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.



Jee Leong Koh introducing Christine Chia (right)


Misty Goh reading


Wun-Kuen Ng reading


Lindsay Stern reading


Amanda Lee Koe, the featured reader


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


Al Rozario-Falcone, Guy Humphrey, and Connie Smith


Amanda Lee Koe, Christine Chia and Wei-Ling Woo


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


Wun-Kuen Ng and Michael Slipp


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

Press Release – Singapore Literature Festival 2014

To download the document as a PDF please click Press Release -The Inaugural Singapore Literature Festival, New York City, 2014


August 29th 2014

The Inaugural Singapore Literature Festival, New York City, 2014

For the first time ever, 15 Singaporean writers will converge on New York City from October 10 to 12, 2014, for the inaugural Singapore Literature Festival. They will read from locally and globally inspired works in various locations around Manhattan, including 92nd Street Y, Book Culture, McNally Jackson, and NYU’s Lilian VernonCreative Writers House.

Organized by a group of book-loving volunteers, the Singapore Literature Festival aims to showcase and build awareness of Singaporean writing among readers, editors, and publishing professionals in New York. The festival provides a wonderful opportunity to hear and engage with the most distinctive voices coming out of the city-state, which celebrates its 50th year of independence next year.

Straddling vital trade routes in Southeast Asia, Singapore was brought under British control in 1819 and became independent in 1965. Its citizens speak and write in English (the lingua franca), Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, reflecting the legacies of British rule and the country’s four main ethnic communities—the Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Eurasians.

Like New York City, Singapore is an economic and cultural hub. The city is the fourth largest financial center and the third most densely populated country in the world. As a multicultural metropolis, Singapore has provided a stimulating environment for writers to explore universal themes in specific local contexts. An authentic literature has flourished, but it is mostly unknown in New York City—until now.

Nine Singaporean writers will fly to New York City from halfway across the world to join six other Singaporean writers based in the United States. Together, their work represents the Singaporean sensibility—local yet cosmopolitan. Some of the featured writers include:

Haresh Sharma has written more than a hundred plays that have been staged all over the world in cities such as London, Glasgow, Birmingham and Cairo. He is the first non-American to be named Goldberg Master Playwright by New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Wena Poon, the author of eight books, has had her works produced on the London stage and serialized on BBC Radio 4. She won the UK’s Willesden Herald Prize for best short fiction in 2010.

Alvin Pang’s poetry and fiction have been translated into over 15 languages. He represented Singapore at London’s Poetry Parnassus event alongside Kay Ryan, Seamus Heaney, and Wole Soyinka.

Alfian Sa’at’s award-winning poetry, plays, and fiction have been read and performed in London, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Zurich, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Melbourne as well as in Singapore and Malaysia.

Cyril Wong is the recipient of the Singapore Literature Prize, the country’s highest literary honor, for poetry. His poems have been anthologized in various publications all over the world.

Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan is the author of A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family (Hyperion, 2011). She has also written for The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore Sun, and The New York Times.

Kirsten Chen’s debut novel, Soy Sauce for Beginners (New Harvest, 2014), was featured in USA Today’s “New Voices” and O, The Oprah Magazine.

Colin Goh and Yen Yen Woo are the husband-and-wife team behind Dim Sum Warriors, a graphic novel series about kung fu-fighting dumpling that has been featured in Publishers Weekly, Time, The New York Times, and BBC. They also wrote and directed the international award-winning film Singapore Dreaming and authored the bestselling Coxford Singlish Dictionary.

The other featured writers are Christine Chia, Jason Erik Lundberg, Joshua Ip, Pooja Nansi, Tania De Rozario, and Verena Tay. For more information about all fifteen authors, visit:


The Singapore Literature Festival is funded wholly by well wishers. A Kickstarter campaign exceeded its target by raising $7,790, with the support of 103 generous backers. Other monetary gifts made up the festival’s income. In addition, other sponsors have offered donations in kind, including Ethos Books, BooksActually, Landmark Books, University of Hawai’i Press, Mānoa Books, El León Literary Arts, artist Boedi Widjaja, Plain Productions, Rasa Restaurant and Tiger Beer. McNally Jackson and Book Culture, two beloved New York City bookstores, are donating their venues for festival events. The writers receive partial funding from Singapore’s National Arts Council for their airfare. The fund-raising was truly multilateral.


The Singapore Literature Festival is conceived and planned by a group of Singaporean volunteers—writers and creatives—who are proud to call New York City home.

Co-Chairs: Paul Rozario-Falcone & Jee Leong Koh
Treasurer/Fund-raising: Damon Chua
Publicity: Kimberley Lim, Kenneth Lim & Kiat-Sing Teo
Graphics: Shellen TehVideo/Photography: Marcus Yi

Co-chairs Paul Rozario-Falcone and Jee Leong Koh believe that Singapore literature deserves international recognition and readership. As the publishing center of the English-speaking world, New York City cannot afford to overlook this vibrant literature. The festival hopes to deepen the dialogue between the two cities’ distinct, yet complementary, literary traditions.

For more information about the organizers, visit:


The three-day festival offers eight stimulating literary events from Friday to Sunday, October 10 – 12, 2014.

For full descriptions of the events, please consult the appendix below.

Five of the events are free. Of these five events, three are open to the public and two (the opening and closing parties) are by invitation only. Invitations may be requested by contacting

The three ticketed events are held at 92nd Street Y on Saturday, October 11. Each ticket costs $10. The All Day Pass to all three events costs $25, with senior and student concession at $20.

Tickets to the 92nd Street Y events on October 11 can be purchased from the center’s box office at 212-415-5500 or on-line.

Rich Words / Poor Words at 2:00pm:

The 21st Century Family at 3.30pm:

The Politics of Love at 5:00pm:

The All Day Pass to all three events:


For press-related inquiries, please contact: Kimberley Lim, Publicity Chair



Singapore Literature Festival Friday-Sunday, October 10 – 12, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

1. Singapore and Freedom of Expression: a Soapbox Series roundtable discussion at Adelphi University (Pre-Festival Event; Free and Open to All)

Alfian Sa’at, Colin Goh, Haresh Sharma, Tania De Rozario and Yen Yen Woo, moderated by Martha Cooley and Craig Carson

Thursday, October 9, 3:00 – 4:30 pm, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY


Friday, October 10, 2014

2. Generations and Genres (Free and Open to All)

Cyril Wong, Haresh Sharma and Verena Tay, introduced by April Heck

Since 1965, the year of national independence, Singapore literature has developed into a vibrant and diverse corpus of writings. In this reading, writers from different generations read from their work in drama, fiction and poetry, and discuss the growth of the literary tradition. The reading is followed by a book signing, and a reception hosted by Writers House.

Friday, October 10, 2:00 – 4:00 pm, NYU’s Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, 58 W 10th Street (bet. 5th and 6th Avenues), New York, NY

3. The Local Cosmopolitan (Opening Party – by invitation only)

Alfian Sa’at, Alvin Pang, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Kirstin Chen and Wena Poon, introduced by Jason Koo

Friday, October 10, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, Book Culture Bookstore, 536 W 112th Street (bet. Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue), New York, NY

Can a writer be both cosmopolitan in outlook and local in orientation? Marking the official opening of the festival, this reading showcases work that travels between home and the world. The reading is followed by a book signing and a reception.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Guest registration begins at 92nd Street Y

Saturday, October 11, 1:45 pm, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue (at 92nd Street), New York, NY

4. Rich Words, Poor Words (Ticketed)

Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Joshua Ip and Wena Poon, introduced by Rohan Kamicheril

The growing divide between haves and have-nots is of concern around the world. How does language reinforce or bridge this divide? This reading explores the relationship between class, ethnicity and language. The writers will sign books after the reading.

Saturday, October 11, 2:00 – 3:00 pm, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue (at 92nd Street), New York, NY

5. The Twenty-First Century Family (Ticketed)

Christine Chia, Colin Goh and Kirstin Chen, introduced by Monique Truong

From extended to nuclear to blended, the modern family is evolving in reaction to enormous social pressures and urgent individual needs. What will the twenty-first century family be like? The writers in this reading respond to the dynamics of this long revolution. The reading is followed by a book signing.

Saturday, October 11, 3:30 – 4:30 pm, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue (at 92nd Street), New York, NY

6. The Politics of Love (Ticketed)

Cyril Wong, Pooja Nansi and Tania De Rozario, introduced by Don Weise

Be prepared to get hot under the collar. This reading introduces authors whose writings revolve around love, desire and relationships. The writers will sign books after the reading.

Saturday, October 11, 5:00 – 6:00 pm, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue (at 92nd Street), New York, NY

7. Book Signing and Mingling (Entry by ticket to one of the 92Y events)

Alfian Sa’at, Alvin Pang, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Christine Chia, Cyril Wong, Haresh Sharma, Jason Erik Lundberg, Joshua Ip, Kirstin Chen, Ovidia Yu, Pooja Nansi, Tania De Rozario, Verena Tay and Wena Poon

Saturday, October 11, 6:00 – 6:30 pm, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue (at 92nd Street), New York, NY


Sunday, October 12, 2014

8. Reading Culture (Free and Open to All)

Christine Chia, Joshua Ip, Jason Erik Lundberg, Verena Tay and Yen Yen Woo, introducer to be announced

Books are mostly read in private. The sharing of books, however, builds reading communities. Through reviewing, re-imagining and re-telling, we become citizens of a republic of letters. Reading itself becomes the focus of this reading by writers deeply concerned with this most solitary of social actions. The writers will sign books after the reading.

Sunday, October 12, 2:00 – 4:00 pm, Book Culture Bookstore, 536 W 112th Street (bet. Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue), New York, NY

9. Encore (Closing Party – by invitation only)

Alfian Sa’at, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Christine Chia, Cyril Wong, Haresh Sharma, Jason Erik Lundberg, Joshua Ip, Pooja Nansi, Tania De Rozario, Verena Tay and Wena Poon, introducer to be announced

Literature has its roots in the oral tradition, in song, gossip, lullaby, and prayer. This reading returns the written word to its magical, hopeful and inspirational spoken origins. The reading is followed by a book signing and a reception.

Sunday, October 12, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, McNally Jackson Bookstore, 52 Prince Street (bet. Lafayette and Mulberry Streets), New York, NY


To download the document as a PDF please click Press Release -The Inaugural Singapore Literature Festival, New York City, 2014

Mother Tongue

“Is she going to grow up using the language of “jia zhu le, jia zhu le” to describe a wedgie, instead of the more correct linguistic form of “kiap tio leow, kiap tio leow?”

Festival author Yen Yen Woo considers in a charming piece “Mother Tongue” what kind of a child she is bringing up in Flushing, Queens.


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Blue Lyra Review

Festival authors Alvin Pang, Christine Chia, Cyril Wong, Pooja Nansi, Tania De Rozario and Joshua Ip have new poems in the special Singapore issue of Blue Lyra Review. Guest-edited by festival co-chair Jee Leong Koh, the poetry selection is a preview of the fireworks that you can expect at the Singapore Literature Festival in New York come October 10 – 12!





Second Saturdays Reading #6

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, played host to August’s Second Saturdays, which happily coincided with Singapore’s National Day. As was our custom, generous guests and readers brought a sumptuous spread of food, and many of us proudly wore red and white in honor of the occasion. We had our biggest crowd yet: 39 guests and readers, including two children!

After tucking into various dishes, we kicked off the evening with playwright and director Marcus Yi, who showed the musical theater side of his genius by performing two of his original compositions for voice and keyboard: “Little Lovable Pyromaniac” and “Would You Rather Date a Werewolf or a Vampire?”

We then had British poet Leisha Beardmore treat us to two of her poems: ‘To Pluto, the Former Planet’ and ‘An Ode to the Former Woman’.

Performance poet Nichole Acosta read two of her poems with aplomb; the first piece was about Singapore and titled ‘Exotic’, while the second was called ‘Sisters’, which Nichole has also performed as a video poem.

Next we had cartoonist and filmmaker Colin Goh, who read a National day-themed piece he had written for a previous National Day called ‘The Marikita’. Following him was his other half Yen Yen Woo, who read ‘Snapshots of Singapore’, while Nichole Acosta read ‘New York Dreams’ in a duo performance.

San Francisco-born Kristina Tom then read an extract from her witty novel-in-progress tentatively titled ‘Turtle Mountain’.

Architect Christopher Chew then introduced a literary translation project that he has been working on. Called ‘Singapore Noveller’, it is a collection of stories that describe early 20th century Singapore written by Danish poet laureate Johannes Wilhelm Jensen; Actress Kiat Sing Teo followed up with an excerpt from it entitled ‘Mrs. D’Almeida’.

Our featured poet Jason Koo, founder of literary nonprofit Brooklyn Poets then read some of his award-wining poetry. From his second collection ‘America’s Favorite Poem’ he read ‘A Natural History of My Name’, ‘Model Minority’ and ‘Struck from the Float Forever held in Solution’; his first collection ‘Man on Extremely Small Island’ was awarded the De Novo Poetry Prize and the Asian American Writers Workshop Members’ Choice Award for the best Asian American book of 2009).

We closed the evening as we began with a musical tribute to Singapore. Singer/Actress Jeane Reveendran and Actress/ Producer Elizabeth Lazan brought the house down with a performance that was absolutely adorable! They performed a rap called ‘Ode to SingapuRA’. Hope you enjoy the video of this rap/song which can be found here.


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Boedi Widjaja Donates His Work!

With about a week before our Kickstarter campaign ends, we are thrilled to announce that Singapore-based artist Boedi Widjaja has donated one of his works to raise money for the festival. This work is part of a series entitled Drawing Cage (it measure approx. 8.3 x 11.7 inches).





You can bid for this by going to our Kickstarter page using the link below:

Thanks for your continued support!



Second Saturdays Reading Series #5

Second Saturdays Reading Series #5
Written by Jee Leong Koh, Photos by Win Lubin and Paul Rozario-Falcone

“A Room with a View” would be a more descriptive title for the reading on Saturday, July 12. Perched on the 14th floor of a building at the northeastern corner of Central Park, Win Lubin’s apartment offered bird’s eye views of New York City. Win and Damon Chua were the gracious hosts of the fifth installment of the monthly reading series. Like Lucy Honeychurch, the heroine of E. M. Forster’s novel, we traveled from different parts of the city—our featured writer A. Naomi Jackson coming from as far as Philadelphia—to enjoy their hospitality and to see a new country, mostly of the imagination.


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In fact, travels and views were very much the theme of the evening’s reading. Jeremy Tiang brought many of us back to Singapore when he read from his short story “National Day,” first published in Ambit magazine. It was, however, a Singapore that those of us who had not returned recently had not seen, full of surprisingly dingy-looking luxury homes on the shores of Sentosa island. Damon, our host, followed with a reading from his book Traveler’s Tales and Other Poems. If the first two poems “Waiting for a Supernova” and “The Quiet World” directed us outwards in its imagery, the third poem, which was also the title poem, brought us home, where tea is offered, or “even a bird / for a song.”


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First-timer Gina Inzunza read from her collection Inside Voices at the Girl Aquarium. Written in the voice of a teenage girl, the humorous poem “Tonight I’m Going to My Boyfriend’s House to Lose My Virginity and I’m Bringing…” was about an imaginary trip. For the sake of balance, Gina read another poem “Fun in a Box,” this time in the voice of a teenage boy. It was also Ling E. Teo’s first appearance at Second Saturdays, though she had been eager to join her fellow Singaporeans since she first heard of readings. She read from her Pushcart Prize-nominated short story “In Transit.” A linked story “Handicap,” also published in Crosstimbers, completes the arc from loss to healing. Up next was Christine Chia who read three poems from her forthcoming second book Separation: a history. In the poems, she made views into verse by having the photographs of Lee Kuan Yew and Tunku Abdul Rahman speak.


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We were fortunate that A. Naomi Jackson was in town for the Harlem Book Fair. Her novel Who Don’t Hear Will Feel will be published by Penguin Books next year. The extract she read gave a wonderfully vivid picture of life in Barbados as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl raised in Brooklyn. Barbadian life, it emerged, revolved around food as much as Singaporean life. The reading certainly whetted our appetite for the novel. In the meantime, you can get a taste of Naomi’s writing in her short story chapbook Ladies, which won the 2012 BLOOM chapbook contest.


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After the reading, Damon, who is in charge of fundraising for the Singapore Literature Festival, spoke about the Kickstarter campaign and played the campaign video to the room. No one, not even writers, can travel on an empty stomach. Food was again plenty at the reading, thanks to everyone who brought a dish to share. There were roast duck, homemade laksa, dumplings … and all kinds of mouthwatering dishes. The deserts were a highlight. There were at least three different kinds of cakes. Everyone stayed after the reading to help polish off the food. Like the poets of old, some climbed up to the roof deck to view the full summer moon.


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