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"A Luxury We Must Afford"

In 1968, founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew told a room of University of Singapore students, "poetry is a luxury we cannot afford". 

It's an attitude that has unfortunately persisted past its context; in many ways the country's perception of poetry isn't so different from what it was decades ago.

Still, it's moments and situations in which we have to confront the unknown, and the uncertain, when poetry can offer us solace. So here's a compilation of local poets, and anthologies we might turn to. Learn more in this blog post.

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Love is an Empty Barstool

Condition: Well Read


If your heart's ever been on the edge of breaking, or if it's ever been broken, Pooja Nansi's "Love is an Empty Barstool" might just resonate with your soul. It's a collection that's as complex and nuanced as your favorite single malt, offering a chance to reflect during those quiet twilight moments. This is not just a book of poems; it's a companion for the heart in need of understanding and solace.
Interlogue: Poetry is a collection of poems that beautifully articulate human emotions and experiences in a unique manner. The author, Kirpal Singh, presents a refreshing perspective on love, loss, and life itself through his words. If you appreciate the art of poetry and want to be moved by beautiful words, this book is definitely for you.
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Mixing Tongues

Condition: Well Read


Mixing Tongues could be a compelling read for those who have an interest in language play and the fusion of cultures. Heng Siok Tian's collection of multilingual poems, anthologized in various international publications, showcases her ability to seamlessly blend languages and traditions, resulting in an impactful and refreshing poetic voice. The short length of the book allows for easy reading, while the poignant and thought-provoking themes explored in the poems ensure a memorable experience.
This book of Singlish poems in sonnet form has a unique blend of cultural references and linguistic style. The poems explore love and identity while providing a glimpse into Singaporean culture and language. If you're a fan of poetry that blends tradition with modernity, this book is a must-read.
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Finders & Keepers

Condition: Like New


"Finders & Keepers" could be a great read for poetry lovers who appreciate the art of weaving words and emotions together to capture a person's essence. The book offers a unique blend of personalized poems based on three words given by strangers, creating a sense of intimacy and connection. The author's ability to tap into universal human experiences through spilled ink makes this book an enjoyable and relatable read.
For those seeking solace in mourning, this collection of poems explores the universal experience of loss and its connection to love and faith. Ming bears witness to the human experience by highlighting the complexities of guilt and redemption, weaving together themes of inevitability and possibility.
Professions can be a good read for people who enjoy poetry with a touch of melancholy. Amanda Chong's collection captures the nuances of relationships tainted by professional demands, and the resulting heartbreak. The poems are relatable, yet unique in their observations. The glimpses of strong relationships amidst the heartaches make the book even more poignant. Overall, it is a beautiful collection of poetry that can resonate with anyone who has experienced the complexities of relationships.
Singathology showcases the richness and diversity of Singaporean literature, featuring pieces from acclaimed artists like Cultural Medallion and Young Artist award winners. The unique inclusion of mother tongue languages provides an immersive experience for readers, while English translations allow for wider accessibility. Edited by literary expert Dr Gwee Li Sui, this two-volume anthology is a must-read for those looking to discover and appreciate Singaporean literature.
Caterwaul would appeal to someone looking for an emotionally resonant coming-of-age story. Champion's memoir, presented in scrapbook form, interlaces the poignant with the mundane as she recounts the pain and desire of a poorly poet in middle-class Singaporean suburbia. Readers looking for an authentic, unflinching account of growing up will find it in Caterwaul.
"Making Love With Scrabble Tiles" would be a good read for someone who enjoys poetry and wordplay. Joshua Ip's collection invites readers to explore the intricacies of relationships through the lens of language, with each poem crafted from the letters found in Scrabble tiles. The book's unique approach to love and intimacy is a refreshing departure from conventional romance literature.
Roadkill for Beginners could be a good read for poetry lovers who enjoy unconventional themes and styles. Chan's poetry collection is a mix of love letters to places, field guides, and adventures, exploring various complex themes such as desire, moving, and belonging with a unique lyrical style. The poems feel like a celebration of life and its quirks, and readers could enjoy the vivid imagery and the raw emotions conveyed in the collection.
Recommendation: This book captures the essence of Singapore's future through a diverse collection of narratives. It takes readers on a journey of hyper-modern dreams and the struggle to maintain connection with the past. Written by talented authors, this anthology offers a powerful reflection on Singapore's evolution and the importance of poetry in an uncertain world. A must-read for those seeking thought-provoking stories that push the boundaries of imagination.
Recommended for poetry lovers, exploring self-image.
Aria and Trumpet Flourish is a delightful collection of poetry that captures the essence of everyday life and urges its readers to pay attention to the world around them. From ghazals to abecedarians, the forms of these poems are masterfully executed. The collection takes the readers on a journey through dusty barrios, noodle shops and MRT stations. These urgent poems will stay with you long after you've read them, offering insight into the world's beauty, grace and loss.
Call and Response could be a great read for poetry enthusiasts seeking to explore the experiences of migrant and local poets. The anthology captures a diverse range of voices, with each poem being a unique prism of language that reflects and refracts the experiences of migrant workers and local residents. The creative responses from local writers add an interesting dimension to the work, creating a dialogic space where perspectives are shared and reflected upon. Overall, the book is a beautiful exploration of identity, migration, and the power of language to bridge worlds.
We Were Always Eating Expired Things is a book for those who appreciate well-crafted poems that explore the complexities of human relationships. With a focus on the universal need for connection and the challenges that come with it, this collection provides insight into the emotions that drive us to pursue those connections. The author's use of the Beatles' iconic line as a motif throughout the book adds a layer of familiarity and nostalgia that will resonate with many readers. Overall, this book is a poignant and beautifully written exploration of the human experience.
Pantomime could be a worthwhile read for individuals who feel like they are forced to put on a performance for society instead of being their true selves. Rodrigues' collection of poems sheds light on societal norms and expectations, inviting readers to question their own performative behaviors. The book's unique selling point lies in the way it unveils the facade of societal acts and invites readers to seek shelter in authenticity.
Keeping Skeletons could be a good read for those who appreciate poetry and are interested in stories that explore themes of oppression and staying true to oneself despite difficult circumstances. The author's unique style of writing and use of metaphors allows the reader to experience the emotions and struggles of the protagonist. Readers may also enjoy the brevity of the book, which allows for quick but impactful reading.
"Dreaming Cities" offers a unique blend of poetry and street photography, presenting a vivid depiction of the modern city landscape of Hong Kong and Singapore. As a long-time resident and associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Eddie Tay brings an insightful perspective to the imagery and language. The poems in this collection are both imaginative and grounded in reality, and would be an ideal read for anyone interested in the urban space and the creative intersections between poetry and photography.
Recommendation: If you enjoy contemporary poetry that explores personal struggles and failures with wit and honesty, footnotes on falling is a must-read. Joshua Ip's writing style is both accessible and sophisticated. The book's unique voice and Asian perspective set it apart from other poetry collections.
Recommended for poetry lovers seeking wit and quirkiness. The poems in 'Occupational Hazards' embody a unique blend of humor and absurdity, with characters ranging from an art critic to a superhero. The author, Mayo Martin, explores the strange compulsions of these and other oddball characters, with a versatile style that reflects both sadness and tenderness. Poetry lovers looking for a fresh take on humor and quirkiness will enjoy this collection.
Alfian Sa'at's first unpublished collection of writings composed when he was 22, it was first distributed unofficially to selected friends and colleagues. Bearing passionate testimony to private and public memories, this gathering of poems and prose fragments documenting the intimate challenges of homosexual longing gives voice to an invisible minority still struggling to be recognised today. Now published at last, this book, full of fierce confessions, ambivalences and flinty epiphanies, will shock and devestate. Here is an uncompromising confluence of unfulfilled desires wrought through language by one of Singapore's most outspoken and critical voices.
This book could be a good read for you if you're looking for a collection of poetry and prose that fearlessly explores themes of love, longing, and societal norms. Tania De Rozario's Tender Delirium is a powerful and honest expression of queer desire, told through a confessional and often dark lens. With a mix of intensity and humor, this collection will captivate you and challenge your perception of what is considered "proper" subject matter in literature. It is a celebration of love and a rebellion against societal expectations, beautifully crafted by a talented writer.
This book, "Harbouring," is a beautifully written collection of poetry that explores the depths of grief and loss. Through S. C. Gordon's heartfelt words, readers are taken on a journey of navigating through the pain of sudden loss and finding solace in the power of shared love and understanding. The intimate and poignant writing captures the essence of grief, offering comfort and hope to those who have experienced loss themselves. "Harbouring" is a must-read for anyone seeking solace in the midst of heartbreak, reminding us that even in the darkest moments, love has the power to sustain and heal.
The Orchid Folios is a thought-provoking hybrid book that blends poetry, documentary, and fiction to explore the orchid as a symbol of Singapore's post-colonial hybridity. It unearths the history of the orchid and questions the narratives that have shaped Singapore's national consciousness. With snippets of verse, essay questions on colonialism, and advertisements for orchid-inspired products, this book challenges readers to imagine a decolonized Singapore and rethink the way history is written. It's a must-read for anyone interested in Singapore's history, identity, and culture.