A Poet Laureate of Singapore?

We’re proud to announce that Gaudy Boy’s Poetry Book Prize co-winner The Experiment of the Tropics by Lawrence Lacambra Ypil has been selected by The Millions as 1 of 6 must-read poetry books for April 2019. Congratulations, Larry, on this wonderful honor! At the book’s New York launch last week, Larry shared that much of the book, which meditates on archival photographs of the Philippines under American occupation, was written in Clementi hawker center in Singapore. That, we fondly imagine, must have enhanced the book’s delicious tropical lyricism.

April is National Poetry Month in the USA and Canada. Introduced in 1996, the annual celebration of poetry organized by the Academy of American Poets has the laudable aim of increasing awareness and appreciation of poetry in the USA. It was inspired by the success of Black History Month, held in February, and Women’s History Month, held in March, but it would be a pity if the inspiration was wholly commercial and not political. Poetry has the power to liberalize our sentiments. This month offers an opportunity to hear stories not yet heard and to read about experiences not yet seen, both ideally conveyed with artfulness.

Two years after the introduction of National Poetry Month, President Bill Clinton and the First Lady hosted a White House gala that honored the Poets Laureate Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, and Rita Dove. The tradition of holding such a poetry gala has continued since. In 2003, after a popular vote, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp with poet Langston Hughes on it. For the 10th anniversary of National Poetry Month, the Empire State Building was illuminated with symbolic blue lights. A cynic may point out the irony that as poetry’s public image is burnished, its public influence has declined. The irony is undeniable, but how much worse for that country where poetry is not ever celebrated in such publicly affirmative ways. We call on Her Excellency Madam Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore, to consider appointing the country’s first Poet Laureate. The line of the laureate would be purely satirical, beginning with the reservation of the Presidency for a racial minority for the sole political reason of excluding a strong critic of the government from running.

The movement to write a poem a day during the month of April came after the movement to read a poem a day. This writing challenge has taken off in many parts of the world, including Singapore. While others may lament the over-production of poetry by such means, we think that writing poetry does result in greater appreciation of poetry, and so should be cheered. Unusually SingPoWriMo provides a daily prompt for its members. The prompt for Day 10, for instance, is the salutary nudge to base the poem on an idiom from the National Language, Malay. We have nothing against writing prompts, having used them ourselves in writing workshops. However, the individual poet would be right to be wary of writing mostly to prompts provided externally. Last year’s Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize received a number of manuscripts from Singapore that showed a regrettable similarity in form and content. We look forward to reading uniquely inventive and deeply compelling work for this year’s contest (see below for details).


Jee Leong Koh



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6 Responses to “A Poet Laureate of Singapore?”

  • Harder Truths:

    I ma very sure an FT will win any such prize(s) – they are always seen as ‘better’ than locals.

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  • Write a poem a day?:

    Roses are red, Violets are blue
    “Papies” are white, never to be true.

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  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    Singapore has a Poet (“TRUE” one, unlike FAKE BS minister emeritus) in “Emeritus” Prof. Edwin Thumboo and a Sikh Prof. I cannot recall while typing but I am sure many Poets & Intellectuals knows who I am referring to and of course my Fave Cathrine Lim with her writings and wit…

    NOT recognised for their talent and effort as it CANNOT generate money leh!!!

    The Bastard who ConYou once wanted to ban Literature a subject that gives students an enlighten and analytical MIND…

    so Mr Koh the truly “THINKING” Generation was suppressed in order for the Bastard NOT to be OUTSHINED with evil plans

    and TODAY we have IDIOTs who cannot “THINK” for themselves in Cabinet starting with the PM except for a few…like Thaman & Co (Reformist) I hope, that will change the IDIOTIC Mindset created by a man who ConYOU!!!

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  • LIONS:

    ONLY SOUNDS GOOD,FEELS GOOD poems will be published n awarded prizes; POEMS THAT CRITIQUE WILL BE TAKEN AS FAKE NEWS n the poets will get bashed.

    Welcome to FM 905,SOUNDS GOOD,FEEL GOOD.
    THIS IS THE PAPple Channel.

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  • Faking capitalism: a haiku:

    I live chase money.
    They long for my money too.
    I die their money.

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  • Spore sinks under 4th gen pap:

    70% sheep truly is stupid.

    70% sheep mostly lower income, below S$3500 pm yet votes into government a bunch of luxurious living parleement approved legal thieves.

    70% sheep must go down on bended knees and repent.

    70% sheep must vote OPPO after bended knees repentence.

    70% sheep shall live thereafter. otherwise not.


    penned by potential poet laureate of Spore who has never voted pap and looks forward to New Government by OPPO coalition to indict pap clown and pap clown wife and their S$m gang of parleeement approved legal thieves,

    like esteeemed Dr Mahatir is doing now via PH New Government on najib and najib wife and najib gang of 1MDB thieves.


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