Ever wondered why the poets in Singapore generally outnumber the island state's prose writers?
Here comes an explanation from none other than Dr K K Seet, the Singapore Literary Prize's (SLP) chief judge. Dr Seet, an academic with the National University of Singapore's English Literature and Language Department, has been judging the prize since 1992.
He says: "While I don't believe poetry will become the de facto literary form here, I do discern that there's a richer tradition of poetry here and more practitioners in that genre. The reasons (and I'm merely speculating), is that historically, we've had many more mentors, role-models and authorial antecedents in poetry, that is, Edwin Thumboo, Arthur Yap, Lee Tzu Pheng, Robert Yeo, Leong Liew Geok etc.
"Secondly, poetry represents the crystallisation of an idea, insight or epiphanic moment and agrees with the Singapore literary psyche more than prose, which demands a sustained narrative and drawn-out perspective.
"Perhaps this has to do with time and the way Singaporeans deal with time. One can be inspired to write and complete a poem very quickly. Though the product can be (and usually is) subjected to endless refining and polishing, there's still a complete, organic first draft.
"Prose, particularly a novel, demands a much larger template and a long view, so to speak. There is invariably more references and by extension, more research needed. There's something about a poem being concise and self-contained that's in accord with the stress-ridden Singaporean who is always engaged in a perennial, cosmic struggle with time, schedule and deadlines."
Interesting observation there. Perhaps in our over-crowded lives, poetry provides instant satiation, and I am speaking from a reader's point of view.
Also, for the first time in 11 years, Singapore literary prize has gone to two poets. More details here.