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Text by Jee Leong Koh
Second Saturdays held its festive gathering in Guy and Jee’s apartment on the Upper West Side. The company was as warm as the day itself, as friends and lovers mingled over convivial talk and delicious food. We welcomed several people new to this monthly event to celebrate Singaporean and American literatures. It was wonderful to meet so many creative spirits, from fields as diverse as graphic design, architecture, filmmaking, anthropology, poetry, statistics, performance studies, and tech start-ups!
At the open reading, we heard writers new to the series. Douglas Marks started the open reading by reciting a poem by his grandmother Milli Marks called “Thank America – Talk America.” Jill Tan read the poems “What passes for intimacy,” “anew,” “Platters,” “Gracendings,” and “Rosetta” from her bookPlasma. For a change of pace, Tomson Tee read his intimate story of frustrated love “Pugilist.” Bringing the open reading to a resounding end, Sarah Sarai read her poems “An Interrogatory” and “Popularity,” the latter forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly.
After the open reading, our featured speaker Helaine Smith, the author of Masterpieces of Classic Greek Drama and the recently published Teaching Particulars: Literary Conversations in Grades 6–12, took the stage. A master teacher at The Brearley School, Helaine guided the gathering through a reading of Robert Lowell’s poem “Man and Wife.” She gave us a glimpse of the excitement of her classroom when she showed the significance of the poem’s rhyme scheme to its meaning. She ended with a few wonderfully insightful remarks on Elizabeth Bishop’s “Poem.” Her discussion of both poems appears in her bookTeaching Particulars.
January’s Second Saturdays reading will feature Singaporean author Jeremy Tiang, who will read from his new book of short stories It Never Rains On National Day. For details of the event on Saturday, January 9, or if you’d like to be added to our mailing list, please get in touch with Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jee at email@example.com. We wish everyone a very Happy New Year!
Text and photos by Paul Rozario-Falcone
Second Saturdays last month was its usual food-laden, word-filled, love fest. The open mic portion of the afternoon saw writers Lourdes Bernard, Kimberley Lim, and Jee Leong Koh take to the floor to read their original works. Lourdes read two poems “Purple Crown” and “This Fall Day”; Kimberley also shared two pieces “Laika” and “Pork”; while Jee read “Talking to Koon Meng Who Called Himself Christopher” from his latest collection of poetry Steep Tea.
Following the open mic, featured author Naomi Jackson read from her debut novel The Star Side of Bird Hill (Penguin, 2015), a coming-of-age tale of two sisters spanning Brooklyn and Barbados. An insightful Q&A then followed, in which Jackson spoke of her writing process and how the book has been received. More about the author and the book can be found at http://www.naomi-jackson.com/
Last night, the Second Saturdays Reading Series opened its third season in New York City with a delicious treat. The featured author Kian Kho Lam spoke about his new cookbook Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking (Clarkson Potter, 2015). The talk was followed by a sampling of Chinese dishes from the beautifully illustrated hardback.
Kian had an interesting story to tell. He first trained as an aerospace engineer and then he developed computer software on Wall Street for 20 years. During this time, he could never find in NYC the Chinese food that he loved while growing up in Singapore. He wrote home for the recipes, apprenticed in the kitchen of Chef Josh Capon at Canteen (now Lure Fishbar), and researched the history and techniques of Chinese cooking, even going to China to interview chefs in the big cities of Beijing and Shanghai as well as the historical city of Chang’an, a UNESCO heritage site. The result of all the work is a wonderful book with 158 recipes for the dishes that he has perfected over the years. Illustrated with 240 photographs, including step-by-step technique shots and inspiring images, the volume also includes a history of Chinese cooking and an explanation of regional cuisines. Publishers Weekly describes the book as “a superb tutorial on Chinese cooking.”
After the talk, everyone enjoyed tasting four different dishes. An especial favorite was the red braised pork. We were hosted by Kian’s friends, Troy and Alice, in their lovely Morningside Park brownstone. As always, the mood was casual and friendly, as introductions were exchanged and friends reconnected after the summer hiatus. Next month, A. Naomi Jackson will read from her debut novel The Star Side of Bird Hill. We will be bringing back our potluck and open reading. If you’d like to be added to the mailing list, please contact Jee at firstname.lastname@example.org. All are welcomed.
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 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.”
Jeremy Tiang reading
Wun-Kuen Ng reading
Amanda Lee Koe 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!
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.
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 email@example.com or Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you, Chloe Miller, for featuring Jee Leong Koh talking about the Singapore Literature Festival and community organizing. Check out the blog!
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.
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.
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 (email@example.com) or Paul (firstname.lastname@example.org). April’s event features scientist-turned-ceramist Hong-Ling Wee. There will be an open reading again.
Christine Chia reading
Wun-Kuen Ng reading
Jeremy Tiang making us laugh
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 email@example.com or Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wun Kuen Ng reading
Nichole Acosta reading
Jeremy Tiang reading
Christine Chia reading
Deedle Tomlinson reading
Tim Tomlinson reading
Filip Notredaeme reading
Jee Leong Koh reading
The Feature: Monique Truong
A lighter moment