SLF NYC Benefit!

By all accounts, the Benefit for the 2nd Singapore Literature Festival in NYC was a great success. We were heartened by the attendance of so many benefactors, well-wishers and partners of the festival. Jee Leong Koh, the festival organizer, welcomed the guests:

Good evening, everyone. Thank you so much for coming to this Benefit for the 2nd Singapore Literature Festival in NYC. We’re so honored that you’ve chosen to spend your evening with us. Started in 2014, the biennial festival brings together Singaporean and American authors for lively conversations about literature and society. This year, the festival will be held in September. Authors Alfian Sa’at and Ovidia Yu are flying here from Singapore, to be joined by Singaporean authors based in New York City, Jeremy Tiang and Jason Wee, both of whom are here tonight, and Marcus Yi, and by American authors Jessica Hagedorn, Naomi Jackson, SJ Rozan, who’s here tonight, Jason Koo, who’s also here, although the Cleveland Cavaliers are fighting tonight to get back into the Finals, and Gina Apostol, who has so kindly agreed to read for us tonight. There is no festival without writers. Tonight, we celebrate writers and artists for their power to move and delight us.

We’re so happy to see so many of our festival partners here tonight: Boon-Hui Tan, the Vice President of Global Arts and Culture, and Director of the Museum at Asia Society; Rachel Cooper, Director of Global Performing Arts and Special Cultural Initiatives at Asia Society; E. K. Tan, Professor of Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies at Stony Brook University; Jini Kim Watson, Professor of English and Comparative Studies at New York University; Sarah Chinn, Professor of English at Hunter College; Cody Madsen, Manager of the wonderful bookstore Book Culture on 112th Street; and our Guest-of-Honor Ken Chen, the Executive Director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Ken has done so much for the cause of literature, and in particular Asian American literature, in this country. When he agreed to co-present the opening night of the festival, I confess I danced a little jig around my apartment. We’re very proud to have him as our Guest-of-Honor tonight.

Before Ken says a few words to us, I want to thank also Vijay Seshadri for coming tonight. Vijay was my poetry professor at Sarah Lawrence College, and was the first featured author at our Second Saturdays Reading Series back in April 2014. His support for new writers and new literary ventures makes a world of difference. Now over to Ken.

Ken Chen spoke enthusiastically about past relations between the Workshop and Singaporean writers, and about future collaborations. The Workshop has hosted Singaporean writers, and the launch events of Singaporean-American anthologies. It is keen to publish more works by Asia-Pacific writers.

Festival author Gina Apostol read from her PEN Open Award-winning novel The Gundealers’ Daughter. The moving and powerful reading was followed by a selection of songs performed by Jakarta-born, California-raised baritone Angky Budiardjono. Accompanied by his collaborator, pianist Peiharn Chen, Angky presented a serenade from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Pierrot’s “Tanzlied” from Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt, and, finally, “Love in the Thirties” by American composer William Bolcom.

After the performances, Jee introduced the Singaporean artists who donated artworks for the auction. Hong-Ling Wee spoke about the Native American inspiration for her handmade porcelain platter and peony brooch. Jason Wee explained the cheeky origins of his archival print “Preoccupations – Butt.” Melinda Lauw described the carpeting techniques used to create her work “Tuft #1.” As Colin Goh could not be present, Jee spoke about the work “Exercise Free Speech: Keep Talking Cock,” a print commemorating Colin and his wife’s first joint project, the satirical website

The evening’s menu was specially crafted by Chef Kian Lam Kho, the winner of the Julia Child First Book Award for his book Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees. The guests tasted the delights of Red Cooked Pork Buns, Lion’s Head Meatballs, Cold Braised Beef, Cold Eggplant with Spicy Mala Dressing, and Shrimp with Mustard Mayonnaise. Everyone left with a special hand-printed gift bag of Singaporean works of literature.

And with high anticipation for the 2nd Singapore Literature Festival in NYC (September 28 – 30, 2016)!


1. Singapore Literature Festival in NYC Benefit

2. Getting ready to receive Benefit guests

3. Welcome by organizer Jee Leong Koh

4. Remarks by GOH Ken Chen

6. Benefit author Gina Apostol

7. Art Auction

8. Flowers

9. Chef Kian Lam Kho at work

10. Food is served

11. A light moment

12. Jeremy Tiang, E.K. Tan and Kershing Goh

13. Flora Tan, Melinda Lauw, and Kimberley Lim

14. Treats

15. Handshakes across the table

16. Rachel Cooper and Ken Chen

17. Chef Kian with admirers

18. Kershing Goh, Maureen Hoon, and Carol Hong

24. Jee and Chef Kian25. Baritone Angky Budiardjono and Erica


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. Donna Smith

    So glad the benefit was such a success! Looking forward to hearing all about the Festival in September.


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