Some Say, A Tapir

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?



Some Say, A Tapir

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Alfian Sa’at, Christine Chia, Yong Shu Hoong


Nurul Syafiqah, Chen Shitong, Marie Toh