S'pore writing can help build nation's 'heartware'

I attended the talk, A Librarian's World - The Edwin Thumboo Collection: Mapping Singapore's Poetic Soul, at the National Library last month, and saw how poetry can be a powerful tool in preserving our heritage.

In a lively discussion of Professor Thumboo's poem, Uncle Never Knew, an elderly man spoke passionately of how the work took him back to his childhood days by the Singapore River.

I belong to a younger generation, but have been fortunate enough to have walked along the river before its big cleanup. The poem helped me remember the old shophouses and sampans, too.

I wonder what kind of emotions this poem can evoke in the generations born after the river was cleaned up.

Singapore has come a long way. We have progressed, but have lost many buildings, landscapes and ways of life in the process. Poetry is a beautiful way of preserving our heritage and sharing our culture.

Kudos to all those who write about Singapore, for documenting our lives and ways of living that otherwise may be lost.

That evening's event also gave an ordinary Singaporean like me a glimpse into the country's writing scene.

Professor Thumboo was very generous with his time, and his presence made his work accessible and not seem like insurmountable pages of words meant for only those in the literary field.

I hope more Singaporeans, especially our younger generation, can be exposed to our local writing and writers. There is so much potential in the written word to build our nation's "heartware".

Lock Hun Ya (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore writing can help build nation's 'heartware''. Print Edition | Subscribe