A luxury we must afford

A Luxury We Must Afford: An Anthology of Singapore Poetry. (PHOTO: Math Paper Press)
A Luxury We Must Afford: An Anthology of Singapore Poetry. (PHOTO: Math Paper Press)

My poem, “Where The Wild Things Are”, is in A Luxury We Must Afford: An Anthology of Singapore Poetry.

The anthology is edited by Christine Chia, Joshua Ip and Cheryl Julia Lee and published by Math Paper Press.

Details of the anthology launch:

Date: Sun, 15 Jan 2017
Time: 6pm to 7pm
Venue: The Chamber at The Arts House (1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429)

What does the future of Singapore hold?

In 2015, the anthology A Luxury We Cannot Afford commemorated 50 years of man-made myth – 50 years of mysteries and ministries, Marxists and memorandums, the Merlion and The Man – and whether the 1969 assertion that “poetry is a luxury we cannot afford” still held true in the 2010s.

Instead of looking back, this companion volume to the first looks forward to everything SG51 and beyond. It is a collection of bold narratives of Singaporeans shaping their own future, a cornucopia of hyper-modern dreams of robots and aliens, yet also tales of muted despair at a future slipping out of touch with the past.

In the face of a fraught, uncertain future, there is no longer any need to debate whether poetry is an unaffordable luxury. In times like these, writers are the ones who must step up and reimagine possibility, speak out for hope and humanity, and inscribe the circumference of our soul. In 2017, poetry is…a luxury we must afford.

Please go for the launch by signing up here.

Read my poem here.

You can also read “Horrowshow”, which appeared in A Luxury We Cannot Afford, here.

Oxley Cultural Centre

38 Oxley Road
38 Oxley Road

So there are calls for Lee Kuan Yew’s home to be turned into a heritage site.

As always, I’ve got a better idea, ladies and gentlemen: Oxley Cultural Centre (OCC).

OCC will be an arts and cultural centre at which artists will stay at for residencies between a month to three months.

It’ll follow the same concept as Toji Cultural Centre, where I had such a fruitful time during my residency back in 2013.

Food and lodging will be provided by the OCC, which will have a National Arts Council-appointed manager/administrator to handle finance matters, maintenance arrangements, residency rosters, events such as poetry readings, etc; a part-time chef to provide lunches and dinners for the artists; and other support staff, where required.


  1. “When I’m dead, demolish it,” said the man, in reference to his home.
    But what would happen after is a foregone conclusion: A multi-storey condominium called 38 Oxley in its place – not exactly the most fitting tribute to one of the founding fathers of Singapore.
  2. If we preserve it as it is, it’d be an insult to Lee, who specifically asked for it to be demolished.
    His rationale for demolishing it was, ostensibly, to prevent an Ozymandian ending to a place where he must’ve had many happy memories.
    “I’ve seen other houses,” he said. “Nehru’s, Shakespeare’s – they become a shambles after a while.”
  3. This is the same man who once said that “poetry is a luxury we cannot afford”.
    Well, we can afford it now, after all that he and the old guard have done to build the nation – many thanks to them for that.
  4. Right now, we’ve only got Centre42, the Writer-in-the-Gardens Residency Programme and the Pulau Ubin Artists-In-Residency Programme.
    In the case of the latter two, they don’t exactly provide spaces in which artists can reside for an extended period of time to work.
    Extended interactions are important; artists work in solitude for much of the time – sometimes, not by choice, because the profession is as such.
    More opportunities for working closely with other artists – at residencies and festivals for example, where artists work and live together – will help broaden perspectives and deepen understanding about crafts that take years to hone.
  5. To pay tribute to the man in a respectful manner, we keep the house as it is, so there is room for memory and nostalgia, but we put it to another, better use – putting soul into Singapore through the arts and literature.

After all, Lee was always one for pragmatism. Putting 38 Oxley to practical purpose – as the OCC, in higher service of the nation – would’ve been what he’d’ve wanted.

Find out more about the Toji Cultural Foundation, and read what others have to say about their Toji Cultural Centre residency experiences.