Pooja Nansi, the 35-year-old creative writing teacher at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and author of poetry collections Love Is An Empty Barstool (2013) and Stiletto Scars (2007), has been appointed as the island’s inaugural Youth Poet Ambassador (YPA) for 2017 - 2018. The YPA programme was initiated by the National Arts Council as part of a wider strategy to deepen the role that literary arts can play in shaping Singapore’s society.
Nansi sees her new role as a continuation of her career and personal interests. She says: “The YPA role will enable me 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.”
“I have been working both in the literary scene in Singapore as well as in education 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.”
We are excited with Pooja’s plans to work with the youth including a Reading Poetry workshop and Poetry Murals. [MT1]
“Poetry, like music, dance, or theatre, provides a constructive outlet for young people to give voice to their concerns and empowers them to create conversations and reclaim narratives,” she says.
“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.”
Nansi will also be given opportunities to publish new work and read poetry at public events for a period of two years. She will be provided an honorarium and able to tap into a budget of $18,000 for professional development and public programming.
Nansi was selected from among a competitive field of poets aged 35 years or younger, with extensive experience in spoken word poetry or published collections. The applicants were judged based on literary excellence, track record, strength of proposed programmes and affinity to youth. Shortlisted candidates were interviewed by a panel which comprised Asst. Prof Loh Chin Ee of English Language and Literature Academic Group from National Institute of Education, Dr Tan Chee Lay, Executive Director of Research and Development from Singapore Centre for Chinese Language, Mr Yeow Kai Chai, Director of Singapore Writers Festival and Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, Nominated Member of Parliament.
Nansi’s appointment as the YPA had positive responses. Says Ms May Tan, Acting Director, Literary Arts, NAC: “ It was heartening to note that many talented poets were willing to step up to this role and put in an application for this Programme. These poets represent a generation of young writers who are passionate about making poetry more accessible to all and deserve to be commended. We look forward to Pooja’s exciting plans to help give a poetic voice to the community and reflecting on contemporary issues youth care about.”
A co-editor of Little Things: An Anthology of Poetry and an assistant professor at the English Language & Literature Department of the National Institute of Education, Loh Chin Ee, says: “Pooja's appointment as Singapore's first YPA will only amplify the good work that she is already doing to promote poetry in Singapore.” She adds: “She is a sensitive writer, a thoughtful educator and an encouraging mentor whose unflinching passion for poetry and people will make her an inspiration for young poets and others who have yet to begin to read and write poetry.”
Shiao-Yin Kuik, director of social enterprise The Thought Collective, concurs. She says: “Pooja Nansi's bold lyricism and emotional honesty draw in young people who would not normally care for the arts. We believe she will make an excellent YPA not just for her capacity to build bridges with new audiences but her desire to uplift other voices in the community.”
Edwin Thumboo, a Cultural Medallion winner for Literature, acknowledges the merits of the programme. He says: "“This initiative by NAC should contribute powerfully to the growth of exciting, enduring writing in Singapore. The first YPA, Pooja Nansi, given the work she has achieved in both depth and variety, will most likely produce a memorable body of poetry during the period of ambassadorship. She will not only write but help others to do so, drawing on her considerable experience and remarkable energy.”
For his part, Neil Murphy, Associate Professor of English Literature in NTU, says: “Pooja is a strikingly gifted poet, a deeply committed literary enabler, and a tireless champion of innovative young voices; she’s an inspired choice for Youth Poet Ambassador in Singapore. It is gratifying that such an important Singaporean poet is recognized in this manner.”
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 at Artistry on Jalan Pinang called Speakeasy[MT2] . 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.
The YPA programme is initiated by the National Arts Council (NAC) and managed by the Poetry Festival (Singapore), formerly called “National Poetry Festival.” About National Arts Council (NAC)
The National Arts Council champions the arts in Singapore. By nurturing creative excellence and supporting broad audience engagement, we want to develop a distinctive global city for the arts. With a nod to tradition and an eye to the future, we cultivate accomplished artists and vibrant companies. Our support for the arts is comprehensive – from grants and partnerships to industry facilitation and arts housing. The Council welcomes greater private and corporate giving to and through the arts so that together we can make the arts an integral part of everyone’s lives. For more information on the Council’s mission and plans, please visit www.nac.gov.sg.
About the Poetry Festival (Singapore) [PF(S)] PF(S) offers a multilingual, multicultural, multi-generational platform for poets and poetry enthusiasts in the appreciation of the art of poetry in Singapore. NPF aims also to develop the written and spoken word in the island’s four official languages and to organize events and activities related to the literary arts. For more information, please visit http://www.nationalpoetryfestival.sg/ or https://www.facebook.com/nationalpoetryfestivalsg/.
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