S'porean wordsmiths take centre stage

Performance poet Daren Kamali holding a Wau, a Fiji warrior weapon, during the Stories From Islands, Songs From Islanders II readings at The Arts House yesterday.
Performance poet Daren Kamali holding a Wau, a Fiji warrior weapon, during the Stories From Islands, Songs From Islanders II readings at The Arts House yesterday.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Highlights at writers fest include launch of anthology of poetry, prose, comics and plays

Local voices are taking the spotlight at this year's Singapore Writers Festival, with 242 Singaporean writers to be featured.

Some of the most well-known are featured in an anthology of 50 new pieces of writing. The two-volume, 636-page anthology called Singathology will be launched on Nov 5 during the 10-day festival. Edited by writer Gwee Li Sui, the volumes commemorate the nation's Golden Jubilee, and represent Singapore's multilingual heritage as well as the diversity of its literary scene.

Poetry, prose, comics and plays are included. Pieces written in Chinese, Malay and Tamil are accompanied by English translations. Contributors include poet Edwin Thumboo, poet KTM Iqbal, graphic novelist Troy Chin, xinyao composer and singer Liang Wern Fook and writer-playwright Ovidia Yu.

The festival was launched yesterday at The Arts House by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu. The ministry's Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng was also in attendance.

Speaking to an audience comprising writers and artists, Ms Fu affirmed the importance of local literature and the Government's commitment to building it up. "We need a Singapore literature... that we can interpret through the lens of our own experiences, and our unique cultural memory," she said.

This year's festival, titled Island Of Dreams, will focus on breaking down traditional boundaries between languages and art forms, said festival director Yeow Kai Chai.

The line-up of 300 events runs the gamut from rock concerts and a translation symposium to visual art exhibitions and film screenings. Although critics have said the multidisciplinary approach risks overshadowing writers, Mr Yeow hoped the festival would help visitors "discover that the written word, presented in its variety of forms of a book, a play, a song or poetry, is a powerful tool to appreciate the world around us and voice our hopes and dreams".

In this spirit, the launch event embraced several art forms. New Zealander folk singer Hollie Fullbrook, from the Kiwi indie band Tiny

Ruins, debuted her latest single, A Million Flowers. Dr Gwee went on stage to read New World, a poem he had written for the festival.

Later in the festival, The Straits Times' senior writers Wong Kim Hoh, Wong Ah Yoke and Rohit Brijnath will share their respective fields of expertise at the ST Conversations panels.

Another highlight is 17,000 Islands Dreaming, the festival's Indonesia-focused event curated by The Arts House. It runs till Nov 7.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2015, with the headline 'S'porean wordsmiths take centre stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe