by Singapore's own poetic icon, Daryl Lim
I’m Daryl, a poet and writer from Singapore and I recently launched my second collection of poetry, Anything but Human. I’ll also be conducting the Book Club session on 16 Feb, where we’ll talk about my book and also try our hand at the writing of poetry. Ahead of that session, I thought to share the work of three Singapore poets in English that I absolutely love.
- Arthur Yap
The poetry of the late Arthur Yap is observant, wry, and suffused with a knowing quietude. In some poems, he plays with language to push readers to the limits of their world, and beyond. In others, he quietly laments losses and weighs the passage of time. Above all, Arthur’s works have a painterly quality, where the words are akin to colours. He skilfully paints a serene landscape that seems still but is teeming with life and tension beneath the surface. It’s no surprise that the cover of the Collected Poems of Arthur Yap (2013) is graced by one of his artworks, as Arthur was both a poet and a visual artist.
2. Wong May
Wong May is perhaps the most underrated of Singapore’s poets. She grew up in Singapore, but her collections of poetry have mostly been published in the US. Her poetry is one of intense mood and striking images (“The lake is a rabbit shot in the back”), one caught up in the violent and radical potentialities of the moment, or even of mundane, everyday objects. Her most recent collection is Picasso’s Tears (2014), after an extraordinary silence of 36 years.
3. Yeow Kai Chai
Kai Chai is one of Singapore’s foremost experimental poets, and he has managed to carve out a mysterious, wonderful space of his own, inventing poetic forms like the twin cinema, and bringing a filmic quality to his poetry. His poetry makes you question the ground you stand on. It is at times gentle, at times acerbic, and at times absolutely searing in its potent, heady mix of allusions and dense images. He is a poet’s poet, perhaps, and reading his poetry enables me to free myself of the constraints of ordinary language and logic. His latest book is One to the Dark Tower Comes (2020).