Arts

Singapore’s first Youth Poet Ambassador announced today

Singapore’s first Youth Poet Ambassador announced today
Young poet and spoken word performer Pooja Nansi is Singapore’s first Youth Poet Ambassado. Photo: National Arts Council
Poet Pooja Nansi says she wants youths to experience how poetry can be a force in their lives
Published: 5:55 PM, March 8, 2017

SINGAPORE — The Poetry Festival (Singapore) announced today that young poet and spoken word performer Pooja Nansi is Singapore’s inaugural Youth Poet Ambassador (YPA) for 2017 to 2018.

The 35-year-old creative writing teacher at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is the author of poetry collections Love Is An Empty Barstool (2013) and Stiletto Scars (2007). She has been appointed as the part of the National Poetry Festival’s YPA programme which was initiated by the National Arts Council (NAC), with the aim to engage and inspire more young people to express themselves through poetry, and hopefully nurture a pool of younger generation poets.

May Tan, acting director in literary arts at the NAC, said: “We look forward to Pooja’s exciting plans (which will) help give a poetic voice to the community and (which will reflect) on contemporary issues youth care about.”

Nansi, a Young Artist Award recipient for 2016, sees this role as an opportunity “to reach out to a wider group of people and hopefully allow them to experience how poetry can be a relevant force in their lives”.

She has been working both in the literary scene as well as in education in Singapore for over a decade now, and this role “facilitates the perfect synergy of my two passions”.

“I strongly believe in the power of words to empower, and I do not think that it is a coincidence that many young people come to literature and poetry through mediums like spoken word or poetry slams. This is because poetry allows them a voice for their struggles and their stories,” she added.

Nansi was selected from among a pool of 10 poets, all aged 35 years or younger, and with extensive experience in spoken word poetry or published collections.

The applicants were judged based on their literary excellence, track records, strength of proposed programmes, and affinity to youth.

Shortlisted candidates were interviewed by a panel which comprised Loh Chin Ee, assistant professor of the English Language and Literature Academic Group from the National Institute of Education; Dr Tan Chee Lay, executive director of research and development from Singapore Centre for Chinese Language; Yeow Kai Chai, director of the Singapore Writers Festival; and Kuik Shiao-Yin, Nominated Member of Parliament.

The ambassador is expected to conduct at least six public literary programmes — such as workshops, poetry readings and mentorships — for aspiring writers. They must also pursue at least two professional development opportunities, including completing one manuscript.

The ambassador will also have access to resources to publish new work and will be featured at literary events such as the National Poetry Festival and the Singapore Writers Festival.

Nansi plans to work with the youth and her proposed line-up includes poetry workshops and poetry mural events.

Nansi will also be provided an honorarium and be able to tap into a budget of $18,000 for professional development and public programming.

Nansi taught at Temasek Junior College for nine years and at one point was head of Language Arts and English Literature. She also co-authored teaching resource Local Anaesthetic: A Painless Approach to Singaporean Poetry (2014) and has participated in the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival as well as other international arts events. She has since April 2013 been curating a monthly spoken word and poetry showcase, called Speakeasy, at Artistry on Jalan Pinang.

For her contributions to the arts, Pooja was awarded the Young Artist Award in 2016 and her one woman show You Are Here was programmed for Esplanade’s Kalaa Utsavam — Indian Festival of the Arts.

Nansi is also known for her strong social media presence, presenting her opinions on diverse issues, from taking TheSmartLocal to task for their video on Deepavali snacks to the US President’s win last year.

She pointed out the importance of having a constructive outlet for young people to give voice to their concerns. Such outlets, like poetry, music, dance or theatre, empower them to create conversations and reclaim narratives.

“I think we as a country need an urgent reminder of the importance of telling our stories and writing our stories and as a generation we need now, more than ever, to think about the kind of country we hope to have in the next 50 years of independence,” she said.