Second Saturday Reading Series – 13 June 2015

Text by Jee Leong Koh and Photographs by Yun-chun Chua

Hosted by Paul and Al in their beautiful Carroll Gardens home, the last Second Saturdays reading before summer hiatus featured Brooklyn-based writer Patricia Park. Her debut novel Re Jane is described by Publishers Weekly as “a cheeky, clever homage to Jane Eyre with touching meditations on Korean-American identity.” Reading some well-chosen extracts from the novel, Patricia described vividly the feeling of a Korean American feeling out of place in Seoul. Not because the Seoulites were more Korean than the protagonist, as it turned out, but because they were, in some ways, more American. Patricia’s witty prose sparkled as it laid bare the global and local determinants of cultural identity.

 

Patricia reading

Patricia Park reading

Before the feature, five writers took to the stage in the open reading. Making her own reading debut at Second Saturdays was Kai Kai Goh, the six-year-old daughter of Colin Goh and Yen Yen Woo. She entertained us with an adventuresome fairy tale. Then Jeremy Tiang read about a tender love affair from a novel that he is translating from Chinese to English. Wun Kuen Ng read us two of her poems, “Japanese Garden 1937” and “Festival of Light.” Christine Chia read “tunku’s dilemma: a pantun,” “two flags: a haiku” and “clean” from her poetry collection Separation: A History. She also read Ian Chung’s sestina “AC Nation” from the LKY anthology A Luxury We Cannot Afford that she edited. Amanda Lee Koe, just returned from Cannes Film Festival and Venice Art Biennale, read two new short prose pieces inspired by her travels, “All the Chinese I Needed” and “Bells.”

Kai Kai Reading   Kai Kai reading

Jeremy Reading

Jeremy Tiang reading

Wun reading

 Wun-Kuen Ng reading

Amanda reading

Amanda Lee Koe reading

Christine reading

Christine Chia reading

The event was very well-attended, with many fresh faces, including recent film-making and acting graduates of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. As more Singaporeans come to New York to pursue the creative arts, we hope that Second Saturdays provides a welcoming place for them to find and work with other creative Singaporeans. Two of Christine’s poems that she read are, in fact, used in Alfian Sa’at’s new play Another Country, which runs in the Drama Centre Theater, Singapore, from 25 June to 11 July.

Another result of collaboration, across disciplines and territories, is the upcoming Singapore Arts Festival in New York in September. A grassroots event, helmed by Hong-Ling Wee, it will feature the literary and visual arts, film, dance and theater, as well as the inaugural Singapore Symposium bringing together scholars, social activists, and arts practitioners. Festival artists come from both Singapore and New York.

The Second Saturdays Reading Series will resume in October, with a very exciting culinary writer as our feature. Have a great summer!

 

Potluck table

group eating

Victor, jee, Amanda

Wee Ling and Kirsten

Group with Kim

Yun and Hong Ling

Patricia with Donald and Johannah

Second Saturdays Reading Series – May 2015

Text by Jee Leong Koh and Photos by Paul Rozario-Falcone and Philip M. Perry

 

For the first time ever, Second Saturdays was held in the historic neighborhood of the Village. Last weekend, our host Janice Tan opened her home on Jane Street and welcomed over 25 of us. The usual convivial atmosphere was enhanced by many new attendees, including a Singaporean who has lived in NYC for more than five years, another Singaporean who has just moved to the city from Cornell, and yet another Singaporean visiting from Singapore. We also welcomed many American friends, a number of whom supported the Singapore Lit Fest last year. Since its inception, the Second Saturdays reading series has always been open to all.

Our May feature was James Hannaham, the author of two novels GOD SAYS NO (McSweeney’s) and DELICIOUS FOODS (Little, Brown). James is a longtime contributor to the Village Voice and other publications. He is the co-founder of the performance group Elevator Repair Service and a noted visual artist who has exhibited his text-based works in many galleries. Reading from his novel DELICIOUS FOODS that Saturday afternoon, he very quickly drew us into the world of an African American woman who is lured to the South to work for the eponymous industrial farm. Part of her story is told from the unusual perspective of crack cocaine, a voice that is, well, addictive, as we learned from James’s reading. The dialogue after the reading was lively and interesting.

 

James reading with crowd

 

Before the feature, we shared a delicious potluck brunch, Asian-style, with fried bee hoon, egg tarts and many other goodies. We also heard three writers during the open reading. Jeremy Tiang read his translations of three poems by the Macau poet Un Sio San: “Early Morning Note To The Enemy,” “Nude Picnic” and “Anti-Love Poem to the Twenty-first Century.” Christine Chia read from her book SEPARATION: A HISTORY and the work of two contributors to the anthology A LUXURY WE CANNOT AFFORD. Tom March read his poem “The Death Bush.”

Next month’s reading will be our last before the summer hiatus, so do join us for the June blast. The feature is Patricia Park, who will read from her new novel RE JANE. We will return to our usual starting time of 7 pm. More details soon. If you’d like to be added to our email list, please email either Jee at jeeleong.koh@gmail.com or Paul at paul.rozario@gmail.com.

 

May Reading Crowd

Jeremy reading

Christine reading

Tom March reading

Victor and Hong Ling

Paul and Girls

Girl and EK

Abby and Hallie

James with Jee and Paul

 

Second Saturdays Reading Series – March 2015

Words by Jee Leong Koh, and images by Paul Rozario-Falcone, with film stills from Kirsten Tan

As promised, Second Saturdays expanded its feature offerings beyond literature to include the other arts. The March edition of the monthly series, hosted by Melissa Wansin Wong and Alphonse Hrdel in their beautiful Williamsburg apartment, featured a private screening of Kirsten Tan’s award-winning short film Dahdi.

The heart-breaking film dramatized an encounter between an elderly widow and a young Burmese refugee. Kirsten Tan made the film in response to an actual event in 2012, when 40 Burmese Rohingya asylum-seekers were turned away by Singapore authorities, and forced to return in their boat to the open seas. The film was shot on Pulau Ubin, an island to the northeast of Singapore, where the action takes place.

 

dahdi

 

Kirsten Tan was on hand after the screening to answer the eager questions of the audience. She was disarmingly frank about the challenges of working with amateur actors, so necessary to the film’s feeling of authenticity. Against her producers’ wishes, she also insisted on having the parrot in order to show the widow’s loneliness and capacity for love. The audience that night heartily agreed with Tan’s decision: the parrot was essential. In fact, the beautifully-shot film showcased Tan’s strong natural instincts for film-making. Dahdi was awarded Best Southeast Asian Short at last year’s Singapore International Film Festival. You can read an interview with Kisten Tan at Singapore Poetry about her approach to making films.

 

kirsten

 

Before the feature, attendees enjoyed conversing around the potluck. There was plenty to eat and drink, as is usual at Second Saturdays events, thanks to everyone’s generosity. There was a short open reading. Christine Chia read from a work-in-progress, Who Stole Spring. The children’s story, written in rhyming verse, revolves around a young child who rants against Winter, calling it the “ugly stepsister of the seasons,” and then hears back from Winter. Wun Kuen Ng treated us to another one of her poems, this one titled provocatively “The Tempt.” The last reader was Jeremy Tiang, who read three of his translations of poems by prominent Chinese-language Singaporean writers.

The Second Saturdays Reading Series welcomes everyone. If you would like to attend, please get in touch with Jee (jeeleong.koh@gmail.com) or Paul (paul.rozario@gmail.com). April’s event features scientist-turned-ceramist Hong-Ling Wee. There will be an open reading again.

 

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Christine Chia reading

wun

Wun-Kuen Ng reading

jeremy

Jeremy Tiang making us laugh

 

 

 

Second Saturdays Celebrates First Birthday

Words by Jee Leong Koh, and images by Deedle Tomlinson and Paul Rozario-Falcone

 

On February 7, the Second Saturdays Reading Series celebrated its first year in the Brooklyn home of Paul and Al Rozario-Falcone’s. We were very honored that the wonderful novelist Monique Truong, author of The Book of Salt and Bitter in the Mouth, read as the feature of this special occasion.

It was a year ago when Paul and Al hosted a gathering of Singaporean writers and creatives to plan the inaugural Singapore Literature Festival in New York City. As the festival co-chairs, Paul and Jee Leong Koh, described their vision, the enthusiastic response from all present was truly heartwarming. Colin Goh suggested starting a monthly literary event in the run-up to the festival that would help rally support. This idea was embraced by the festival organizing committee and so the Second Saturdays Reading Series, named for the day of the gathering, was born.

From the start, the reading series has been a platform for the reading of Singaporean and American literatures in various intimate venues around New York City. The reading begins with a delicious potluck around which introductions and conversations take place. After the open reading, the feature shares his or her work. In the last year, the reading was hosted by Guy E. Humphrey and Jee Leong Koh, Jeremy Tiang and Drayton Hiers, Colin Goh and Yen Yen Woo, Win Lubin and Damon Chua, and St. Mark’s Bookshop (under the auspices of the Manhattan Lit Crawl). We have featured Christine Chia, Martha Cooley, Damon Chua, Colin Goh, A. Naomi Jackson, Amanda Lee Koe, Jee Leong Koh, Jason Koo, Joseph Legaspi, Vijay Seshadri, Cheryl Tan, and Jeremy Tiang.

We were delighted when Monique Truong agreed to read for us to cap a year of events. She had been kind enough to moderate a panel at the Singapore Literature Festival last October. The open reading before her feature was, as usual, full of lively and varied voices. Inclusive and supportive, the open reading typically included creative writing in verse and prose from both emerging and established writers. That evening we were privileged to hear from Monique an excerpt from her novel-in-progress The Sweetest Fruits.  We won’t give anything away, except to say that the writing was as powerfully evocative as Monique’s readers have come to expect from this master storyteller. This is a book well worth waiting for. You can find out more by looking up Monique’s website.

After the reading, people stayed on to talk and enjoy the beauty of Paul and Al’s home and the warmth of their hospitality. One-year-old now, the Second Saturdays Reading Series looks forward to bringing even more good stuff to an appreciative audience. We hope to expand our offerings to include other forms of art. As a first step, we will be featuring Kirsten Tan and her award-winning short film Dahdi in March. If you would like to be on our email list, please get in touch with Jee at jeeleong.koh@gmail.com or Paul at paul.rozario@gmail.com.

 

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Wun Kuen Ng reading

woman reading

Nichole Acosta reading

Jeremy

Jeremy Tiang reading

christine

Christine Chia reading

Deedle

Deedle Tomlinson reading

Tim

Tim Tomlinson reading

man reading

Filip Notredaeme reading

jee

Jee Leong Koh reading

monique

The Feature: Monique Truong

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Rapt audience

A lighter moment

A lighter moment

monique2

Second Saturdays Reading Series – Jan 2015

Colin Goh and Yen Yen Woo hosted the January reading at their Yumcha Yoga Studio in Flushing. Despite the cold and train interruptions, a good crowd of us gathered to celebrate the New York launch of the poetry anthology A Luxury We Cannot Afford, edited by Christine Chia and Joshua Ip. After Christine read from her new book Separation: A History, she introduced the anthology. Three contributors–Jeremy Tiang, Damon Chua and Jee Leong Koh–read their own poem and one other by another writer in the anthology. After the reading, Belinda He led all of us in an introduction to the Feldenkrais Method, a somatic educational system designed by Moshé Feldenkrais (1904–1984).

 

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Second Saturdays Reading Series – Dec 2014

The December edition was hosted by Paul and Al Rozario-Falcone in their Carroll Gardens home. Martha Cooley, the author of the novel The Archivist, was the feature. Before she read, there was an opening reading of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Chua Yun Chun, who attended the reading series for the first time, enthused on Facebook afterwards:

 

My first mini Singaporean gathering and with Singaporean writers!! Wow They’re such a warm bunch; cerebrally brilliant yet soulfully open! I feel so blessed to chance upon such a small yet unique bunch of artsy Singaporeans! Beautiful home so beautifully decked. Everyone brought food with so much leftover! – from wines to dolci desserts, starters, gorgeous Asian and western mains, coffee, ginger tea, chocolates and like 5-6 cakes wow what’s there not to like!

I feel thankful that this is also a part of my new journey and transition from dance to musical theatre! From the silent shadows of goosing a dancers life that I love to speech! Words! Writing! That for so long I chose to keep muted.

Thank you writers for tonight

I feel so privileged

 

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Photos by Chua Yun Chun

 

Second Saturdays Reading Series – Nov 2014

Second Saturdays Reading Series – November 2014
Words by Jee Leong Koh, and photos by Paul Rozario-Falcone and Guy Humphrey

 

Is there life after Singapore Literature Festival? If the November edition of the Second Saturdays Reading Series is anything to go by, the answer is a resounding yes! More than 20 people found themselves in the home of Guy Humphrey and Jee Leong Koh on the Upper West Side on Saturday, November 8, to enjoy a literary brunch. The event was jointly organized with the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics and Writers, of which Jee was a council member. The atmosphere was convivial, as always, as the regulars welcomed fresh faces into our midst.

Fellowship was cultivated and consolidated over the potluck brunch, consisting of quiche, fried dumplings, spicy lentil, kale salad, curry chicken, sautéed green beans and asparagus, kare kare (oxtail and tripe in peanut sauce), homemade bread, and pizza topped with beef rendang! And then there were the sweets: chocolate nut pie, scones, dessert meringues, and a chocolate-and-cherry cake from Fay Da Bakery, all washed down with mimosa, wine, juice, and coffee.

Christine Chia kicked off the reading by describing the poetry anthology A Luxury We Cannot Afford, which she edited with Joshua Ip. It will be launched in New York at Second Saturday’s January reading. We sent a “Hello, from New York!” to the Singapore launch via a video recording. As Christine had to leave, Jee read on her behalf a poem by her entitled “Plato’s dream of airports.” Then Misty Goh was up and read an original poem “Selective Memories.” Connie Smith read “Chime,” a poem which traced the intimate connections between knowledge and the body. Ng Wun Kuen read two poems, “Crossing the Spiritual Desert” and “The House on Baxter Street.” Lindsay Stern read “Louisa Whitman’s Lullaby” to infant Walt, and an erasure poem taken from The History of Insects by an unknown author. It was a pleasure to hear new poetic voices at Second Saturdays.

The featured reader was Amanda Lee Koe, fresh from her win at the Singapore Literature Prize Awards. She read from her award-winning collection Ministry of Moral Panic the short story “Alice, You Must Be the Fulcrum of Your Own Universe.” The audience was enthralled by the story of the relationship between a teenage girl and an older, and worldlier, woman. After the reading, audience spontaneously praised the story for its insight into two women of such vastly different ages and experience.

Quite unplanned, the reading turned out to be a celebration of women’s experience in women’s own voices. The fact that the room responded with such receptivity showed that the experience, described with great particularity, has universal resonance.

 

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Jee Leong Koh introducing Christine Chia (right)

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Misty Goh reading

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Wun-Kuen Ng reading

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Lindsay Stern reading

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Amanda Lee Koe, the featured reader

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Kimberley Lim, Wei-Ling Woo, and Amanda Lee Koe

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Al Rozario-Falcone, Guy Humphrey, and Connie Smith

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Amanda Lee Koe, Christine Chia and Wei-Ling Woo

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Wun-Kuen Ng, Al Rozario-Falcone, and Hong-Ling Wee

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Wun-Kuen Ng and Michael Slipp

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Kazu, Cheryl, and Marty

Amanda Lee Koe reading

 

 

Two Perspectives

The videostream of “Two Perspectives: Singaporean and Singaporean American Playwriting,” featuring dramatic readings of excerpts from Damon Chua’s Aziza and Haresh Sharma’s Fundamentally Happy, both readings directed by Mei-Ann Teo, can be found here. The readings were followed by a Q&A. Peter Eckersall and Melissa Wansin Wong organized the event in conjunction with Singapore Literature Festival, and moderated the discussion. Martin E. Segal Theatre Center hosted. The actors were Arlene Chico-Lugo, Edward Chin-Lyn, Kenneth Lee and Ching Valdes-Aran.

 

 

New York Launch of Starry Island: New Writing from Singapore

Saturday, September 13, 2014, St. Mark’s Bookshop

Words by Jee Leong Koh
Photos by Paul Rozario-Falcone, Christine Chia, Sandra Woock and Guy Humphrey

 

It was a wet night, but the drizzle did not keep the crowd away from St. Mark’s Bookshop, now in hip new digs in the East Village. Organized by the team behind Singapore Literature Festival, the event was the New York launch of Starry Island: New Writing from Singapore. The launch, held under the auspices of Manhattan Lit Crawl, attracted many crawlers. Fans of the Second Saturdays Reading Series, which culminates in the SLF this year, also turned out in enthusiastic numbers. There was standing room only in the stylish space.

The anthology Starry Island features poetry, fiction and essays by 30 Singaporean writers and translators. It is edited by Frank Stewart and Fiona Sze-Lorrain, and published by the University of Hawai’i Press as part of MANOA’s series of international literature. Contributors include such bright lights as Philip Jeyaretnam, Ng Yi-sheng, Wena Poon, Alfian Sa’at, O Thiam Chin, Cyril Wong, Toh Hsien Min and Boey Kim Cheng. Wena Poon and Cyril Wong are also featured authors at the upcoming Singapore Literature Festival.

Three contributors, all based in New York City, participated in the book launch. Jeremy Tiang read from his graceful translation of Wong Yoon Wah’s nostalgic essay “Cast from Paradise.” Amanda Lee Koe, participating in her first New York reading, entertained the crowd with an extract from her story “Panda Cunt, Bear Gall.” Koh Jee Leong read from his collection of zuihitsu The Pillow Book, which has been shortlisted for this year’s Singapore Literature Prize.

After the readings, a lively Q&A followed. The writers were asked about the influence of New York City on their writing. They were also quizzed on freedom of expression in Singapore. The National Library saga came up in the discussion, as did the recent ban on Tan Pin Pin’s documentary “To Singapore, with Love” about political dissidents living in exile. When the writers disagreed about the centrality of censorship to any presentation of Singapore literature, the audience was palpably energized by the exchange. The Q&A was moderated by Paul Rozario-Falcone, who chairs, with Jee Leong Koh, the Singapore Literature Festival in New York.

It was wonderful to talk about Sing Lit, as Singapore literature is affectionately called, in a neighborhood legendary for launching counter-cultural arts movements. We were just two blocks from the famous Nuyorican Poets Café. SLF thanks St. Mark’s Bookshop for hosting the book launch, and Manhattan Lit Crawl for its help in putting together the event. We are very grateful to the University of Hawai’i Press and MANOA journal for donating copies of Starry Island, in order to raise funds for our volunteer-led, independent initiative to bring Sing Lit to New York. Starry Island is available in New York City at St. Mark’s Bookshop, the Brooklyn Book Festival (Table 215), and the Singapore Literature Festival in New York (Oct 10 – 12, 2014).

 

Jeremy Tiang reading

Amanda Lee Koe reading

Koh Jee Leong reading Photo by Sandra Woock

Paul Rozario moderating

Jeremy Tiang Q&A

Rafay Khalid of St. Mark's Bookshop

Audience 2