The Singapore Writers Festival honours the late Goh Poh Seng as this year’s Literary Pioneer. A poet, dramatist, novelist and a visionary ahead of his time, Goh was also one of the original architects of the arts and culture scene of Singapore holding positions in the National Theatre Trust and the National Arts Council, where he lay the groundwork for the building of some of our best known national arts companies such as the Singapore National Symphony (known as the Singapore Symphony Orchestra today), the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and the Singapore Dance Company.
Within the literary arts, he is credited as being the first writer to introduce Singlish to the stage with his play, When the Smiles are Done. His first novel If We Dream Too Long won the inaugural National Book Development Council of Singapore Award for Fiction (known as the Singapore Literature Prize today) and is considered by many to be the first English-language Singaporean novel.
In 1983, Goh staged David Bowie’s first concert in Singapore. When he invited Bowie and his musicians to their home for a performance by classical Chinese musicians, Bowie's band arrived without Bowie, who said that he did not “fraternise with concert promoters.” Goh Poh Seng’s blithe rejoinder “tell Bowie he’s only a rock star. I however, am a poet” compelled Bowie to turn up eventually. This exhibition hopes to capture and highlight key moments which demonstrated his dedication and rebel spirit that should continue to inspire us all.
Exhibition dates and venues:
26 Sep - 31 Oct — Punggol Regional Library, 4th Floor
1 Nov - 10 Dec — Funan, B2 (near Dunkin' Donuts)
11 Dec - 27 Dec — Heartbeat @ Bedok, Atrium 2
Check out these other Literary Pioneer programmes:
An audio-recording of this Exhibition by Lucas Ho:
More information about Goh Poh Seng can be found on the following websites:
- Official website of Goh Poh Seng
- Critical introduction and selected works on poetry.sg
- Critical introduction and selected works on prose.sg
- Profile on TributeSG
- 15 minute documentary on the late poet Goh Poh Seng directed by Almerinda Travassos
- Critical introduction to If We Dream Too Long by Prof. Koh Tai Ann