Cyril Wong



2017-07-31Cyril Wong Yit Mun (b. 1977, Singapore–) is an award-winning poet and writer. He clinched the National Arts Council’s (NAC) Young Artist Award in 2005 and is a two-time winner of the Singapore Literature Prize (2006; joint winner for 2016) for English poetry. Wong has written 16 collections of poems and prose to date. Often dubbed Singapore’s “first confessional poet”,1 Wong’s works have appeared in several homegrown and international literary anthologies and magazines.

Education
Wong studied at St Patrick's Secondary School, Temasek Junior College and completed his doctoral degree in English literature at the National University of Singapore in 2012.2


Literary career
Wong began writing while he was in the National Service.3 He published his debut book of poems, Squatting Quietly (2000), when he was still an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore.4 He has since released 13 other collections of poems including Unmarked Treasure (2004), Tilting Our Plates to Catch the Light (2007), The Dictator’s Eyebrow (2013) and The Lover’s Inventory (2015). Wong’s works have also appeared in various Singapore and international anthologies such as No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban Poetry (2000)5 and Love Gathers All: The Philippines-Singapore Anthology of Love Poetry (2002).6 Though known primarily as a poet, Wong has also published works of prose including Let Me Tell You Something about that Night: Strange Tales (2012) and Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories (2014).7


In addition, Wong is the founder and editor of Softblow, an online poetry journal that features local and international works.8

Other activities
Besides his creative-writing career, Wong has also worked in various other capacities: manager with arts venue, The Substation; creative-writing instructor for the Singapore Association for Mental Health and the Ministry of Education’s Creative Arts Programme; as well as book and performing arts reviewer for The Straits Times newspaper and other publications.9

Accomplishments
In 2002, Wong won the Potent Prose Ax Prize, a literary award from the United States.10 He received the second prize for the 2003 NAC Golden Point Award for English poetry.11 His works were nominated thrice for the American Pushcart Prize.12 In recognition of his artistic contributions, Wong received the NAC’s Young Artist Award in 2005.13

Besides writing poetry, Wong also actively participates in the poetry festival scene. He has 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 several editions of the Poetry Slam Cabaret held at the Velvet Underground nightclub.14

For his contributions to the homegrown English poetry scene, Wong has been honoured twice with the Singapore Literature Prize – as winner of the English Poetry prize for Unmarked Treasure in 2006 and as a joint-winner for The Lover’s Inventory in 2016.15

Recognised for his refreshingly candid poetry, Wong has been featured in The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English as a poet for whom the “confessional poet” label understates his “constant evolution”.16 His oeuvre has inspired the Singapore 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 portrays the romantic relationship between two young Singaporean men. It was staged in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.17

Wong has also offered poetry workshops to schools and provided mentorship through the NAC’s Mentor Access Project.18 He was the co-creative coordinator for Poetry in Action! in 2001,19 a judge for the poetry category of the 2005 NUS Literary Society Creative Writing Competition20 and for the 2011 SPH-NAC Golden Point Award.21

Style and influences
In an interview with the Today newspaper, Wong credits local writer Edwin Thumboo for teaching him aspects of the craft. Wong draws inspiration from conversations with people and his travels. Some of the recurrent themes in his poems are 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.22


Awards
2002:
Potent Prose Ax Prize, United States

2003: Second prize for English poetry, NAC Golden Point Award
2005: Young Artist Award, NAC
2006: Singapore Literature Prize for Unmarked Treasure
2016: Co-Winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for The Lover’s Inventory
2016: Finalist, Singapore Book Awards, Singapore Book Publishers Association, for The Dictator’s Eyebrow.23


Works
Poetry
2000: Squatting Quietly: Poems24

2001: The End of His Orbit: Poems25
2002: Below: Absence: Poems26
2004: Unmarked Treasure: Poems27
2006: Like a Seed with its Singular Purpose28
2007: Excess Baggage & Claim (with Terry Jaensch)29

2007: Tilting Our Plates to Catch the Light30
2010: Oneiros31
2011: Satori Blues: A poem32

2011:You Cannot Count Smoke33
2012: Straw, Sticks,Brick34  
2013: After You35
2013: The Dictator’s Eyebrow36
2015: The Lover’s Inventory37

Prose
2005: But,: A Collaborative Writing Anthology38

2012: Let Me Tell You Something about that Night: Strange Tales39
2014: Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories40

Edited works

2013: Reflect/Refract – Essays on Photography in Singapore41
2014: Here & Beyond: 12 Stories42
2016: We Contain Multitudes: Twelve Years of Softblow43


Selected anthologies
2000: No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban Poetry
2002: Love Gathers All: The Philippines-Singapore Anthology of Love Poetry
2002: From Boys to Men: A Literary Anthology of National Service in Singapore44

2003: Silverfish New Writing 3: An Anthology of Stories from Malaysia, Singapore and Beyond45
2009: & Words: Poems Singapore and Beyond46
2009: Writing Singapore: An Historical Anthology of Singapore Literature47
2013: The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One48
2013: Little Things: An Anthology of Poetry49




Author
Gracie Lee




References
1. Yap, S. (2008, January 13). Personal, not confessional. The Straits Times, p. 72. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wong, C. (2015). Cyril Wong: Critical introduction. Retrieved 2016, June 2 from Poetry.SG website: http://www.poetry.sg/
2. Wong, C. (2015). Cyril Wong: Biography. Retrieved 2016, June 2 from Poetry.SG website: http://www.poetry.sg/
3. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Vol. 8, interviews II: Studies in Singapore literature. Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 209. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
4. Yap, S. (2008, January 13). Personal, not confessional. The Straits Times, p. 72. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Pang, A., & Lee, A. (Eds.). (2000). No other city: The Ethos anthology of urban poetry. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 NO)
6. Sunico, R. C., et al. (Eds.). (2002). Love gathers all: The Philippines-Singapore anthology of love poetry. Singapore & Manila: Ethos Books & Anvil Pub. (Call no.: RSING 821.00803543 LOV)
7. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Vol. 8, Interviews II: Studies in Singapore literature. Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 222. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
8. Editorial. (n.d.). Softblow. Retrieved 2016, August 4 from Softblow website: http://www.softblow.org/editorial.html; Chew, D. (2004, October 14). Poetry for the masses. Today, p. 29; Tom, K. (2005, August 7). Confessions of a poet. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Wong, C. (2015). Cyril Wong: Biography. Retrieved 2016, June 2 from Poetry.SG website: http://www.poetry.sg/
10. National Arts Council. (2005). Profiles: Cultural Medallion 2005 [Press release]. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/dam/jcr:2206db6a-5315-4b01-a277-0cbc0f73edbb
11. Leong, S. (2003, August 29). Smashing pen records. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tom, K. (2005, August 7). Confessions of a poet. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
13. National Arts Council (2005). Young Artist Award: Full list of past recipients. Retrieved 2016, August 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/naccorp/dam/jcr:798c3ca9-b1fa-44cf-8254-1c6327edd4d3
14. National Arts Council (2005). Young Artist Award: Full list of past recipients. Retrieved 2016, August 20 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/naccorp/dam/jcr:798c3ca9-b1fa-44cf-8254-1c6327edd4d3
15. Yap, S. (2006, November 19). Poets in motion. The Straits Times, p. L25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Book Development Council. (2016). Singapore Literature Prize: 2016 Winners & Shortlists. Retrieved 2016, September 23 from National Book Development Council website: http://bookcouncil.sg/awards/singapore-literature-prize
16. Hamilton, I., & Noel-Tod, J. (Eds.). (2013). The Oxford companion to modern poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 662. (Call no.: R 821.9109 OXF)
17. Chow, C. (2003, July 21). Poems come into existence. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18.
Experiences from the Mentor Access Project. (n.d.). Retrieved 2017, July 14 from Writing the City website: http://writingthecity.sg/experiences-from-the-mentor-access-project/
19. Cyril Wong – author’s biography. (n.d.). Retrieved 2017, July 14 from Poetry Billboard website: http://www.poetrybillboard.com/authorview.asp?aid=3; Tung, C. (2001, October 9). New works galore at The Second 42 Theatre Festival. Today, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Wong, C. (2005, January 24). 2005 NUS Literary Society Creative Writing Competition. Retrieved from QLRS Forum website at: http://www.qlrs.com/forum/pop_printer_friendly.asp?TOPIC_ID=34
21. National Arts Council. (2011). Singapore’s premier creative writing competition attracts bumper crop of aspiring literary talents [Press release]. Retrieved 2017, July 14 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/Singapore-s-premier-creative-writing-competition.html
22. Chew, D. (2006, August 23). Poet extraordinaire. Today, p. 54. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Singapore Book Publishers Association. (2016). Singapore Book Awards 2016 Finalists. Retrieved 2016, September 26 from Singapore Publishers Association website: http://www.singaporebookpublishers.sg/component/content/article/2-uncategorised/78-singapore-book-awards-2016-finalists
24. Wong, C. (2000). Squatting quietly: Poems. Singapore: Firstfruit Publications. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
25. Wong, C. (2001). The end of his orbit: Poems. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
26.
Wong, C. (2002). Below absence: Poems. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
27. Wong, C. (2004). Unmarked treasure: Poems. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
28. Wong, C. (2006).  Like a seed with its singular purpose. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
29. Wong, C. (2007). Excess baggage & claim. Yarraville, Australia: Transit Lounge Pub. (Call no.: RSING S821 JAE)
30. Wong, C. (2007). Tilting our plates to catch the light. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
31. Wong, C. (2010). Oneiros. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
32. Wong, C. (2011). Satori blues: A poem. Singapore: Softblow Press. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
33. Wong, C. (2011). You cannot count smoke. Singapore: Math Paper Press. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
34. 
Wong, C. (2012). Straw, sticks, brick: Poems. Singapore: Math Paper Press. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
35. Wong, C. (2013). After you. Singapore: Math Paper Press. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
36. Wong, C. (2013). The dictator’s eyebrow. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
37. Wong, C. (2015). The lover’s inventory. Singapore: Math Paper Press (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
38. Wong, C. (Ed.). (2005). But,: A collaborative writing anthology. Singapore: Hwa Chong ELDDS: VJC Writer’s Circle. (Call no.: YRSING S828 BUT)
39. Wong, C. (2012). Let me tell you something about that night: Strange tales. Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING S23 WON)
40. Wong, C. (2014). Ten things my father never taught me and other stories. Singapore: Epigram Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 WON)
41.
 Wong, C., & Toh, C. (Eds.). (2013). Reflect/refract – Essays on photography in Singapore. Singapore: Objectifs (Call no.: RSING 779.095957 REF)
42. Wong, C. (Ed.). (2014). Here & beyond: 12 stories. Singapore: Ethos Books (Call no.: RSING S823 HER)
43. Wong, C., & Wee, J. (Eds.). (2016). We contain multitudes: Twelve years of softblow. Singapore: Epigram Books (Call no.: RSING S823 WE)
44. Koh, B. S., & Bhatia, U. (Eds.). (2002). From boys to men: A literary anthology of national service in Singapore. Singapore: Landmark Books. (Call no.: RSING S828 FRO)
45. Dina Zaman & Mohammad A. Quayum. (Eds.). (2003). Silverfish new writing 3: An anthology of stories from Malaysia, Singapore and beyond. Kuala Lumpur: Silverfishbooks. (Call no.: RSING S823 SIL)
46. Thumboo, E. (Ed.). (2010). & words: Poems Singapore and beyond. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: YRSING S821 WOR)
47. Poon, A., Holden, P., & Lim, S. G.-L. (Eds.). (2009). Writing Singapore: An historical anthology of Singapore literature. Singapore: NUS Press; National Arts Council. (Call no.: RSING S820.8 WRI)
48. Lundberg, J. E. (Ed.). (2013). The Epigram books collection of best new Singaporean short stories. Volume one. Singapore: Epigram Books. (Call no.: RSING EPI)
49. L
oh, C.E., Poon, A., & Vincent, E. (Eds.). (2013). Little things : An anthology of poetry. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 LIT)



Further resources
Shahida Ariff. (2002, November 16). One track vision becomes poetry in motionThe Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved 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)

Chow, C. (2004, April 24). Of the bitten path. The Straits Times, p. L13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Leong, S. (2003, August 28). Old instrument does not play second fiddle. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Pang, A. (2001, December 15). Orbit of private desires. The Straits Times, p. 136. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tom, K. (2006, September 19). Poets lead the pack in literature shortlist. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tom, K. (2006, September 24). Prized poet. The Straits Times, p. L31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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. 
 

Subject
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Arts>>Literature>>English (Singapore) Literature>>Poetry
Poetry
Singaporean poetry (English)
Wong, Cyril, 1977-
Poets--Biography
Language and literature>>Poetry