- I changed the look of this blog for the first time since 2011!
- A new picture in my header that is not a picture of me from 2010!
- Check out the new places where some of my poems have found homes
- A brand new video of my Merlion Poem at the Singapore Night Festival 2016
- Had an epiphany that I am not very good at updating this blog & I should try harder
- Also, a rare video of me doing comedy in my first ever roast battle against comic Jacky Ng!
- I’m together a new solo spoken word show called AND HEAVEN IS A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN NEVER FIND YOUR CIGARETTES (a show named after a chapbook named after a song lyric in a song by my favourite band) for a performance at the Neon Lights Festival….more updates coming soon!
I have just arrived in Australia. I will be performing in different places. If you/your friends are in one of these places you & your friends could come and see me & say hi. More dates/venues to be announced soon.
ARRRGHHH ANOTHER YEAR! HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! SO EXCITING. Lots of things about to happen, or keep happening. Possible tour in another country, possibly a book! Made of Paper! Published by strangers!
Also, I promise to update this blog more as things keep happening.
As you may know, in addition to performing poetry I have gotten into true-life storytelling and stand up comedy. Somehow I have also found myself hosting Story Slam Singapore and Muddy’s Monday Laugh-In, a weekly open mic night, and the newest comedy open mic night in Singapore. Funny how that happens.
HIGHLIGHTS OF 2015:
- Sekalicats at the Company of Cats Cafe — the first ever cat-themed poetry show by the Sekaliwags
2. Sound of Sand Festival, Parangtritis Beach, Indonesia
went to Yogyakarta for the first time to perform at this sweet hippyish/DIY festival in the sand dunes of Parangtritis, performed on one of the most beautiful stages I’ve ever been on. See more here.
3. ContraDiction 2015
Worked with some of the coolest people on Contradiction, the closing night of Indignation 2015, a reading of a collection of Singapore literature by/about queer people from the last few hundred years.
[L-R: Shaan Sippy, me, Mitchell Fang, Jerrold Yam, Deonn Yang, Atiq Lukman, Muslim Sahib, Raksha Mahtani, Zarina Muhammed, Joena Shivani Thomas Nathan]
4. XPOWERDREAMS at the Singapore Writers Festival
The Sekaliwags and our trusty time machine HAMFUL returned for a new adventure at the Singapore Writers Festival 2015. Keyboards, cardboard tiny homes, sex kampungs, patriot gameshows, guns, time travel and crazy fireballs!
5. KL Mini-Tour
Went on a poetry adventure to KL with SPEAK crew (Deborah Emmanuel, Vanessa Victoria, plus Charlene Shepherdson and Illi Syaznie, on the kind invitation of Melizarani T. Selva . Performed at KL’s premiere poetry open mic night, If Walls Could Talk, taught a workshop and performed at the Art for Grabs Festival at Republika Mall.
[L-R: owner of the Gaslight Cafe, Deborah Emmanuel, me, Charlene Shepherdson, Melizarani T. Selva, Vanessa Victoria]
6. Nature Poetry Workshop at Ground-Up Initiative
Had the massive privilege of teaching my first nature poetry workshop at an event called Mega Balik Kampung at this amazing urban farm called Ground Up Initiative. Because urban farms are fucking cool. And nature is awesome. Hoping for more of this in 2016. If anyone wants to do more walking around and really looking at leaves and writing about them let me know.
(photo courtesy of Muzakkir bin Samat)
7. Trade Secrets at Singapore Inside Out
Performed at Singapore Inside Out, a crazy structure that had reached Singapore after travelling the world and showcasing Singaporean artists in Beijing, London, & New York. Performed a show called Trade Secrets with poet Marc Nair and musician Tim DeCotta.
(photo courtesy of Pamela Ng)
- Getting queer spoken heroine Alok Vaid-Menon of Darkmatter to Singapore and their unforgettable set at SPEAK
- The Stand Up Scene
- Solo show at the We Can! Arts Festival
- Hosting and putting together phenomenal SPEAK shows with local and international poetry heroes/heroines
- Story Slam Singapore at SWF
- Squat & Grow & painting my poem on a wall of the former Post-Museum
- Chilling with Australian poet Luka Lesson after a set at the Market of Experiences, along with Deborah Emmanuel and Shivram Gopinath (below)
so the nice people of Haque Centre of Acting And Creativity made a short film out of my poem “you are 6 years old and she is teaching you how to ride a bicycle” and its pretty freaking exciting. For the August installment of their storytelling night Metaphors Be With You: Childhood Stories. Special thanks to Kamil Haque and Sara Howell, and the actors in the film for these few minutes of brilliance.
Tan Pin Pin’s film ‘To Singapore With Love’ summed up in less than 50 words:
a few communists, some ex-PAP men & women, a student activist-turned-Oxford-educated lawyer, a Gaza activist and a folk singer walk into a cinema and tell their story to a camera.
What they all have in common: they all want to go home.
[Content warning: extreme patriotism, 70s protest songs that will make you cry]
[Spoiler alert: only one of them will make it home. In an urn.]
So I was part of the three busloads of people (and many others who found their own way) who rode form Singapore to Johor Bahru to watch To Singapore With Love, the latest film by Tan Pin Pin, and the latest film which the Media Development Authority of Singapore has given the very special rating of ‘not allowed for rating’ so it cannot be screened publicly in Singapore as it may be a threat to national security. It was just as well Malaysia’s amazing Freedom Film Festival 2014 was organizing a screening of it in JB as part of the Johore leg of their festival.
They needed two hotel function rooms to fit all of us. The filmmaker would later tell us how the film festival volunteers were cutting up bed sheets that very morning to stick to the walls to make the screens. Some of us sat on the floor. The chairs were reserved for seniors. Most of the people who came on our buses were either seniors, many of whom had some connection to the people in the film, or people in their 20s or 30s. There probably would have been a greater range of ages if the film had been screened over a weekend because of people with jobs, but it was cool to see a lot of young people because, you know, the future.
So what was the film like? It was a series of interviews with people who lived in the UK and Thailand. They were there because they had to escape Singapore for to escape detention/other political persecution in the 60s or 70s. Some of them disagreed with government policies, some were alleged a communists some were alleged activists who shouted a little too loudly, some were at the wrong place at the wrong time.
What they had in common: they wanted to go back but could not without being arrested or in a couple of cases, being made to publicly renounce their beliefs on national TV. They were all asked how long they have been away for. Some could tell you the exact day they left Singapore with two suitcases. Some weren’t quite sure and have to start counting the decades before realising holy fuck, about 40 years. In one of the first scenes, an exile in London asks Tan a question about whether she will have problems with the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation for this film and those of us who were alive when the SBC was a thing laughed.
You don’t have to feel sorry for the exiles. By the time they get interviewed they have made lives for themselves abroad. Comfortable lives. Started businesses, families, an NGO, written books. Three to four decades is too long to sit around wishing to go home. But not too long to keep holding out a little bit of hope that maybe one day they will be able to return the country they were born and grew up in, and in some cases, they country they fought for independence for. Some of them are still incredibly patriotic. Like the exile who wishes his son was a Singapore citizen so he could fight in the Singapore Armed Forces and protect the country, because he believes in Singapore’s need to defend itself, etc.
And maybe this is the real tragedy of the film: ok so anyone can make a life anywhere in the world if they put their mind to it, but it is another thing to be to be forced to flee the place you grew up in against your will because you love it and want it to change, just in a different way from the people in power. It is another thing to dedicate a large part of your life to working towards sovereignty and freedom from colonialism for the place you grew up, only to be exiled and never get to live as a free person in the country, now that it exists. And then be erased from history books. And yet, one exile still tells Pin Pin that she is sorry that they did not fight hard enough for democracy and freedom for the younger generations.
(but will the younger generation miss something we never had?)(do we give a shit?)
There are happy moments, though. There are two funerals we see for two different exiles. There will be a birthday party. There will be beautiful folk songs. And one of the most gut-wrenching poetry readings you will ever hear about Singapore. And there will be a scene where an exile stands at the shore of Johore Bahru and looks over the water to a place he escaped 37 years ago and may never return to again. And all of us that day watched this scene in a room in Johor Bahru and wondered the same thing: why?
[What everyone wants to know: is this film a threat to national security? If by ‘threat’ you mean ‘makes people think a bit differently about Singapore’s national security policies and the history we were taught’, then yes. If by ‘threat’ you mean ‘inspire people to smuggle 80-something-year-old exiled alleged communists to Singapore to start a Marxist revolution’, I would strongly advise you to go home because you are probably drunk.]
What the fuck can you do while waiting to watch this film:
• If you want to know more about the issues the film is on about, support Function 8, an organization which raises awareness about these kinds of things
• Take a look at this list of detainees . Look at the names, the occupations, the year each person was detained, their dates of release, and their fates. (Note: This is a partial list – the information is not complete due to issues such as the detainees’ concerns about privacy. So for those arrested in the 60s-80s, don’t worry too much if there’s no release date. Unfortunately, many of the supposed ‘terrorists’ detained after 9-11 are still detained without trial.)
• Support the nice people of Freedom Film Festival, Malaysia’s most established human rights film festival (going for over 10 years) which works tirelessly to support films like To Singapore With Love and get them screened and seen. They run on donations. And it comes to Singapore’s Arts House in November. This screening would not have been possible without them.
[the title works better if you read it in my voice. Specifically, my voice when i was about 6 years old in that video of me in Cameron Highlands, but thats another story….]
So its been nearly 7 months since I moved back to Singapore. In these months I have obtained a smart phone to integrate myself into society, learnt how to use Whatsapp, remembered my masochistic fondness for running in the sun, gained a couple of twitter followers, been in two spoken word shows. and learnt more about the country in the past few months than I have in the past 8 years of not-really-living-here. KIND OF A CRASH COURSE IN PEOPLE HERE, if you will.
i feel i should have something profound & all-encompassing to say about Singapore by now. so i will say this:
“humidity is not all that evil. sometimes you can make friends with it”
other things i have been up to:
1. Helped to host a panel discussion at SPEAK on the state of Spoken Word poetry in Singapore at the former Home Club, with local poets Marc Nair, Alvin Pang and Nabilah Husna
2. Books Actually’s 24h Bookstore event reading poems from BODY BOUNDARIES & by self & Ovidia Yu. There were also cats & free prata!
3. Back to the UK to Bristol, Bath & London WHERE I SHOUTED MY MISANDRY POEM IN ITS UK DEBUT AT BLAHBLAHBLAH to AT THE BRISTOL OLD VIC HOSTED BY THE AMAZING ANNA FREEMAN, also, a surprise spot at VANESSA KISUULE’S book launch (Joyriding the Storm by Burning Eye Books its freaking amazing), A a bit at LIPPED INK AT THE POETRY CAFE HOSTED BY MARK ‘MR T’ THOMPSON, and also, hosting THE MAY HAMMER & TONGUE SLAM AT HYSTERIA BAR WHERE SABRINA MAHFOUZ & DIZRAELI DID A FUCKING FANTASTIC FEATURES. also, reconnecting with the London Family, spent May Day in the anarchist space the 12-in-1 club Bradford, and then spent some time plotting & eating kebabs & talking about not-being-in-London with a great friend in Diyarbakir. As you do.
The SP3KERS Corner Did a Nice Review Of Blah Blah Blah
4. Performed in a Poetry Slam in Barcelona while sitting in my room Singapore!
Was invited by Spanish Slam Champion of 2013 & European Slam Champion Dani Orviz to take part in Barcelona’s Slham Poetry L’Hospitalet‘s Shakespeare v Cervantes Slam over Google Hangout at 3AM on a Wednesday night. It was me in Singapore and poets from Sweden, Portugal, France, and Spain, performing in English, Swedish, Portuguese, French, Catalan and Spanish. With translations. To a crowd of 150-200 people in Barcelona. TECHNOLOGY. FUCK YEAH.
photo credit: Slham Poetry L’Hospitalet
5. Judged YAWP 2014 at Hwa Chong Junior College together with poet Joshua Ip, organized by Hwa Chong Lit Wing, aN annual poetry performance competition whole lot of young poets/actors from various secondary schools. Some amazing young performers out there & some really inspiring team pieces & writings. Then I suddenly remembered I had taken part like 10 years ago.
things coming in the future:
(cos I’m too fucking lazy to update the upcoming gigs page but i will soon just not tonight i need to hang out with my cats and its getting quite stuffy in this room actually i think the air conditioning’s broken but more likely i cant find the remote yet cos im trying to finish this blog post)
6. Longitudes & Latitudes (19 July): mega fundraiser for the Singapore’s Indie Art Festival Lit Up! Wil be performing a set & possibly hosting. There will be music & food & alcohol & live art & live plants.
7. Contradiction: OUT Loud: 10 year series: the 10th anniversary of this really amazing queer festival, Contradiction will be the opening event featuring local writers who have been performing there since the beginning. It has always been my favourite part since 2005 & an important part of my life even before I was into performing poetry. I will be performing a set here for the 2nd time.
8. Music Market @ the Hard Rock Cafe (August 2) : some poets & i shall be running a stall to make personalized bespoke poems on-demand from 7PM- 12 midnight!
9. Mass Hysteria: RE-ACT! (August 23): aand….we’re back with more stories/poetry/drama/ basically an entirely new show at the Play Den at the Arts House.
10. A Minor Contradiction (August 30): I’m curating & hosting a sweet closing event for Indignation: a night of performances by emerging/youngish queer Singapore writers at the Reading Room (the art gallery not the cafe)
11. LIT-UP FESTIVAL:the Sekaliwags present: XPOWERMENT! (September 27+28): remember this acronym (i came up with it myself): AIYGHTT! [Adults Inspiring Youth ThrouGH Time Travel) in which we become Primary School Educators for an hour & try to explore the past present future of Singapore & the importance of Asian Values & Hard Work & Resilience to Children with the help of a trusty time machine…. what could possibly go wrong?!
12. Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, Ubud, Bali (1 October -5 October): i shall be performing /panelling/representing Dogfoot as part of this incredible festival. Apparently the author of POSSUM MAGIC, one of my favourite books as a kid, is here as well and THAT IS ALMOST AS EPIC AS CAMPING NEXT TO C. R. AVERY IN GLASTONBURY. Its the first literary festival i have been invited to ever & has got lots of incredible people from Australia & Asia.
13. A Certain Sort of Hunger (some time in October): a show by Tania de Rozario, Dana Lam, Nabilah Husna, Ad Maloud & myself about female ghosts in Asia, the stories we were told, monstrous feminines and selfies.
13. Singapore Writers Festival (late October-November): I am having a chapbook called Roadkill for Beginners launched as part of WordForward’s Loudmouth Chapbook Series.
oh yeah, and here is a video of the piece ‘Playground Ghosts’ that I did with Jennifer Champion at the Sekaliwags show we did in April, where we got our first & probably best review ever afterwards: “you people should get jobs…men don’t want to date women who speaks like that” ==BRILLIANT!
….ok. Now something else profound/generic about Singapore to end this post.
I shall leave you with these words: