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Deborah Emmanuel
Photograph: Ruth Schooling

7 young poets from Singapore you should know about

These exciting writers are giving voice to a new generation

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Written by
Cheryl Sekkappan
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What’s striking about Singapore’s young artists is the sheer depth and scope of their talent. The latest crop of local poets – some well-established and others just starting to make a name for themselves – are also performers, editors, comedians and activists. Through their words, they grapple with the issues of a generation, such as feminism, queerness and mental health. Get up to speed on these emerging talents and keep your eye out for some of their upcoming works.  

RECOMMENDED 6 local poets you need to know and 5 books by Singaporean authors you should read

Marylyn Tan
Photograph: Alfian Sa'at

Marylyn Tan

Poet and artist Marylyn Tan is one to watch. Her debut poetry collection Gaze Back, nominated for the Singapore Literature Prize 2020 and the US-based Lambda Literary Awards, is a romp. Drawn from her own experience of marginalisation, it’s an unsettling and thought-provoking look at feminism and queerness, steeped in local witchcraft, occultic symbols and the erotic. Other than that, you can find her work in poetry anthologies like A Luxury We Must Afford and Inheritance | The Anthology, or performing spoken word and conducting writing workshops.

READ bvtch swag by Marylyn Tan

Hamid Roslan
Photograph: @ethosbooks/Instagram

Hamid Roslan

Another poet with a Singapore Literature Prize nomination to his name this year is Hamid Roslan. Having graduated from Yale-NUS College with an Outstanding Capstone Prize in Arts and Humanities, he’s now sharing his literary talents in his debut poetry collection parsetreeforestfire. It’s a bilingual book of poetry in Singlish and English that author Yeow Kai Chai has described as “a sonic thrill”. Grab a copy at a local bookstore or check out his other works in the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, OF ZOOS, or the 2016 SingPoWriMo anthology.

WATCH Hamid Roslan read from parsetreeforestfire

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Topaz Winters
Photograph: Topaz Winters

Topaz Winters

It’s hard to capture all of Topaz Winters accomplishments in a few words. At the age of 20, she’s already an author of four books, the youngest Singaporean ever to be nominated for the Pushcart Prize, writer and star of critically acclaimed short film SUPERNOVA, creator of digital art installation Love Lives Bot on Twitter and the editor-in-chief at arts organisation Half Mystic. In her latest poetry collection Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing, the multidisciplinary artist offers a look into her brilliant mind with raw, poignant reflections on queerness, chronic illness, and being a woman of colour.

READ Poetry, essays and fiction at topazwinters.com

Deborah Emmanuel
Photograph: Ruth Schooling

Deborah Emmanuel

Like many of the poets on this list, Deborah Emmanuel wears many hats. Poet, singer, and theatre-maker, this all-round artist has featured her writing at poetry festivals like the Barcelona International Poetry Festival, and won competitions in Singapore, Germany and Australia. Deborah’s first poetry book When I Giggle In My Sleep puts her spoken word on the page in a beguiling collection of the personal and political. But a different kind of magic happens when you watch Deborah perform live – her performance abilities and an amazing set of pipes bring another level of soulfulness to her poetry.

READ Deborah’s works at deborahemmanuel.com/

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Stephanie Dogfoot Chan
Photograph: Stephanie Chan

Stephanie Dogfoot Chan

Stephanie Dogfoot Chan would have you know that she’s been writing poetry since her first gerbil died when she was 11. She’s since honed her wit to a fine point, delivering devastating insight with a tongue-in-cheek attitude as a spoken word artist and comedian. Having represented Singapore and the UK in international slam competitions and toured globally with her poetry, she now curates and hosts Spoke & Bird, a monthly open mic for poets from all walks of life.

WATCH Spoken word at stephdogfoot.wordpress.com/watch/

Tan Lixin
Photograph: Tan Lixin

Tan Lixin

Accountant by day, poet by night, 27-year-old Tan Lixin shows that it’s totally possible to balance a day job with a hobby. Except that her hobby has led to two published poetry collections Before We Are Ghosts and Keeping Skeletons, which read as intimate confessions of an artist and human in constant self-reflection. A three-time winner at the Commonwealth Essay Competition with works featured on Eunoia Review, Prairie Schooner and Her World, Lixin most recently performed at The Esplanade alongside musician Inch Chua. Her upcoming collection I Arrive as a Bloody Morning in 2020 is not to be missed.

READ Tan Lixin’s works via Instagram

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Venezia May
Photograph: Venezia May

Venezia May

Self-professed eco-poet Venezia May uses her talent with words to speak powerfully about social and environmental injustices. She’s published two anthologies in London, won the Causeway Exchange Slam in 2018 and 2019, and conducts writing workshops for special needs children. She’s performed locally too – at The Esplanade and Poetry Festival Singapore 2019. If you want to catch Venezia in action, watch out for a potential second showing at the monthly poetry night Spoke & Bird.

WATCH spoken word via Facebook

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