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Becoming poets

The Asian English experience

Agnes Lam

Literatures in English have emerged in several Asian communities and have enjoyed a growing readership. Creative writing programmes in Asia and other parts of the world have also attracted many new voices from Asia. However, little is known about how learners from different language backgrounds become published poets in English. This book is a pioneering work on the development of poets and poetry in English in Asia. It offers a five-stage model to understand such phenomena. The life experiences of 50 published poets from five Asian locations: Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and India, based on interviews conducted by the author, and their poetry are analyzed to appreciate how learners of English in multilingual environments become published poets and how such individual metamorphosis contributes to the growth of literary communities at local, regional and cosmopolitan levels. Researchers on Asian Englishes and literatures in English, teachers and participants in creative writing programmes, policy makers for English in education or the nurturing of the creative arts and any one interested in poetry writing will find the book highly informative and inspiring.
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Chapter 5 – Singapore: Changing of the guards


Chapter 5 Singapore: Changing of the Guards


The Republic of Singapore (area: 715.8 square kilometres; population: 5.32 million) (Singapore Department of Statistics, 2013) is a city-state at the southern tip of the Malayan Peninsula. It consists of the main island and a number of smaller islands. Singapore was ruled by the British from 1819 but became a republic in 1965 (Church, 2006, p. 140–141). The official languages in Singapore are Chinese (often referred to as Mandarin), Malay, Tamil and English (Koh, Auger, Yap & Ng, 2006, p. 179). Of the 3,789,300 residents (including citizens and permanent residents) of Singapore, 74.1% (2,808,300) are Chinese, 13.4% (506,600) are Malays, 9.2% (349,000) are Indians and 3.3% (125,300) are from other ethnic groups (Singapore Department of Statistics, 2012, p. 43).

When Singapore achieved self-government in 1959, the initial educational policy was equal treatment for all language streams but English-medium instruction soon grew rapidly in response to parental preference, which in turn was pragmatically influenced by the adoption of English as the language for business and administration in Singapore (Koh et al., 2006, p. 179). Currently, while all schools use English as the medium of instruction (Koh et al., 2006, p. 179), the bilingual policy in Singapore requires every child to learn English and one of the official languages as his/her mother tongue (Singapore Department of Statistics, 2012, p. 257; Koh et al., 2006, p. 63). (See also Singapore Ministry...

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