Co-presented by The Arts House and Gwee Li Sui
31 August | 2 mothers in a h d b playground by Arthur Yap
2 mothers in a h d b playground may be the late Arthur Yap’s most popular poem, but it is also one of his technically unusual pieces. It deviates from his abstract linguistic play and employs colloquial speech and humour to great effect. Gwee Li Sui will show how this poem relates to Yap’s other works as well as to the concerns that governed his time. How to Read a Singaporean Poem is a fortnightly series of his lectures focused on six of the most potent English-language poems in Singapore’s literary history.
2 mothers in a hdb playground by Arthur Yap
ah beng is so smart,
already he can watch tv & know the whole story.
your kim cheong is also quite smart,
what boy is he in the exam?
this playground is not too bad, but i’m always
so worried, car here, car there.
at exam time, it’s worse.
because you know why?
kim cheong eats so little.
give him some complan. my ah beng was like that,
now he’s different. if you give him anything
he’s sure to finish it all up.
sure, sure. cheong’s father buys him
vitamins but he keeps it inside his mouth
& later gives it to the cat.
i scold like mad but what for?
if i don’t see it, how can i scold?
on Saturday, tv showed a new type,
special for children. why don’t you call
his father buy some? maybe they are better.
money’s no problem. it’s not that
we want to save. if we buy it
& he doesn’t eat it, throwing money
into the jamban is the same.
ah beng’s father spends so much,
takes out the mosaic floor & wants
to make terazzo or what.
we also got new furniture, bought from diethelm.
the sofa is so soft. i dare not sit. they all
sit like don’t want to get up. so expensive.
nearly two thousand dollars, sure must be good.
that you can’t say. my toa-soh
bought an expensive sewing machine,
after 6 months, it is already spoilt.
she took it back but…beng,
come here, come, don’t play the fool.
your tuition teacher is coming.
wah! kim cheong, now you’re quite big.
come, cheong, quick go home & bathe.
ah pah wants to take you chya-hong in new motor-car.
About Sing Lit 101
The Arts House is proud to present an inspiring new literary series that celebrates the life and power of Singaporean poetry, Sing Lit 101: How To Read A Singaporean Poem.
Literary critic and poet Dr Gwee Li Sui will give six lectures, each focused on a major English poem from Singapore’s formative decades. He will introduce their writers and the times before unpacking these poems for a whole sweep of riveting and hidden meanings and implications.
If you find poetry a difficult form to enjoy, or if Singapore’s literature appears a mystery, this is the place to start! Dr Gwee will take you on a journey packed with thought, passion, and wit that should show you Singaporean writing in a new light. Whatever your age or background is, you will be charmed and enlightened by the analyses and come to appreciate the value of verse and its inquiry, what poetry does and what can be known through it.
This groundbreaking series will come to a close also in style, with a revisit of one of the region’s key historical anthologies. Seven Poets: Singapore and Malaysia (1970), together with its now-famous contributors, will be honoured in a special panel session. A number of these pioneers will join Dr Gwee for a conversation about their remarkable writings, thoughts and lives.
This programme is supported by the National Arts Council.
Other Sing Lit 101 sessions
Ulysses by the Merlion by Edwin Thumboo
Dragon-fly by Wong May
My Country and My People by Lee Tzu Pheng
Bird with One Wing by Goh Poh Seng
after the hard hours, this rain by Chandran Nair
Panel Discussion: Poetry and Existence