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Singapore poetry in motion

Carpe diem - local writers seize the day by churning out poems daily for a month

BUDDING POETS' SOCIETY

It sounds simple enough - write a poem a day for an entire month.

There are no prizes for finishing this challenge, but there aren't any penalties either.

In fact, the people behind the Singapore Poetry Writing Month do not seem to care if the prose you pose is good, so long as you make an effort.

But such lax guidelines have done wonders to attract a sizeable online crowd.

Stanza by stanza, sestina by sestina, the Facebook movement has taken off.


Rapper Jay Z (left) has been the butt of jokes after the debut of Beyonce’s
album Lemonade with its focus on infidelity. PHOTO: MRWILLSMILES/TWITTER

 

SingPoWriMo, as it's known online, was started in 2014 by poet Joshua Ip as a means for a small group of friends to give feedback and encouragement.

  • NOTABLE TRENDS

  • #LEMONADE: American singer Beyonce's latest album Lemonade has caused a stir online for its focus on infidelity. Her husband, rapper Jay Z, has since been the subject of many memes and jokes. But, as the album hits the top of the charts, perhaps the theme was a pretty astute one after all.

    DESTINY GLEASON: A 14-year-old took her own life in the United States after months of relentless bullying on social media. In a video she uploaded, Destiny said:  "The words you call me are just words. That's not who I really am. That's not what I'll ever be."

    #BUKITBATOKBYELECTION: The straight fight between Singapore Democratic Party's Chee Soon Juan and People's Action Party's Murali Pillai has become a hot topic online.

"We accidentally opened up the group to the public instead of making it private. By the next day, 100 people had joined," he said.

The numbers grew. There were 1,200 members in April last year.

There were about 2,600 members when this year's iteration closed yesterday.

Not all the members are active. But that still equates to an output of about 300 to 400 poems a day.

To manage this, there are five senior moderators "who give crazy prompts and swan around scattering wisdom and likes", Mr Ip says. Prompts can range from topics like the pitfalls of dating poets, to odes to MRT stations.

(Here's a small taste: Ubi or not Ubi? That must have been the question for some civil servant, by Facebook user Janice Heng).

A larger team of 11 junior moderators do shifts to man the page at all hours of the day.

These unsung heroes guide budding wordsmiths, provide criticism and help shortlist hot favourites which are compiled into a 200-page anthology every year.

Mr Ip says there is plenty of untapped potential to be discovered. "What's really encouraging is to see new names who are really technically accomplished and writing mature work that's on a par with, or even better than, many of our best published poets," he says.

SIDESTEPPING CENSORSHIP


Argentinian Breast Cancer society Macma’s breast cancer video has cleverly
bypassed female nudity restrictions by using a man. PHOTO: MACMA/YOUTUBE

Female nudity is banned on several social media platforms.

But how about the glistening flesh of portly men?

Macma, an Argentinian breast cancer society, has found a way to work around censorship restrictions - typically when a woman's nipples can be seen - and hopefully save a few lives in the process.

Its campaign video, uploaded last week, features Henry, a rotund man with a well-developed chest, undergoing a breast exam.

In the clip, he gamely raises his arms while a woman standing behind him lifts and prods his "man boobs", using her hands to show viewers the problematic areas to look out for.

Macma also suggests the use of the hashtag #ManBoobs4Boobs.

The video has been lauded for its innovativeness.

"That is hilarious and informative. Thank you Henry for demonstrating with your big, bold and beautiful body," said one YouTube user.

"Why on earth can't we talk about breast health without it being sexualised?" said another user. "Thumbs up to the creative minds who found a way to get the message across despite ludicrous obstacles."

So, don't let Henry's effort go to waste. Give yourself a check.

WHEN ENOUGH IS ENOUGH


Sports reporter Sarah Spain in a screen grab from the #MoreThanMean video. The viral clip, which features her and another reporter Julie DiCaro, highlights the
 abuse women sports reporters face online. The vile messages read out in the video are actual messages the women received. PHOTO: JUST NOT SPORTS/YOUTUBE

Sports reporters Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro have had enough.

Faced with a constant barrage of sexist and downright foul messages sent to their social media accounts, the two Chicago-based journalists agreed to star in a video highlighting the abuse women sports reporters endure online.

The video, #MoreThanMean, shows several men take turns to read out the mean tweets Ms Spain and Ms DiCaro have received, to their faces.

The men are not the originators of the messages, but friends of the producers of the clip.

The first message, which calls for a petition to ban all links to Ms DiCaro's Twitter feed, seems petty, but nothing too extreme.

But it quickly gets a lot worse.

Under the cover of anonymity, it seems there is nothing some Twitter users won't say.

One called for the women to be beaten, another said they should be raped, and their pets be run over by cars.

The men reading the tweets look increasingly uncomfortable. The last tweet reads: "You need to be hit in the head with a hockey puck and killed."

If there are any positive takeaways from this episode, it is that the video has done its job.

In less than a week, it has amassed more than 2.6 million views, and was picked up by many American news outlets.

It has also generated a fair amount of discussion.

"We read these tweets and may even laugh at them sometimes, to be honest," said one YouTube user. "But if someone said these comments to our sisters and mothers, we would most likely be spending the rest of our lives in prison after we got through with that person."

The message the video ends with seems trite, but one that often goes unheeded among netizens - we wouldn't say it to their faces, so let's not type it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 01, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore poetry in motion'. Print Edition | Subscribe