Rhyme And Reason-A Literary Series


Zheng He discovered amber in Turkey.

Our forefathers called it dragon's drool.

They marvelled at the unlucky insects,

even if larger beasts had been devoured.

That was evidence the Middle Kingdom

was ordained for dominion of the world,

if even Chinese dragons roamed as far

as Asia Minor and the cold, deep north.

The tribes they found in both Americas

showed how much it was China's calling

to extend the largesse of our civilisation.

But now the job is done, if shoddily so,

by the teeth of dragons sown in dry land

and under-managed by successive courts,

there're not that many places left to save.

Perhaps a few rocks in the Southern Ocean.

No dragon's drool has yet been found.

The islands do not yet possess an airstrip.

To such lands long forsaken we shall bring

our language, our culture and our peace.



    Born in Singapore and educated in Oxford University, Toh Hsien Min has published four collections of poetry.

    His work has been cited in the Oxford Companion To Modern Poetry as "the work of an observant traveller and inventive formalist, adept at casual rhyme, colloquial phrasing and poignant structural returns".

    In 2010, he was accorded the Young Artist Award by the National Arts Council of Singapore.


    Dans quel sens tombent les feuilles / Which way the leaves fall (Editions Caracteres, 2016)

    Comprising selections from previous collections and 29 uncollected poems, this bilingual French/English edition published in Paris offers a survey of the disciplined diversity of Toh's work.

    Means To An End (Landmark, 2008)

    Described by Monocle as "a new national narrative", Means To An End was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize in 2010.

    The Enclosure Of Love (Landmark, 2001)

    Poetry.sg: "Although Toh's poetics involves struggle and difficulty, it looks forward to that new equilibrium... where a single poetic voice may find its deeper stillness."

    •The poem in the Rhyme and Reason series is brought to you in partnership with the National Arts Council.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2016, with the headline 'Nanyang'. Print Edition | Subscribe