spend Monday clicking through this poetry map of the Singapore MRT", Mrigaa Sethi, SG.Asia-City.com, 25 Apr 2016
in lieu of resolutions - my literary workplan for the year and beyond.
i think i'm going to have to cut back on the travel, and to some degree on the school workshops - i'm not in WGR this year, but in all honesty i need a break. tentmaking, actual writing, and outreach - one has got to give. last year it was actual writing. this year it's gonna have to be outreach.
project SPWM 3 - Apr 16
project SPWMANTHO 3 - Q3 16
project WORKSHOPS (WAVE 6) - Q3 16
project POETRYSG (WAVE 2) - Q2 16
project IPSTER - Weekly
project ALWMA - Q2 16
project SINGLITSTATION - Jul 16
project UNFREE - Q3-4 16
project 10SB - Q3-4 16
project BOOTCAMP 2 (Prose) - Q4 16
in the works:
project SINGPROWRIMO - late 16 / early 17?
project PROSESG - 17-18?
project SINGLITDAY - 18?
project INSTABLR - late 16 / early 17?
project SNAPVINE - late 17
project MACHINA - early 17
project CROSSOVER (PHASE 2) - mid 17
project PISANGCANTOS - mid-late 17
project BEAUTOPIA - 18
project DRAGON GATE - 18
recap of 2015
project BOOTCAMP 1 - Mar
project SPWM 2 - Apr
project WORKSHOPS (WAVE 5) - May
project IPSTER - Aug - current
project $20ANDJUSTICE - Oct - current
project CROSSOVER (PHASE 1) - Aug - Nov
project SONNETS+ - Nov
project SPWMANTHO 2 - Nov
project POETRYSG (WAVE 1) - Nov
a singaporean poet with an unhealthy addiction to metrical forms.
you can buy any of my titles at:
- booksactually (9 yong siak st)
- online here (they deliver internationally). the buylinks are below:
all content copyright of joshua ip 2012