A Glimpse of Singapore

Thursday, March 01, 2012

In my Southeast Asian Literature class, we discuss novels and poems that correspond to different nations of Southeast Asia. This week, we explore the literary world of Singapore. I particularly liked the poems of Alvin Pang. He visited our University once for a poetry recital, but I was unable to attend because it clashed with my other schedule. For our final creative project, my classmate and I did a poetry recital of Alvin Pang's poems so I became familiar with his poetry. There are other noted Singaporean writers but I have not been entirely exposed to their works.

The poems of Alvin Pang talk about different things, but generally, they describe the ways and lives of Singaporeans. I don't think I can type the poems here, it can be quite tedious, so I will describe them instead. The common theme found in his poems is modernity and self-identity, which can be linked to the identity of Singapore itself. I have never been to Singapore, but it's in my Top-5-Countries-I-Want-To-Go-To list. The poems all have a certain feel to it that makes it unique and personal, like the reader him/herself gets to experience the city. The lines are easy to understand and the imageries are well described, for example, in the poem “To Go To S'pore” in line 62: “...Weeds, attap, kampong / and five-foot way fell away as the towers rose...” The use of local terms and names adds to how one can see Singapore in Pang's poems.

“Arriving in the Modern City-State” starts by describing one's day – how an average person would go about living and working in Singapore. It makes use of particular brand names such as Dolby stereo, IKEA furniture, and Civic, pertaining to the car. The second stanza of the poem illustrates a busy and hectic lifestyle, asking the question “...Where did you stop along your life / and forget how to live? Was there a wrong turn?” (26). From an objective point of view, the details that show the persona's tight schedule makes the reader reflect upon himself personally, because at some point that particular question can be relevant to most people living in the city. Some people tend to become mechanical with the tedious tasks they were assigned to do. The last stanza of the poem talk about how one feels when he/she closes his/her eyes. In such a small yet lively and busy city-state, it can be difficult to catch one's breath. The little moments of rest become priceless, living itself can become questionable.

There is a sense of nostalgia in the poems. Lines 10-11 of “The Meaning of Wealth in The New Economy” for example, makes one reminisce of his/her past experiences: “Remember the electric twitch of a nerve / as skin kissed skin for the first time ever?” (90) The persona develops as the lines progress. In the last stanza it says: “You hoard a little every time you put aside, in sleep / your daily dying. The doubling, and doubling again of years / of weight, of sorrow, that longing...” (91). The poem evokes a feeling of wanting to rest, of living in the modern world without the stress. The last line “from the infinite riches of the world” can refer to the state of Singapore and its people; it is a fast developing country, wealthy and progressive, but because of the progress, it can become weary and some tend to forget how is is to live. It is easy to relate to the poems because they talk about human events that a lot of people experience, but the use of specific details make the readers get a glimpse of what Singapore really is.

Work Cited
Pang, Alvin. City of Rain. Singapore: Ethos Books, 2010. Print.

No comments:

Post a Comment