The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Alvin Pang

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Alvin PangLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

To make something meaningful out of nothing.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My latest set of poems all seem to have to do with a sense of endings; they are elegies and aubades and goodbyes – perhaps I am subconsciously trying to come to terms with impending middle age. I also have a couple of anthologies of Singapore writing due for US and UK publication; these are introductory scans of some of our best, more cutting edge work to date. Very SG50!

Describe your writing aesthetic.


Who are your favorite authors?

Anyone who sustains my interest over repeated reads: and that’s rare. A few stalwarts are Italo Calvino; Jim Crace; Tomaz Salamun; W. Szymborska; early Heaney. I try not to have favourite authors, really. The specific material is more important; besides, I believe in reading diversely.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

From time to time I’m asked to make palatable something I don’t deeply believe in personally: that’s always the most difficult to do well. Writing poetry may be a struggle but at least one is wrestling to give birth to what feels true, and not to smother it.

What’s your idea of bliss?

Anonymity, silence, spare time.

What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?

Being accused of something I didn’t do.

What book/s would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?

I find an internet connection more useful than any book I could bring; or else I’d bring my laptop and iPad with my digital library on it. The one book that I’ve brought on planes to read but never finished is Thedore Zeldin’s An Intimate History of Humanity. It’s worth dipping into and musing over at intervals. I should otherwise be observing, exploring, reflecting and writing.

Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?

My smartphone: so I can call for help, kill the time while waiting, take photos, document the moment, and write on the go.

Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.

I want it all.

Author Biography:

Alvin Pang was Singapore’s Young Artist of the Year for Literature in 2005. A poet, writer, editor and anthologist, he has been translated into more than fifteen languages and has appeared in major festivals and publications worldwide. A Fellow of the Iowa International Writing Program, his recent publications include Tumasik: Contemporary Writing from Singapore (Autumn Hill) and When the Barbarians Arrive (Arc Publications). Among many engagements, he teaches Poetry Writing at Yale-NUS College.