Featuring new work from Alfian Sa’at, Christine Chia and Yong Shu Hoong, Some Say, A Tapir recaptures the year 1299 of Singapore’s history. The collection delves into stories—both living and legend—of peoples, places and promises. Through the wisps, the myths and the unheard voices, these poems revisit the uncertain past, breathing life into an unsuspecting future.
Hard Truths To Keep Sang Nila Going by Alfian Sa'at
This poem cycle will examine the story of Sri Tri Buana as it is documented in the Sulalatus Salatin, the Genealogy of Kings, which has been often referred to in Orientalist scholarship as the ‘Malay Annals’. At its core will be an exploration of how the veracity of the Sulalatus Salatin has been doubted by many commentators who remark on its fantastical elements. For example, there is a tendency to cite from zoological data to throw a skeptical light on the Sulalatus Salatin’s account of Sang Nila sighting a lion: ‘there are no lions in this part of the world, so the account is false’. This is in spite of the fact that many scholars have stressed that the vision of a lion—an animal of similar divine provenance as the naga or garuda—was symbolic of the mandate of divine kingship. Working from this epistemic tension between empirical facticity and a metaphorical or allegorical mode of writing, the poem cycle will seek to interrogate various ‘truth claims’ in the manuscript and stage a generative conflict between literalism and mythmaking.
If you cannot marry for love, marry for silver by Christine Chia
These four poems will use the voices of two different characters of that period: Wan Sri Benian, or Queen Sakidar Shah, adoptive mother and mother-in-law to Sri Tri Buana, and a Chinese sailor abandoned in Borneo in 1292 when he fell sick—he eventually drifted to Singapore and settled there. These poems will show how people at all levels of society turn difficult and dangerous situations into blessings, as seen in how Wan Sri Benian contains the threat of a potential male usurper in Sri Tri Buana by converting him into a son-in-law, and how the Chinese sailor makes the best of being forsaken in a strange land by marrying a native woman and creating his own family.
Blunt Objects by Yong Shu Hoong
American author Ursula K. Le Guin, in ‘The Author of the Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics’, contemplates if there will come a time, with advances in research and technology, when “the first geolinguist, who, ignoring the delicate, transient lyrics of the lichen, will read beneath it the still less communicative, still more passive, wholly atemporal, cold, volcanic poetry of the rocks: each one a word spoken, how long ago, by the earth itself, in the immense solitude, the immenser community, of space.” Extrapolating from such an idea, these poems imagine how relics from the past—whether man-made or forged by nature—could inform us of the truths behind historical events and long-held mysteries when their silence is unlocked. Blending historical enquiry and fantasy, the language of poetry is deployed in an attempt to convey the unspeakable words, sounds, music and emotions trapped within the inanimate. But when the hidden soundtrack and memories are excavated, can they be trusted to clarify what we want to find out about our past?
About the Authors
Alfian Sa’at is a Resident Playwright with W!LD RICE. His published works include three collections of poetry, One Fierce Hour, A History of Amnesia and The Invisible Manuscript, a collection of short stories, Corridor, a collection of flash fiction, Malay Sketches, and two collections of plays—Collected Plays One and Collected Plays Two, and the published play Cooling-Off Day.
Christine Chia is the author of The Law of Second Marriages and a sequel, Separation: a history. She was a writer-in-residence at Toji Cultural Center, South Korea in 2016 and also co-edited the groundbreaking anthologies, A Luxury We Cannot Afford, A Luxury We Must Afford and Lines Spark Code. She has contributed to Washington Square Review, Prairie Schooner, Brooklyn Poets Anthology and the W!LD RICE play, Another Country.
Yoong Shu Hoong
Yong Shu Hoong has authored six poetry collections, including Frottage (2005) and The Viewing Party (2013), which both won the Singapore Literature Prize, and the latest, Right of the Soil (2018). His poems and short stories have been published in literary journals like Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and Asia Literary Review (Hong Kong), and anthologies like Language for a New Century (W.W. Norton, 2008). He has edited anthologies like Passages: Stories of Unspoken Journeys (2013) and Here Now There After (2017). He is one of the four co-authors of The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (2015) and Lost Bodies: Poems Between Portugal and Home (2016).
About the Artists
Nurul Syafiqah is a multidisciplinary graphic designer and illustrator based in Singapore who values symbols, metaphors and hidden meanings. She is happy to roam her mental landscape of thoughts, emotions, and fantasies for hours on end. She is naturally drawn to expressing her inner world through literary pursuits and visual arts. She likes to infuse her everyday life with the wonder and beauty of the imagination. With a depth of sensitivity and empathy, Syafiqah is also interested in finding methods to allow her to give voices to universal human emotions in order to touch people on a profound level.
Chen Shitong is a local printmaker who loves problem-solving. He’s the founder of Pulp Editions, a printmaking workshop that collaborates with the artist to create works of art on paper. www.puplededitions.com
Marie Toh is an illustrator from Singapore, currently based in London. She works with both digital and traditional mediums, such as embroidery and printmaking. She enjoys finding beauty in everything—from the mundane to the horrible—adding subtle surreal touches to give a sense of mystery and a dreamlike state in her works.
She has worked with The Projector, Anticipate Pictures, Epigram, Lomography, Penguin Random House, Expedia, Singapore Tatler and more. www.marietoh.com
She also has an unhealthy obsession with hair, films and meme-worthy cats.
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ISBN: 978-981-14-1817-4 (e-book)