what you like about the shortcomings of the literary scene
here (and there are many) I think we have developed our
own comfort levels on what is appropriate and what is acceptable.
of all people appreciate the culture and milieu in which
they work. I was moved and humbled by a fellow writer's
comment once: that it was ok for members of the audience
to rush in and out of reading events (as we are wont to
do) because that's how we cope with busy Singaporean schedules
and still squeeze out some time for poetry or art. I that
realise we have been subconsciously adapting to our culture.
For better or worse, our "scene" is a reflection
of who we are as writers in Singapore. And the product of
our work is no less vital for it, or so I'd like to believe.
lived with "urgency" for the past couple of years
I think now there's a real case for letting things be to
organically grow, and to fertilise the process through the
authentiticity of our own work and process rather than some
artificial hothousing approach or other. Goodness knows
we have far too much of that in the system. The alternative
have to work with less than ideal spaces.
can dream of sanctuaries with cushions and padded walls,
green tea and sympathy like some I have known, where the
work of the soul finds its proper timbre and fills the room.
We can fantasise about selling out books at marked up prices
to appreciative audiences like we did in Australia. We can
imagine hoards of closet artists, their hearts held illiterate
and mute by years of condition, waiting for a shot at 15
minutes of fame.
that fact remains that we live and operate in Singapore,
in some cases by choice, and have to work within its parameters.
And it's not even the usual barriers of censorship or funding
that are the most serious obstacles, but the fundamental
distractedness of life here, the sheer thick air of daily
living, making a living, making ends meet.
of us has had to live in our own way with the daily denial
of our own secret heritage -- whether it be a matter of
race, politics, sexual orientation, life goals, missed chances
or thwarted dreams.
has been done over the past few years to give our folks
as much of a voice as possible: Anthologies, the2ndrule,
mass mailers, Yahoo! groups and so on. They give hassled,
distracted individuals a breath of art and wit wherever
they may be -- whether a hassled workday at the office or
some internet cafe halfway around the world. They are recognisably
modern and quintessentially Singaporean and deserving of
our pride. And we've clunked together a tiny community relatively
free of the bitter politics of the previous generation (although
all that might change once we grow up), and certainly relatively
un-elitist in outlook if not in fact.
having been here for the past 10 years you'd not have know
how much has changed, what has been added to the landscape
esp since the past couple of years. We've gone from near-zero
to 3 credible literary small presses, over a dozen published
poets under 30, and over 100 anthologised. 6 Singaporeans
have been accepted in a major literary global journal with
a less than 1% acceptance rate and over 6000+ people are
kept on the bleeding-edge of a guerilla-lit mailing list.
T-Shirts. Not bad.
guess the point I'm making is that individuals are going
to have different priorities. Some want to focus on the
craft of writing, others want to share it with an intimate
group. Still others want to play impressario, activist,
patron, whatever. All of these roles are I suppose relevant
and probably we go through phases of wanting to do one or
we should not begrudge others their reluctance to do it
all one way. I don't think a consensus is necessary in art.
you feel the need to do something for the scene. Go ahead
and do it. But don't assume others will automatically share
your values, or even do what they say they will, or appreciate
that you did the groundwork. Do it for the love of it or
not at all.