Sunday, November 04, 2007

Forthcoming Anthology of Poetry from Singapore and Australia

Alvin Pang and John Kinsella are co-editing an anthology of poetry from both countries. It is a pairing of an earlier upstart with a later upstart, both so vitally connected to Great Britain. The anthology also makes a south-east asian kind of sense, since English is the lingua franca in both countries, crucial to the formation of national and regional identity in a way different from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, or even the Philippines. A third way of reading this anthology is to look at it as island literature, and look for links to the chain of other island literatures, from Hawaii, the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Japan etc.

Of more immediate interest to me, however, is how Singaporean poetry stacks up against the older and more established Australian bookpile. While Kinsella will presumably be selecting from a canon, Pang will be building one. Yes, there have been earlier anthologies of Singaporean poetry in English, but none put together under the pressure of measuring up to the world, and so this anthology will own a special authority. I have a selfish stake in this authority and this measurement, since I have five poems in the anthology: "Blowjob," "Mermen," "Brother," and two sonnets from Payday Loans.

In Singapore, the anthology will be launched at the annual Singapore Writers Festival (Dec 1 -9, 2007). Billed as one of the few truly multilingual literary festivals in the world, it will feature not only English writers, but also Malay, Chinese and Tamil.

1 comment:

alf said...

Hi JL

I'm not sure that Singapore doesn't have a canon already -- one might argue we have too much of a narrow canon.

But I am certainly interested in expanding the idea of the canon (a concept I don't really subscribe to, but even if I did it's certainly time to update the namelist).

You've got it absolutely right that one of the enterprises is to stack us up against the world (or at least, Australia, with a strong tradition). I'm really v excited about the prospect, because I think we have interesting material in here.

It'll be a good read, promise.