Second Saturdays Reading Series #3

Second Saturdays Reading Series #3 (May 10, 2014)
Written by Kimberley Lim, with photos by Kimberley Lim and Paul Rozario-Falcone

The third installment of the Second Saturdays Reading Series took place behind a vibrantly red door at the corner of a road in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As part of its charm, the door was not equipped with an automatic buzzer, so every one of the twenty or so guests were greeted personally by the host that evening, Jeremy Tiang, who would take off running down the stairs at the sound of a doorbell.

In a quaint, cosy apartment full of books and three cats, we were acquainted with new faces and reacquainted with old ones. The dinner spread was wide, scrumptious, and as eclectic as the people who had brought them—poets, playwrights, filmmakers, performers, publishers, academics, architects, translators, graphic designers, and ceramicists, some of whom have only moved to New York in the last six months and others who have been here for the past twenty-seven years.

In an intimate room: A “lah” here and a “lor” there, talk of “…the old school tradition of the haiku form becoming, again, the newest newfangled thing,” conversations about queerness in Singaporean politics, discussion of what cultural anthropology really means (and how poor cultural anthropologists are), and a snippet of “…eh next time go where makan?” As a few of us remarked to each other over the course of the evening, it is always a rare delight to step out of the city’s fast- and hard-paced life for an evening of refuge in the company of friends and Singaporean literature.

Our featured reader for the evening, Joseph Legaspi, co-founder and chair of Kundiman, graced us with his tender yet exigent poems “Ode to My Mother’s Hair,” “V-Neck T-Shirt Sonnet,” “A Love Story,” “[Woman spits],” and “The Homosexual Book of Genesis” from various publications—Imago; Aviary, Bestiary; and Subways.

Kimberley Lim, publishing assistant at an independent New York house, read three poems from her poetry capstone thesis at the University of Virginia.

Writer and translator Jeremy Tiang, also our host that evening, read an excerpt from “Macdonald House,” a reference to the March 10th bombings along Orchard Road in Singapore in 1965.

Diyana Bin Talib read from her piece “Lovers,” dedicated to the first love she fell into in the United States.

Jee Leong Koh, co-chair of the Singapore Literature Festival, read a poetic-prose segment from his zuihitsu-inspired compilation “The Pillow Book.”

Christine Chia, an MFA candidate in poetry and featured reader in the upcoming Singapore Literature Festival, read from her collection “The Law of Second Marriages” and the yet-to-be-published “Separation: A History.”

Melissa Wong, Ph.D candidate at the Graduate Center CUNY, shared an excerpt from her dissertation on the performance of human rights, entitled “Performing Singapore’s Queer Quandary.”

Finally, to round off the ecstatic evening of literary and academic words, performer Shawn Chua lay himself on a table and enacted a live reading of Chong Tze Chien’s “Spoilt.”

 

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Dinner and conversation before the reading.

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Al and Paul Rozario-Falcone, Melissa Wong and Shawn Chua

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Joseph Legaspi reading.

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Jeremy Tiang reading.

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Diyana bin Talib reading.

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Koh Jee Leong reading.

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Christina Chia reading.

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Melissa Wong reading.

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Shawn Chua performing an excerpt from Chong Tze Chien’s play Spoilt.

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Shawn Chua, Melissa Wong, Karlyn Koh and Kirsten Tan

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Wee Hong Ling and Christopher Chew

 

* * * *

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. For more information on next month’s reading, please contact Jee at jeeleong.koh@singaporeliteraturefestival.co or Paul at paul.rozario@singaporeliteraturefestival.com.

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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