Koh Buck Song



Koh Buck Song (b. 1963, Singapore–) is a writer, editor, poet and journalist. He has edited, co-edited and authored books of fiction, non-fiction and poems. He is also a consultant in areas of branding, communications strategy and corporate social responsibility.1 In addition, Koh has served on the boards and committees of various government organisations.2

Early life and education
Koh completed his primary and secondary education at St Andrew’s in the 1970s before entering Hwa Chong Junior College.3 He then went on to study English at Cambridge University before serving National Service,4 and later received a post-graduate Certificate in Education from the University of London.5 He continued to further his education thereafter at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the United States, where he was a Mason Fellow and earned a master’s degree in public administration.6

Koh grew up in Toa Payoh and described his family background as humble. As a child, he loved reading and had borrowed as many books as he could from the public library. He wrote his first poem, titled The Jetty, in primary school. It was in secondary school when his interest in literature grew, and he credited his teachers in secondary school and junior college for nurturing his love for the subject.7

Work
Koh worked as a journalist at The Straits Times, when the newspaper bought out the last six years of his government service bond.8 He was with the newspaper from 1988 to 1999, during which he assumed various roles, including literary editor and columnist. In his career with the newspaper, he had written columns such as Monday with Koh Buck Song, and This week in politics.9

After leaving The Straits Times, Koh joined the Economic Development Board of Singapore from 1999 to 2003.10 Around 2006, he was Head, Public Affairs, Southeast Asia, at communications consultancy firm Hill & Knowlton (SEA) Pte Ltd.11

In addition, Koh was a council member at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, and had taught leadership courses as an adjunct associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.12 He also had a stint as an adjunct faculty member at the Singapore Management University’s School of Social Sciences, where he taught a course on media regulation and censorship.13

Literary career
Koh has displayed his literary skills by editing, co-editing and authoring books of fiction, non-fiction and poems.14

His published poetry collections include A Brief History of Toa Payoh and Other Poems in 1992, The Worth of Wonder in 2001 and The Ocean of Ambition in 2003.15 His poetry has been featured in anthologies such as Journeys: Words, Home and Nation, Words for the 25th: Readings by Singapore Writers, No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban Poetry, and Portraits of Places: History, Community and Identity in Singapore.16 The 2002 anthology From Boys to Men: A Literary Anthology of National Service in Singapore, which included his poems, was compiled and co-edited by Koh.17 His fiction book, Bugis Street: The Novel, was published in 1994 to accompany the musical of the same title.18

Besides writing for the local newspapers The Straits Times and Today, Koh was also an editor for Singa, a journal on literature and the arts in Singapore.19

In 1990, Koh represented Singapore at the Southeast Asian Writers’ Conference held in Manila, the Philippines, as well as the Cambridge Literature Seminar in 1992. In the same year, Koh was poet-in-residence at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, Scotland, under the auspices of the Singapore-Scotland Cultural Co-operation Programme.20

Literary influences and style
Koh cited T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound as his literary inspirations.21 Other influences during his early years include John Steinbeck, Chinua Achebe, William Shakespeare and Jonathan Swift. The works of Edwin Thumboo, Arthur Yap and Lee Tzu Pheng have also inspired him to add to the body of works in Singapore literature, while travel has informed and motivated much of his writing.22

Public service

Beyond the field of literature, Koh has been involved in various public service positions. He was a member of the board of directors of the National Arts Council, and had served on its Drama Review Committee. He was also a member of the Censorship Review Committee of the former Ministry of Information and the Arts from 1991 to 1992, and then from 2002 to 2003.23 Koh had also served on the Singapore Arts Festival Steering Committee, as well as the board of advisors to the National Book Development Council of Singapore.24

Published works
Poetry

1992: A Brief History of Toa Payoh and Other Poems.25
2001: The Worth of Wonder.26
2003: The Ocean of Ambition.27

Fiction
1994: Bugis Street: The Novel.28

Poetry and fiction (as co-editor)
2002: From Boys to Men: A Literary Anthology of National Service in Singapore.29

Non-fiction (as author or editor)

1997: Southeast Asian Art: A New Spirit.30
1998: Singapore: Places, Poems, Paintings.31
2000: Toa Payoh: Our Kind of Neighbourhood.32
2002: Heart Work.33
2005: How Not to Make Money: Inside Stories from Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department.34
2007: Home at Mount Pleasant: The Senior Police Officers’ Mess of the Singapore Police Force.35
2008: Heartlands: Home and Nation in the Art of Ong Kim Seng.36
2009: Creating a Difference: Commercial Affairs Department: 10 Years of Fighting White Collar Crime.37
2011: Nostalgia is the Most Powerful Seasoning.38

2011: Living with the End in Mind: A Study of How to Increase the Quality of Death in Singapore: Perspective of 30 Leaders.39
2011: Brighter: Electricity in Singapore, from Beginning to Beyond.40
2011: Brand Singapore: How Nation Branding Built Asia’s Leading Global City.41
2012: Perpetual Spring, Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay.42
2013: Sambal Days, Kampong Cuisine.43
2014: Learning for Life: Singapore’s Investment in Lifelong Learning since the 1950s.44
2016: Our Guardians: Keeping Singapore Safe and Secure since the 1950s.45



Authors

Alvin Chua & Neo Tiong Seng



References
1. Toh, H. M. (2003, January). Wilfred Owen meets Hokkien peng. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 2(2). Retrieved 2016, September 21 from http://www.qlrs.com/issues/jan2003/interviews/kohbucksong.html; Koh Buck Song. (2016). In World Heritage Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016, October 3 from World Public Library website: http://www.worldlibrary.org/articles/koh_buck_song
2. Koh, B. S. (1992). A brief history of Toa Payoh and other poems. Singapore: Imperial Publishing House, “About the Author”. (Call no.: RSING S821 KOH)
3. Singapore Memory Project. (2013, September 30). Sungei Kallang afternoons at St Andrew’s School. Retrieved 2016, September 30 from Singapore Memory Project website: http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMB-97fe76e0-1772-48ae-94cc-21de5ec8805d; Toh, H M. (2003, January). Wilfred Owen meets Hokkien peng. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 2(2). Retrieved 2016, September 21 from http://www.qlrs.com/issues/jan2003/interviews/kohbucksong.html
4. Klein, R. D. (1998). Interview: Koh Buck Song. In K. Singh (Ed.), Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature: Interviews (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 265. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
5. Klein, R. D. (1998). Interview: Koh Buck Song. In K. Singh (Ed.), Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature: Interviews (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 265. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
6. Koh Buck Song. (2016). In World Heritage Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016, October 3 from World Public Library website: http://www.worldlibrary.org/articles/koh_buck_song
7. Toh, H. M. (2003, January). Wilfred Owen meets Hokkien peng. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 2(2). Retrieved 2016, September 21 from http://www.qlrs.com/issues/jan2003/interviews/kohbucksong.html
8. Klein, R. D. (1998). Interview: Koh Buck Song. In K. Singh (Ed.), Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature: Interviews (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 265. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT); Singapore Memory Project. (2013, September 30). Sungei Kallang afternoons at St Andrew’s School. Retrieved 2016, September 30 from Singapore Memory Project website: http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMB-97fe76e0-1772-48ae-94cc-21de5ec8805d
9. Koh Buck Song. (2016). In World Heritage Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016, October 3 from World Public Library website: http://www.worldlibrary.org/articles/koh_buck_song
10. Koh Buck Song. (2016). In World Heritage Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016, October 3 from World Public Library website: http://www.worldlibrary.org/articles/koh_buck_song
11. Institute of Policy Studies. (2006, September). IPS Young Singaporeans Conference 2006: “Building a community of citizens for the 21st century” [Brochure]. Singapore: Author.
12. National University of Singapore. (2013). Brand Singapore How nation branding built Asia’s leading global city. Retrieved 2016, September 30 from Institute of Policy Studies website: http://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/ips/event/brand-singapore-how-nation-branding-built-asias-leading-global-city; Singapore Institute of International Affairs. (2011). Council members at Singapore Institute of International Affairs. Retrieved 2016, September 30 from Singapore Institute of International Affairs website: http://www.siiaonline.org/page/council
13. National University of Singapore. (2013). Brand Singapore How nation branding built Asia’s leading global city. Retrieved 2016, September 30 from Institute of Policy Studies website: http://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/ips/event/brand-singapore-how-nation-branding-built-asias-leading-global-city
14. Singapore Memory Project. (2013, September 30). Sungei Kallang afternoons at St Andrew’s School. Retrieved 2016, September 30 from Singapore Memory Project website: http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMB-97fe76e0-1772-48ae-94cc-21de5ec8805d
15. Koh, B. S. (1992). A brief history of Toa Payoh and other poems. Singapore: Imperial Publishing House. (Call no.: RSING S821 KOH); Koh, B. S. (2001). The worth of wonder. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING S821 KOH); Koh, B S. (2003). The ocean of ambition. Singapore: SNP Editions. (Call no.: RSING S821 KOH)
16. Thumboo, E., et al. (Eds.). (1995). Journeys: Words, home and nation: Anthology of Singapore poetry (1984–1995). Singapore: UniPress, pp. 98—103. (Call no.: RSING S821 JOU); Thumboo, E., et al. (Eds.). (1990). Words for the 25th: Readings by Singapore writers. Singapore: UniPress, pp. 124—126. (Call no.: RSING S820 WOR); Pang, A., & Lee, A. (Eds.). (2000). No other city: The ethos anthology of urban poetry. Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 57—59. (Call no.: RSING S821 NO); Yeoh, B. S. A., & Kong, L. (Eds.). (1995). Portraits of places: History, community and identity in Singapore. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 POR-[HIS])
17. 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)
18. Khoo, S. E. (1998). A Singaporean sense of place: Urban transformation and post-colonial ambivalence in Koh Buck Song’s Bugis Street. In K. Singh (Ed.), Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature: Fiction (Vol. 1). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
19. Singapore Memory Project. (2013, September 30). Sungei Kallang afternoons at St Andrew’s School. Retrieved 2016, September 30 from Singapore Memory Project website: http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMB-97fe76e0-1772-48ae-94cc-21de5ec8805d
20. Koh Buck Song. (2016). In World Heritage Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016, October 3 from World Public Library website: http://www.worldlibrary.org/articles/koh_buck_song
21. Klein, R. D. (2005). Interview: Koh Buck Song. In K. Singh (Ed.), Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature: Interviews (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 265. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
22. Toh, H. M. (2003, January). Wilfred Owen meets Hokkien peng. Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, 2(2). Retrieved 2016, September 21 from http://www.qlrs.com/issues/jan2003/interviews/kohbucksong.html
23. Koh Buck Song. (2016). In World Heritage Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016, October 3 from World Public Library website: http://www.worldlibrary.org/articles/koh_buck_song
24. Singapore Memory Project. (2013, September 30). Sungei Kallang afternoons at St Andrew’s School. Retrieved 2016, September 30 from Singapore Memory Project website: http://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMB-97fe76e0-1772-48ae-94cc-21de5ec8805d
25. Koh, B. S. (1992). A brief history of Toa Payoh and other poems. Singapore: Imperial Publishing House. (Call no.: RSING S821 KOH)
26. Koh, B. S. (2001). The worth of wonder. Singapore: Times Books International. (RSING S821 KOH)
27. Koh, B. S. (2003). The ocean of ambition. Singapore: SNP Editions. (RSING S821 KOH)
28. Koh, B. S. (1994) Bugis Street: The novel. Singapore: Pacific Theatricals. (RSING S823 KOH)
29. 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)
30. Koh, B. S. (Ed.) (1997). Southeast Asian art: A new spirit. Singapore: Art & Artist Speak. (Call no.: RSING 709.59 SOU)
31. Koh, B. S. (Ed.). (1998). Singapore: Places, poems, paintings. Singapore: Raffles editions. (Call no.: RSING 700.95957 SIN)
32. Koh, B. S. (2000). Toa Payoh: Our kind of neighbourhood. Singapore: Times Media for Housing & Development Board. (Call no.: RSING 307.76095957 KOH)
33. Koh, B. S. (Ed.). (2002). Heart work. Singapore: Economic Development Board and EDB Society. (Call no.: RSING 338.95957 HEA)
34. Koh, B. S. (2005). How not to make money: Inside stories from Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department. Singapore: Singapore Police Force. (Call no.: RSING 364.168095957 KOH)
35. Koh, B. S. (2007). Home at Mount Pleasant: The Senior Police Officers’ Mess of the Singapore Police Force. Singapore: Senior Police Officers’ Mess, Singapore Police Force. (Call no.: RSING 363.22095957 KOH)
36. Koh, B. S. (2008). Heartlands: Home and nation in the art of Ong Kim Seng. Singapore: Ong Kim Seng. (Call no.: RSING 759.95957 KOH)
37. Koh, B. S. (2009). Creating a difference: Commercial Affairs Department: 10 years of fighting white collar crime. Singapore: Commercial Affairs Department, Singapore Police Force. (Call no.: RSING 364.168095957 KOH)
38. Shu, J. (2011). Nostalgia is the most powerful seasoning. Singapore: Ate Media. (Call no.: RSING 641.5 SHU)
39. Koh, B. S. (2011). Living with the end in mind: A study of how to increase the quality of death in Singapore: Perspective of 30 leaders. Singapore: Lien Foundation. (Call no.: RSING 362.175 KOH)
40. Koh, B. S. (2011). Brighter: Electricity in Singapore, from beginning to beyond. Singapore: Energy Market Authority. (Call no.: RSING 333.7932095957 KOH)
41. Koh, B. S. (2011). Brand Singapore: How nation branding built Asia’s leading global city. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Business. (Call no.: RSING 959.5700688 KOH-[HIS])
42. Koh, B. S. (2012). Perpetual spring, Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions. (Call no.: RSING 712.5095957 KOH)
43. Aziza Ali. (2013). Sambal days, kampong cuisine. Singapore: Ate Ideas. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 AZI)
44. Koh, B. S. (2014). Learning for life: Singapore’s investment in lifelong learning since the 1950s. Singapore: Workforce Development Agency. (Call no.: RSING 374.95957 KOH)
45. Koh, B. S. (2016). Our guardians: Keeping Singapore safe and secure since the 1950s. Singapore: Straits Times Press. Available via PublicationSG.



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
Writers
Poets--Biography
Community leaders
Personalities>>Biographies>>Community Leaders
Language and literature>>Literatures>>East and Southeast Asian literature>>Singapore literature
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Koh, Buck Song, 1963-
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors
Authors, Singaporean--Biography