tl;dr - lots of things happened.
30 Oct - Day 1 - a furious rush down to check out the launch of itinerant bard, Koh Jee Leong's critically acclaimed Steep Tea. This event was at Booktique, and clashed with the opening ceremony of SWF, necessitating some vehicular scrambling, ferry service duties, and a mad rush to and fro via the carpark of old parliament house - i.e. the whole of SWF in a microcosm. i missed the ceremony part of the ceremony but arrived in time for free food. being late, i hung out with new friend michael farrell and some of the poetry.sg / ISD crew in the awkward kids / cool kids corner outside the bookstore and in a mini alley between the temporary storage thingy and the wall. it was airconditioned and there were seats but it was a mini alley and people kept mistaking it for the way to the toilet. after i while i wandered off to the screening room and found utter head trips screening and tripped out a bit.
31 Oct - Day 2 - also known as the day of the avocado. thanks to the generosity of dr chen deah chien, a tub of premium avocado matcha green tea ice cream was gifted to singpowrimo. sounded simple enough - sell ice cream on a hot day, all proceeds go to singpowrimo. we just needed to stump up manpower - our very generous volunteers bernice and chloe. however, there was one piddly detail - the ice creams were $15 a tub. wehhhh. and we weren't allowed to sell them any cheaper. thanks to the generosity of swf passersby, we did make a few hundred dollars, which we are very grateful for - but i kind of feel we could have sold out the whole tub if we had just priced it a tad cheaper.
i wandered in and out of sessions from the morning, having to keep an eye on the ice cream - the standout was "Getting Published Overseas" with Toh Hsien Min, Koh Jee Leong and Alvin Pang - you'd be hard pressed to find a better qualified panel in Singapore. Lots of good banter and questioning on the Singapore scene, and its inwardlookingness and outwardlookingness.
The afternoon also saw the launch of Hao Guang and David's virgin collections - Deeds of Light and For The End Comes reaching, collectively forming the first releases from the Ten Year Series imprint of Math Paper Press. I had fun hosting the panel - both of the guys are good readers and keen observers of the human condition, and Hao Guang's scholarly calm is an interesting foil to David who basically just goes rogue every few minutes into a splutter of obscenities / perversion / wtf are you talking about.
I was glad to see the room stacked to capacity for the two young poets. (because it only gets harder from here. hurhurhuhurhurr.)
The day ended with the 2nd Sing Lit Town Hall, convened hastily in the wake of NAC's Lit Arts Masterplan consultation sessions. A few of us bemoaned that the consultation sessions held a month prior were mainly occupied by the (good) NAC brief, and left effectively 15 minutes for consultation (of the 20-30 lit arts stakeholders invited). So we put together our own self-consultation town halls, to allow us to bellyache - and hopefully get some ground-up initiatives off the ground. This one was well attended, and had useful contributions from the NAC officers present (thanks May and Puay Shian!) as well as international consultants around by way of the festival.
We finally adjourned to Lau Pa Sat to wash down the bellyaching with bellyfilling - sadly, this plus the townhall meant that we missed the Epic International Poetry Night at the Gallery, which is always great fun. I commemorate this event with an out-of-focus photo, because tired.
1 Nov - Day 3 - kicked off early at 10am with Things Not To Ask A Writer in the Chamber with Adeline Foo and Shamini Flint, hosted by Ian Chung. As can be observed from the photo, the early hour destroyed Adeline, and Shamini looked out to kill before her morning coffee... but we survived. There was a particularly offensive uncle who in the Q&A posed a question that went something like - "So I hear that all of you have failed in your various careers, which is why you became a writer, unlike me - I have been very successful in my career. Now I am approaching retirement, so I am thinking that being a writer sounds like a very easy and enjoyable life..." and somewhere around there I lost the question. I was waiting for Shamini to obliterate him with lawyerly hellfire, but I found out later that she misunderstood the question because it was so absurd. I responded to him obliquely, as I usually do, with poetry.
After that SWF bought lunch at Asian Market Cafe at Raffles City, which is always nice. Got to meet an interesting mix of local and international writers, from comic artist Lefty Kam to festival board chair Philip Jeyaratnam to the editor Ravi Shankar - of course after that I had to pop down to the launch of UNION, edited by Ravi and Alvin Pang. It is literally the literary phonebook.
the UNION launch was 50% contributors, which is no rap on it at all, its huge. lots of people were going around trying to get each other to sign. I circulated my copy and tried to get people to sign with pictures, to moderate success.
Toh Hsien Min followed the brief (see left).
It was also very nice to see rare appearances by Chandran Nair (who many of us had never met before), Dr Lee Tzu Pheng, and Ms Ho Poh Fun. Dr Lee was a former mentor, and Ms Ho anchored the Creative Writing Club back in RJ when I did a stint as chair - I was able to finally pass them hardcopies of my books - sonnets from the singlish for Ms Ho, and a luxury we cannot afford for Dr Lee.
last event of the day was the Benz (Best New Singaporean Short Stories) Volume 2 and Lontar Volume 4 Launch. I think it's a great idea to brand something "Best New Singaporean" anything - of course tongue ironically in cheek, Singapore being Singapore - and then completely practically too, because I assume it will sell. how do you introduce an average Singaporean to something new? sell them the "Best New Singaporean" anything. I'm totally going to appropriate that title for poetry some day. (heads up Jason!)
2 Nov - Day 4 - A weekday, so only one event. The Creative Arts Programme's 25th anniversary party. While the lineup was a refreshing change from the usual parade of yellow middle-class yuppie dudes (or well, just dudes) - i was really disappointed with the event. 20+ people showed up, a good 30-40% of who were mentors and event organisers. the rest looked like recent participants. where was the alumni? where was everyone older than 20 and younger than 40 - ie the bulk of CAP's "product"? besides Qianxi, Terence Heng and me - there was nary a published CAP alum in sight. the CAPpers I contacted afterwards had no idea the event happened.
shocking, and speaks to the growing irrelevance of a quarter-century-old programme. the sentimental bit of me immediately thought, hell, i should organise a proper silver jubilee party for CAP and chase all the old friends out of the woodworks. but then realitycheck set in and i put that very much on the backburner. if there is enough enthusiasm for that particular community, i don't need to be the one to make it happen, given that i was never socially central to CAP - it was very much a pre- learning-to-deal-with-other-people-adequately stage of my life.
3 Nov - Day 5 - ISD sweeps Golden Point Awards! The English Poetry category was dominated by Daryl Lim, David Wong, and Amanda Chong, all of whom are SingPoWriMo participants, members of the Image-Symbol Department, and alumni of the Manuscript Bootcamp. If you have no idea what any of this is, check out Ten Year Series where everything will be explained. Not succinctly.
I was also allowed into the room to videograph all this because honorable mention, chinese poetry. and this isn't the last that GPA will hear of me - i'm going to keep plugging away at the non-english languages because cross-pollination - challenge or opportunity - can only be a good thing for the scene. if we're going to keep saying we have four official languages and market ourselves as a bilingual nation then our writers should lead by example.
in lieu of celebration, most of the team adjourned back to Banana Arts Center - to pull a latenighter ironing out all the kinks (well, most of the kinks) for the launch of poetry.sg the next day!
4 Nov - Day 6 - the big one! a huge double launch.
singpowrimo 2015: the anthology, the second in its series, captures the best of the 30 days of madness of april 2015, the second Singapore Poetry Writing Month. partially crowdfunded through a successful indiegogo campaign, the anthology gathers 157 poems culled from a selection of the 1300 writers (now 1400++) in the facebook group. this edition was edited by daryl yam, jennifer anne champion, and me.
if you want to read the freshest, liveliest voices in the sg english poetry scene - there's no better place to start. a sprinkling of these new talents in the latest singpowrimo-spawned workshop group: [insert cool name here] including Ruth Tang, Rodrigo de la Pena Jr, and Rohan Naidu entertained the packed audience, and outgoing editor of the previous volume, Ann Ang, brought the first half of the launch to a close.
what can I say about this all-star team? ISD, bootcamp, whatchamacallit - they picked up poetry.sg where jen crawford, alvin and jee leong left off with the Singapore Poetry Archive (SPARK) and finally made it happen - a huge database of 50 poets, featuring not just bios and biblios and selected poems, but 62,579 words of individualised critical commentary, and 81 videos of them reading their work. this is just the beginning - the team is committed for a year to continue growing the database, and let's see what happens if NAC renews our funding - perhaps 4 languages, or even other genres are on the cards.
my main job for this project is to throw money at them and watch good shit happen. please throw money at me so i can throw more at them.
5 Nov - Day 7 - and on the seventh day, we rested.
6 Nov - Day 8 - and on the eighth day, i continued to rest, instead of going to the 12-hour Attitude Problem madness allnighter curated by Huzir Sulaiman, much to my chagrin. i really hope they re-stage it, on a proper weekend, possibly at a better acoustic venue, during daylight hours, because i am no longer young.
7 Nov - Day 9 - after the exertions of the first week, i was able to just go to events and listen for a change. caught Gwee Li Sui and smart ang mohs talking about lit prizes in the morning; hopped over to Suntec (weird venue) to see an eclectic troika of Ho Kwon Ping, Bertha Henson and Pooja Nansi trade diverse but optimistic views on our national future in "Imagine Singapore"; chionged back to TAH, tompanging newfound friend agustinus wibowo (who is my latest facebook headworm - he keeps posting ministories on his travels that just make me pause and listen) and NAC friends; hopped into the end of a session on lit reviews with Yong Shu Hoong, Stephanie Ye, Aaron Lee, O Thiam Chin and Jeremy Tiang - where I snuck in a question on whether QLRS should get with the times and embed facebook comments, heh heh; then had my mind blown in a session in The Chamber with the mad, mad Christian Bök going Interstellar.... which broke poor Hao Guang (see right).
I ended the day with a bit of poetry reading - Singapura Campur at the Gallery, with a big pile of readers literally pulled out of a hat by enthusiastic moderator Khoo Sim Eng: Kelvin Tan, Shelley Bryant, Yeo Wei Wei, Jerrold Yam, Wong Su Ann, Divya Victor, Audrey Chin, and Marc Nair. I got the closing slot because I told Sim Eng I needed time to put together something special.
I did a short set of new sonnets from sonnets from the singlish upsized edition - making this the first time and first place I'd read out anything from the half old, half new book, double the size of the previous sonnets from the singlish (which is now available free and open sourcey right here on this website.. but you'll have to buy the new one.)
but the special bit was a parlour trick that i regularly pull off - i.e. the summary poem, this time an empat perkataan. hwa chong has seen me do this a few times at YAWP(?) and it always brings joy, but it kind of hurts my head.
8 Nov - Day 10 - the final day kicked off with a workshop from the Bökster himself, where he again blew our minds with unreadable undiscoverable unconscionable conceptual poems of different shapes and sizes and flavors. (anagrams are one area i feel like exploring sometime in the not-so-immediate future.)
but for all of the flash and pizzazz, he also put together a nice tight mini-package on basic poetic craft that outdid anything the much more highly-qualified (one would think) paul muldoon gave us last year (basically a ton of estoric rambliness and a round of immaculate corpse, for goodness' sake). not just a conceptualist, but also good strong basics - i'll be using his frame the next time i teach poetry for sure.
we then brought him to eat yong tau foo at funan (in his suit) because he looked hungry. (and promised to bring him to eat chicken rice + sip singapore slings some other time, which did indeed happen on a later date.)
coming back at The Arts House after yong tau foo, i realised i'd missed the gig of friends, but managed to catch up with them just after - the HubbaBubbas - Ryan, Stephanie and Mervyn, a talented post-acoustic trio merging big voice, slick guitar, tight harmonies and rocking vocal percussion into a smooth, folksy sound. (being an a capella alum i am of course a fan. ) new SWF under yeow kai chai is definitely bringing in new faces and new styles - i'm looking forward to their EP next year, and i got to flog them my book too, so #supportlocal and hurrahs all round.
more wandering around the festival - saw the very smart Ranjit Hoskote cross swords with our own Paul Tan, peeked into the ineffable Desmond Kon's session with the Bökster, and then off into the Chamber for my first crack at the Closing Debate! i got the lucky first spot, which means i got to shut off completely once my speech was done without needing to activate my brain for rebuttals or whatnot. my team of Vernetta "is Denise" Lopez, the fab Deb Emmanuel and Adrian "The Teenage Textbook" Tan put up a logical, practical and clear-minded fight in proposing that Singaporeans are Not Dreamers.... but of course, in a writers' festival, the opposition led by Onietta Effendi, Hirzi Zulkiflie, Shamini Flint and Gwee Li Sui crushed us mercilessly. (I blame Hirzi's five million fans who managed to pack themselves into the over-capacity Chamber.) but the verbal barbs flew fast and furious, the bad jokes and horrible puns (chiefly Adrian and Gwee) hazed up the Old Parliament, and somewhere out there, an old man turned in his grave... because the house declared that Singaporeans are Dreamers! IT IS FINISHED!
#endSWF #collapse #nomoretill2016
a singaporean poet with an unhealthy addiction to metrical forms.
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