Interview: Edwin Thumboo in Conversation with G S P Rao

GSP Rao interviews the eminent Singapore poet and one of the pioneers of Singapore Writing in English (SWE) in Muse India

edwinthambooEdwin Thumboo is a pioneering and award winning Singaporean poet in English, academic and administrative policy maker as senior Professor of English and academic at National University of Singapore (NUS), longest serving Dean of the faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Chairman and Director of the University’s Centre of Arts.

Often referred to as the undeclared Poet Laureate of Singapore and the Literary Voice of Singapore. We include the full details of Edwin Thumboo in the Authors Profile. GSP Rao, Managing Editor of Muse India, engages him in a free-wheeling and in-depth conversation for the Hyderabad Literary Festival this year in which the poet-scholar speaks of the Singpaorean Writing from the historical, cultural and ethnic perspectives and about the evolution of his own poetry.

GSP Rao: You are seen as a pioneer of Singapore Writing in English (SWE) both in your writing and your work as a teacher and administrator of higher education. What were the early challenges in giving a distinct identity to SWE? Are you satisfied with its status today and the level of scholarship achieved? 

Edwin Thumboo: This pair of inter-locking questions is anchored in the beginning and end of nation-experience, and that irrespective of any time scale. For this reason, I will take the opportunity to provide a longish response that will serve at the same time an essential background to much of what follows. By implication they interrogate the history in between. While that is a continuum involving millennia and the centuries within them,in contrast our lives are brief. Yet each life of any significance contributes in varying measure to the course, content and significance of that large, over-arching history. As Thomas Gray reminds us in Elegy written in a Country Churchyard

Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.

Read More