Yong Shu Hoong



Yong Shu Hoong (b. 1966, Singapore–) is an award-winning Singaporean poet and literary advocate.1 His collections of poetry include Isaac (1997), Isaac Revisited (2001), dowhile (2002), Frottage (2005) (which shared the 2006 Singapore Literature Prize with Unmarked Treasure (2004) by Cyril Wong) and From Within the Marrow (2010). He is the founder of subTEXT, a series of monthly literary readings that ran from 2001 to 2008, which is now held on an ad hoc basis.2 He is also the coordinator of the Mentor Access Project by the National Arts Council (NAC).3 Yong is currently a freelance writer and his articles have appeared in newspapers such as The Straits Times and My Paper.4

Early life, education and career
Born in Singapore in 1966, Yong belongs to the generation of post-independent Singapore poets. His Hakka Malaysia-born father was a teacher, and his mother, a Hokkien born in Fujian province, China, was a bank cashier. Raised in a bilingual environment where the family spoke a mix of English and Chinese at home, Yong is proficient in both languages. He grew up reading the standard fare of “Enid Blytons” and “Hardy Boys” that were borrowed from the library, as well as Chinese novels, short stories and folklore bought from Chinese bookstores.5 Little known to most, Yong’s first published story was in Mandarin and appeared in a student literary magazine called Students’ Literature.

Unlike what most would expect, Yong’s formal education was not in the languages or humanities, but science. At Raffles Institution, he took subjects such as physics and chemistry, though he did read English literature as a GCE “O” Level subject. He continued with science at Raffles Junior College and majored in computer science at the National University of Singapore (NUS).7 After graduating in 1990, he worked as a programmer with a Singapore bank for about two years.8

In 1992, Yong enrolled in Texas A&M University at College Station, U.S., for his Master in Business Administration. When he returned to Singapore, he worked for Singapore Computer Systems and later made his career in website development, web journalism, online marketing and promotional writing.9 Yong is currently a freelance writer and part-time lecturer at Republic Polytechnic and Nanyang Technological University.10 He regularly contributes arts and entertainment reviews, as well as cultural commentaries to newspapers such as The Straits Times and My Paper.11 

Writing journey
Yong discovered and developed his gift for writing later in life. He first dabbled with writing during his second year in university, when he wrote feature and lifestyle pieces for his campus newspaper. He also posted some of his writings on the university’s Internet bulletin boards, which garnered some responses. During this period, he wrote rhymed poems that were heavily influenced by verse song lyrics of New Wave bands from England, such as Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Depeche Mode.12

Yong only began to delve deeper into the craft during his time in Texas when he joined a writers’ group in his university. The group had a magazine called Inkshed Press. Being away from home gave him both time and creative space to explore poetry. It was around this time that he started to experiment with free verse, inspired by the lyrical poems of Jim Morrison in the book Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison.13

Yong returned to Singapore in 1994. In response to a call for entries for the Singapore Literature Prize, he submitted a manuscript of 40 to 50 poems, which he had written in America and upon his return to Singapore.14 The anthology, titled Pangs of Hunger, was one of 10 works shortlisted for the 1995 Singapore Literature Prize. This modest success affirmed Yong’s ability to write poetry and encouraged him to continue writing.15

The turning point in Yong’s literary growth came when he was re-acquainted with Enoch Ng, a writer whom he had met during his National Service. Ng had intended to start a publishing house. The two discussed publishing Yong’s shortlisted manuscript. After several rounds of editing, Isaac, Yong’s first collection was released.16 This collection of poems was also the first volume from Ng’s publishing house, firstfruits, which is one of the leading publishers of literary works in Singapore today.17

Since Yong did not receive formal instruction in literature or creative writing, his initial foray into writing was primarily guided by instinct. His craft was later honed through reading the works of other authors, such as those from the Beat Generation, and through his editorial consultations with Ng. Known to be a scrupulous editor, Ng had rejected many of Yong’s poems during his early years as a poet. Through the continual process of discussion and refinement with Ng, Yong developed a keener and sharper sense of what made good poetry and eventually fewer of his poems were rejected.18

Works
Yong’s first work, Isaac, is largely based on his encounters and observations of America and Singapore. The collection, which was warmly received, led to the publication of his second book, Isaac Revisited, which is a thematic re-arrangement of the poems in his first collection, with the addition of eight poems.19 His third volume, dowhile, is organised around the concept and metaphoric use of computer language, and explores various themes ranging from terrorism to the commerce of life.20 In Frottage, which won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2006, Yong’s reflections and contemplations return to a sense of place that was prevalent in his first collection. This time, he turns his poetic eye to Australia and makes connections between Australia and Singapore. A number of poems in Frottage were inspired by the titles of Max Ernst paintings that Yong saw at an exhibition during his visit to Australia for the Queensland Poetry Festival 2002.21 In 2010, Yong added another book of verse, From Within The Marrow, to his oeuvre.   

Besides collected volumes, Yong’s poems have also appeared in anthologies and publications such as No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban PoetryLove Gathers All: The Singapore-Philippines Anthology of Love Poetry; and Rhythms: A Singaporean Millennial Anthology of Poetry.22 In 1999, his poem “The Sobering Age” was selected for NAC’s Poems On The Move programme.23

The writing process
Yong describes his creative process as beginning with a particular moment or thought. For Yong, these thoughts are often sparked during time alone on public transport. He tries to capture the beauty of a moment or an insight in words. The ambience, emotions, images or ideas are distilled into lines or random phrases that he notes down on a notepad or personal digital assistant, and later transfers onto his computer. Sometimes he creates the initial draft directly on his computer. What follows after are several rounds of revisions where he explores alternative expressions and line structures. He also reads the poem aloud to assess its flow. This process may take weeks, or even months. In some instances, poems are discarded, only to be picked up and completed years later.24

Literary advocacy
Besides writing, Yong is also the founder and organiser of subTEXT, a series of monthly literary readings that ran from 2001 to 2008, which is now held on an ad hoc basis.25 Together with Ng, he set up mediaexodus, the company that coordinates and organises NAC’s Mentor Access Project.26 Yong also promotes Singapore literature at readings and literary festivals in Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, England, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and the U.S.27

Poetry
1997:
 Isaac28
2001: Isaac Revisited29
2002: Dowhile30

2005: Frottage31
2010: From Within the Marrow32

Editorial work
2007: Eye on the world: Wiring heartlands33
2008: Eye on the world: Healing silence34
2009: Eye on the world: Journeying home35


Award
2006: Singapore Literature Prize for Frottage (Joint winner with Cyril Wong’s Unmarked Treasure)36

Family
Father, mother and a brother.37



Author
Gracie Lee



References
1.
Hamilton, I., & Noel-Tod, J. (Eds.). (2013). The Oxford companion to modern poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 673. (Call no.: R 821.9109 OXF); Tay, E. (2002, April). On writing poetry in Singapore. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 1(3). Retrieved 2016, September 26 from Quarterly Literary Review Singapore website: http://www.qlrs.com/issues/apr2002/interviews/apysh.html; Fedo, D. (2010, October). Book review: Willing to share. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 9(4). Retrieved 2016, September 23 from Quarterly Literary Review Singapore website: http://www.qlrs.com/critique.asp?id=808
2.
Ng, Y. S. (2014). Unwritten: An anecdotal history of performance poetry in Singapore. In J. L. Koh (Ed.), Unwritten history [Web log post]. Retrieved from Singapore Poetry website: https://singaporepoetry.com/2014/02/20/unwritten-history/
3.
National Arts Council. (2010). Mentor Access Project nurtures emerging talent in new genres [Press release]. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/Mentor-Access-Project.html
4.
Poetry.SG. (2015). About Yong Shu Hoong. Retrieved 2016, September 27 from Poetry.SG website: http://www.poetry.sg/poets/yong-shu-hoong/
5.
Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 233. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
6.
Yong, S. H. (2009, September 10). Back to MandarinThe Straits Times, p. 53. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7.
Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
8.
Victor, D. (2015, April 3). Yong Shu Hoong: On the [unofficial] 'Reluctant Yuppie' and 'Reluctant Soldier' Schools of Poetry in Singapore. Jacket2. Retrieved from Jacket2 website: https://jacket2.org/commentary/yong-shu-hoong   
9.
Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 233–236. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
10.
Nanyang Technological University. (2012). NTU School of Humanities and Social Sciences: Faculty and staff. Retrieved 2016, September 26 from Nanyang Technological University website: http://www.soh.ntu.edu.sg/Programmes/english/Faculty%20and%20Staff/Pages/Parttime_faculty.aspx; Yong, S. H. (2016, June 18). Shrine. The Straits Times. Retrieved from The Straits Times website: http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/shrine
11.
Yong, S. H. (2016, September 5). Wild meets winsome: Review/concert. The Straits Times; Yong, S. H. (2012, October 11). You’ll want to be in on this loop: At the movies. MyPaper, p. 14. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
12. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 234–235. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
13.
Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 233. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
14.
Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 236. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
15.
Gwee, L. S. (n.d.). Yong Shu Hoong: Biography and brief introduction. Contemporary postcolonial and postimperial literature in English. Retrieved 2016, September 26 from Contemporary Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature in English website: http://www.postcolonialweb.org/singapore/literature/poetry/yong/bio1.html
16.
Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 236–237. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
17.
Cheong, J. (2006, September 9). Bearing fruit. The Straits Times, p. 17; Tom, K. (2006, September 24). Prized poetThe Straits Times, p. L31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 237. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
18.
Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 237, 240, 245–246. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
19.
Hamilton, I., & Noel-Tod, J. (Eds.). (2013). The Oxford companion to modern poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 673. (Call no.: R 821.9109 OXF); Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 238–240. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
20.
Toh, H. M. (2002, November 16). Poetry for the dot.com generationThe Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Hamilton, I., & Noel-Tod, J. (Eds.). (2013). The Oxford companion to modern poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 673. (Call no.: R 821.9109 OXF); Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 242–243. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
21.
Yap, S. (2006, November 19). Poets in motionThe Straits Times, p. L25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Hamilton, I., & Noel-Tod, J. (Eds.). (2013). The Oxford companion to modern poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 673. (Call no.: R 821.9109 OXF); Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 243–244. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT); Boey, K. C. (2006, January). Rubbing out new maps. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 15(3). Retrieved 2016, September 26 from Quarterly Literary Review Singapore website: http://www.qlrs.com/story.asp?id=503
22.
Pang, A., & Lee, A. (Eds.). (2000). No other city: The ethos anthology of urban poetry. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 NO); 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); Singh, K., & Wong, Y. W. (Eds.). (2000). Rhythms: A Singapore millennial anthology of poetry. Singapore: National Arts Council. (Call no.: RSING S821 RHY)
23.
Ho, D. (1999, January 23). Poems move into HDB heartlandsThe Straits Times, p. 55. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24.
Yong, S. H. (2004). From seizure to that final “wow and flutter”. In F. Cheong (Ed.), Idea to ideal: 12 Singapore poets on the writing of their poems (pp. 98–105). Singapore: Firstfruits Publications. (Call no.: RSING S821.009 IDE); Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 245–246. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)
25.
Khoo, E. (2001, April 2). Literary tonic for poetsThe Straits Times, p. 59; Yap, S. (2008, February 18). SubTEXT closesThe Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ng, Y. S. (2014). Unwritten: An anecdotal history of performance poetry in Singapore. In J. L. Koh (Ed.), Unwritten history [Web log post]. Retrieved from Singapore Poetry website: https://singaporepoetry.com/2014/02/20/unwritten-history/
26.
Martin, M. (2007, June 27). The write stuff. Today, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27.
Leong, L. G. (Ed.). (2011). Yong Shu Hoong. In Literary Singapore: A directory of contemporary writing in Singapore. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 65. (Call no.: RSING: 809.895957 LIT)
28.
Yong, S. H. (1997). Isaac. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications. (Call no.: RSING S821 YON)
29.
Yong, S. H. (2001). Isaac revisited. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 YON)
30.
Yong, S. H. (2002). Dowhile. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications. (Call no.: RSING S821 YON)
31.
Yong, S. H. (2005). Frottage. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 YON)
32.
Yong, S. H. (2010). From within the marrow. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 YON)
33.
Yong, S. H., et al. (Eds.). (2007). Eye on the world: Wiring heartlands. Singapore: UniPress. (Call no.: RSING 808.899283 WIR)
34.
Yong, S. H., et al. (Eds.). (2008). Eye on the world: Healing silence. Singapore: UniPress. (Call no.: RSING 808.899283 HEA)
35.
Yong, S. H., et al. (Eds.). (2009). Eye on the world: Journeying home. Singapore: Gifted Education Branch, Ministry of Education. (Call no.: RSING 808.899283 JOU)
36. Yap, S. (2006, November 19). Poets in motionThe Straits Times, p. L25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37.
Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature, Vol. 8: Interviews II. Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 233. (Call no.: RSING S820.9 INT)



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 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
Yong, Shu Hoong, 1966-
Writers
Authors, Singaporean--Singapore--Biography
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Poets--Biography
Language and literature>>Literatures>>East and Southeast Asian literature>>Singapore literature
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors