The Singapore Poetry Contest

The contest is now closed. Please check back next April, during National Poetry Writing Month, for next year’s contest. 


Since its beginning in October 2013, Singapore Poetry has the goal of introducing the arts of Singapore to a general American audience. Operating out of New York City, it aims to cultivate dialogue and understanding between the two countries. To celebrate Singapore’s 50th year of political independence this year, Singapore Poetry will seek American perspectives on the island-state by holding a contest for the best poem in English about Singapore. The contest is open to anyone living in the USA who is not a Singaporean.

The poem may be about any aspect of Singapore — for instance, an OkCupid profile, an old black-and-white movie, Singapore noodles, a recurring nightmare, the orchid Vanda Miss Joaquim, a family heirloom — but it must have the word “Singapore” in it. It does not have to be celebratory in tone, but it must possess the qualities of a good poem, nicely defined by Dylan Thomas as “a contribution to reality.” For a good example, read Vijay Seshadri’s “Light Verse” from his Pulitzer Prize-winning collection 3 Sections.

Awards of USD100, 50 and 20 will go to the top three winners. The winning poems will be published on Singapore Poetry; non-winning poems will be considered for publication as well. The judge is the curator of Singapore Poetry, Jee Leong Koh. Friends and associates are welcomed to submit. Judging will be based solely on poetic merit. Singapore Poetry reserves the right not to make any or all awards, should the quality of entries not merits them.

Contest entry is free. Please submit a maximum of three poems. Only unpublished poems will be considered. Posting on weblog, Facebook and other social media does not constitute publication. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, provided you inform Singapore Poetry if your poem is accepted elsewhere. Please email your submission to The poem(s) must be pasted into the body of the email, together with a short cover letter giving your name, mailing address, and brief biographical note.

The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2015. Results will be announced in August and the winning poems published in the run-up to Singapore’s National Day on August 9. Prompts will be provided regularly in the Comments section of this post, so check back often. Please feel free to post prompts of your own too. Your first prompt is the photograph below by Zoe Fan, of a woman riding on Singapore’s Mass Rapid Transit train.


Photograph by by Zoe Fan

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.


  1. This week’s prompt is taken from Facebook newsfeed. Enjoy!


  2. This week’s prompt comes in the form of a petition.

    “In Singapore, every major race is given two days of religious or cultural holiday. The Chinese have Chinese New Year (CNY), which lasts for two days. Malays, who are predominantly Muslim, are given holidays for Hari Raya Haji and Hari Raya Puasa. Indians are given Deepavali and Vesak Day. Hence, Thaipusam could not be made a holiday for Indian Hindus.

    However, who observes Vesak Day? It is a Buddhist holiday. Buddhism originated in India, but by and large, the world’s biggest population of Buddhists, are East Asian. In Singapore, this means it is the Singaporean Chinese who are mostly Buddhist. Why is it gazetted as an Indian holiday when there are so few Indians celebrating it?

    Thaipusam should be made a holiday in Singapore from 2016 in the interest of fairness to all races in Singapore.”


  3. Speakeasy #18: Valentine’s Edition. They cannot have enough poetry and song. Photo by Alvin Pang.


  4. What a fantastic contest opportunity for budding poets while you raise awareness about the beauty of Singapore.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Would you accept an entry from a Canadian poet?


  6. Hi noshling, poems from Canadian poets are accepted.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. looking forward to the contest results.


  8. Thanks, Ram. You will enjoy the winning poems, I think.


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