Profile: Desmond Kon

Published on 5 July 2016

His literary works have clinched awards across categories, but writer Desmond Kon says his first love will always be poetry.

BY PAMELA HO

His book I Didn’t Know Mani Was a Conceptualist (published by Math Paper Press) has been shortlisted for this year’s Singapore Literature Prize in the English Poetry category. Not that Desmond Kon is any stranger to literary awards.

Under his belt, an epistolary novel, two hybrid works, six poetry collections, and the honour of being the first to clinch a twin win in Poetry and Visionary Fiction at the Beverly Hills International Book Awards. At the 2015 Living Now Book Awards, he topped in both the Metaphysical (bronze) and Inspirational Fiction (silver) categories; then swept seven wins across Adult Fiction, Anthology, Poetry and Spirituality at the USA Regional Excellence Book Awards.

“Some ideas find themselves better voiced through stanzas or exposition or streams of consciousness. It’s really about attending to structure, and what kinds best articulate the heart and mind of an idea,” shares the former journalist who helms Squircle Line Press as its founding editor, and was trained in book publishing at Stanford University. “There’s no stock formula. At least for me, the form shapes itself as the writing gets punched out.”

While he has enjoyed success across genres, it’s his poetry that has shone. Among his accolades, the distinction of being the first poet to have two collections tied in top spot in the US-based National Indie Excellence Book Awards. But perhaps more significant to him is the fact that he founded a poetic form that is Singapore’s very own.

“I first invented the asingbol in an obscure interview in 2010. At last year’s Singapore Writers Festival, I debuted the form as the opening chapter of my book, Babel Via Negativa,” says Kon, explaining that the form is based on tweetlit (Twitter). “It was conceived as an expedient form for an expedient nation. There has since been a flood of asingbols by over 50 writers, enough for an anthology to be published.”

In the pipeline, the first novella installment of a three-part series, which revolves around a woman’s travels with her anthropologist lover — a project birthed from his recent writer-in-residence stint at the Nanyang Technological University. Later this year, we can expect a new poetry collection, Mirror Image Mirage, which methodically unravels the haiku.

Reflecting on his journey, Kon says the world has been kind to him, opening up amazing writing opportunities. “There’s a kind of responsibility that comes with writing in different genres. With journalism, it is to honour a story that is someone else’s. With fiction, it’s to honour the imagination, and whatever characters or scenes or plots emerge from that wonderful space. Poetry comes most naturally to me. It’s like a second skin.”

For more on Desmond Kon’s work, visit www.squirclelinepress.org.

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