SINGAPORE - Issues of race and the boundaries between Singaporeans form the theme of the third Poetry Festival Singapore, an annual non-profit festival celebrating local poetry in the four official languages of Singapore.
At its opening ceremony on Friday night (July 28) at the National Library Pod, speakers looked at the ways in which poetry can define, confront, and transcend race.
Festival director Eric Tinsay Valles, 49, said: "Poetry is a subtle and powerful means of combating racism. It is a home where everyone can take shelter, regardless of race."
The event's guest-of-honour, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary, said in his address: "The words 'regardless of race' have always touched me. Why 'regardless'? The suggestion is that we were never going to be blind to race, that we were never going to be able to ignore it, but have to actively rise above it constantly, to be Singaporean regardless of race, language or religion."
"In being an active consumer of poetry, you have to examine what are the commonalities between your culture and others and what are the differences, and make some decisions on whether they matter."
The event also featured a keynote address by Dr Sa'eda Buang, Asian Languages & Cultures senior lecturer at the National Institute of Education, who recited and discussed Malay poems on race dating back to the 19th century.
This year's festival, which will run until July 30, will also feature the inaugural Singapore Literature Conference, a one-day academic affair at Lasalle College of the Arts, as well as adaptations of poetry across different media, such as film adaptations of Chinese poems by Lasalle students, and a poetry-photography exhibition, Lens & Lines.
The exhibition at Lasalle features 16 photos by the Photographic Society of Singapore, which 16 local writers composed poems about. Editor Zhou Hao, 28, one of the poets, said: "We wanted to create dialogue between two artistic forms and four languages, to cross some boundaries."
BOOK IT/SINGAPORE LITERATURE CONFERENCE: EXAMINING LITERATURE IN FOUR LANGUAGES
WHERE: Lasalle College of the Arts, 1 McNally Street, Block F Level 2
WHEN: Saturday, 9am to 4pm
LENS & LINES: POETRY X PHOTOGRAPHY
WHERE: Lasalle College of the Arts, Ngee Ann Kongsi Library
WHEN:Opening on Sunday, 10 to 11.30am. Exhibition runs daily until Oct 31
FILM INTERPRETATIONS OF POETRY
WHERE: *Scape Gallery Theatre, Level 5, 2 Orchard Link
WHEN: Sunday, 5 to 7pm
For more information and to register, go to poetryfestivalsg.peatix.com