Showing posts from April, 2019

Marking the Season

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Last Monday I finally met a Singaporean author whom I've admired for some time. Visiting from London, she is here for a month to work in her company's NYC office. At Grand Central Oyster Bar, we had a dozen oysters each. They all had beautiful names that reminded us of where they came from. The only name I remember now is Wellfleet Massachusetts, because of the Elizabeth Bishop poem. My dining companion expressed relief at the lightness of our repast, having been troubled by the size of American portions.

She loves living in London as much as I do living in New York. A reason? The seasons. This is not the shutter happiness of tourists, nor the novelty of snowfall to the tropical student. We have both lived in temperate countries for years, in fact, in each other's country, if the possessive is apt here for a pair of immigrants. The seasons mark the passing of time. The markings may be highly uncomfortable—the su…

Where Are the Writers?

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The Singapore government's proposed anti-fake news law has been heavily criticized by local and international media and rights groups for investing too much arbitrary power in government ministers to decide what is fact or otherwise. Most recently, a group of 59 academics, with expertise, experience, or interest in Singapore and Asia generally, have joined in the chorus of criticism by issuing a joint public statement and sending letters to the Education Minister and Singapore University Leaders.

Other professional groups with a stake in free speech and democratic process should do likewise. Unfortunately, the Law Society of Singapore has been gagged by a 1986 law from commenting on legislative proposals unless they are invited to do so by the government. Singapore's creative writers are not so proscribed. Individual writers have spoken up but they could make a far bigger impact if they would speak together, as the …

A Poet Laureate of Singapore?

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We're proud to announce that Gaudy Boy's Poetry Book Prize co-winner The Experiment of the Tropics by Lawrence Lacambra Ypil has been selected by The Millions as 1 of 6 must-read poetry books for April 2019. Congratulations, Larry, on this wonderful honor! At the book's New York launch last week, Larry shared that much of the book, which meditates on archival photographs of the Philippines under American occupation, was written in Clementi hawker center in Singapore. That, we fondly imagine, must have enhanced the book's delicious tropical lyricism.

April is National Poetry Month in the USA and Canada. Introduced in 1996, the annual celebration of poetry organized by the Academy of American Poets has the laudable aim of increasing awareness and appreciation of poetry in the USA. It was inspired by the success of Black History Month, held in February, and Women's History Month, held in March, but it wo…

Gaudy Boy Matters

A whirlwind of events these past two weeks. First, AWP at Portland, Oregon, (March 28-30), where I tabled for Gaudy Boy, and all three of our authors—Alfian Sa'at, Lawrence Ypil, and Jenifer Park—signed books, and read at an off-site event. Alfian also participated in panel titled "Innovations in Southeast Asia" with Gina Apostol and Laurel Fantauzzo, moderated by Larry Ypil. I read at Literaoke at Chopsticks Karaoke Lounge and Bar, and that was quite fun.

Then the New York launch of Larry and Jenifer's books at the Asian American Writers' Workshop on Thursday, April 4. The launch went really well. The house was full and the books—15 copies per author—were sold out. Larry and Jenifer read very well and were full of thoughtful and memorable reflections during the Q&A. As Judy Luo remarked, our poets have personalities!

And then the Second Saturdays gathering on April 6, hosted by C and M at their Harlem home. About 35 people came. Potluck, mingling, drinking, …

Worse Than 1984

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The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act tabled in Singapore's Parliament on Monday threatens to restrict free speech in the country even further. It effectively gives any Minister the power to decide what is fact and to demand corrections or removals of statements that he deems to be against the public interest. If passed, the Act will not just create a Ministry of Truth, so ironically named in George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, but will turn all agents of the Singapore government into Ministries of Truth.

The best commentary that I have read on the bill so far is written by media professor Cherian George. Here I will just highlight one provision of the bill that indicates its wide-ranging scope: its extra-territoriality. Section 7.1 states that "A person must not do any act in or outside Singapore [my emphasis] in order to communicate in Singapore a statement knowing or having re…