We are very pleased to announce the results of the 3rd Singapore Poetry Contest. Open to everyone who is NOT a Singaporean citizen, the annual contest seeks poems that use the word “Singapore” in a creative and significant way.
We received a total of 75 entries from around the world. The USA leads with 25 entries (California 1, Colorado 4, Connecticut 1, Florida 3, Kansas 3, Massachusetts 1, Michigan 1, New Mexico 1, New York 8, Virginia 2), Singapore follows with 14, then India 6, Australia 5, Nigeria 3, the Philippines 3, Scotland 3, Sudan 3, Canada 2, Malaysia 2, Uruguay 2, China 1, Kenya 1, Spain 1, and South Korea 1. 3 entries did not have an address.
Third prize (USD 20) goes to "The tint of the photo, sepia" by Meera Chandramouliswaran (Chennai, India)
Second prize (USD50) goes to “Boy" by Giovanni Santalucia (Astoria, Queens, USA)
First prize (USD100) goes to "The Mousetrap" by Sylvia Anne Telfer (Rutherglen, Scotland)
Congratulations to the winners! Enjoy their poems below. The Singapore Poetry Contest will return in April 2018.
First Prize Winner: THE MOUSETRAP
by Sylvia Anne Telfer
Rowan flicked our ‘The Oaks’, shooing witches
And gooseberries plonked onto broken bricks;
Such a spiky and hard touch in some memories.
In the town, cheese wire-cut, meat hacked,
Leeks soil-dark while our avenue sighed
Over wintry Meg Cowan as May Queen
For there was always some unholy whiff in her
Calico dolls and how she poled on drying green.
Uneasy echoes of the past had been in the war
Memorial where father’s uncle still lies in sleep
Plumes; a young McGrath dead before my birth
And recalled in an iron, at-the-ready soldier
Staring off to nowhere,
Miss Drake had once perched, a stuffed owl,
In cinema cubicle, that glass bubble for a snake
Goddess in ticket coil. A Hollywood spell
Of cowpokes, Al Capone, cartoons, pointed
To far-off realms where I learned there was
A going on beyond the now dull semis, phobic dogs,
Wives with gerbil white knees, beyond their sons
In mandatory yellow oilskins.
Much has changed.
The mill’s an Indian eatery, and fatal Effie,
The local vamp who bleached her fringe
The tinge of mashed banana is long gone
To Singapore. Meat’s in Iceland, cheese
And squeaky-clean leek in cellophane in Tesco,
And ‘The Oaks’ forsaken
Although I sense my family’s yet in there.
Father will be tinkering in the shed in a merge
Of flesh and iron and mother’s coat will be
Stiff on the cellar knob, many-pocketed,
A coat of caves. I can even sniff her singular smell.
Soon she’ll be fleet upstairs to flutter sheets,
Rap on infinity’s window.
Something in the house was always set
Like a mousetrap, something that would never let go.
Judge's comment: Telfer's poem is a winning, darkly magical, picture of several losses. Returning to the family home in a small town, the speaker cannot help comparing the past to the present. Through sharp observations and imaginative language ("Wives with gerbil white knees"), she succeeds in recovering, at least in memory, some of the losses, realizing in the end that she is as much caught by the place as she has caught it in words. We hope that Effie the local vamp is having the time of her life in Singapore, but her mashed-banana fringe gives warning of a different fate.
Second Prize Winner: BOY
by Giovanni Santalucia
Little red dot on the back of my hand spoke
To me more than
Any white-robed archangel or
Celestial monk ever could. I
Was six, read to from tattered pages
Each night, still
Young enough to fall asleep on the
Old enough to dream of
Or Singapore with her
But I was still young enough to hide.
Living in the wind,
Our own pint of Heaven
Stuffed into some corner
The paper on the globe in
My room grew old and cracked
Like thinning lilac petals, but
Never stopped spinning.
To have the world under my palm—
To have a world away from the
Hallways bloated with Folgers tins and film canisters,
Away from the sick-sweet summer and my mother’s
Was burning glee.
I liked to watch clouds,
Crisp yellow around the edges,
As the hot-hollow sky sank over fields outside,
Where stuttering millet interrupted our little house’s shadow.
We weren’t among the pockets of life scattered along
The road. We were never ones to remember names or
draw straight lines
or carry folders.
Sometimes you get lost, and you don’t even know it.
Judge's comment: If Sylvia Anne Telfer speaks as one who left home, Giovanni Santalucia's boy is still wandering dreamily in the family house. His desire to travel around the world, even to "Singapore with her/Dewy horns," is most powerfully evoked not by an exotic description of faraway places, but by a precise rendition of the limits of his present situation, "where stuttering millet interrupted our little house's shadow." A series of negatives climaxes in a paradoxically affirmative epiphany.
Third Prize Winner: UNTITLED
by Meera Chandramouliswaran
The tint of the photo, sepia
Dint of a smile
Below vermilion clad forehead
Peeking out from a rusty frame
That says made in Singapore
She ladles out a dosa
On a waiting plate
To a child
Thin but grinning
The folds of her sari cover her feet
Save a flash of sliver
Glinting by the stove fire
Pots lined behind her
Like her eyes
I don't see a likeness anywhere.
Judge's comment: In Chandramouliswaran's poem, the woman ladling out a dosa is framed not only by the made-in-Singapore photo holder, but also by her own smile and "vermilion clad" forehead. She is modestly covered to her feet, but "a flash of silver," highlighted and captured by the camera, comes from the pots of her nourishing kitchen. All the revealing details about her, including the likeness of her shining eyes to the gleaming pots, only serve to emphasize, however, her strangeness. She has been changed by time or place, or by the change in the viewer herself.