Melanie Hong
Sun, Mar 09, 2008
The Straits Times
14-year-olds make poetry sexy

SOME parents are going to be in for a surprise when they finally discover the truth behind their daughters' incessant scribblings.

After all, the often sensuous poems are not what anyone would expect from 14-year-olds who declare themselves to be very ordinary and who listen to American indie rock band Deathcab For Cutie and English rock band Coldplay in between worrying about Chinese lessons.

But Charlotte Tan, Lynette Lim, Natalie Wong, Jesslyn Chee and Joy Chee, all Secondary 3 students at the Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS), have published 5Takes, to be launched tomorrow.

They are the first batch of students in the school's Touchstone Programme, which aims to nurture aspiring writers.

The five were mentored by Cultural Medallion recipient and poet Edwin Thumboo, 74, emeritus professor of the department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore.

He says: 'I didn't choose the girls. They chose themselves and I was privileged to share with them.'

The mentoring sessions took place over one year, during which poems the girls had written earlier were discussed and edited.

Despite the constant editing, the girls say they have not lost ownership of their work. As Lynette says: 'If you really believe that a certain word belongs somewhere, you can argue your case.'

For the girls, writing poetry is all about translating a particular moment onto paper.

Lynette's poem Block 107 was inspired by a visit to a friend's home, where she looked out of a window and saw ripples in the canal caused by a falling leaf.

The result is a poetic observation of life in an HDB estate where, among other things, a resident has sex with the mail man.

In Joy's poem Fruit, she gives different personalities to the subject. There is the apple, which is described as 'temptation in ribbons' with an 'inviting' kiss; the provocative mangosteen that 'pouted, lips lush, ripe purple'; and the peach with its 'heart of Stone'.

The girls are coy about saying why they are tackling subjects like sex in their poems, but Lynette says: 'I lie a lot when I write.'

There also seems to be a melancholic edge to all their poems. Lynette says it is not a conscious effort, adding: 'That is the whole beauty of the writing process - a lot of things are left unsaid but reveal themselves in the poetry.'

  • 5Takes costs $18 and is available from tomorrow. E-mail Miss Sie Ha Wai at sie_ha_wai@moe.edu.sg for details.


This article was first published in The Straits Times on Mar 6, 2008.


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