The Orchid Folios

Shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize (Poetry 2022) 

“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.

Read poems from The Orchid Folios →


The Orchid Folios

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“A fertile and kaleidoscopic meditation on hegemonic mythmaking.” —Amanda Lee Koe, Author of Delayed Rays of a Star

“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

"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


Mok Zining