Meet the 'rebel girls' of Singapore poetry

These young poets are not afraid to speak their minds, for better or for verse, tackling taboos where others might flinch away. Olivia Ho finds out

Gaze Back (right, $16.82 before GST) by Marylyn Tan (left) is available from Books Kinokuniya, MPH, City Book Room, Grassroots Book Room, selected Times bookstores and ethosbooks.com.sg.
Gaze Back (right, $16.82 before GST) by Marylyn Tan (left) is available from Books Kinokuniya, MPH, City Book Room, Grassroots Book Room, selected Times bookstores and ethosbooks.com.sg.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

When Marylyn Tan published her debut poetry collection Gaze Back, she received this glowing endorsement from her mother: "Eh, not very nice to write like that."

Gaze Back is not in the least "nice". Tan, 25, writes about women, bodies and sexuality with unflinching frankness. She re-imagines Jesus as a teenage girl who "finds walking on water easier/ than walking home alone at night". She discusses the shaving of armpits.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2019, with the headline 'Meet the 'rebel girls' of Singapore poetry'. Subscribe