In its 19th edition, running from November 4 to 13, the Singapore Writers Festival, a multilingual and international gathering of writers, poets, artists and musicians, brings this notion of sayang to the literary forefront, begging readers and writers alike to ponder this fleeting tenderness together.
Originally founded as a biennial festival in 1986, the Singapore Writers Festival became an annual festival in 2011 showcasing the best Southeast Asian literary talents. With each passing year, the festival organisers strive to include a greater diversity of both Singaporean and Southeast Asian writers in addition to highlighting the literary achievements of artists around the globe.
“The Singapore Writers Festival has become known for its eclectic and inclusive programming and being a place for an exchange of ideas,” said Singaporean poet and Singapore Writers Festival director Yeow Kai Chai. “We continuously make a concerted effort to invite writers from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and who have differing points of view on various topics.” Read more
By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
To rewire DNA.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
I’ve just finished a quintet of short stories for a collaborative project with three other authors, Yong Shu Hoong, Heng Siok Tian and Phan Ming Yen. We went to Angkor Wat and decided to write prose passages based on a set of parameters. I haven’t touched prose for some years and the genre has helped open up new avenues of expression. The stories I’ve written have a bit of David Lynch, Wong Kar-wai and the TV drama Lost into the mix. I had fun.
While awaiting the publication of my third poetry collection, I’m also starting work on my fourth. It’s pivoted on ideas about transformation and fluid identities. I’m particularly stoked after a visit to the Museum of Natural History at the University of Iowa last year. The stuffed animals, the intricate lifelike dioramas, the reimagined climes… they triggered something in me. I was there for the fall residency of the Iowa Writing Program and met so many kindred spirits too. Read more
What happens when art meets literature? At the Singapore Writers Festival, Eye/Feel/Write will launch its second installment, with the publication of a beautiful anthology, titled “Eye/Feel/Write: Experiments in Ekphrasis”, as well as curated walking tours at The National Gallery.
A special commission by the National Arts Council, Eye/Feel/Write is a two-year ekphrastic project that has invited distinguished writers in Singapore to pen texts inspired by artworks exhibited at museums here. In the first year, ten writers — Alvin Pang, Edwin Thumboo, Isa Kamari, Jollin Tan, Joshua Ip, Ovidia Yu, Ramanathan Vairavan, Robin Hemley, Tan Chee Lay, and Yeow Kai Chai — created texts that dialogued with artworks at Singapore Art Museum’s Medium at Large exhibit. Ten poems were printed on broadsides as limited edition collectibles, housed in blank journals with an invitation to readers to engage in their own ekphrastic experiments.
Post Paradelle-Yeow Kai Chai
Yeow Kai Chai has two poetry collections, Secret Manta (2001), which was adapted from an entry shortlisted for the 1995 Singapore Literature Prize, and Pretend I’m Not Here (2006). A co-editor of Quarterly Literary Review Singapore (QLRS), he reviews music for The Straits Times.
The Singapore Writers Festival will have a new director next year: Yeow Kai Chai, a well-known poet and journalist.
The festival’s current director, Paul Tan, also a poet, will be stepping down after this year’s edition. Tan is also deputy chief executive officer of the National Arts Council.
“We look forward to Kai Chai joining the SWF team in December,” Tan said in a media statement. “He is away in Iowa now at a writing residency programme as he is a poet in his own right. We’ll be sharing more details when he comes on board.”
The Singapore Writers Festival will also return to its original venue The Arts House where its events will take place (in the Empress Place Civic District).
The festival has been held on the lawns of the Singapore Management University campus green since 2011.