Second Saturdays Reading Series #2

Second Saturdays Reading Series #2 – April
by Jee Leong Koh, with information and photos from Paul Rozario-Falcone
(slightly revised from the Singapore Literature Festival blog)

We are incredibly surprised and pleased by Monday’s news that Vijay Seshadri has won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Surprised by the timing, because Vijay was our featured reader at the second installment of the Second Saturdays Reading Series last Saturday. Pleased, so very pleased, because we know from hearing him just two days ago, that the win is so well-deserved. We agree with the Pulitzer Prize committee that 3 Sections (Graywolf Press) is “a compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless.” Vijay kindly gave permission a while ago to reprint at Singapore Poetry a poem from 3 Sections called “Light Verse,” a poem that makes a rhyming reference to Singapore.

 

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It was characteristic of Vijay’s graciousness that after his reading he heard the other readers with marked attention, participated gamely in a collaborative exercise, and stayed late into the night to chat. The home of Paul and Alphonse Rozario-Falcone, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, provided the lovely and warm setting for the evening of literature and friendship. The Second Saturdays Reading Series is a monthly platform in New York City for the reading of Singaporean and American literatures. Taking place in different intimate locations around the city, the series will culminate in the Singapore Literature Festival, a three-day festival open to the public held in New York City on October 10, 11, and 12, 2014.

 

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After Vijay, other readers took the spotlight, ushered by the evening’s emcee, Paul. (The following is not in order of reading.) Colin Goh’s rendition of the Lord’s Prayer into Singlish was hilarious, without being disrespectful. The piece was a fine choice since it matched perfectly its setting, a converted South Congregational Church from the 1850s. He and Damon Chua gave us a memorable foretaste of the forthcoming short-story collection Singapore Noir (Akashic Books) by each reading an extract from their contributions. Damon’s story had the particularly intriguing title of “Saiful and the Pink Edward IV.” The anthology, which is edited by Cheryl Tan Lu-Lien, will be launched in Singapore in May, and in New York in June.

 

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Eric Norris, editor of Kin poetry journal, read two fine poems, one about Kyoto and the other after Horace. Poet and artist Jason Wee read from his collection of poetry The Monsters Between Us (Math Paper Press). Kenneth Lim, who is helping with publicity for the Singapore Literature Festival, read three well-turned poems about love. The first was untitled, the second and third were called “Astronomer” and “Disclosure.” Christine Chia, a festival author, read a couple of new poems that strongly and evocatively linked political and familial separation.

 

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The more theatrical among us were not to be outdone by the poets. Marcus Yi dramatized a satirical monologue called “How to be a Good Singaporean,” and Teo Kiat-Sing rendered in her inimitable manner a darker and more personal piece “Kim Lien” by Marcus. Halfway through the reading, Teo Mei Ann led us in creating a piece of collaborative theater. We were divided into different stages of life, and told to write down one unforgettable thing that we had heard in that stage of life. Contributing one line each, we wrote a discontinuous but pregnant narrative about the course of an imaginary life.

 

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The activity brought all of us, Singaporeans and Americans, together. Also present were Kimberley Lim and her dad, who is visiting her for a week; Win Lubin; Wee Hong Ling, the NY-based ceramicist; and Woo Yen Yen and Yakuza baby. Good company, good literature and good food, all vital ingredients of a beautiful literary evening. If you would like to attend one of our readings, do get in touch with Jee (jeeleong.koh@singaporeliteraturefestival.com) or with Paul (paul.rozario@singaporeliteraturefestival.com). All are welcome.

 

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About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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