Right of the Soil

Shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize for Poetry 2020

Read 4 poems from Right of the Soil →

The Latin phrase, jus soli (“right of the soil”), is an unconditional right of a person born within the territory of a country to be conferred citizenship. Singapore’s nationality law is based on jus sanguinis (“right of blood”, in which citizenship is determined by that of one or both parents) and a modified form of jus soli (with at least one Singaporean parent).

A two-time Singapore Literature Prize winner, Yong Shu Hoong contemplates how a person is invariably bound to the land on which he first sets foot. These poems address topics like belongingness and birthright by exploring the intermingling of the four fundamental elements of air, water, fire and earth.

Expanded from a 2016 chapbook published a year after the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence, this book also attempts to sharpen Yong’s understanding of his relationship with his homeland. A new sequence of poems then plunges readers into Hell, reimagined as Singapore’s third integrated resort that opens underground in the centennial year of 2065, with its concepts inspired by Haw Par Villa’s main attraction, the 10 Courts of Hell.  

Beyond our earthly lives, is it soil – or another element or dimension – that will assert its right to claim us?     


Right of the Soil

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Yong Shu Hoong