3rd Singapore Poetry Contest Results

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

 

That

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

Rocking-chair, but

Old enough to dream of

Rain-glazed Greenland

Or Singapore with her

Dewy horns.

 

But I was still young enough to hide.

 

Living in the wind,

Our own pint of Heaven

Stuffed into some corner

Or other.

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

Slow-talking friends—

Was burning glee.

 

I liked to watch clouds,

Crisp yellow around the edges,

Creep along

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

Curved wide 

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

Gleam 

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.

 

Photo: Marc Nair

Photo: Marc Nair