Poetry gets a push with new programme for young poets

Young poets looking for a chance to hone their craft and spread the love for poetry have much to look forward to.

A new Youth Poet Ambassador programme will kick off next year, with a poet between the age of 21 and 35 picked to help engage youth and inspire them to express themselves through poetry.

His works can be in any of Singapore's four official languages - English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.

The appointment will be for a two-year period, and the selected poet will be awarded an honorarium of $500 a month, as well as a professional development grant and programming budget totalling $18,000.

The programme, which is initiated by the National Arts Council and managed by the National Poetry Festival, was announced last night at the launch of the festival's SG Poems 2015-2016 anthology.

The arts council's acting director for literary arts, Ms May Tan, says the programme hopes to raise the profile of poets here and to shine a light on the role poetry can play in society.

During his two years as ambassador, the poet is expected to conduct at least six public programmes, which can range from translation projects to mentorship for young aspiring writers.

We need reminding that poetry is not dead words on a page but is the song of change. So the young poet plays an important part in creating a community of voices.

POET POOJA NANSI

He will also be able to tap a slew of resources to strengthen his craft and publish new works, and will be featured at literary events such as the Singapore Writers Festival.

Mr Muzakkir Samat, 25, the co-editor of From Walden To Woodlands, an interfaith anthology of nature poems, cheered the programme for opening up "equal and vast opportunities" for budding poets across the different languages to take their work to the next level.

"These opportunities would give them the required time, space and resources to grow as well as to find meaningful and creative ways to connect to the culturally diverse community at large," he says.

Poet Pooja Nansi, 34, sees in it a way of showing the young that poetry is alive.

"Poetry belongs in the throats and hearts of the young people. We need reminding that poetry is not dead words on a page but is the song of change," she says. "So the young poet plays an important part in creating a community of voices."

The new programme comes on a wave of rising interest in poetry, as people here flock to events such as the National Poetry Festival, which this year attracted about 1,100 participants.

The scene is vibrant too, with ground-up efforts to get people writing and appreciating poems flourishing. In April, the Singapore Poetry Writing Month drew more than 2,800 writers.

Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng, who was the guest of honour at last night's launch, says: "As we explore how we want our future to be shaped, we look to our youth to be an integral part of that important conversation.

"Poetry can lend a voice to our youth to express themselves, to speak on contemporary issues they face and inspire them to look at the world from different perspectives."

• Interested applicants can visit http://www.ypa.sg/ for more information.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'Poetry gets a push with new programme for young poets'. Print Edition | Subscribe