Blog

Orpheus Sings the Situation

Any poetics begins by becoming aware of its situation. Here, situation is the relationship between an individual poet (or small group of poets) and his or her or their surroundings, natural, social, or linguistic. The individual in context—the totality of human life, therefore—provides the ground upon which poetry situates itself, and only when one is aware of the stakes involved can one realise the importance and difficulty of sketching a poetics. By attempting so, I show how the figure of Orpheus might help postcolonial writers better understand their situation.

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Angeline Yap: Hearing by Looking

I want to discuss a specific aspect of Angeline Yap’s poetics—the vexed relationship between sight and sound. In many poems her speakers blind and silence themselves in order to perceive a deeper presence; at the same time, poetry is inescapably sensuous. Yap’s speakers gesture towards an impossible ideal, one that, it seems, they go on striving towards anyhow.

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Hao Guang Tse
Real Work

Singaporeans, as far as the data shows, work the longest hours in the world. When meeting someone for the first time, it is almost a courtesy for them to ask what I work as, which means, what do I do to afford to live in this place. Statistics will never tell, and I am never asked, instead, what I work for, which means, to what larger purpose are all my efforts directed?

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Hao Guang Tse
Satire and Vulnerability in Goh Sin Tub’s Poetry

Goh Sin Tub, far better known in literary circles for his fiction, also wrote occasional poetry, gathered in the aptly-named Moments in a Singapore Life (1993). Edwin Thumboo explains in his foreword to the book that these were “written over a life-time that has to date spanned the Japanese Occupation and the history of our nation”

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Hao Guang Tse
Cécile Parrish’s Potential

Often “potential” damns with faint praise. In this case, it laments. Cécile Parrish’s only and posthumous Poems (1966) begins a struggle to live between cultures and worlds, containing pieces held in tension between reality and fantasy, the ‘West’ and the ‘East,’ the child and the adult. If she had lived longer and written more, her influence on Singapore letters and beyond would have been undoubtedly felt.

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Hao Guang Tse