The Orchid Folios by Mok Zining front cover
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The Orchid Folios

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by Mok Zining

Read poems from The Orchid Folios →


“When you take an orchid out of its pot, you must first loosen the roots’ hold on the soil. Late last evening as I unravelled the braids of the shattered phalaenopsis, I saw how the ends were white and shrivelled from neglect. You have to do it gentlyit’s like combing hair. I remember Mum’s fingers running through mine, and mine through hers, until the final months when all of it started to fall.”

A pot shatters. An arrangement falls apart. A florist finds herself amidst the scattered leaves of history. At once a poetry collection and a documentary novella, The Orchid Folios reimagines the orchid as a living, breathing document of history: a history that enmeshes the personal, colonial, linguistic, and biotechnological with the Vanda Miss Joaquim, the symbol of Singapore’s postcolonial hybridity. While the Orchid has shaped the fantastical narratives that govern our multiracial City in a Garden, it continues to shape-shift and bloom on its own terms, challenging us to imagine a decolonised Singapore. This is the organism at the heart of The Orchid Folios—by turns stark and unruly, documenting and challenging the narratives that are the roots of our national consciousness.

About the author

Mok Zining is obsessed with random things: orchids, arabesques, sand. Her work has appeared in The Cincinnati Review, The Rumpus and Witness Magazine, among others. The Orchid Folios will be her first published book. Currently, she is working towards an MFA at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she teaches creative writing. She spends most of her free time dancing.


“A fertile and kaleidoscopic meditation on hegemonic mythmaking.”

—Amanda Lee Koe, Author of Delayed Rays of a Star

“The orchid here is no mere motif. In its tropic desire and ambition, it achieves such compelling agency. This lyric authority is self-aware, a florid assemblage of texts that decentre, yet return to an appreciable heart. This heart is where Mok Zining’s collection is at, something alluring yet elusive, palpable yet only proffered in wisps, in whispers. What is being named, and what metaphors take root, take flight? In how cultivated its constituents remain, this very chic collection swells into a resplendent flourish. What a beautiful, entrancing strangeness!”

—Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, Winner of the Singapore Literature Prize 2016 (Poetry)

“With a voice both cutting and considered in its articulation, Mok intertwines technical floristry with lyric sentiment, then wields it to pry at questions of language, society and the body. Mapping personal disparagements and devastations onto a painstakingly researched, multitextual geography, she reveals a Singapore narrative as engineered as a commercial orchid. Like the origin of the Vanda Miss Joaquim, The Orchid Folios wrestles with uneasy histories, only to pivot into unexpected beauty.”

—Marylyn Tan, Winner of the Singapore Literature Prize 2020 (Poetry)

“Mok Zining’s breathtaking, debut collection The Orchid Folios almost defies description. It is a collage of disparate information; a book of lyric poems; a gathering of official documents and letters, interspersed with monologues of nameless women and florists; an informative guide to the history of orchids in Singapore, and includes a list of orchids “named after foreign dignitaries.” The Orchid Folios is dazzling, precise, sharp, playful, poignant, and engaging. Most importantly, it is a signal event marking the presence of a brilliant young writer who addresses global culture and the upside-down world we live in.”

—John Yau, 2018 recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize

An evocative book of intersections and entanglements about Singapore history and culture, done in charming and skeptical poems. Mok Zining’s The Orchid Folios centers on multiple, oblique stories about the national flower, colonial politics, policy and meanings. The work is serial, documentary and notational. The drama of orchids, their beauty, hybridity, and uses in cosmetics all together create allusive allegories, mingling cosmopolitanisms with backstories.”

—Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Author of Drafts

"The whole collection centres on questions of identity and the growth – both physical and spiritual – of the orchid, the individual, and the nation. All of this is what makes this book such an engaging exploration of the mixed characteristics of being a citizen of Singapore, capturing the city’s vibrancy, resilience, and hybridity." 

—Yue Wang, Wasafiri Magazine

    • • •

    ISBN: 978-981-14-4294-0 (paperback) | 978-981-14-7165-0 (e-book)
    Published: 2020
    Dimension: 150mm x 200mm
    Pages: 144
    Format: Paperback



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