Paul Tan



Paul Tan Kim Liang (b. 1970–) is a poet and winner of the Singapore Literature Prize in 1993 and 1997 for his collections of poems.1

Early beginnings
Tan belongs to the third generation of Singapore poets, most of whom are born after 1960. He developed his interest in writing rather late. Other than the odd limericks he wrote as a child, Tan started writing poetry only when he was in National Service. Having been schooled in English, Tan uses the language in all his writings although he does draw from Chinese culture, myth and idioms and incorporates these into his works. Tan considers it a pity that he does not possess the ability to write well in Chinese.2


Writings and influences
Tan made his mark as a poet when he was still an English undergraduate at the National University of Singapore (NUS). He was the first-prize winner of the NUS Literary Society Poetry Competition for two consecutive years, in 1992 and 1993.3


Tan’s debut collection of poems, Curious Roads (1994), chronicles his army life and includes personal reminiscences of his growing up years.4 Like other third-generation poets, Tan also shares with them a preoccupation with cultural identity crisis.5 In 1998, he produced another volume of poetry, titled Driving Into Rain. While Curious Roads seems like a personal journey, Driving Into Rain speaks of a young Singaporean's perspective of the world around him.6 These two collections of verses were winners of the Singapore Literature Prize – Curious Roads in 1993 (Commendation) and Driving Into Rain in 1997 (Merit).

Tan often laments the indifference given to poetry in Singapore compared with other art forms like performing arts and visual arts, and the fact that Singaporeans are of the view that local literature is a pale shadow of what the West can offer. He feels that publishers, bookstores, the government and the public have a more active role to play in supporting local writers.8 

Tan considers the poems of Boey Kim Cheng in Days of No Name (1996), Alfian Saat in One Fierce Hour (1998) and Yong Shu Hoong in Isaac (1997) to be among the more distinct and significant poems by Singaporeans.

Other achievements and contributions
Tan's poems have been featured in Raffles Editions, an imprint under which winners of the Singapore Literature Prize were published. However, Raffles Editions was discontinued in 2001 due to financial constraints.10 Tan's poems have also been published in The Straits Times, The New Straits Times and The Commentary.11 


Tan has played an active role in promoting the art of writing poetry in Singapore, such as by participating in poetry sessions at bookstores  and facilitating events involving poetry-writing by school children.12  He is a frequent contributor to the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, an online journal dedicated to local creative writing.13

In 2012, Tan penned the lyrics for the National Day song titled “Love at First Light”. It was composed by Iskandar Ismail, and performed by Olivia Ong and Natanya Tan. The song “takes listeners through a day in Singapore, and reflects on the Singapore spirit and identity”.14

Tan was a broadcast journalist with the Television Corporation of Singapore (now Mediacorp).15 He is currently the deputy chief executive officer of the National Arts Council.16

Works
Collection of poems

1994: Curious Roads.17
1998: Driving Into Rain.18
2006: First Meeting of Hands.19

2014: Seasonal Disorders/Impractical Lessons.20

Individual poems (selective)21
Changing Bus Routes
Moorings
Observing Mother
Leaving Heathrow
Snack

Short stories (selective)
2001: Jasmine's Father22

2006: The Oriental Grocer23

Awards

19921993: First prize, NUS Literary Society Poetry Competition.24
1993: Singapore Literature Prize (Poetry), Commendation, for Curious Roads.25
1997: Singapore Literature Prize (Poetry), Merit, for Driving into Rain.26



Author

Marsita Omar



References
1. National Book Development Council of Singapore. (2016). Singapore Literature Prize. Retrieved 2016, September 6 from National Book Development Council of Singapore website: http://bookcouncil.sg/awards/singapore-literature-prize#winners1997
2. Singh, K. (Ed.). (1999). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 2). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 183. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT) 
3. The Literature, Culture and Society of Singapore. (n.d.). Paul Tan Kim Liang: Biography and brief introduction. Retrieved 2016, September 6 from Contemporary Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature in English website: http://www.postcolonialweb.org/singapore/literature/poetry/tan/bio1.html
4. Singh, K. (Ed.). (1999). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 2). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 184. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
5. Koh, B. S. (1994, December 10). Snapshots of Singapore life captured in three collections. The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Singh, K. (Ed.). (1999). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 2). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 186. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT) 
7. National Book Development Council of Singapore. (2016). Singapore Literature Prize. Retrieved 2016, September 6 from National Book Development Council of Singapore website: http://bookcouncil.sg/awards/singapore-literature-prize#winners1997
8. Singh, K. (Ed.). (1999). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 2). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 187–188. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT) 
9. Singh, K. (Ed.). (1999). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 2). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 188–189. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT) 
10. Chow, C. (2001, July 9). No money, so they'll pulp fiction. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ng, K. C. (Ed.). Idea to ideal. (2004). Singapore: Firstfruits publications, p. 76. (Call no.: RSING S821.009 IDE) 
12. Singh, K. (Ed.). (1999). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 2). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 189. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Poetry and music at Borders. (1999, February 27). The Straits Times. p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. (2001, October). Jasmine's father. Retrieved 2016, September 6 from Quarterly Literary Review Singapore website: http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=136
14. Tong, J. H. (2012, July 12). NDP homecoming for Olivia Ong. My Paper; Tomorrow's here today is the 2016 NDP song: Do you remember other theme songs from the past?  (2016, June 20). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
15. Ong S. F. (1997, November 27).  Broadcast journalist wins merit award. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. National Arts Council. (2016, February 15). About us. Retrieved 2016, September 6 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/aboutus/management.html
17. Tan, P. (1994). Curious roads. Singapore: EPB Publishers. (Call no.: RSING S821 TAN) 
18. Tan, P. (1998). Driving into rain. Singapore: Raffles Editions. (Call no.: RSING S821 TAN) 
19. Tan, P. (2006). First meeting of hands. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications. (Call no.: RSING S821 TAN) 
20. Poetry.sg 2015. (2016). Paul Tan. Retrieved 2016, September 6 from poetry. website: http://www.poetry.sg/poets/paul-tan/
21. The Literature, Culture and Society of Singapore. (n.d.). Paul Tan Kim Liang: Biography and brief introduction. Retrieved 2016, September 6 from Contemporary Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature in English website: http://www.postcolonialweb.org/singapore/literature/poetry/tan/bio1.html
22. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. (2001, October). Jasmine's father. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 1(1). Retrieved 2016, September 6 from Quarterly Literary Review Singapore website: http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=136
23. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. (2006, October). The oriental grocer. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 6(1).  Retrieved 2016, September 6 from Quarterly Literary Review Singapore website: http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=559

24. Ng, K. C. (Ed.). (2004). Idea to ideal. (2004). Singapore: Firstfruits publications,
p. 76. (Call no.: RSING S821.009 IDE) 
25. National Book Development Council of Singapore. (n.d.). Singapore Literature Prize. Retrieved 2016, September 6 from National Book Development Council of Singapore website: http://bookcouncil.sg/awards/singapore-literature-prize#winners1997
26. National Book Development Council of Singapore. (n.d.). Singapore Literature Prize. Retrieved 2016, September 6 from National Book Development Council of Singapore website: http://bookcouncil.sg/awards/singapore-literature-prize#winners1997



The information in this article is valid as at 7 September 2016 and correct as far as we can 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
Writers
Arts>>Literature>>English (Singapore) Literature>>Poetry
Poetry
Tan, Paul Kim Liang, 1970-
Poets--Biography
Language and literature>>Literatures>>East and Southeast Asian literature>>Singapore literature
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors