Shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize for Poetry 2020

is a bilingual book of poetry in which poems in Singlish occupy one side of the book, and poems in English on the other. Conventionally such a book functions as a way for a person to learn a new language, but it remains to be seen if translation has successfully occurred, or if the book even intends to teach any reader how to speak either language. Instead, if poetry is intense attention to language, then this book can be considered to be the product of such scrutiny on the languages the book is written in.

Read poems from parsetreeforestfire →
Listen to Hamid read the section "Fire" →




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“To read this collection is to hear poetry engaged in restless self-interrogation: What am I? Why do I exist? And what can I do? Hamid Roslan has created experiments that put language to the test - we witness it stretched, stressed, recombined and shattered. The effect is exhilarating: this is revelatory poetry produced when language is brought to a crisis. An original, unmissable voice.” —Alfian Sa’at, author of The Invisible Manuscript

“‘We poets knock upon Silence for an answering Music.’ So goes the 3rd century line attributed to Lu Ji. When history’s elisions and silenced orators come knocking, Hamid Roslan’s singular debut answers with a never-before-heard music. parsetreeforestfire is borne from the space between bifurcation. Much like the Singapore he sings of, this bard’s tongue contains multitudes: languages, cadences, centuries, and source texts. Roslan performs a gripping interrogation of sanctioned speech and the legacies of colonialism (the secret muzzling of the speaker) without sacrificing the sensual world, the embodied contradictions, or his sense of humor. What a thrill! By turns mournful, slapstick, cerebral, wry, and searching, parsetreeforestfire is an arresting collection; one I know I will return to in years to come.” —Lisa Wells, author of The Fix

“‘now I speak up,’ declares Hamid Roslan in the opening salvo of parsetreeforestfire, and what a sonic thrill this stew of tongues is. Half-familiar phrases are shredded and reconstituted, stitched with irreverence and Calvino-esque imagination, their bolts and nuts exposed and highlighted like pipes of Centre Georges Pompidou. And so, we savour the poet’s own sense in non-sense, scanning formats and templates, footnotes and annotations, to arrive at a point where... impossible is nothing.” —Yeow Kai Chai, author of Pretend I’m Not Here

“Due to unforeseen circumstances, there arises a book like parsetreeforestfire which chooses to construct itself out of the edges language makes when it chooses to wager against its own best interests. To stake a claim not out of certainty but out of discontent, to speak against the grain of reason, to cut the line where it might bite, and to sing in spite of. This book of poems is really a manual for how to assemble a language from that space of knowing that much of what we wish to say is probably lost in translation anyway—and yet there is every reason to continue to want to speak to each other. I have long suspected that the best way to read Hamid is out loud with one ear covered with a finger and with one’s mouth either with grit teeth or wide open in a grin. Welcome to the music of being skeptical of one’s purported certainties: self, geography, voice. There is every reason to be baffled, moved, even beautifully offended by these poems. What a powerful debut this is!” —Lawrence Lacambra Ypil, author of The Experiment of the Tropics


Hamid Roslan