Meanwhile the corona virus has, perhaps, taught a lesson that mankind all over the world has the same vulnerabilities. Thoughts and ideas need to be nurtured to unite mankind across all borders. Some of us writers have joined together to start a journal which hopes to reach out to mankind across all borders. The journal is in its infancy and needs much nurturing like a baby. It needs all the support possible now.
Kitaab has moved into its mature years. I leave Kitaab in the able hands of a new Editor who will soon be announced by the Founder and Editor- in – Chief, Zafar Anjum.
Before I sign off, I must thank Kitaab for the wonderful new friends it has found me — all the wonderful writers and readers. I must thank Desmond Kon Zhicheng–Mingdé for his unwavering support and friendship. Farah Ghuznavi and Rituparna Mahapatra for guiding me through the rites of passages of Kitaab.org and Zafar Anjum for his trust, continued friendship and the opportunity. Kitaab helped me heal in a lot of ways. I must also thank the editors before me, Sucharita Dutta Asane, Monideepa Sahu and more, who made Kitaab a vibrant platform long before I joined the Kitaab community. Without all these people and each one of you, I could not have led the online journal of Kitaab International for a whole year.
“When I stand before thee at the day’s end, thou shalt see my scars
and know that I had my wounds and also my healing.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore
We have all experienced pain of some kind — heartbreak, illness, distress, abuse, violence, disaster, loss, grief. What kind of personal suffering have you endured and weathered? If one were to navigate such trauma, what are some of the coping mechanisms? How, then, will you render your personal experience into lyric and narrative, to transform the pain into something of profound beauty? Poetry has long been known to be one of the great traditional healing arts, alongside dance, music, painting, theatre. As a creative practice, poetry can become a remarkable way to enhance personal healing, wellness and change. It can be as mending as it is ameliorating, as renewing as it is restorative.
This anthology will be edited by Eric Tinsay Valles and Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, scheduled for publication in 2021.
Elaine Chiew is a writer and a visual arts researcher, editor of Cooked Up: Food Fiction From Around the World (New Internationalist, 2015) and her short story collection The Heartsick Diaspora is forthcoming from Penguin Random House SEA (Oct 2019) and Myriad Editions UK (Jan 2020). Twice winner of the Bridport Short Story Competition, she has published numerous stories in anthologies in the UK, US and Singapore. Originally from Malaysia, Chiew graduated from Stanford Law School and worked as a corporate securities lawyer in New York and Hong Kong before studying for an MA in Asian Art History at Lasalle College of the Arts Singapore, a degree conferred by Goldsmiths, University of London. Elaine lives in Singapore and blogs about art at www.invisibleflaneuse.blogspot.com. In this interview, she reveals more about her new book and her ideas.
Why do you write?
Very simply, I can’t not write, call it word-constipation or what Danish short story writer Naja Marie Aidt calls ‘an urge that cannot be overlooked’ or a ‘point of desire’. A character or voice arrives out of the blue, takes hold of you as in a waking dream, make me real, it says, and you do.
“When it is dark enough,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “you can see the stars.” This Saturday, the Omni-Theatre at Science Centre Singapore will dim its lights for Singapore’s literary luminaries. A project initiated by the Singapore Writers Festival and Science Centre Singapore, Poets Among The Stars promises a feature-length show that brings together the wonders of science and art, as contemporary verse lights up the Omni-Theatre’s massive IMAX dome, the only of its kind in the country. The event is free, with limited seating. For registration, please visit: http://swfpop11.peatix.com/?lang=en-sg.
About this unique collaboration, Yeow Kai Chai, director of the Singapore Writers Festival, has this to say: “Poets have always been inspired by astronomy and the solar system, ranging from William Blake to the Metaphysical Poets, and so, we thought, why not work with Science Centre Singapore to get writers to wax lyrical about the galaxy in the awe-inspiring Omni-Theatre? For the longest time, our society tends to compartmentalise people into either of two camps – science-oriented or arts-inclined. Instead, we believe that there’s much we can learn and appreciate as we reach across the aisles. We have been blown away by the unique, eclectic approaches by the writers as they reach inwards, and outwards towards the universe. We are thankful to our friends at Science Centre Singapore who have taken on the project whole-heartedly, and shown everyone, regardless of their discipline, how alike we are as we marry words and astronomy in our pursuit of truth and knowledge.”
Eight accomplished writers in Singapore were commissioned to pen pieces for the show. The writers include Ann Ang, Chairul Fahmy Hussaini, Christine Chia, Deborah Emmanuel, Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, Jon Gresham, Loh Guan Liang and Teng Qian Xi. Managed by Caroline Wan and Muhamed Leoaidil from the National Arts Council, the show has been no easy feat to put together, as Yong Jian-Yi from The Science Centre explains:
It’s another double draw in what has been a charmed year for Singapore author Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, who has just bagged two accolades at this year’s Living Now Book Awards. Desmond’s hybrid collection, Babel Via Negativa, was awarded Bronze under the Metaphysical category, while his novel, Singular Acts of Endearment, clinched Silver under the category of Inspirational Fiction.
Based in Michigan, the Living Now Book Awards remain unique in recognizing the year’s most laudable lifestyle books. The Living Now Book Awards only consider books written in English, and books specifically intended for a North American readership. “We all seek healthier, more fulfilling, and productive lives, and books are an important tool for gaining knowledge about how to achieve these goals for ourselves and our loved ones,” the Awards site states, in defining its vision and parameters. “The purpose of the Living Now Book Awards is to celebrate the innovation and creativity of newly published books that can help us improve the quality of our lives, from cooking and entertaining to fitness and travel…. Lifestyle publishing categories such as home, health and self-improvement are the fastest-growing segments of book publishing today, and the Living Now Book Awards will help demonstrate the importance of these books to readers and their vitality in the marketplace.”
It’s unprecedented. The first Singapore writer to bag this gold, Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé is also the first-ever author to place in a winning tie for Poetry at the National Indie Excellence Book Awards (NIEA). That there has never been a tie for the Poetry category in NIEA’s ten years of running makes for an interesting turn, but more compelling is how the tie names as its the citation two of Desmond’s poetry collections: I Didn’t Know Mani Was A Conceptualist (Math Paper Press) and Sanctus Sanctus Dirgha Sanctus (Red Wheelbarrow Books).
Based in Los Angeles, The National Indie Excellence Awards has been a strong advocate for independent publishing, a large sector of the publishing world, with most literary presses falling under its umbrella. The prestigious NIEA is open to all English language books in print. Entries come from small, medium, university, self and independent publishers. The judging panel comprises independent experts from all aspects of the indie book industry, including publishers, writers, editors, book designers and professional copywriters.
Fresh from his double win at this year’s Beverly Hills International Book Awards, Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé has been named a silver medalist at The 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY). This win, in the Multicultural Fiction category, is for his novel, Singular Acts of Endearment (Squircle Line Press & Grey Sparrow Press), which was launched at last year’s Singapore Writers Festival. Monona Wali’s My Blue Skin Lover (Blue Jay Ink) takes the gold, while Chantel Acevedo’s A Falling Star (Carolina Wren Press) walks away with the bronze.
Singular Acts of Endearment is an enticing book, full of humour and fascinating trivia as well as profound and thought-provoking ideas. A multi-layered book that will stay with the reader long after the final page, says Mandy Pannett in this review.
‘Life is a series of happenings’ says Jasmine whose journal entries and notes provide the story lines for this novel. She repeats this statement several times until the very end (more on this later) and it provides a perfect basis for the anecdotal style of writing which Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé uses with such apparent ease together with a lightness of touch juxtaposed with moments that are both poignant and profound.
The actual narrative is incidental to a wider range of themes and topics. Jaz, together with some friends and family members, takes it on herself to care for Ah Gong who is dying of cancer and whose only consolation seems to lie in visiting gardens and devising plans for making a small one of his own. Against this backcloth of dying and death the author touches on ideas about friendships, relationships, the passing of adolescence, the significance or otherwise of memory and the past, the whole point of life with its series of happenings and the attempt to make sense of fragments.
In this beautifully produced collection of prose poems and vignettes, Desmond Kon amazes and enchants the reader with his usual dexterity of thought and language. Here, in extraordinary, surreal settings, we find ourselves having a ‘dialogue with the juniper shrub’ while a dugong is ‘mistaken for a mermaid in the fog’ and a straight line on a white wall turns out to be de Chirico ‘hiding in his own silhouette.’ This is a lyrical, bitter-sweet realm as well, slight as ‘a spray of allegory in the dried out tobacco leaves’, a place where ‘even the small teacups have lost their chestnut and clover-tree cities to become one unremitting saffron’.
There is a great deal of subtle humour in these pieces where ‘no one is levitating… although they all want to.’ The reader may be baffled by koans and questions and questions behind questions but so too is the archivist, a persona in the first section, who simply nods and keeps quiet in the face of complexities, knowing that ‘keeping silence to such answers connotes understanding or at least acknowledgement or, quietly, simply lack thereof.’ This is the same bewildered archivist who sucks on a lollipop ‘waiting for the treacle to dissolve into bubblegum he can later stick onto the back of a park bench.’