Cyril Wong Yit Mun (b. 1977, Singapore ), winner of the National Arts Council Young Artist Award in 2005, is the author of 5 collections of poems to date. Dubbed as Singapore's "first truly confessional poet", his works have appeared in several local and international literary anthologies, magazines and ezines. He is the founder and editor of Slowblow, an online poetry journal that features Singaporean works alongside international works. Cyril Wong studied in St. Patrick's Secondary School and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours from the National University of Singapore in 2002. He works as a programme manager with The Substation and edits The Substation magazine.
Wong started writing when he served his National Service. During his third year in university, he published his debut work Squatting Quietly (2000). He has since released four successive collections of poems. They are The End of the Orbit (2001), Below: Absence (2002), Unmarked Treasure (2004) and Like a Seed with its Singular Purpose (2006). Wong's works have also appeared in various local and international publications. These include No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban Poetry (2000), Love Gathers All: The Philippines-Singapore Anthology of Love Poetry (2002), From Boys to Men: A Literary Anthology of National Service in Singapore (2002), and Best of Singapore Erotica (2006) amongst others. Though he is known primarily as a poet, his prose have appeared in publications like Nineteen and Silverfish New Writing 3 (2003). He writes reviews to The Straits Times, The Arts Magazine and Singapore Theatre Reviews. He contributed his editorial skills to anthologies such as But,: A Colloborative Writing Anthology (2005) as well as several ezines like Slowblow, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, The 2nd Rule and Gangway.
In 2002, Wong won the Potent Prose Ax Prize, a literary award from the United States. He received second prize for the NAC-SPH Golden Point Award for English poetry in 2003. His works were nominated thrice for the American Pushcart Prize. In recognition of his artistic contributions, Wong received the National Arts Council Young Artist Award in 2005. Besides writing poetry, Wong is also an active participant in the poetry festival scene. He read at the following poetry festivals: Austin International Poetry Festival (2002), Queensland Poetry Festival (2002), Edinburgh International Book Festival (2003), Hong Kong Literary Festival (2004), Wordfeast 2004, Singapore's first international poetry festival, and guest starred in the monthly-held Poetry Slam Cabaret held at the Velvet Underground several times.
His oeuvre has inspired the local arts scene and extends beyond writing. For instance, Wong's works have been adapted for various public performances. In 2003, Below: Absence was adapted into a play by Benny Lim. Entitled Existence, the play portrayed the love relationship between two young Singaporean men. It was staged in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. His poems have also been featured in plays, dance, film and multimedia performances such as the 27th Bali Arts Festival, the 2005 Magdalena International Festival of Women in Contemporary Theatre, W!ld Rice's Second Link: Riding the Nice Bus, the Queensland Poetry Festival and the Singapore Short Film Festival. Wong's passion and commitment to his craft extends to supporting and nurturing talents in the local literary scene. He has offered poetry workshops to schools and provided mentorship through the National Arts Council's Mentor Access Project. In 2001, he was co-creative coordinator for Poetry in ACTION!, and recently judged the 2005 NUS Literary Society Creative Writing Competition.
In an interview with Today, Wong credits Edwin Thumboo for teaching him aspects of the craft. Wong also draws inspiration from conversations with people and his travels. Some of the recurrent themes in Wong's poems are on love, familial relations, art, homosexuality, eroticism, loss, hope and rejection. Much of Wong's poems can be said to be autobiographical in nature. He adopts a confessional mode, and writes openly about his tenuous relationship with his father and his lovers. His poems are described as introspective, lyrical, elegiac and ethereal. Besides his involvement in creative writing, Wong also has a strong interest in music. He was the student conductor of the NUS Choir and member of the Singapore Youth Choir Ensemble Singers, a cappella group Way-Out, and early-music ensemble Musica Obscura. He has also conducted voice classes for beginners at the Young Musicians Society Arts Centre and has been involved in the capacity as performer, director or music composer for various public performances such as the Singapore Shorts: 17th Singapore International Film Festival 2004, Fun Stage's production of Lovers' Words, the 5th Chinese Drama Festival, World-in-Theatre's production of The Gospel According to Mark, M1 Fringe Festival and the Seoul Fringe Festival.
2002 : Potent Prose Ax Prize (USA)
2003 : 2nd Prize, NAC-SPH Golden Point Winner Poetry (English Category)
2005 : National Arts Council Young Artist Award for Literature
2006 : Nomination for the Singapore Literature Prize for Unmarked Treasure
2000 : Squatting Quietly: Poems
2001 : The End of His Orbit: Poems
2002 : Below: Absence: Poems
2004 : Unmarked Treasure: Poems
2006 : Like a Seed with its Singular Purpose
Father, mother, sister
Ariff, S. (2002, November 16). One track vision becomes poetry in motion. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Cheong, F. (Ed.). (2004). Idea to ideal: 12 Singapore poets on the writing of their poems. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications.
(Call no.: RSING 821.009 IDE)
Chew, D (2006, August 23). Poet extraordinaire; Cyril Wong deals with the raunchy, the risque, the intimate and the sensual. Today. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Chow, C. (2003, July 21). Poems come into existence. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Chow, C. (2004, April 24). Of the bitten path. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Lee, A. (2000, September 2). People watching from a poets view. The Straits Times. Retrieved October 2, 2006, from Factiva database.
Leong, S. (2003, August 28). Old instrument does not play second fiddle. The Straits Time. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
National Arts Council (2005). Young Artist Award. Retrieved October 4, 2006, from http://www.nac.gov.sg/awa/awa03.asp
Pang, A. (2001, December 15). Orbit of private desires. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Seeds of creativity. (2006, August 23). Today. Retrieved October 2, 2006, from Factiva database.
Tom, K. (2005, August 7). Confessions of a poet. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Tom, K. (2006, August 13). Hot off the press. The Straits Times. Retrieved October 2, 2006, from Factiva database.
Tom, K. (2006, September 19). Poets lead the pack in literature shortlist. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Tom, K. (2006, September 24). Prized poet. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Wong, C. (n.d.). Cyril Wong. Retrieved October 4, 2006, from http://www.cyrilwong.com/
Yong, S. H. (2002). Archive: Cyril Wong. Stylus Poetry Journal. Retrieved October 4, 2006, from http://www.styluspoetryjournal.com/main/master.asp?id=491
The information in this article is valid as at 2006 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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Singaporean poetry (English)
Wong, Cyril, 1977-
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