Heng Siok Tian



Heng Siok Tian (b. 1963, Singapore–) has published five volumes of poetry. An educator for more than 25 years, she received the National Day Honours for her long service with the Ministry of Education in 2015.1 She has been a stalwart of the Creative Arts Programme (CAP), an annual writing programme aimed at nurturing budding writers established by the Ministry of Education’s Gifted Education unit in 1990. She started as a CAP workshop facilitator before becoming a mentor to young student writers.2

Early life and education
Brought up in a Teochew-speaking family, Heng underwent English-medium education and received a Master of Arts in English Literature from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 1996, as well as a Master of Science in Information Studies from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in 2002.3 She began writing while at NUS and received the first prize (poetry) and an honourable mention (short story) in the 1985/86 NUS Poetry and Short Story Writing Competition.4 She has been in the education service since 1988.5

Literary career
Heng’s first collection of poems, Crossing the Chopsticks and Other Poems, was published in 1993, followed by my city, my canvas in 1999. Contouring was published in 2004, while Mixing Tongues and Is My Body a Myth were published in 2011.6

Two unpublished manuscripts shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, “Yin-ly” in 1995 and “Child Passing Chamber” in 1997, formed part of Heng’s second collection my city, my canvas (1999). She was featured in Singapore Writers’ Week in the 1980s and 1990s as well as Singapore Writers’ Festival (2007, 2009 and 2011 to 2017).7

Heng has also been published in magazines such as Singa, the journal for literature and the arts in Singapore, SilverKris magazine and The Straits Times newspaper.8

Short stories and plays
Heng’s short story, “Fishballs and Vermicelli”, was published in Anthology of ASEAN Literatures: The Fiction of Singapore in 1990.9 Another short story, “Choice of Two Salads”, has been translated into Italian as part of the collection Sedici Racconti Dell’Asia Estrema (16 Stories from the Far East).10 

Heng’s short play, The Lift, was staged in 1991 and read at the 3rd International Women’s Playwrights’ Conference in Adelaide, Australia in 1994.11

Together with Paul Tan, Heng took over the organisation and running of The Forum readings in 1997. These were regular poetry sessions that were held between 1995 and 2000.12

A Fellow of the Iowa International Writing Program in 2000 (on a National Arts Council Fellowship), Heng participated in literary events in China, Denmark, France, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United States and Sweden.13 She occasionally sat on the panel for the evaluation of literary arts activities in the NAC-Arts Enrichment Programme. She was also one of the judges (poetry category) for the 2015 NAC Golden Point Award.14

Heng was one of four writers published in a book of fiction, The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (2015). Featured in this book is a sequence of five short stories she had written.15

Literary style and influences
Edwin Thumboo had commented that Heng’s poems show “a desire to see beneath the skin, but with decorum”, and that her poetry has a “suppleness and precision [that] regularly take[s] it below the surface and beyond the confines of event and experience”.16 Heng herself says that “it is inclusiveness I am trying to reach at: inclusiveness of voices, verities and visions”.

As an undergraduate, Heng’s informal mentors were Arthur Yap and Edwin Thumboo.17 Her single most important influence was her illiterate but highly intelligent mother who passed away in 2015.18

Works
1993: Crossing the Chopsticks and Other Poems19
1999: my city, my canvas20
2004: Contouring21
2011Mixing Tongues22
2011Is My Body a Myth23

2015: The Adopted: Stories from Angkor24
2016: Lost Bodies: Poems Between Portugal and Home25



Author
Alvin Chua



References
1. Prime Minister’s Office Singapore. (2016). National Day Award recipients. Retrieved 2016, June 22 from Prime Minister’s Office Singapore website: http://www.pmo.gov.sg/national-day-awards/recipients?title=heng+siok+tian&year%5Bvalue%5D%5Byear%5D=2015&field_award_tid_1=All
2. The write stuff. (1992, June 1).The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Heng, S. T. (2012). Pioneers’s past is present in future: On reading Edwin Thumboo. In L. S. Gwee & M. Heng (Eds.), Edwin Thumboo: Time-travelling: A select annotated bibliography. Singapore: National Library Board, pp. 110–111. (Call no.: RSING S821 EDW)
3. Tan, H. (2015). Heng Siok Tian: Critical introduction. Retrieved 2016, June 22 from Poetry.SG website: http://www.poetry.sg/; Heng Siok Tian. (2004). In F. Cheong (Ed.), Idea To Ideal: 12 Singapore poets on the writing of their poems. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications, p. 68. (Call no.: RSING S821.009 IDE); Mascara Poetry Inc. (2011, Janaury 1). Heng Siok Tian: Biodata. Retrieved 2016, June 22 from Mascara Literary Review website: http://mascarareview.com/heng-siok-tan/
4. For better, for verse. (1987, April 11). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Singapore Memory Project. (2015, September 22). Memory of Ms Heng Siok Tian. Retrieved from the Singapore Memory Project website: https://www.singaporememory.sg/contents/SMA-62278b5f-ff90-48fc-a404-7142129f5929?nextrecord=9&lat=&lng=&year=&month=&rad=%20&listtype=grid&id=SMA-62278b5f-ff90-48fc-a404-7142129f5929
6. Heng Siok Tian. (2004). In F. Cheong (Ed.), Idea To Ideal: 12 Singapore poets on the writing of their poems. Singapore: Firstfruits Publications, p. 68. (Call no.: RSING S821.009 IDE); Poetry.SG. (2015). Heng Siok Tian: Biography. Retrieved 2016, June 22 from Poetry.SG website: https://www.poetry.sg/browse/heng-siok-tian/biography
7. Koh. B. S. (1993, August 21). From the bloc. The Straits Times, p. 17; Yap, S. (2009, June 5). A walk through Singapore poetry. The Straits Times, p. 93. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Arts Council. (2011). Singapore Writers Festival 2011 participating writers. Retrieved 2018, April 27 from NAC website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/dam/jcr:a302ee98-3c62-45a4-8388-42aca6cc38bf; National Arts Council. (2015). Singapore Writers Festival 2015 Featured Authors, Writers, Artists. Retrieved 2018, April 27 from NAC website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/dam/jcr:3d0bec7a-e3aa-4290-b1af-4efe7b8bb03d; National Arts Council. (2016). Singapore Writers' Festival, 04-13 November 2016: Programme guide. Singapore: National Arts Council. (Call no.: RSING 808.8095957 SIN); National Arts Council. (2017). Singapore Writers Festival 2017 Participating Writers/Artists and Bios. Retrieved 2018, April 27 from NAC website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/dam/jcr:35bab415-31ea-4ab4-ac38-472a7124df11
8. Poetry.SG. (2015). Heng Siok Tian: Biography. Retrieved 2016, June 22 from Poetry.SG website: https://www.poetry.sg/browse/heng-siok-tian/biography
9. Thumboo, E., et al. (Eds.). (1990). Fishballs and vermicelli in The fiction of Singapore: Anthology of Asean literature. Singapore: ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information, p. 612. (Call no.: RSING S823.008 FIC)
10. Homegrown works not found here yet. (2005, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Poetry. SG. (2015). Heng Siok Tian: Biography. Retrieved 2016, June 22 from Poetry.SG website: https://www.poetry.sg/browse/heng-siok-tian/biography; Citi, M. (2013). Singapore: un’antologia possibile. Retrieved from librinuovi.net website: http://librinuovi.net/3137/singapore-unantologia-possibile
11. Heng Siok Tian. (2011). In L. G. Leong, (Ed.), Literary Singapore: A directory of contemporary writing in Singapore. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 LIT)
12. Ng, Y. S. (2014). Unwritten: An anecdotal history of performance poetry in Singapore. Retrieved 2016, June 30 from Singapore Poetry website: https://singaporepoetry.com/2014/02/20/unwritten-history/
13. Leong, L. G. (Ed.). (2011). Literary Singapore: A directory of contemporary writing in Singapore. Singapore: National Arts Council, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING: 809.895957 LIT)
14. National Arts Council. (2015). Annex D. 2015 Golden Point Award – List of adjudicators. Poetry. English. Malay. Retrieved 2016, June 30 from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/dam/jcr:04097113-b762-4458-af98-1d3b222df3e5
15. Lee, J. X. (2015, August 30). The adopted: Stories from Angkor in Singapore shelf: Fiction. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
16. Thumboo, E. (1993). Introduction. In S. T. Heng, Crossing the chopsticks and other poems. Singapore: UniPress, p. viii. (Call no.: RSING S821 HEN)
17. Peers and students pay tribute to Arthur Yap. (2006, June 23). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Heng, S. T. (2012). Pioneers’s past is present in future: On reading Edwin Thumboo. In L. S. Gwee & M. H. (Eds.), Edwin Thumboo: Time-travelling: A select annotated bibliography. Singapore: National Library Board, pp. 110–111. (Call no.: RSING S821 EDW)
18. Heng. S. T. (2016, May 28). Blue beyond. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
19. Heng, S. T. (1993). Crossing the chopsticks and other poems. Singapore: UniPress. (Call no.: RSING S821 HEN)
20. Heng, S. T. (1999). My city, my canvas. Singapore: Landmark Books (Call no.: RSING S821 HEN)
21. Heng, S. T. (2004). Contouring. Singapore: Landmark Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 HEN)
22. Heng, S. T. (2011). Mixing tongues. Singapore: Landmark Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 HEN)
23. Heng, S. T. (2011). Is my body a myth. Singapore: Landmark Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 HEN)
24. Heng, S. T., et al. (2015). The adopted: Stories from Angkor. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING S823 HEN)
25. Heng, S. T., et al. (2016). Lost bodies: Poems between Portugal and home. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING S823 HEN)



The information in this article is valid as at 2018 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
Heng, Siok Tian, 1963-
Writers
Language and literature>>Literatures>>English literatures>>English poetry
Poets--Singapore--Biography
Teachers as authors--Singapore--Biography
Language and literature>>Literatures>>East and Southeast Asian literature>>Singapore literature
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors