Appearing cultured isn’t exactly your best bet at impressing girls. Even if you haven’t got the dashing looks of James Dean or muscles to flaunt, let’s not force culture upon yourself. An impressive collection of art isn’t necessarily well, impressive. Appearing cultured is one thing, understanding culture is another. Give art a chance, so how about taking your shot at poetry for a start? Cringe and flinch all you want, but there is good that lies in poetry. Like meditation, it forces you to slow down and think. All it asks for in return is for you to relish and respect what we call the written word. Who knows? It might come in handy in future.
Not convinced? Drop by The Arts House this Friday at 10pm and watch Singapore’s first confessional poet Cyril Wong. Be inspired as he continues his series of Love Songs in a lyrical reverie that’s everything to do with love and loss of innocence. It is part of an overnight programme by the Singapore Writers Festival, featuring 24 text-based performances. Other artists include spoken poet Jennifer Anne Champion and actor-director Lim Yu-Beng. Get your tickets today.
(PS: Supper and breakfast will be served.)
Q: What is this barrier that men have with poetry?
Cyril Wong: Straight men? Queer men? Men of which race? Which nationality? All these distinctions have a bearing on such questions. In Singapore, men have none. Mainly because poetry is often very masculinised here, in terms of its tendency to declaim loudly about political and cultural matters while avoiding the quiet and personal.
Q: Could it be a cultural taboo?
Cyril Wong: Only when poetry doesn’t toe the party line. Also, when it dares to tackle sexual matters or express dissent against hegemonic religiosity. As we all know, however, “taboo” equals “controversy”, guaranteeing readership for such poetry even within Singapore’s conservative culture.
Q: Which is your favourite poem and who might be your inspiration?
Cyril Wong: An Early Afterlife by the American poet Linda Pastan, because it talks about saying goodbye now, so that we will never have to say it again upon our death. So that we can love without regret. She’s the kind of poet I wish to become when I’m very old.
Q: Here’s a question. How can poetry help us win over another person?
Cyril Wong: Don’t pretend and don’t boast. Be honest. Write and speak in clear and simple sentences. Be authentic, and you wouldn’t need to write a poem to express authenticity.
I’m a small animal inside the cave
Of your need. As if by some law
Of physics, the contents of my head
Stop shifting when I rest
Against your arm. After a question,
“Because you’re my baby”
Becomes the only explanation