Three questions about poetry in Singapore

(1) The institutionalisation of poets. The fact is that many poets now have stable incomes from either teaching poetry in schools/universities or else from administrative jobs in the arts. How does this affect the kind of poetry that is being written? Does it in any way imply a loss of freedom or autonomy in what is being written?

If poets are part of the system, then they are subject to the rules of the game. No longer is the poet living in the fringes of the system, where he would, it might seem, be more able to construct a less distorted mirror of society. So, what does this institutionalisation of poets mean today?

(2) How contemporary artists take it as an issue that art must somehow be accessible to the general public. In response to this, I quote Roy Fuller, who said in his Oxford lectures on poetry, “…Plenty of people will try to give the masses… an intellectual food prepared and adapted in the way they think proper for the actual conditions of the masses”. Isn’t this precisely what we must avoid?

(3) The function of poetry. It is not enough that poetic writing is consolation to others, or that it somehow relates to others. The idea is to, whether explicitly by provoking or implicitly and in a subtle manner, make people think. Shouldn’t we exhort our writers today to produce work that makes people think?

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