Why Theatre?

After listening to all the personal stories, [one theatregoer’s] conclusion was ‘I still think it’s wrong’. To me, it’s neither because of a failure of the play (to convince) nor the person (to interrogate his belief system). And I am never disappointed nor frustrated with such responses, because I know that a good play should give the audience a few things to think about—but it does not tell them what to think. On the audience’s part, to think for one’s self also comes with its own set of adult responsibilities—which is to articulate and justify one’s own position. Which means that ‘I still think it’s wrong’ would be the start of a conversation (either with one’s self or with others) rather than the end of one.

Alfian Sa’at

Truly

Perfect Places

In our introductory JC1 Paper 3 lecture, we leaped into Lorde’s ‘Perfect Places‘, replete with the dilemmas and discontents of youth, and opened the doors to analysing patterns and words in literary texts.

This post takes the lecture on a journey to the familiar ‘Home’, drawing connections on the mind and self between the two songs. If you feel rather lost about ‘analysis‘, this post provides some guidance by examining a few words for meaning and effect. For our readers in JC2, you may find that the first section wanders (unintentionally) into unseen poetry comparison territory.

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Narration

In our second Lit Cut after the first one on metaphors, we will be studying the art of narration and the many different ways we can analyse the narrator. In the first half, we’re split hairs on what or who an omniscient narrator, limited narrator, first-person narrator, unreliable narrator all mean. Once our voices are hoarse with these literary terms, we’ll progress to analysing examples of Austen’s narrator from Pride and Prejudice.

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Different Language

MirrorMaking the rounds online is Pooja Nansi’s commentary on the need for poetry on our shores – go read it if you haven’t yet done so!

Here’s an (illegally long) excerpt which certainly asks more questions than it seeks to answer:

‘Young people of my generation seem more passionate than ever about ensuring our country is a reflection of all that we have to offer, but we are also struggling to talk about issues that are difficult and won’t fit into a neat box. We don’t know how to work with things we cannot easily define. We are a society in love with pie charts, acronyms, data, neat slogans that help define and neatly explain our concerns.

But there are things in the world, in life and in the human condition, where the most real things – like questions of belonging, identity and loss – cannot be quantified, neatly packaged, or sometimes, even named. This is also why Singaporeans don’t read poetry. Poetry demands that you suspend yourself in uncertainty, it asks for meaning to unfold in its own time and this can be incredibly uncomfortable if you are used to constant certainty.

But it is precisely in situations where we are forced to struggle with the unknowns of life when we tend to turn to poetry. It is no coincidence that poetry resurges in difficult times like war or times of complex human emotions, like weddings and funerals. Poetry exists to give us language where we have none.

Poetry demands that we feel instead of think, to sit in questions rather than rush for answers. It asks that we recognise no two people live in the world in the same way, the same poem can mean vastly different things to different people and neither meaning is “wrong” or “right”.

Poetry demands that we examine all the contradictions, even the ones within ourselves. We cannot hate without the capacity for love, we cannot grieve if we do not feel joy, and we cannot build if we do not first tear down.’

Why Compare?

In the now-iconic ‘2 mothers in a hdb playground’, Arthur Yap gives us these quintessentially Singaporean lines from two mothers comparing their children, ah beng and kim cheong (italics mine):

ah beng is so smart,
already he can watch tv and know the whole story
your kim cheong is also quite smart,
what boy is he in the exam? […]

kim cheong eats so little.
give him some complan. my ah beng was like that,
now he’s different, if you give him anything
he’s sure to finish it all up.

We compare people, places, things all the time in real life. We might even argue, Bloom’s Taxonomy be d**ned, that comparison is a cognitive skill on its own: our understanding of the world around us, particularly unfamiliar terrain, is shaped by what we already know, or what we are well acquainted with. When we travel to foreign lands, our observations are often filtered through a Singaporean lens, where “Oh, it’s so messy here” or “They are really laidback here” is always already a reflection of our own experience back home. Like in Yap’s “2 mothers”, comparison can be used to confirm our own understanding of our context (i.e. Singapore) and affirm ourselves (i.e. my son is better than your son). The same would surely apply to the Sony/Microsoft, DC/Marvel, Samsung/Apple fanboy wars.

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I Smell a Bat

Now that the curtains have been unveiled, we are free to welcome Mr. Ian Tan into the team! Check out his excellent “How to Read a Poem” series on YouTube, which should prove very useful to your grasp of the unseen for H2 Paper 3 and poetry comparison in H2 Paper 1. Read on for a few more selections from Mr. Tan’s series

Mind
Richard Wilbur

Mind in its purest play is like some bat
That beats about in caverns all alone,
Contriving by a kind of senseless wit
Not to conclude against a wall of stone.

It has no need to falter or explore;
Darkly it knows what obstacles are there,
And so may weave and flitter, dip and soar
In perfect courses through the blackest air.

And has this simile a like perfection?
The mind is like a bat. Precisely. Save
That in the very happiest of intellection
A graceful error may correct the cave.

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