Say SG

Surely, after years of being 'local' this and
'local' that, a sheepish shunting off, crimping
Our journalists, universities, scientists, iconic eats,
Million $ companies busy with circuitry and chips
In Bengaluru and Silicon V, breaking up fearful odds,
And scooping global Firsts, we deserve a name:
Singapore; Singaporean. But now, more fulsome:


Jubilee-timed; historic. A punchy seal
Carved for all seasons, styling our little red dot,
Still evolving through challenges, and planning
Fifty years in a world engrossed with eating up itself.


Crystalline. Crisp. Striking. Emblematic red and white.
Asserting island-boundaries, no more, no less.
Neat Identity - One People, One Nation embracing all,
Including dissidents who love in their own fashion.


Receive and use. Nurture her spirit in our hearts
Pulsating with energy and our city's prodigies. No
Excuse to ever discount ourselves, you and I. So ensure
Her poetry as we redress, commemorate and sing
This is the time my friends;
This is where that 'local' ends,
Fifty years and on an August day.


Emeritus Professor at National University of Singapore's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Widely regarded as the unofficial poet laureate of Singapore. His poem Ulysses By The Merlion is a major work in Singapore literature. He was the first Singaporean to be conferred the S.E.A Write Award and the Cultural Medallion for Literature in 1979 and 1980, respectively. He received the National Book Development Council prizes for poetry (1978, 1980, 1994), the Asean Cultural and Communication Award in Literature (1987), the Public Service Star (Bar) in 1991 and the Meritorious Service Medal in 2006.

Link to National Library E-Resources.


  • Rib Of Earth (1956)

First collection of poetry. Notable for its attempt to digest the literary strengths of English and apply them to themes with a Singapore habitation and thrust.

  • A Third Map (1993)

It makes available out-of-print poems.

  • Word-Gate (2003)

Privately printed to mark 80th birthday. This volume focuses on words as doors of perception.

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

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 23, 2016, with the headline Say SG. Subscribe