By Eric Tinsay Valles
The National Poetry Festival turns two years old. It is hosting 60+ poets in 25 events over 3 days from July 29 to 31. A few of these events explore collaborations across cultures and between poetry and other art forms.
NPF 2016 has something for every poetry lover in its programme line-up. Here are a few standouts:
- A double bill comprising the festival keynote speech by Prof. Koh Tai Ann and a poetry performance by Pooja Nansi at the National Museum’s Gallery Theatre (Basement), 11am to noon, on July 30. The literary critic who recorded the LKY quote “Poetry is a luxury we cannot afford” evaluates poetry in post-LKY Singapore. She will share the stage with a poet who burns the page with spirited performance.
- “Reflecting on the Spirit” readings with Edwin Thumboo and Grace Leong (wayang puppeteer), Chandran Nair, Boey Kim Cheng, Ow Yeong Wai Kit, Michelle Ang, Aaron Lee, Daren Shiau, a performance by Psalmideo (choir), more readings with Eric Tinsay Valles, Zhang Ruihe, Chris Mooney Singh, K. Kanagalatha, Muzakkir Samat and Khair Yassin (performing on guitar) at LASALLE College of the Arts’ Campus Green, 4 to 5pm, on July 31. Let your spirit soar as poets and artists look into themselves and read the world through their personal faith and various spiritual traditions.
- A symposium, “Reflecting on Women’s Writing,” with Koo Lilin, Teng Qian Xi, Pooja Nansi and Grace Chia at the Gallery Theatre (Basement), noon to 1pm on July 30. Women writers share their experiences in their own voices at a time when they enjoy greater independence and wider choices.
- The Chinese-language keynote addresses by the president of the Singapore Association of Writers, Denon Lim Denan, and the president of the Singapore Literature Society, Cheng Jun, with scholar Tan Chee Lay at the National Museum’s Seminar Room (Level 2), 9 to 11am, on July 30. This is a historic dialogue between the leaders of the two major Chinese literary groups on their respective poetic journeys.
- “Growing Up in Sg” ekphrastic readings curated by artist and poet Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé and featuring seven writers, Christine Chia, Daryl W. J. Lim, David Wong Hsien Ming, Ian Chung, Samuel Caleb Wee, Shelly Bryant, and Tse Hao Guang at the National Museum’s 2nd floor Gallery, 4 to 5:30pm on July 30. These poets go wistful as they reminisce on their formative years in conversation with objects at a museum exhibit.
- Two parallel children’s poetry workshops with Rosemarie Somaiah, author of The Never Mind Girl and Other Stories, and Patricia Maria de Souza, author of Saga Seeds at the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Botany Centre Function Rooms (1st and 2nd floors), 11:30am to 1pm, on July 30. Two published poets and accomplished storytellers allow 10- to 14-year old children to appreciate poetry and write their own verses in an idyllic garden setting.
- “Refleksi (Reflections)” pantun art exhibit showcasing the work of two poet-artists, Suraidi Sipan and Koh Buck Song at LASALLE College of the Arts’ Library, Block F Level 4, from 1:45pm on July 31 through August 30. The poet-artists engage in a dialogue by portraying Singapore through the traditional Malay poetic form and nature paintings.
- A symposium on Singapore poetry in four languages and Tamil performance poetry at LASALLE’s Creative Cube, 10am to 3pm, on July 31. A big hit in the inaugural NPF, Tamil performance poetry is back with the lush sounds of Band VYOMA (Hari) and Harini. There will also be a briefing on poetic developments in the island’s major languages.
- “Between Realities and Dreams” art ekphrastic exhibit with paintings by Dr. Ho Chee Lick and illustrator Lee Kow Fong, also known as 阿果Ah-Guo, at Grassroots Book Room, 3 to 4pm, on July 30 through August 14. Paintings and poems capture both the interior and the exterior landscapes of Singapore.
- One book launch, two languages, three cultures: launch of Azhar Ibrahim’s Menyanggah Belenggu and Eddie Tay’s DREAMING CITIES at LASALLE’s Campus Green, 5 to 6pm, on July 31. NPF closes with a conversation on books. A scholar describes in Malay the future of the intellectual in the Lion City, and an academic based overseas lovingly renders the urban landscapes of Hong Kong and Singapore in verse and photography.
Eric Tinsay Valles captures snatches of home in exile, whether physical or spiritual. He has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize and won a Goh Sin Tub Creative Writing prize for poems in his second poetry collection, After the Fall (dirges among ruins). His first poetry collection was A World in Transit. He co-edited the Get Lucky anthology of Singapore and Filipino writings, a 2015 Singapore Writers Festival bestseller. He has been featured in & Words, Reflecting on the Merlion, Ceriph, Southeast Asian Review of English, Routledge’s New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, and other journals. His critical essays have appeared in The Asiatic and Writing Diaspora. He has been invited to read poetry or commentaries at Baylor, Melbourne and Oxford Universities. He has taken up writing residencies at the Vermont Studio Centre, Centrum (Washington) and Wellspring House (Massachusetts). He is a director of the National Poetry Festival.