Arthur Yap Chioh Hiong

Arthur Yap Chioh Hiong (Dr) (b. 1943, Singapore - d. 20 June 2006, Singapore) a second generation Singapore poet who has won numerous awards for his accomplishments in shaping local poetry.

Yap began writing poems in his school days at St Andrew's School for the School's magazines. He continued writing in his undergraduate days at the University of Singapore where he obtained his BA Hons. in English Literature. He then studied at the University of Leeds where he obtained an M.A. in Linguistics and English Language Teaching. He did his Ph.D. at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Yap also has a Certificate in Education from the Teacher's Training College. He joined the Department of English Language and Literature, NUS, as a teaching staff in 1979 and left in January 1998.

Poetry accomplishments
Yap is considered a second generation Singapore poet and his contemporaries include the likes of Robert Yeo and Lee Tzu Pheng. Yap's first collection of poems, Only Lines, was published in 1971. It won him the National Book Development Council of Singapore's (NBDCS) first award for poetry in 1976. His other two publications, Down the Line and Man Snake Apple & Other Poems, which also earned him the same award in 1982 and 1988 respectively, consolidated his reputation as one of the literary greats of Singapore.

Yap was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Literature in 1983. The Cultural Medallion was instituted in March 1979 to recognise individuals who have attained artistic excellence in the fields of dance, theatre, music, literature, photography, art and film. In 1983, Yap also won the prestigious Southeast Asia Write Award. It was launched in 1979 to promote literary talent and given yearly to leading writers from ASEAN countries in recognition of their creativity and contributions to the literary scenes in their respective countries. Yap added another feather to his cap when he was bestowed the Montblanc-NUS Centre for the Arts Literary Award for English in 1998. Established in 1996, it is the only literary prize in Singapore which invited the public to submit nominations.

Yap has been cited as a source of inspiration for young writers like Toh Hsien Min whom he mentored under the Creative Arts Programme. Started in 1990, the programme is jointly organised by NUS Centre for the Arts and the Gifted Education Branch of the Ministry of Education.

Yap with four other Singapore poets had their poems featured in a prescribed poetry anthology for the O Levels in Singapore in 1996 and 1997. Entitled The Calling of Kindred: Poems from the English-speaking World, Yap's two poems included are In Passing, about the restlessness of the modern world, and Old House at Ann Siang Hill which looks at the personal history of Chinatown dwelling. Yap's poems have also been studied in a literature course offered by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

Besides writing poems, Yap is also a painter and has held seven solo exhibitions of his paintings. In 1972, his work represented Singapore at the Adelaide Festival of Arts. In the same year, he was invited by the British Council to exhibit his paintings in Bangkok. Indeed Ee Tiang Hong once described him as having the "eye of a painter" in his poetic vision.

According to newspaper sources and staff at the Department of English Language and Literature, NUS, Yap is a recluse who guards his privacy zealously. As such, there is not much published information about him. However, he had talked about his work in an interview with Kevin Sullivan which was published in the eighth issue of Southeast Asian Review of English.  Yap has recorded his reading of his own poems in a series of CDs produced by the Department of English Language and Literature, NUS.

1971 : First collection of poems Only Lines published; A Brief Critical Survey of Prose Writings in Singapore and Malaysia published.
1976 : Won the National Book Development Council's first award for poetry for Only Lines.
1977 : Commonplace published.
1979 : Joined the Department of English Language and Literature, University of Singapore.
1980 : Down the Line published.
1982 : Won the National Book Development Council's award for poetry for Down the Line, his second from NBDCS.
1983 : Awarded the Cultural Medallion for Literature.
1983 : Won the Southeast Asia Write Award.
1986 : Man Snake Apple & Other Poems published.
1988 : Won the National Book Development Council's award for poetry for Man Snake Apple & Other Poems, his third from NBDCS.
1998 : Left the Department of English Language and Literature, NUS.
1998 : Won the Montblanc-NUS Centre for the Arts Literary Award for English.
2000 : The Space of City Trees: Selected Poems published.

A Brief Critical Survey of Prose Writings in Singapore and Malaysia. (1971). Singapore : Educational Publications Bureau.
(Call No.: R CLOS 828.99 YAP)
A critical look at some the books written on Singapore and Malaya before the 20th century .

Commonplace. (1977). Singapore : Heinemann Educational Books (Asia).
(Call No.: R CLOS 828. 995957 YAP)
Yap grapples with commonplace situations and people, capturing the everyday incidents during the year that Yap spent in England as a post-grad student in applied linguistics

Down the Line. 1980).  Singapore : Heinemann Educational Books (Asia).
(Call No.: R CLOS 828. 995957 YAP)

Chung, Y. C., et al. (1974). Five takes: Poems. Singapore: University of Singapore Society.
(Call No.: RCLOS 828.995957 FIV)
An anthology which brings together the works of five Singapore poets - Arthur Yap, Chung Yee Chong, Sng Boh Khim, Yeo Bock Cheng and Robert Yeo.

Man Snake Apple & Other Poems. (1986). Singapore : Heinemann Educational Books (Asia).

No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban Poetry 
Aanthology of urban poetry brings together the perspectives of 64 Singapore poets including Arthur Yap's.

Only Lines. [1971]. [Singapore] : Federal Publications.

The Space of City Trees: Selected Poems. (2000). London : Skoob Pacifica.
Brings together more than 100 poems from Yap's four publications, Only Lines, Commonplace, Down the Line, Man Snake Apple and Other Poems as well as from the anthology Five Takes: Poems


Veronica Chee 

Brewster, A. (1995). Formations of nationalism: Arthur Yap and Philip Jeyaretnam. In Brewster, Anne (Ed.), Literary formations: Post-colonialism, nationalism, globalism. Carlton South, Vic.: Melbourne University Press.
(Call No.: R 828.08 BRE)

Brewster, A. (1986). Arthur Yap - dramatis personae and Lim, Shirley. Arthur Yap - 2 Mothers in a HDB Playground. In Singh, Kirpal (Ed.), Critical engagements: Singapore poems in focus. Singapore: Heinemann Asia.
(Call No.: SING S821.009 CRI)

Sullivan, K. (1984). Achievement: The poet with an artists touch - Arthur Yap Talks with Kevin Sullivan. South East Asian Review of English, 8 (2), 20.
(Call no.: RCLOS 820 SARE)

Yeo, R. (1998). Parts of speech: A speculative note on Arthur Yaps Commonplace. In Singh, Kirpal (Ed.), Interlogue: Studies in Singapore literature (Vol. 2, Poetry). Singapore: Ethos Books.
(Call No.: RSING 809.895957 INT)

Helmi Yusof. (2000, February 19). Poetry between mutter and stutter. The Straits Times, Life!, p. 16.

Lee, A. (2000, March 4). Poetic god of small things. The Straits Times, Life!, p. 20.

McRae, J. (2001, January 20). Poet of everyday life. The New Straits Times, Literary & Books, p. 6. 

Yeow, K. C. (2000, September 16). A Journalist's eye for stories. The Straits Times, Life!, p. 38.

Wong, C. (2002, July). Uncertainty and scepticism in Arthur Yap. Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore, 1(4). Retrieved October 12, 2002, from 

Goh, I. (2002, March 18). Promising "Post-Colonialism": Deleuze-Guattari's "Minor Literature" and the poetry of Arthur Yap. Retrieved Septebmer 26, 2002, from National University of Singapore, University Scholars Programme Web site:

Further Readings
Chung, Y. C., et al. (1974). Five takes: Poems. Singapore: University of Singapore Society.
(Call No.: RCLOS 828.995957 FIV) 

Lim, S. G. (1993). Sub/Versions of a national poetry: Arthur Yap. In Lim, Shirley Geok-Lin (Ed.), Nationalism and literature: English-language writing from the Philippines and Singapore. Quezon City: New Day Publishers.
(Call No.: RSING 820.99599 LIM)

Ong, S. F. (2006, June 21). A man of few words. His works. The Straits Times, Life!

Pang, A., & Aaron, L. (Eds.). (2000). No other city: The ethos anthology of urban poetry. Singapore: Ethos Books.
(Call no.: RSING S821 NO)

Yap, A. (2000). The space of city trees: Selected poems. London: Skoob Pacifica.
(Call no.: RSING S821 YAP)

Yap, A. (1986). Man snake apple & other poems. Singapore: Heinemann Asia.
(Call no.: RCLOS S821 YAP)

Yap, A. (1980). Down the Line. Singapore: Heinemann Educational Books.
(Call No.: RSING 828. 95957 YAP)

Yap, A. (1971). Only lines. Singapore: Federal Publications.
(Call no.: RCLOS 828. 99 YAP)

Koh, B. S. (1995, March 21). Works of 5 Spore poets in O-level text for first time. The Straits Times, Life!, p. 3.

You're all write, here is a pen. (1998, October 3). The Straits Times, Life!, p. 3.

The information in this article is valid as at 2006 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.

Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Cultural Medallion Recipients (Literature)
Yap, Arthur Chioh Hiong, 1943-
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors>>Cultural Medallion Recipients
Language and literature>>Poetry

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