The poet’s place in Singapore

What kind of place do poets and poetry have, want to have, or can have in Singapore as it aspires to be a Global City of the Arts?

Poems and photos from the Lens & Lines on display at an exhibition which is part of Poetry Festival Singapore 2017.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ZHOU HAO

Do poets still have a place in Singapore, was the quizzical response to my essay, A Luxury We Can Now Afford. This was an Afterword to a just published Omnibus edition combining two earlier “anthologies of Singapore poetry” – A Luxury We Cannot Afford (2014) and A Luxury We Must Afford (2016).

Obviously, the editors and poet-contributors believe that poetry (and hence poets) must be afforded a place in Singapore. That imperative “must” suggests both might not have a place still. And that founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s remark in 1968, “poetry is a luxury we cannot afford”, then adding “technical education is more important”, influentially encouraged a dismissal of poetry as being unnecessary in the new republic.

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