TO BE A POET

Published on 12 April 2017

Three established poets who are selecting the participants for Sing Lit Station’s upcoming Poetry Bootcamp share their thoughts on this literary genre.

BY MELANIE LEE

Sing Lit Station is a literary non-profit organisation run by writers. Besides organising community events such as SingPoWriMo and having a publishing imprint called Ten Year Series (under Math Paper Press), it also organises an annual Manuscript Bootcamp. This one-of-a-kind literary bootcamp is an intensive editorial programme that brings writers, editors, academics and publishers together to critique and workshop the best of new writing talent in Singapore.

ALVIN PANG, 44

Three established poets who are selecting the participants for Sing Lit Station’s upcoming Poetry Bootcamp share their thoughts on this literary genre.

How did you fall in love with poetry?

I spent a lot of time reading as a child so I’ve always loved books and stories. When I was in Sec 1, my very first Literature lesson was a comparison between two poems about the sea.  I started writing my own sea poem that very day, and was hooked. I haven’t stopped since.

What makes a poem good?

Some people say poems must rhyme. Or sound like Shakespeare. Well, I feel it wouldn’t be meaningful to compare Mozart to Madonna in a simplistic one-to-one fashion.  Both have their place and are trying to do different things. It’s the same with poems.

That does not mean anything goes.  You also ask basic questions: Do you enjoy it? What makes it enjoyable? Pleasure is a big part of it. But something that is smart, polished, thoughtful is pleasurable too. It’s like a good relationship.  You want to feel taken care of in the process of reading. You want to feel like the writer knows what they’re doing.  But you also want to be pleasantly surprised.  It’s a delicate balance.

How should a young poet be mentored?

Help him or her to get a leg up in a supportive way that is not imposing. It is also about showing the ropes in practical terms: how publishing works as an industry, how to plug into the network and get connected to other people, events, resources, books and ideas that can help a poet grow in his or her own terms.

A good mentor helps others grow in the directions they want to grow. It is important to let emerging poets find their own space to breathe and be their own voice.

NICHOLAS WONG, 38

Three established poets who are selecting the participants for Sing Lit Station’s upcoming Poetry Bootcamp share their thoughts on this literary genre.

How did you fall in love with poetry?

It started when Professor Lim (see below) gave me a poetry assignment. For the first time in my life, I felt that my feelings were validated and invited into the classroom.

What makes a poem good?

It is good when it exposes some wounds.

How should a young poet be mentored?

I would give reassurance, because I think most poets are over-critical about themselves. We need to feel good sometimes. I’ve always been impressed by the energy of contemporary Singaporean poetry.

SHIRLEY GEOK-LIN LIM, 72

Three established poets who are selecting the participants for Sing Lit Station’s upcoming Poetry Bootcamp share their thoughts on this literary genre.

How did you fall in love with poetry?

Reading a lot of wonderful poems in children’s texts in British colonial English-language libraries in Malacca.

What makes a poem good?

When it is memorable – with cadence, language play, emotion and wit to help to grow the heart and the mind.

How should a young poet be mentored?

With a lot of affection, kind attention, and time-consuming patience. I find that I’ve always made a poem better by listening to what other people say about it. As such, I think it is important to ask help from strangers, something I struggle with up till today.

Manuscript Bootcamp 2017 (Poetry) is open for submissions till 14 May 2017 for a Bootcamp scheduled from 28 – 30 July 2017. Click here to apply.

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