All right, I admit it: There might just be some perks to being
let's not kid ourselves.
wordsmiths have yet to shake off their dowdy image
as stuffy closet scribblers
pursuits - especially poetry - still rank way down in the
unspoken hierarchy of the arts scene.
and the performing arts come out tops, of course.
as one associate dryly remarked, in the eyes of the public
and funding bodies, literature probably comes a close second
to recreational basket-weaving.
may be historical and economic reasons why writers aren't
rolling with groupies and in freebies, despite our Renaissance
one reason why we don't enjoy a higher profile and support
in Singapore is that we aren't asking hard enough.
the rub: For years we've wanted to have a writers' retreat
- where fellow wordsmiths could take time out from busy
schedules to talk shop and ''just write''.
the past weekend, poet Yong Shu Hoong managed to get a hotel
to sponsor just such an event for a dozen writers. Gratis.
result: Generous facilities for an overnight get-together
in the quirky new Hotel Gallery Evason in Robertson Quay,
complete with rubber duckies in the lifts and a fish-tank
we bards had to sing for our supper.
the end of the retreat, we'd served up one new poem each
- composed overnight on the premises.
also created a collective sestina for the hotel, using the
keywords telescope, Mondrian, lines, flame, inescapable
up on art paper with our signatures flourished at the end,
the poems - waiting to be framed and hung on a hotel wall
somewhere - looked like, well, art.
we felt hip.
that the outing was a fraudulent junket for poseurs, mind
fact, the closed-door discussions were overdue chances to
air meaty issues, from politics and patronage to funding
and literary development.
getting away from the daily grind did set the creative juices
event was a classic win-win: Writers needed a place to chill
out for a day or two, and the fledgling hotel wanted to
reinforce its artsy, urban-chic image.
was pointed out during one of the sessions, writers really
need to get a lot more thick-skinned about promoting themselves
and their field of work.
local wordsmiths have yet to shake off their dowdy image
as stuffy closet scribblers, unlike authors abroad - think
Arundhati Roy or Michael Crichton - who might enjoy the
kind of celeb status usually reserved for movie stars.
marketing need not compromise the quality or integrity
of the writing
contrast, their publicity-savvy and stage-smart pros in
the performing arts have refined their sales pitch and branding
wonder that they're foremost in the minds of policy makers
and the public as far as the arts are concerned.
may find it distasteful for writers to pander to the market.
there's something to be said about making it easier for
the public to access our work. And there's no reason why,
should we need support - such as funding or a place to hold
a retreat - not to come out and ask around.
even a subtle danger in humility: If good writers prefer
to lie low, the profile of Singaporean writing will be dominated
by the loudest - and not necessarily the best - voices.
idea is to approach literature as a product that can be
branded and promoted using techniques gleaned from the marketplace.
marketing need not compromise the quality or integrity of
the writing; newspapers around the world, for instance,
do it all the time.
not package literature with other art forms, through media
like SMS, MP3, or even MTV tie-ins?
about user-friendly ''teaching kits'' on local writing,
pitched at schools - which apparently theatre practitioners
are already doing for drama?
non-traditional approaches have already yielded results.
in-flight magazine SilverKris carries a well-received section
that showcases local writing to an international audience.
carries MP3 recordings of readings by young poets like Alfian
Sa'at and Daren Shiau.
there's the Gallery Evason retreat, of course.
least the younger set are going ''public'' with their art,
judging from recent initiatives that help keep local writing
in the public eye.
if it's just for the perks.