A special issue connecting contemporary poetry from Aotearoa & Singapore—
Lisa Samuels wrote that distance is never dry. To read distance as both connecting and disconnecting, enabling as well as disabling. That separation, noise and delay are not obstacles to communication and language, but some of their operational conditions. For small island nations like Singapore and New Zealand, the surrounding water could signify inaccessibility, isolation and inertia. Or it could signify radical exchange and transformation, uncertainty and potentiality. In these poems, distance is not a gap to be closed or eliminated, but traversed in a manner akin to alchemy.
Great poems, Ben Lerner says, strategically disappoint us; we want poems to be both internal and social, closed and open, specific and universal. This impossibility frustrates, arouses contempt, but perhaps, in a thoughtful writer, might be transformed into something useful. How much pressure is there on these poems from Aotearoa and Singapura to give up their secrets? They have used the pressure, bending or sidestepping or refusing or delaying, but never simply yielding—I imagine their poets must be proud. Here are some useful poems, poems that might enable us to shift our grammar, syntax and, in several cases, even our languages. Here’s what they wrote.
Hao Guang Tse
Gregory Kan is a Wellington based poet, born in Singapore. He published his first collection of poetry, This Paper Boat, in 2016 and his second collection, Under Glass, in 2019. He completed his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Auckland in 2011 and in 2012 completed his Masters in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University Wellington.
Hao Guang Tse (谢皓光) is the author of The International Left-Hand Calligraphy Association (Tinfish Press, 2022) and Deeds of Light (Math Paper Press, 2015), the latter shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize. He is a 2016 fellow of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, and the 2018 National Writer-in-Residence at Nanyang Technological University. His poems have appeared in Poem-a-Day, Tammy, New Delta Review, Pain, Minarets, Big Other, Hotel, Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Entropy and elsewhere. He was born and raised in Singapore, where he continues to live and work.