Tan Chee Lay
One of the most highly-acclaimed writers of his generation, scholar-writer Tan Chee Lay works as Associate Professor at the National Institute of Education in the day, and writes Chinese creative writing, calligraphy and paints in the night. A founding member of Poetry Festival Singapore and a judge of the Cultural Medallion and SEA Write Award, he was conferred the Young Artist Award, Singapore Youth Award and Golden Point Award.
As the George Lyndon Hicks Fellow at National Library, he enjoys researching into Nanyang literati and artists, and recently launched a webpage, VeryNanyang, to share and promote Nanyang cultures. A most prolific writer of various genres, he has published over 20 books of poetry, children’s picture books, short stories, and prose, the latest being Landmark Poetics of the Lion City (City Book Room), which won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2018.
Excerpt from Chinatown by Tan Chee Lay
once, bullock cart after bullock cart
brought the fount of life
has sunk its roots here
these roots are so deep
that even tongues gleam
the joss-sticks of the Hokkien people
are spread along Cantonese-speaking Tofu Street
at ease, they
refill and relight oil lamps
tell fortunes with moon blocks
worship gods with a genius for language
Poem translated from Chinese by Teng Qian Xi