Bookends

Theophilus Kwek is launching his Giving Ground poetry collection.
Theophilus Kwek is launching his Giving Ground poetry collection.PHOTO: THEOPHILUS KWEK

Who: Poet and undergraduate Theophilus Kwek, 21

Kwek has three poetry collections to his name: They Speak Only Our Mother Tongue (2011), the Singapore Literature Prize- nominated Circle Line (2013) and, most recently, Giving Ground (2016).

He is reading modern history and politics at Oxford University, where he is president of the poetry society.

Giving Ground goes on sale on Friday at $16 (before GST) at major bookstores and on www.ethosbooks.com.sg

What are you reading now?


Contesting Space In Colonial Singapore (2003, NUS Press, $38) is available from NUS Press

I'm revisiting Brenda Yeoh's Contesting Space In Colonial Singapore, which explores how the rank-and-file members of colonial society challenged the policies of the British authorities and re-asserted their lines of community and ways of life.

While many of us are used to a top-down narrative of Singapore's history, this fascinating volume shows that it is possible to reconstruct an intimate, ground-level perspective of the interests and identities of those living in the 19th-century city.


Orpheus: A Version Of Rainer Maria Rilke (2007, Faber & Faber, $23.55)

Another book I'm reading is Don Paterson's bewitching rendering of Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets To Orpheus, published by Faber & Faber as Orpheus. Unlike most translations, Paterson does not aim to reproduce the original, but to create a version in English that, in his words, "sings" in its own right.

The result is a marvellous book with the power to speak to all of us.


Union: 15 Years Of Drunken Boat, 50 Years Of Writing From Singapore (2015, Drunken Boat Media, $26.75) are available from Books Kinokuniya

What books would you save from a burning house?

First, my Bible, a lifelong source of comfort and praise that I couldn't live without. Second, perhaps my contributor's copy of Union: 15 Years Of Drunken Boat, 50 Years Of Writing From Singapore - which is a fantastic selection of writing from the past 15 years of the American literary journal Drunken Boat, alongside writing from Singapore's past 50 years.

  • Contesting Space In Colonial Singapore (2003, NUS Press, $38) is available from NUS Press. Orpheus: A Version Of Rainer Maria Rilke (2007, Faber & Faber, $23.55), Union: 15 Years Of Drunken Boat, 50 Years Of Writing From Singapore (2015, Drunken Boat Media, $26.75) are available from Books Kinokuniya.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 27, 2016, with the headline 'Bookends'. Print Edition | Subscribe