Thursday, December 04, 2008

Irony of ironies...

... my Singapore Literature Prize money came on a DBS cheque.

Yeah, I won the SLiP. I actually found out at lunchtime, 25 Nov, my birthday. That was one hell of a gift. Especially since I'd already convinced myself that I wouldn't get it (due to Shu Hoong's assurances that notice of the award is given much, much earlier).

I had this weird fog of glamour going on in my head for a while - terribly weird, since I'm winning for a first collection of not-very-mature poems, also because I'd told people I'd rather wait till I was more mature to win it, also because I knew that Cyril Wong's "Tilting the Plates to Catch the Light" was exponentially better than my own book, but he'd suffered unofficial disqualification for winning the previous year (stuff and nonsense; Mohammed Latiff Mohammed has been eligible for and won the Malay category THREE CONTESTS RUNNING, in fact since the incarnation of the prize in its current form);

and also because I wasn't supposed to tell anyone, which made the information all the more valuable;

but now, after the hand-shaking with Dr Vivian Balacutiepiekrishnan, I'm feeling a little deflated. I won the prize. Yeah, yeah. Yesterday's news.

WTF am I gonna do now????

Some snapshots:

Our MC commencing the evening. Don't be fooled by the polyglot projection; almost the entirety of the night's proceedings were in English. The sole exception was when Mandarin category judge Dr Chua Chee Lay insistently made some of his speech in Mandarin. The Malay and Tamil judges had no such cojones.

Seriously, NBDCS. Not PC. We should've at least had a reading of a poem or two from the language categories other than English. (And no, the lady above didn't read anything from "last boy". She read from Elmo Jayawardena's "Rainbows in Braille", Christine Suchen Lim's "The Lies that Build a Marriage", and Aaron Lee's "Five Right Angles" instead. I'm currently reading Mandarin category nominee Pan Cheng Lui's "天微明時我是诗人", and some of the poems in there are stunning. Why couldn't we have paid some tribute to these other writers?)

Here's the paparazzi when Vivian went up to speak.

Not pictured: teeny-tiny ten year-old Jonathan Chua, plunking his vitruosic fingers across the keyboard to open the evening (and also to mitigate the tension of the prizegiving). He's here as part of the Asia on the Edge festival. It was astounding. Prodigies are really slightly monstrous in their wonder.

Oh wait, I do have a picture of him:

He stayed in the back seats for most of the event, very guai-ly.

Truth is, I'm a little bummed after the reception. I thought I'd get to hang out with other writers for kopi, but the other prizewinners skedaddled so fast I couldn't even get their namecards. It's a shame, because I really, reallyreally wanted to get to know K. Kanagalatha, Tamil category prizewinner for her novel "Men I Have Murdered". She's a petite news editor of Tamil Murasu who looks younger than I am. She must be older, though, because she's not on Facebook.

Anyway, here I am with ex-librarians Mavis and Hedwig Anuar. Mrs Anwar is arguably the only woman among Singapore's first generation of English language writers. She's working on a family memoir. She's 80.

Speaking of age, Prof Rajeev Patke talked to me after the event. He said he was aware that it's a risk to give the prize to someone so young (oh please, when I broke through I was already older than Cyril and Alfian and Qian Xi), because the recognition might spoil me. Also: I have to set my ambitions high and concentrate on what I'm best at and keep slogging at it, if I really want to fayangguangda in the world literary scene.

Unfortunately, a Portugese palm reader in Maxwell Hawker Centre once pointed out that I have very little ambition, so I'm unlikely to go as far with my skills as I might.

Really, I mostly want to be happy and be with my family.

I know. I tak rock lah. I tak rock. (Sniff, sniff)


Readymade said...

Congrats Yish! :)


Hi Yi-Sheng, I hope it has all sunk in the morning after: congrats again! Just thought that I should make clear that there was no "unofficial disqualification" of anyone, which seems to be a rumour making its rounds. The shortlisted titles are all truly the best and yours truly exceptional. There's really no need to "feel bad" about what you have achieved. I look forward to reading more of your writings! :)

sharanya said...

Congratulated you already, so shall skip ahead to the burning question: VIVIAN is a guy's name?

Ng Yi-Sheng said...

Yes, Vivian is a unisex name.

And Vivian Balakrishnan is Singapore's cutest Cabinet Minister. Chindian. Lovely cheekbones. He also used to be something of a contrarian in the past. But he got tamed by the system. Sigh.

bibliobibuli said...

biggest congratulations!

Amir Muhammad said...

Congrats from KL :-)

Groyn88 said...

Congratulations, you're now rich! if you weren't, before.

Groyn88 said...

Congratulations, you're now rich! if you weren't, before.

Eric Forbes said...

Heartiest congratulations, Yi-Sheng!

Michael Lee said...

Now you've nailed a biggie in your art, you can develop love department. You have Chindian taste too?