Thursday, December 04, 2008

Irony of Ironies...

... my Singapore Literature Prize money came on a DBS cheque.

Yeah, I won the SLiP. I actually found out at lunchtime, 25 Nov, my birthday. That was one hell of a gift. Especially since I'd already convinced myself that I wouldn't get it (due to Shu Hoong's assurances that notice of the award is given much, much earlier).

I had this weird fog of glamour going on in my head for a while - terribly weird, since I'm winning for a first collection of not-very-mature poems, also because I'd told people I'd rather wait till I was more mature to win it, also because I knew that Cyril Wong's "Tilting the Plates to Catch the Light" was exponentially better than my own book, but he'd suffered unofficial disqualification for winning the previous year (stuff and nonsense; Mohammed Latiff Mohammed has been eligible for and won the Malay category THREE CONTESTS RUNNING, in fact since the incarnation of the prize in its current form);

and also because I wasn't supposed to tell anyone, which made the information all the more valuable;

but now, after the hand-shaking with Dr Vivian Balacutiepiekrishnan, I'm feeling a little deflated. I won the prize. Yeah, yeah. Yesterday's news.

WTF am I gonna do now????

Some snapshots:

Our MC commencing the evening. Don't be fooled by the polyglot projection; almost the entirety of the night's proceedings were in English. The sole exception was when Mandarin category judge Dr Chua Chee Lay insistently made some of his speech in Mandarin. The Malay and Tamil judges had no such cojones.

Seriously, NBDCS. Not PC. We should've at least had a reading of a poem or two from the language categories other than English. (And no, the lady above didn't read anything from "last boy". She read from Elmo Jayawardena's "Rainbows in Braille", Christine Suchen Lim's "The Lies that Build a Marriage", and Aaron Lee's "Five Right Angles" instead. I'm currently reading Mandarin category nominee Pan Zhenglei's "Tian Weiming Shi Wo Shi Shiren", and some of the poems in there are stunning. Why couldn't we have paid some tribute to these other writers?)

Here's the paparazzi when Vivian went up to speak.

Not pictured: teeny-tiny ten year-old Jonathan Chua, plunking his vitruosic fingers across the keyboard to open the evening (and also to mitigate the tension of the prizegiving). He's here as part of the Asia on the Edge festival. It was astounding. Prodigies are really slightly monstrous in their wonder.

Oh wait, I do have a picture of him:

He stayed in the back seats for most of the event, very guai-ly.

Truth is, I'm a little bummed after the reception. I thought I'd get to hang out with other writers for kopi, but the other prizewinners skedaddled so fast I couldn't even get their namecards. It's a shame, because I really, reallyreally wanted to get to know K. Kanagalatha, Tamil category prizewinner for her novel "Men I Have Murdered". She's a petite news editor of Tamil Murasu who looks younger than I am. She must be older, though, because she's not on Facebook.

Anyway, here I am with ex-librarians Mavis and Hedwig Anuar. Mrs Anwar is arguably the only woman among Singapore's first generation of English language writers. She's working on a family memoir. She's 80.

Speaking of age, Prof Rajeev Patke talked to me after the event. He said he was aware that it's a risk to give the prize to someone so young (oh please, when I broke through I was already older than Cyril and Alfian and Qian Xi), because the recognition might spoil me. Also: I have to set my ambitions high and concentrate on what I'm best at and keep slogging at it, if I really want to fayangguangda in the world literary scene.

Unfortunately, a Portugese palm reader in Maxwell Hawker Centre once pointed out that I have very little ambition, so I'm unlikely to go as far with my skills as I might.

Really, I mostly want to be happy and be with my family.

I know. I tak rock lah. I tak rock. (Sniff, sniff)


ovidiayu said...

You look so swweeeeet in the photo!

Congratulations! Bravo!!!! GREAT NEWS!!!

And for the first time the prize was won by a book I've actually read Before the award was announced so I'm feeling good too!

(btw when the excitement fades a little I'm going to take issue with the old-people-don't-facebook line...)

And you do rock sweetie--you do, you do!

Suzanne said...

Congrats Yi Sheng!
But I think you have to tear up that check ;)
It's strange how achieving something can be accompanied by letdown...human beings are so strange...not that I've won anything, but I think I've been experiencing post-Obama election letdown! (As well as Barack-Michelle couple envy!)

Been listening to the great Odetta, who died this week.
So sad that she died before singing at bama's inauguration, but at least she saw him elected.

But congrats again, and for someone who's not ambititious, I'd saying you're doing okay so far. But I await the novel...

Suzanne said...

A very nice interview with Odetta:

Sorry this has nothing to do with your prize! But it's worth watching.

Ng Yi-Sheng said...

Haha thanks guys!