At the end of August 2018, Jogos Florais found themselves, jetlagged, in humid Singapore. With a diminished propensity for sun bathing and shopping, we decided holiday is whatever people want it to be and started reading about Singapore, its politics and its poets.
Singapore’s economy was at the back of our minds, the country having been mentioned again and again at the time Portugal was living through economic recession. Our then Prime-Minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, felt inspired by Singapore’s founding prime-minister Lee Kuan Yew, by his policies and his books, and was accused of wanting to turn Portugal into Europe’s Singapore. Today, Jogos Florais has a better notion of what that means but we won’t bother you with it, after all, this is a poetry website.
As we were saying, we started reading Singapore’s poets and found their voices were unique and somehow familiar at the same time. We recognized allusions to a series of English authors, from Shakespeare to Stevie Smith. Such puzzle had to be solved, so we decided to start interviewing those whose books seemed to be of interest to us for a number of different reasons. We were unable to interview all those we started admiring (it was the holidays, after all and some sightseeing had to be done) so don’t be too harsh on us. We did ask, however, authorization to publish poems from some of those we were unable to speak to, and even though this issue is no way representative of the richness and variety of poetry from Singapore, perhaps it will lead you to start exploring it.
This issue is a little different from previous ones, it has more interviews and poems are not accompanied by our usual close-reading exercises, as we felt it was difficult – and somewhat dubious – to discuss poetry which was, until recently, unknown to us. Still, we had the greatest time preparing it and we do hope you’ll like it.
Without Cyril Wong and Gwee Li Sui’s helping hands we would never have been able to put this issue together. They pointed us to wonderful poets, suggested readings, bookshops, and made us interested in knowing more and more about Singaporean literature, from its beginning to nowadays. To them we say thank you!
We hope the poets here showcased help you find an interest in Singaporean culture and rich poetry. Singapore has wonderful bookstores, so if you visit the city you may easily find the poetry books we mention. And you may buy them online either in LocalBooks.sg or Books Actually or check the site of publishers such as Math Press or Ethos Books. If you ever visit Singapore don’t forget to go to City Book Room, one of Singapore’s loveliest bookstores, where the book shop manager Tan Waln Ching will welcome you. You should also check Kinokuniya, Books Actually and Woods in the Books.