Singapore Symposium and Haiku

Yesterday's Singapore Symposium was an experiment and a gambit. To host speakers from the different fields of academia, the arts, and social work, with their different concerns and languages, was to take a risk. I think the bet paid off handsomely. Adeline Koh's work on digitally archiving "Chinese Englishmen" provides a necessary counterbalance to the current focus on the major Victorian authors, all white, mostly men. Listening to Jini Kim Watson, I was struck by how many countries in the world aspire to build modern cities like Singapore and so replicate its social control and public order. E. K. Tan spoke about the politics of using dialect in Singapore's Sinophone literature. I especially enjoyed his close look at xinyao (Singapore ballads) and Kuo Pao Kun's play "Mama Looking for Her Cat."

The artists came on next and spoke passionately about why they write plays, make ceramic works, and compose music. Damon Chua, Hong-Ling Wee, and Eli Tyler, you were so inspiring! So were Kavitha and Shahrin, who spoke about making dance with children with special needs.

In the evening, the writers took to the stage. I read from Steep Tea and then introduced the other authors. Amanda Lee Koe read a searing story about a woman who found herself loveless in old age. Jeremy Tiang's story about a young woman who decides to turn vegetarian rang true in its every wonderful turn of phrase. Yen Yen Woo and Colin Goh did a very Singaporean thing and gave us all a test - on their Dimsum Warriors comics and on Singlish. I failed the test but laughed very hard.

During the Q&A afterwards, someone from the audience asked about the impact of New York on our work. Colin's answer stuck with me: in New York, you don't have to be just one thing - lawyer, teacher or dentist - but you can be many things, an actor-waiter, a lawyer-writer or, in their case, teacher, lawyer, graphic novelist, illustrator, yoga studio owner, and parent.

Into the forest 
of video equipment
grey-green eyes


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