” In Japanese, the word “onnen” signifies an emotion so strong that it lingers even past death. It is often the basis of narratives that involve female ghosts coming back for revenge.” It is also the title of a powerful poem by festival author Tania De Rozario.
Second Saturdays Reading Series #5
Written by Jee Leong Koh, Photos by Win Lubin and Paul Rozario-Falcone
“A Room with a View” would be a more descriptive title for the reading on Saturday, July 12. Perched on the 14th floor of a building at the northeastern corner of Central Park, Win Lubin’s apartment offered bird’s eye views of New York City. Win and Damon Chua were the gracious hosts of the fifth installment of the monthly reading series. Like Lucy Honeychurch, the heroine of E. M. Forster’s novel, we traveled from different parts of the city—our featured writer A. Naomi Jackson coming from as far as Philadelphia—to enjoy their hospitality and to see a new country, mostly of the imagination.
In fact, travels and views were very much the theme of the evening’s reading. Jeremy Tiang brought many of us back to Singapore when he read from his short story “National Day,” first published in Ambit magazine. It was, however, a Singapore that those of us who had not returned recently had not seen, full of surprisingly dingy-looking luxury homes on the shores of Sentosa island. Damon, our host, followed with a reading from his book Traveler’s Tales and Other Poems. If the first two poems “Waiting for a Supernova” and “The Quiet World” directed us outwards in its imagery, the third poem, which was also the title poem, brought us home, where tea is offered, or “even a bird / for a song.”
First-timer Gina Inzunza read from her collection Inside Voices at the Girl Aquarium. Written in the voice of a teenage girl, the humorous poem “Tonight I’m Going to My Boyfriend’s House to Lose My Virginity and I’m Bringing…” was about an imaginary trip. For the sake of balance, Gina read another poem “Fun in a Box,” this time in the voice of a teenage boy. It was also Ling E. Teo’s first appearance at Second Saturdays, though she had been eager to join her fellow Singaporeans since she first heard of readings. She read from her Pushcart Prize-nominated short story “In Transit.” A linked story “Handicap,” also published in Crosstimbers, completes the arc from loss to healing. Up next was Christine Chia who read three poems from her forthcoming second book Separation: a history. In the poems, she made views into verse by having the photographs of Lee Kuan Yew and Tunku Abdul Rahman speak.
We were fortunate that A. Naomi Jackson was in town for the Harlem Book Fair. Her novel Who Don’t Hear Will Feel will be published by Penguin Books next year. The extract she read gave a wonderfully vivid picture of life in Barbados as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl raised in Brooklyn. Barbadian life, it emerged, revolved around food as much as Singaporean life. The reading certainly whetted our appetite for the novel. In the meantime, you can get a taste of Naomi’s writing in her short story chapbook Ladies, which won the 2012 BLOOM chapbook contest.
After the reading, Damon, who is in charge of fundraising for the Singapore Literature Festival, spoke about the Kickstarter campaign and played the campaign video to the room. No one, not even writers, can travel on an empty stomach. Food was again plenty at the reading, thanks to everyone who brought a dish to share. There were roast duck, homemade laksa, dumplings … and all kinds of mouthwatering dishes. The deserts were a highlight. There were at least three different kinds of cakes. Everyone stayed after the reading to help polish off the food. Like the poets of old, some climbed up to the roof deck to view the full summer moon.
A poem “explaining a thousand cranes” by festival writer Joshua Ip is featured on the website Singapore Poetry. Joshua has kindly agreed to write a poem based on your name or a name of your suggestion, for a contribution to the festival’s Kickstarter campaign. Check out the poem, and then check out our fundraising campaign.
“so this is how you fold a thousand cranes:
one at a time….”
The Straits Times ran an article on #SingLitFestNYC in today’s papers! Thank you, Melissa Sim, for reporting on the festival and our Kickstarter campaign. Thank you, Cyril Wong, for scanning and sharing the article with us.
Sixty-four wonderful literary angels have so far donated over 75% of our Kickstarter goal. Please continue to share our campaign so that we get to 100%! Thanks!
If you dismiss yoga as a yuppie’s thang, festival authors Colin Goh and Yen Yen Woo may change your mind. As owners of Yumcha Yoga, they hold an annual yoga and community event called Yoga in the Garden. Organized with Flushing Town Hall, the popular get-together takes place in the green heart of the civic and cultural center. This year, after the stretching, there will be some kirtan singing – a call-and-response chorus in the Indian bhakti devotional tradition. Ask Colin and Yen Yen about yoga and its relationship to their writing, filmmaking and comic illustration at the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC (Oct 10 – 12, 2014). In the meantime, enjoy the video and peace be with you.
It is not news when lion eats fish, but it is news when fish eats lion. That is the news-making title of a collection of Singapore’s best speculative fiction: sci-fi, fantasy, and mash-up of absurdism, police procedural, fairy tales, steam punk and political satire. Edited by festival writer Jason Erik Lundberg, himself the author of three works of speculative fiction, “Fish Eats Lion” is now available as an e-book. The Future is Here, at the Singapore Literature Festival in New York (Oct 10 – 12, 2014).
Christine Chia’s debut book of poems sold out its first printing before you can say its title “The Law of Second Marriages.” The second edition will be launched this summer with a new cover and a preface by another festival author Cyril Wong. In Wong’s view, “For all of Christine Chia’s unflinching inwardness and directness in confronting the heartache and tragedies regarding her relationships … what emerges is a poignant grasping at hope and the courage to forgive the past, wrought through the tortured re-envisioning of private trauma….” Hear Christine Chia read from her powerful debut at the Singapore Literature Festival in New York (Oct 10 – 12, 2014)
Cover of Second Edition
Cover of First Edition
Christine Chia, author of The Law of Second Marriages
Festival author Tania De Rozario is not only a passionate poet but also a talented artist. She has kindly donated three of her drawings to our Kickstarter campaign. These ink-on-paper works are from her series “A Hundred Ways to Articulate Loss.” One drawing has already been snapped up! Get yours before they are all gone!
A Hundred Ways to Articulate Loss #23
by Tania De Rozario
Ink on Paper
5.8″ x 4.1″
A Hundred Ways to Articulate Loss #39
by Tania De Rozario
Ink on Paper
5.8″ x 4.1″
A Hundred Ways to Articulate Loss #5
by Tania De Rozario
Ink on Paper
21cm X 15cm
“I’ve always loved stories, real or fiction. As a child, I would read quaint fairy tales and novels about far away places. But I loved listening to my mother and aunts tell family stories even more. Strangely, the only folktale that I recall anyone ever telling me was Momotarosan. On maybe just two or three occasions just before my bedtime, I sat next to my father, who lay down on his resting mat in his bedroom, and listened to him bring to life that famous Japanese tale about a boy being born from a peach and his adventures fighting the onis with the help of his trusted friends: the dog, the monkey and the bird….”
Come and hear the rest of her story at the Singapore Literature Festival in New York Oct 10 – 12.
Poet Alvin Pang’s prose collection What Gives Us Our Names is to be translated into French by Anne-Lise Marill. Ask him about the difference between writing poetry and prose at the Singapore Literature Festival in New York (Oct 10 – 12).
“He’d gotten the idea from a book, not unlike the one you last read and loved, whose lurid covers you have already forgotten. For a canvas, he used not his own skin but his very life, spending his days as if he were made up of the most telling bits of other people. To do this, he learned to watch quietly and look deeply , past the busy surfaces until he could discern the colours beneath, the ones that did not change. One by one he would name them as he wove them into his heart in the deep of night. He touched you once, borrowing pieces of your story in passing. They are here still, in case you wish to look.”