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Pooja Nansi
Photograph: National Gallery Singapore

The talented local poets you need on your bookshelves

The next time you're at the bookstore, ask the bookkeeper for works by these names

Dewi Nurjuwita
Written by
Dewi Nurjuwita
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Singapore is home to some of the most talented literary figures in Southeast Asia. Of course, in a city with a rich tapestry of ethnicities, languages and cultures, you can also discover authors, poets and novelists of different backgrounds and experiences. But there's a common theme: each of them encapsulates life in the Lion City perfectly.

Now that we're staying home more, a lot of us are slowing down, looking inward and rediscovering our own backyard. Perhaps it's time to turn the spotlight on our homegrown talents too. The next time you're at the bookstore, keep a lookout for books by some of our favourite local poets. 

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Desmond Kon
Photograph: Desmond Kon

Desmond Kon

One of Singapore's most established contemporary poets, Desmond Kon has made a name for himself in recent years. The multi-award-winning author has written two novels, five hybrid works, nine poetry collections, and several chapbooks. An installation at last year's Light to Night festival also features an outdoor installation with words from his sonnet, This Mirrored Dias of History and Signs

Read: Hermitage of Dreamers, available at desmondkon.com

ArunDitha
Photograph: Speak It Into Light / Facebook

ArunDitha

You probably have heard of Deborah Emmanuel before. A powerful voice in Singapore's literary scene, the poet, singer and theatre-maker has performed at various events like TEDx Singapore and The Performance Theatre. Her writing has also been featured at festivals like the Barcelona International Poetry Festival and the Queensland Writers Festival. And she now goes by her birth name ArunDitha. 

A woman of many talents, she has also released multiple music albums as a lead vocalist and collaborated on many sound works, including her biggest projects Mantravine and Polymorphism. 

Read: Genesis: Visual Poetry Collection, available at Kinokuniya

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Audrey Chin
Photograph: Singlit Station

Audrey Chin

Singapore Literature Prize-shortlisted writer Audrey Chin is also a granddaughter of Chinese immigrants and daughter-in-law of the Vietnamese diaspora, so she's familiar with living as an in-between. She bares all her experiences in her anthology Nine Cuts, where she presents the stories of a cannibal picking up a ghoul at Tekka market, a Vietnamese-American grieving in Alaska, and an HDB cleaner's love for her brother and his 4D-predicting dragonfish. 

Read: Nine Cuts, available at Kinokuniya

Krishna Udayasankar
Photograph: Krishna Udayasankar

Krishna Udayasankar

Singapore-based Indian author Krishna Udayasankar is one of the more prominent voices in our literary scene. Her writing has received critical acclaim, selling at least 50,000 copies in Singapore and India. Look forward to seeing her works on the big screen as her books, fantasy novel Immortal and the mythological trilogy The Aryavarta Chronicles, have cliched Bollywood film deals.

Read: Objects of Affection, available at Books Actually

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Pooja Nansi
Photograph: National Gallery Singapore

Pooja Nansi

Another name at the forefront of Singapore's literary scene is India-born, Singapore-raised poet Pooja Nansi. Heartfelt and unbelievably sincere, her words encourage all to be in touch with their emotions. She has published two collections of poetry, Stiletto Scars and Love is An Empty Barstool, and co-edited SingPoWriMo: The Anthology, and co-authored Local Anaesthetic: a Painless Approach to Singaporean Poetry, a teacher’s resource for Singaporean poetry. 

Read: Love is An Empty Barstool, available at Books Actually and Kinokuniya

Ng Yi-Sheng

Ng Yi-Sheng

Award-winning author and noted LGBT rights activist Ng Yi-Sheng is a name to have on your radar. He got his start as a mentee of pioneering poets Lee Tzu Pheng and Angeline Yap as part of a Creative Arts Programme. His debut poetry collection, last boy, won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2008. He also translated Wong Yoon Wah's Chinese poetry collection The New Village and co-edited publications such as GASPP: A Gay Anthology of Singapore Poetry and Prose and Eastern Heathens: An Anthology of Subverted Asian Folklore

Read: Loud Poems for a Very Obliging Audience, available at Books Actually 

 

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Cyril Wong
Photograph: Cyril Wong

Cyril Wong

Cyril Wong needs no introduction. A celebrated name in Singapore's literature scene, he is the author of numerous poetry collections such as Unmarked Treasure, Tilting Our Plates to Catch the Light, The Dictator's Eyebrow, After You, and The Lover's Inventory. His work deals with the themes of identity, existence and human relationship. 

Read: This Side of Heaven, available at Epigram

Marylyn Tan
Photograph: Alfian Sa'at

Marylyn Tan

Last August, Marylyn Tan became the first woman to earn the Singapore Literature Prize for Poetry in English for her debut solo published work Gaze BackPublished by Ethos Books, it centres on femininity, queerness and occultism – with poems bearing titles that might make you do a double-take. We're talking Nasi Kang Kang, Sexts From the Universe and more. 

Read: Gaze Back, available at Ethos Books 

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