Kirpal Singh



Kirpal Singh (b. 1949, Singapore­­–) is a poet, literary and cultural critic, and university lecturer in English language and literature. He has written and published four collections of poetry and edited numerous literary journals and books. He was a founding member of the Centre for Research in New Literatures at Flinders University, Australia in 1977, and the first Asian director of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1993 and 1994. He was also chairman of the Singapore Writers’ Festival in the 1990s. He is currently an associate professor at the Singapore Management University (SMU).

Early life
Singh was born in Singapore in 1949 to a father of Sikh descent and a Jewish-Scottish mother.1 At the age of 6 months, he was brought to Johor, Malaysia and raised by his late paternal grandmother, who lived in a village called Kampung Changkat in Batu Gajah.2 When he was about 6 years old, his father’s older brother, Bill, brought him back to Singapore as he wanted Singh to have a Singaporean education. By then, Singh’s parents had divorced, and his mother had re-married in Scotland.


In Singapore, Singh lived in Jalan Eunos and was enrolled at Jalan Daud School. His first attempt at writing poetry was in 1958, when he wrote a poem about his primary two class teacher. He began to write poetry more consistently after 1965. He wanted to join the army after attaining his G.C.E. “O” Levels, but his school principal, Mr Vaithinathan, persuaded him to continue with his education. Singh was then admitted to Raffles Institution in 1967, where he studied the Arts. While pursuing his G.C.E. “A” Levels, Singh published his first book, Singapore Pot-pourri. This was a collection of poems, essays, plays and short stories by a group of local writers, which Singh put together.4

After attaining his G.C.E. “A” Levels, Singh enrolled at the University of Singapore (now the National University of Singapore) where he was taught by some of Singapore’s early writers such as Edwin Thumboo and Lee Tzu Pheng. In 1972, Singh published his first anthology of poems called Articulations. He went on to graduate with an honours degree and a masters in English Literature.

Singh counts Singapore writers such as Thumboo and Lee as instrumental to his literary growth. Other Singapore writers who have influenced him include Ee Tiang Hong, Wong Phui Nam and K. S. Maniam. Singh was also exposed to the writings of African, Caribbean, Indian and English writers during his university days.6

Achievements
Singh is an internationally recognised scholar whose core research areas include post-colonial literature, Singapore and Southeast Asian literature and technology, and creativity thinking. He has won research awards and grants from local and foreign universities. His research articles and critical writings have been published in international journals such as Ariel, Diogene, Commonwealth Novel in English, Literary Criterion, Quadrant, Southern Review and Westerly.He has written four books of poetry and edited over 15 publications, including the prestigious literary journal, World Literature Written in English.8 He has attended international writers’ festivals in Adelaide, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Toronto and Kent, to give readings of his works.9

Singh has the distinction of being the first Asian director of the prestigious Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1993 and 1994.10 He was previously a regional judge for the prize in 1988 and chairman of the regional panel in 1989 and 1990.11 Singh is also a member of several international literary journals and associations. In 2004, Singh became the first Asian and non-American to be made a director on the American Creativity Association’s board.12 In 2009, he became a board member of the Singapore International Film Festival.13 He was also one of 10 Singaporean poets who was featured in the international anthology by American publisher W. W. Norton, well-known among academics for its anthologies.14 Singh is currently an associate professor of English Literature and a director at the Wee Kim Wee Centre at SMU.15

Education
Jalan Daud School.

1967–1968: Raffles Institution.16
1973: Bachelor of Arts, Honours (English), University of Singapore.
1976: Master of Arts, University of Singapore.
1977–1980: Ph.D, University of Adelaide, Australia, on a Public Service Commission scholarship.17

Career
1970–1973: Teacher, Adult Education Board.18
1973–1976: Research scholar/lecturer, University of Singapore.19
1976–1978: Colombo Plan scholar/part-time lecturer, University of Adelaide and South Australian Institute of Technology.20
1978–1980: Instructor, National University of Singapore (NUS).
1980–1990: Coordinator of Honours (English Literature) Programme, NUS.
1991–1993: Senior lecturer/head of department, Nanyang Technology University (NTU).
1994–2000: Associate professor, NTU.
2000–: Associate professor of Literature & Creative Thinking, SMU.
2008: Director, Wee Kim Wee Centre, SMU.21

Achievements
1977: Founding member, Centre for Research in New Literatures, Flinders University, Australia.22
1993–1994: First Asian director, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.23
1997, 1999: Chairman, organising committee, Singapore Writers’ Festival.24
1997–2000: Advisor, Arts Resource Panel, National Arts Council.25
1997: International writer, International Writing Programme, University of Iowa.26
2000–2001: Coordinator, Communication Skills Programme, SMU.
2002: Founding director, Centre for Cross-Cultural Studies (now known as Wee Kim Wee Centre), SMU / Member, international advisory board, The Huxley Annual.
2003–2009: Member, PSB Academy Board.27
2004: Head, Singapore chapter, East-West Centre Association28 / Director, American Creativity Association.
2009: Board member, Singapore International Film Festival.29

Works
Poetry
1978Twenty Poems30
1986Palm Readings: Poems31
1998Cat Walking and the Games We Play32
2012
The best of Kirpal Singh33


Non-fiction
2003Thinking Hats and Coloured Turbans: Creativity Across Cultures34
2013: Naked ape, naked boss: Bernard Harrison: The man behind the Singapore Zoo & the world’s first Night Safari
35


Selected editorial works
1970Singapore Pot-pourri36
1980: The Stellar Gauge: Essays on Science Fiction Writers, co-editor37
1986Critical Engagements: Singapore Poems in Focus38
1987The Writer’s Sense of the Past: Essay on Southeast Asian and Australasian literature39
1998–2009Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature40
2000Rhythms: A Singaporean Millennial Anthology of Poetry41
2002The Merlion and the hibiscus: Contemporary short stories from Singapore and Malaysia42

Family
Married with three daughters and one son.43



Author

Nureza Ahmad



References
1. Tan, D. W. (2006, June 28). Still passionate about life. Really. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 219. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
2. The Postcolonial Web. (n.d.). Kirpal Singh. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from The Postcolonial Web website: http://www.postcolonialweb.org/singapore/literature/poetry/singh/bio1.html
3. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 219–220. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
4. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 220, 225–227. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
5. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 221, 223, 227. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
6. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 228–229. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
7. Singapore Management University. (n.d.). Profile: Kirpal Singh. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from SMU website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/faculty/profile/56571/Kirpal-SINGH; Singapore Management University. (May 2013). Kirpal Singh – Brief CV. Retrieved 2016, October 24 from SMU website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/sites/default/files/socsc/pdf/KS_CV_2014_1.pdf
8. Koh, B. S. (1995, March 11). Asian academics take charge of literary journalThe Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Management University. (n.d.). Profile: Kirpal Singh. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from SMU website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/faculty/profile/56571/Kirpal-SINGH
9. Singapore Management University. (n.d.). Profile: Kirpal Singh. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from SMU website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/faculty/profile/56571/Kirpal-SINGH
10. Helmi Yusof. (1999, October 6). The world’s a reader. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Koh, B. S. (1993, March 13). Prize catch. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Chow, C. (2004, June 18). Kirpal is first Asian on US board. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Lui, J. (2009, November 7). Poet joins S’pore Film Fest. The Straits Times, p. 134. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Yap, S. (2009, January 18). 10 poets make Norton cut. The Straits Times, p. 68. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Singapore Management University. (n.d.). Profile: Kirpal Singh. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from SMU website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/faculty/profile/56571/Kirpal-SINGH
16. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, pp. 220, 225–227. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
17. Singapore Management University. (n.d.). Profile: Kirpal Singh. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from SMU website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/faculty/profile/56571/Kirpal-SINGH; Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 223. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
18. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 221. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
19. Singapore Management University. (n.d.). Profile: Kirpal Singh. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from SMU website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/faculty/profile/56571/Kirpal-SINGH
20. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 223. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
21. Singapore Management University. (n.d.). Profile: Kirpal Singh. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from SMU website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/faculty/profile/56571/Kirpal-SINGH
22. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
23. Helmi Yusof. (1999, October 6). The world’s a reader. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Writer’s Week will be biggest ever, with more than 90 events. (1997, August 14). The Straits Times, p. 28; Helmi Yusof. (1999, August 21). Spiced up and back with a new name. The Straits Times, p. 19; Chow, C. (2001, August 15). The write stuff. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. National Arts Council. (1997/1998). Annual report. Singapore: Author, p. 66. (Call no.: RCLOS 700.95957 SNACAR-[AR]); National Arts Council. (1998/1999). Annual report. Singapore: Author, pp. 66–67. (Call no.: RCLOS 700.95957 SNACAR-[AR]); National Arts Council. (1999/2000). Annual report. Singapore: Author, p. 75. (Call no.: RCLOS 700.95957 SNACAR-[AR])
26. The University of Iowa. (n.d.). Kirpal Singh. Retrieved 2016, July 19 from The University of Iowa International Writing Program website: https://iwp.uiowa.edu/writers/kirpal-singh
27. Singapore Management University. (n.d.). Profile: Kirpal Singh. Retrieved 2016, July 18 from SMU website: http://www.smu.edu.sg/faculty/profile/56571/Kirpal-SINGH
28. East-West Center. (2005). East-West Center annual report 2004, p. 50. Retrieved 2016, July 19 from East-West Center Analysis and Publications website: http://www.eastwestcenter.org/publications/east-west-center-annual-report-2004
29. Lui, J. (2009, November 7). Poet joins S’pore Film Fest. The Straits Times, p. 134. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 228. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
31. Singh, K. (1986). Palm readings: Poems. Singapore: G. Brash. (Call no.: RSING S821 KIR)
32. Singh, K. (1998). Catwalking and the games we play. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 KIR)
33. Singh, K. (2012). The best of Kirpal Singh. Singapore: Epigram Books. (Call no.: RSING S821 SIN)
34. Singh, K. (2004). Thinking hats and coloured turbans: Creativity across cultures. Singapore: Prentice Hall. (Call no.: RSING 153.35 SIN)
35. Singh, K. (2014). Naked ape, naked boss: Bernard Harrison: The man behind the Singapore Zoo & the world’s first Night Safari. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish International. (Call no.: RSING 590.735957092 SIN)
36. Klein, R. D. (Ed.). (2001). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books, p. 227. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
37. Tolley, M. J., & Singh, K. (1980). The stellar gauge: Essays on science fiction writers. Carlton, Vic.: Norstrilia Press. (Not available in NLB holdings)
38. Singh, K. (Ed.). (1986). Critical engagements: Singapore poems in focus. Singapore: Heinemann Asia. (Call no.: RSING S821.009 CRI)
39. Singh, K. (Ed.). (1987). The writer’s sense of the past: Essay on Southeast Asian and Australasian literature. Singapore: Singapore University Press. (Call no.: RSING 809.89595 WRI)
40. Singh, K., et al. (1998–2009). Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 4). Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING 809.895957 INT)
41. Singh, K., & Wong, Y. W. (Eds.). (2000). Rhythms: A Singaporean millennial anthology of poetry = Irama: antologi puisi alaf Singapura. Singapore: National Arts Council. (Call no.: RSING S821 RHY)
42. Mukherjee, D., et al. (2002). The merlion and the hibiscus: Contemporary short stories from Singapore and Malaysia. New Delhi: Penguin Books. (Call no: RSING S823 MER)
43. Tan, D. W. (2006, June 28). Still passionate about life. Really. The Straits Times, p. 17; Koh, B. (2008, March 23). Bookends. The Straits Times, p. 64. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Ng, J. (2004, February 16). For 20 years, they studied and taught at same campusThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Ong, S. F. (1999, April 10). Here’s help to turn next pageThe Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Ong, S. F. (1999, July 24). Poets in four-way millennial collectionThe Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Singh, K. (2000, August 23). Take it away, and you take away life. The Straits Times, p. 42. 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
Singh, Kirpal, 1949- --Biography
Writers
Authors, Singaporean--Biography
Poets--Biography
Language and literature>>Poetry
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors