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A Perched Privacy

Weekly column written for Singapore Unbound newsletter. Sign up here.

Last week I was packing up my office stuff in preparation for a move. My school is opening an extension across the road. Unlike the lower school and some other departments, which are moving into the new building, the English Department is only moving from one floor to another in the old building, but still I will miss the tiny office where I have worked for the last 14 years. I will miss the view of the East River and the passing boats.

All moves, big and small, involve complicated feelings. This Sunday I'm flying back to Singapore on my annual visit, back to the country I thought I had left behind in order to come out as a poet and a gay man in NYC. I have made a home of New York, but a made home is not the same as homemade. Those of us who flew away from our birthplace in search of transcendence, whether in art or love, often find ourselves searching for a hearth as well in our adopted city.

This was true of H…

More Than One Kind of People Movement

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On Sunday more than a million Hong Kongers took to the streets to protest against the passing of a bill that will extradite suspected criminals to China for the first time. The protesters suspect that the bill will be used to target political dissent and so accelerate the erosion of their civil liberties. Pictures of the protest march moved many Singaporean on-line commentators to praise Hong Kongers for their love of their freedoms and to wish that Singaporeans would be just as active and passionate about theirs.

Faced with government intransigence over the extradition bill, Hong Kongers mounted a second, smaller, protest on Wednesday, which was met by police tear gas and rubber bullets. 72 people had been hospitalized by the end of the day. Together with other civil-rights organizations, Singapore Unbound condemns the use of excessive force by the government to suppress a people movement. As expected, the Hong Ko…

Chafing against Anonymity

The Wife (2017) threw GH for a loop—who is the real talent in the family, and who the public face, the domestic help merely. At the beginning of our relationship, he had no doubt about who was who, but things have changed in nine years. It's hard to grow old, and harder still to feel useless, and overshadowed. He couldn't understand why the wife, played brilliantly by Glenn Close, would stay with the husband, played equally brilliantly by Jonathan Pryce. Why didn't she strike out on her own as a writer? Why didn't she strike against the gender bias of her time against women writers?

In an interview included in the DVD, Glenn Close said that she understood the character of Joan Castleman when she understood why she stayed with Joe. She did not say why.

My guess: love first, together with the willing subjugation of oneself to the beloved; then the knowledge of being the real power behind the scenes, of being the kingmaker, rather than the king, as the character admitted …

Fair Play

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Last Friday, Taiwan's parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage, a first for Asia. In doing so, it met the deadline imposed by the constitutional court, which struck down the Civil Code's definition of marriage as exclusively between a man and woman in 2017. Singapore Unbound salutes all the Taiwanese LGBTQ activists and allies, and rejoices with all Taiwanese, both LGBTQ and not. The change is not just for a sexual minority but for everyone, because it enhances democratic ideas, freedoms, and rights for all.

Over in Singapore, the annual LGBTQ rally called Pink Dot announced its campaign theme for this year, its eleventh. It urges all Singaporeans to take a stand #AgainstDiscrimination. To inform the general public of the real harm inflicted on LGBTQ people in school, at home, and at the workplace, members of the LGBTQ community are asked to take to social media to share their experiences of being discriminat…

The Blue Estuaries

The Blue Estuaries: Poems 1923-1968 by Louise Bogan

I found one truly memorable poem in the collection, a sharp observation transformed by a peculiar sensibility, a formula advocated elsewhere in the book but rarely followed. Even in this instance, the poem would have been better served if the last line has been removed.

Roman Fountain

Up from the bronze, I saw
Water without a flaw
Rush to its rest in air,
Reach to its rest, and fall.

Bronze of the blackest shade,
An element man-made,
Shaping upright the bare
Clear gouts of water in air.

O, as with arm and hammer,
Still it is good to strive
To beat out the image whole,
To echo the shout and stammer
When full-gushed waters, alive,
Strike on the fountain's bowl
After the air of summer.

Team Effort

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Gaudy Boy, our imprint for publishing Asian voices, has been from the start a team effort. Our Managing Editor Kimberley Lim was instrumental in setting up operations in 2018. We were soon joined by Judy Luo as an editorial intern. With her sharp literary intelligence, Judy has been so valuable in assessing new manuscripts that we are over the moon that she has accepted the role of Assistant Editor, beginning yesterday. Last summer Jia Sing Chu came on board as a publicity intern. You have seen her thoughtful and beautiful social media posts promoting the press and our books. We are absolutely delighted that she is undertaking a bigger role as our new Assistant Publicity Director. Congratulations, Judy and Chu!

We are sad to bid farewell to Kathryn Monaco, our Marketing Director. Her expanded duties in her day job now demand her whole attention. Kathryn spearheaded our Instagram outreach, putting our books in the ha…

The Other Face of Violence

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When I expressed interest in attending a Jewish service, a kind friend brought me to the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, which he has visited a number of times, not for worship (he is an atheist), but for the beauty of the Hebrew language sung and chanted, the sounds of his childhood. Founded in 1973 by twelve gay Jewish men, CBST describes itself as the world's largest LGBT synagogue. There I was last Friday, wearing my rainbow-colored kippah, tapping my foot to the catchy music, and trying hard to follow the service in English. I must admit that in the midst of the worshipful atmosphere, a fleeting thought went through my mind: what if a gunman should burst in and shoot up the sanctuary?

The rising tide of anti-semitism and homophobia in America made such a thought not altogether fanciful. The Poway shooting, which took place less than a week ago, must have been on the minds of the CBST congregation. The attack…