2017 Year 4 Literature Arts Integration with Ceramics

The first two Year 4 Visual Arts ceramics modules this year was crafted and assessed in collaboration with the Literature Faculty to further facilitate the student’s exploration and experimentation with symbols and symbolism employed as a poetic device and in ceramic works.

In analysing and extrapolating layers of meaning in both literary texts and ceramic, students deepened their conceptual grasp of symbolism in this multi-modal environment.

At junctures during the Visual Arts periods, Literature teachers referred to selected poems to discuss connections between the use of symbolism in the literary texts and ceramic. Among the various aspects of the poems discussed were the evaluation of effects created through symbolism. The selection of poems thematically made references to the human anatomy to draw parallels with the Visual Art investigation into votive offerings. Some examples of the poems discussed were My Father’s Left Hand by David Bottoms, Laundry by Ruth Moose, Heart to Heart by Rita Dove and The Fist by Derek Walcott.

Equipped with a clearer appreciation of how symbolism can be used effectively in poetry, students composed an original poem that aimed to demonstrate application of symbols while depicting anatomical conditions previously assigned to each student for a ceramic task. With the Literature teacher in this session, students brain-stormed concepts for the poem and discussed their approaches.

2017 Literature Arts Integration with Ceramics - Discussions 13

2017 Literature Arts Integration with Ceramics - Discussions 6

2017 Literature Arts Integration with Ceramics - Discussions 1

2017 Literature Arts Integration with Ceramics - Discussions 3

Towards the end of the ceramic module, the students shared a draft of their poem and provided insights to their inspiration and creative impetus during a follow-up session with the Literature teacher. During the discussion, students considered the connections perceived between the use of symbolism in both mediums in their role as potter and poet. Such processes were consolidated in their Visual Art research journal to document their developing thoughts.

Within another few days, students finalised their poems and accompanying rationale for the Literature Teacher to provide feedback. Around this time, the corresponding ceramic works were also being readied for firing.

Audrey Lum

Condition assigned: Ménière’s Disease

Ceramic Sculpture:
Ménière's Snail

Poem: Meniere’s Snail
Ménière's Snail



Meniere’s snail is a symbolic poem about the ear. The shell of a snail usually has a spiral pattern, which very closely resembles the auricle of an ear. The use of “slow and steady” in the first five lines is used to describe the pace of the snail, but it is also used to represent one of the symptoms of Meniere’s disease. Someone with Meniere’s disease would suffer from giddiness and imbalance, therefore slow and steady is used to show the patient’s ruminations while attempting to be stable. The repetition used also incites a sense of fear, and wariness and gives the reader the impression that the patient is trying to reassure himself. Another symptom is introduced when rain is mentioned, because the patient feels a sense of fullness, almost as though there is water trapped in his ear, therefore rain is used. The snail hides itself away from the rain, and this creates imagery of feeling trapped and alone. The word “silence” is used twice in the poem, hinting at the symbolism of the ear. “Crack” and “silence” in the last three lines shows how in being stepped on, the snail dies. This imagery is used to represent how “invisible” patients with Meniere’s disease are. Meniere’s disease affects the internal structures of an ear, and someone with Meniere’s disease, like the snail is not easily  recognized. The overall mood portrayed is somber with “threatened”, “afraid” and “silence” used.  The patient’s or snail’s fear and cautiousness with the environment is emphasized. The poem is structurally visual, and places an emphasis on the underlying context, which is the ear. The negative space of the structure creates a spiral, which represents the shell of a snail, linking the snail to the ear.

Isha Gupta

Condition assigned: Rhinophyma

Ceramic Sculpture:

Poem: Perspective


In this poem the symbolism used is a rhino put on display in a zoo. I used this symbol as I found that it successfully portrays the idea of people with rhinophyma constantly being stared at and distanced from society due to their affliction. Being trapped in a cage represents the alienation from others and confinement those afflicted face in society. The animals are kept in zoos to be viewed, discussed and judged by the public, which is what happens to those who have rhinophyma which disfigures the nose, an area which is in the centre of the face and attracts a lot of attention like the sight of a “rare creature” in the zoo. I chose a Rhinoceros as its horns best represent the enlarged nose caused by rhinophyma and in both cases the horn and nose becomes the defining feature of the animal or the person. In my poem I used imagery related to a rhinoceros such as “charging”, “hooves” and “bellows” (the sound a rhinoceros makes) with words such as “bulbous” which is one of the most common adjectives used to describe rhinophyma. About half way through the poem at the line “while parents and children gawk alike” the perspective of the poem changes from a visitor at the zoo to the rhinoceros itself. The visitor views the animal with amusement not really thinking much about or noticing the rhino’s distress, comparing the rhinos movement to dance however when the perspective switches to the rhinoceros and it can be seen that it is angry and frustrated, pacing rather than dancing, believing that the visitors will never truly understand them and they are just a “sight” to the visitors and nothing more. This contrast in views shows how society may think they are sensitive to those with disfigurements however small things like staring start to accumulate and emotionally weigh down those affected. Emphasis is brought to this change in viewpoint by the structure of the visual poem. The lines from the outsider’s perspective is aligned in the centre of the page however the lines from the animal’s perspective deviate from this and cut across the page breaking the order and thought process of the outsider. The zigzag structure at the bottom also represents the constant movement of the rhino in the cage from “left to right” and “right to left” out of suppression and the need to try to find a way out. This sense of movement is also seen in the first line “forward” and the last line “backward” which represent the everlasting struggle to get society to understand the emotional trauma of those affected but ending up nowhere due to the lack of communication seen in the poem as the visitors whisper and the rhinoceros bellow.

Selena Chua

Condition assigned: Takotsubo

Ceramic Sculpture:


Poem: Takotsubo
Deceptively reserved and flat,
It lies in tranquil, and in depth.
Beneath the rocky den it lay,
Waiting for the time to catch its prey.
With a sudden swing of its bendy limbs,
Its tentacles sucking out the life it seems.
A big beat pulse,
The fragile graspings.
A pumping squeeze
And the deep dark freeze.
Creeping back its way it goes,
That’s just how the cycle flows.

This poem depicts the experience of having the heart disease, takotsubo. As a translation of takotsubo is “octopus pot”, the octopus takes on symbolic significance in the poem and ceramic. Instead of having the octopus portrayed as the victim caught in an octopus trap, it is shown as the fierce predator. Through the imagery of the octopus grasping for its prey, parallels are drawn to the symptoms shown by this condition. With symptoms similar to a heart attack, the condition can cause the patient to experience sudden shortness of breath and unstable pulse. To portray this, the poem begins with a calm and tranquil atmosphere, with the octopus as the predator creeping up on its prey, ready to pounce on it. Suspense is intensified when the octopus appears from its hiding place. Described by the “big beat pulse” and “a pumping squeeze” to suggest heart palpitations, the sudden seizures parallels with  the sudden lurches of the octopus. The cunning and swift act of the octopus is portrayed in the ceramic votive, having its tentacles peeking out from the pot while its head stays hidden inside. The “cycle” that “flows” in the poem refers to a cardiac cycle. The ending of the poem suggests that the heart disease is reversible, thus similar to the retreat of the octopus. The woody and fibrous texture of the ceramic work symbolises the strength and endurance of the heart.


Writing the City Competition – Keeping the Memory Alive

In a special competition ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January 2015, Writing the City invites you to pen a piece on the theme of ‘The Importance of Remembering.’

Your entries can be in any setting, and in any time period throughout history, but they should relate to the reasons we remember the Holocaust.

By writing about and debating these issues and publishing them widely, it is possible to ensure that the importance of the Holocaust is not forgotten, no matter how many years pass, as memories are passed on to the next generation.

Judges will be looking for entries that are original, well crafted and thought-provoking.

Winners will receive the following prizes:

• First prize:  a Kinokuniya book voucher worth S$100, plus a Books Actually pack.

• First runner-up: a Kinokuniya book voucher worth S$40 and a Books Actually pack.

• Second runner-up: a Kinokuniya book voucher worth S$40 and a Books Actually pack.

Winners will also be given the opportunity to have his or her work at a special event to commemorate International Holocaust Memory Day, which will be attended by the British High Commissioner and the Israeli Ambassador to Singapore.

To take part in the competition, please pay close attention to all the rules and instructions on the Writing the City competition website and the posting guidelines.

Geoff Dyer at SOTA

On 6 November 2014, SOTA students and teachers had the opportunity to meet with Geoff Dyer at a speaker session organised by SOTA and the British Council in conjunction with the Singapore Writers Festival.

Geoff Dyer at SOTA 2

Geoff Dyer shared his pathways to becoming a writer where he began with contributing articles and reviews before crafting a full-length book of his own. With wit and humour, Geoff Dyer related that the next step after having his published book in his hand, was for others to have his published book in their hands. Over time, he wrote a number of books; four novels and seven books of non-fiction, which have won a number of literary awards and been translated into 24 languages.

Growing up in a non-literary household, Geoff Dyer explained that books allowed for his horizon to expand beyond his immediate surroundings and also helped him to understand people and how they grapple with issues in ways that his sum of personal interactions would not have brought to light. Repositories of knowledge such as libraries are therefore invaluable assets that people should continue to use.

Reading extracts from Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush and Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, Geoff Dyer shared anecdotal insights from his travels that were at once amusing and brilliant.

Poetry Responses by Year 3, 2014

The Year 3 SOTA students are studying poetry this term. As part of a creative reflective task, they were to write their own poem using Lesley Rigg’s poem “It may be necessary to apply a second coat”, they copied the structure and thematic concern as the “template” to explore the idea of parental and societal expectations and the pressure to conform that she discussed.

Highly personal, these poems were both inspirational and cathartic for the students at the same time. It also made them more aware of the mechanics of structure and metaphor. Some of them wanted to rebel against having to copy the poem and felt it went against their integrity or creative instinct, but realised in the end that it was precisely this pressure to conform which added depth, texture and to the poem itself and the writing of their own poems.

Mrs Dorcas Tirhas

It may be found necessary to apply a second coat

Lesley Rigg


He was

A wild young man

He couldn’t care

For what they thought, or said ––

He had his own ideas.

His looks provoked his father to protest:

‘In my young days

A man who dressed like that

Was not a man.’

His mother grew afraid

Of this fierce strange young man

–– her son.


He’s all right now

He has improved with age

‘I knew it –– just a passing phase

They all go through,’

His mother smiles.

He’s got a good, safe job,

A wife, a lawn-mower . . .

He’s alright now.


It may be found necessary to break this bottle

Charlotte Clarke

She was

A quiet young girl

She kept it all bottled in

For what they thought, or said –

She knew everything

Her achievements made her father proud:

“In my young days

I was

Just as great.”

Her mother wished for more

Of this quiet, strange young girl

She didn’t know.


She’s still the same now

She has not change with age

“No on knows – who she is

or what she feels inside”

Her parents shrug

She’s got secrets

She keeps all bottled in

She’s still the same now.


It may be found necessary to succumb to perfection

Maria Joan Antoaldina Dwiartanto

She was an artistic child.

She was more focused on everything else,

not the things that actually mattered.

At least according to what they thought, or said –

She had a reputation in her school,

as the girl who never quite qualified,

to be in that “smart class”.

“In my young days, I had grades of at least 80 and 90 percent,

and that should be your TOP priority”

Her mother was worried and disappointed

of this slightly blemished child

-Her daughter.


I see the effort now.

She’s working harder now.

She has improved over the years.

“I knew it – She always had something in her.

Just a passing laze, they all go through”

Her mother somewhat smiled.

She’s got somewhat good grades,

somewhat a good reputation,

I see the effort now.


It may be found necessary to oil the joints


She was

A stiff young woman

She did not desire

For what they gave, or offered –

She had her own ideas

Her ideas provoked her father to protest:

“In my young days

A woman who refused to think the same way

Was not a woman.”

Her mother grew embarrassed

Of this stuck strange young woman

– her daughter.


She’s all right now

She has loosened with age

“I knew it – just as passing phase

They all go through.”

Her mother stands proud

She’s got no creaks, loose limbs,

Working strings, a husband…

She’s alright now.


It may be found necessary to


He was

A conflicted young man.

He refused to acknowledge,

For what they thought or said –

He had to refute,

His nerve provoked his father,

“In my young days,

children listened to their parents.”

His mother vaguely could relate,

With this wild incongruous young man,

Her son.


He’s silent now,

He has ‘matured’ with age

“I knew it – just a passing phase,

They all go through,”

His mother could understand him,

He’s got a good listening ear, respect for elders,

Good relationships, doesn’t disagree at all,

he’s better now.


C:\ > Random Access Memory

Poetry Display on Fishtank

Among others, the following poems have been selected from the upcoming student anthology, Random Access Memory, published by SOTA’s Creative Writing Club and recently displayed around the school compound in conjunction with SOTA’s Arts Festival 2013.

Random Access Memory is a form of data storage that allows data to be accessed directly in any order, rather than requiring a specific order to reach the data.

Working with this idea in mind, the student-contributed poems in this anthology explore how human memories too are rarely accessed in a linear, reverse chronological order, but rather through a chaotic, volatile series of random events stemming from present stimulation.

The poetic form itself is a site for the poet’s memories, indirectly or otherwise, but as with RAM, the meaning remains ephemeral and transient, constantly changing as we revisit them. Be it reflections on emotions, or actual anecdotes, these poems trace the various modes which we use to access events that have passed, elucidating the manner in which we weave patterns and continually reshape past events in order to make sense of them.

The works are accompanied by the photographic works of a teacher and students, juxtaposed to create dialogue between two different mediums of memory documentation.

As viewers move around the school, it is hoped that these poems will spontaneously spark reminiscences about their lives, and in so doing become part of the ever-growing, ever-changing access pattern of their memories.

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 8

Wai Shoke Rei, Johannah/Yr2

Access memory storage

Memory folder: ALEX
Request denied
Request denied
Request denied

Backup data restore
Request denied
Command prompt:
retrieve corrupted files
Invalid command
Request denied

Information fragmentation restore
Launch program
Memory fragment added
Memory fragment added
Memory fragment added

Restore memory
Not enough information
Request denied

Create new folder
Rename: ALEX.2
Artificial memories added

Do you remember?
Please remember.

Request denied

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 14

Maya Alexandra Zitserman Wyse/Yr2

Steadily the thunderstorm
Ever shifting with dark eyes,
Rumbling, advances onward
Tentatively groping forward.
Overtaking flooded streets
And bearing down upon the buildings
Just a few blocks from me

Steadily the thunderstorm
Dark eyes penetrating, vast clouds rolling
Gliding, gliding

Steadily the thunderstorm
A shadow conquering the night.

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 11

Zachary Singson Dominguez/Yr2

I am a Philaporean.
There are many of us,
We speak Tanglish.
We love to use the word ‘lah.’
And we always say ‘ano ba yan!’
We also love food!
We never get irked by exotic delicacies
Which may be
To others.
We crowd around in hawker centres
And eat frog porridge, ox tongue and durian.
But we also eat balut, Kare-kare and puto.
We also have strong familial ties,
We often chastise and beat our children
Because we love them.
We are often confused
About which part of us
Is bigger
The Phil- or the –aporean.
But we leave our thoughts behind
Because whichever part is bigger,
It makes us who we are.

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 12

C:\>Prison for Artists
Megan Lim En/Yr 2

Shall I give you a tour?
This is a high-security facility.
We force them into cells –
Walls ooze with acrylic and poster
Trapped in a turpentine cleft.

The warden
Locks our hopes and dreams
Tosses the key away into
A never-ending abyss of self-praise and bigotry
We are never let out
Hollow-empty artworks line the cold, concrete walls
The artists painting them nothing more than shells.

We barely taste a morsel of inspiration
Left only with the taste of
Bitter, stark white paper
Forced to regurgitate a work of art.

The warden is back!
Hide your creativity
Protect your ideas
As he taunts and disparages you
Dragging your passion by the ear
To the guillotine.

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 6

C:\>What Hand
Shirin Keshvani/Yr3

Big, soft hand
Above my head
Rain skids off it

Strong, callous hand
Rough from typing
Wiping crust from eyes

Detergent infused hand
Prickly beard
Prickly words

Slobbering, lazy hand
Incompetent, incapable
Rain slips through the fingers

Stupid, dumb hand
Hard root vegetable is thrown
Its juices not on your hands

Strange, hairy hand
Foreign to touch
Sudden embargo on words

Hollow, empty hand
Blunt, blunt nails
Shiny, reflective, colour too blended

Pastel, dry hand
Rain slides off, yes
But touch-less, no fingerprint

What hand

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 5

C:\>origami people
Maria Chung Su-Yin/Yr 6

your smile might be meant for me
or any number of things
but when your lips unquirk as readily as
a sheaf of old paper
crumbles from disuse,

I know
I have not done this to you.

blame yourself
or no one
for letting them
pick you up
fold and unfold you,
now you are all marks and
brittle parts

I cannot fix
an envelope missing its letter,
have only clumsy fingers to smooth
the perforations and grooves
traces of someone before

can only be knowing that
you would still have to crease your bones
to fit mine.

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 15

Ryan Lim Yao Ming/Yr6

In you,
lies a solid shadow
Your granite heart protects and constrains
like dandelions thrown against a suit of armor
you cannot
and will not accept what you deserve

If eyes are the windows to your soul,
then your eyes reveal a darkness that muffles
a song,
a darkness that snuffs out the light
of your winter flame.

I do not need to see or touch
through the fabric of your cloak of demons
for I can feel
the gentle touch
of an infant that yearns
for life
for love.

your spirit is a candle
radiating a warmth that cradles a yearning heart
and I, a moth
whose soul, you light.

In the garden of your universe
please do not be scared
but be like a rose
and unfurl
the blossom of your smile.

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 13

C:\>Uninvited Guests
Morier Elizabeth Mae/Yr6

The mind is a dark cavern
Yet it experiences flashes of light.
There is nothing there,
Why do you insist on this illumination?

These cave paintings,
Prehistoric graffiti
Tainting my mind.

The authorities paint over it
But they seep through once more.

Why do the ugliest memories
Always find a way back
To our sacred sanctuaries?

The Houdini
That escapes from every prison

Giving light to what
You’ve tried so hard
To keep in the dark.

I am no God.
I cannot control nature.
I cannot stop these waves from
Crashing onto the shores of my mind.

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 16

C:\>The king’s aria

Waheedatul Shifaa Binte Jonoh /Yr6

He sits like a king on his throne,
on a foldable green chair

He commands his presence,
as they hurriedly walk past him

He calls on his subjects,
a saxophone
a drum

The sound of liquid gold, tarnished
The rhythm of the beating heart, off
It falls on deaf ears

Drowned by the grey cacophony
he loses his battle, yet he does not see

That he is not who he wishes to be,
a king’s jester.

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 3

Chin Chien Hui, Nicolette/Yr6

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

my heart grows fonder still.

In the years after you’ve left,
the people left behind
grow to love you
deeper than the present.

With each passing day,
memories of you take on
that special shine reserved for the dead.
But you don’t return;

the heart swells still.

So when our bodies grow frail
we will dance to our graves
with a heart so fond
we accept death with open arms.

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 2

Fayth Tan Hui/Yr6

there once was a boy

whose heart was wreathed in flowers.
in the springtime,
they would bloom in time with his heartbeat.

(happiness, like all things, is mortal.)

when he cried

his grief mixed with his lightning eyes.
in the clench of his fist,
the edges of his fingers stored thunderstorms

and gardens cannot live on saltwater.
in the barren remains,
a strangler fig sadness slowly hollowed out his heart.

(mortality, like all things, is inevitable)

there once was a boy

whose heart was wreathed in flowers.
in the springtime,
the wind breathed of his summertime soul.

BW Arts Fest Wynnie 9

Creative Arts Programme 2013 – Claire Chung

Every June, young literary aficionados gather at the Creative Arts Programme (CAP) to hone their creative writing skills, hear from practitioners from the writing world and ultimately to learn from each other. It is an opportunity for iron to sharpen iron.

This year, we are proud to have four SOTA students attending the CAP which theme is ‘Unearthing Truths.’ In this sharing, Claire Chung reflects on her learning points.

Five days of unearthing truths, analysing the written word, and experimenting with forms of writing I’d never tried before. Five days of inspiring lectures, brutally honest literary critiques, more food than I knew what to do with, and hilarious (and failed) attempts at singing.

At CAP 2013, our theme, ‘Unearthing Truths’, was addressed and explored so many times that I could easily have gotten tired of it, but I never did. The sheer scope and detail that each speaker brought to their analysis was extraordinary, and was what made the journey of unearthing truths so enjoyable.

During the programme, we were encouraged to write as much as possible and be open-minded enough to try new forms of writing and expression. And by “encouraged”, I do mean ‘”forced”, which was very helpful as it ensured that I gained the invaluable experience of writing prose for the first time under the guidance of local writers Jeffrey Lim and Stephanie Ye, as well as trying to make strange sounds that were definitely not in my vocal repertoire previously during a workshop led by a capella instructor Tobias Hug.

In our literary sharings (mine was facilitated by 2011 NAC-Golden Point Award winner Tania de Rozario), we were allowed to be critical and objective about each other’s works without having to worry about hurting any feelings, because we knew that the participants would take any comments as constructive criticism rather than personal slights. Luckily, there was never any instance where anyone abused the trust that other participants placed in them; on the contrary, everyone was so close to each other at the end of the five days that there were some very emotional farewells.

Personally, I felt that the most thought-provoking lecture was delivered by Professor Rajeev S. Patke, whose talk began not by delving (no pun intended) into what ‘unearthing truths’ meant, but rather by shedding light on what ‘earthing’, was, and by showing us, through various mythological examples, the significance of earth, the literal ground beneath our feet, and the foundation of our being. He also talked about how new ways of saying or phrasing prior knowledge, and how this knowledge is pieced together, can be considered the creation of new knowledge, and that when work is ‘discovered’ by the writer rather than ‘created’, then their ego is removed from the creative process, and writing becomes more than a purely selfish pursuit.

Perhaps one of the most important things I learnt at CAP is the role of the writer in the creation of the written piece; as phrased very succinctly by writer Paul Tan, ‘the poet is at the centre of the poem’. This concept was brought up by many lecturers, and I began to see that writing is a form of self-analysis, that the writer and poetic voice are inseparable, that focus and perspective are choices driven by emotion, that personalities are projected onto objects, that every story is connected, and that myths are an attempt to make sense of humanity. Armed with this new knowledge, I started to view my own writing with a new perspective, as I could see how my own thoughts and feelings had impacted my work, and try to utilise this new ability to create a better piece of writing.

Aside from this, there was just a great atmosphere of joy and camaraderie during the camp, as well as a slight feeling of manic energy (although that might have been due in part to 150 people in an enclosed space for 5 days). We were exposed to everybody’s quirks and eccentricities, and there was a sense of fearlessness as well, because there was endless room for silliness and experimentation, as well as moments of epiphany, and everyone went through that journey together. Besides the great inspiration, opportunities, and development in skill that the camp has afforded me, I think it was really the teachers, councilors and other CAP participants that made this experience special.

“You don’t think longingly about the Snickers of yesterday, because you’re already on to the Cheezels of today, and the Maltesers of tomorrow…” – the philosophical musings of Mr Marc Nair.

Below is one of my works submitted before the seminar, which I modified after attending CAP:


i. one

we are paper aeroplanes

that got wet and cannot fly.

we tear into jagged lines that

leave bruises at the seams

we are bone bending bone twining

muscle folding skin (face like my face

body like my body)

in our imagination

we freeze time like sorbet.

ii. two

yesterday I looked down and the distance between

your feet and mine was greater than

I remembered

I read you in spaces, in the shapes you make

with your un-elbow, what should be a perfect triangle

but is not, the gaps where my fingers should be

as your hand reaches for mine.

now, the expectant space beside you is

filled by a different smiling shape, and

I know

I have measured our time in silhouettes.


iii. cradle


we may be only wet paper now,

but soon we will be a gluedup

porcelain jar, because

cracks are a clear characteristic of ming


or circling tigers, cradling

between our jaws the strain

of years and knowledge

and shards of melting ice

that taste like lemon.

Creative Arts Programme 2013 – Ashley Hi ZhiQi

Every June, young literary aficionados gather at the Creative Arts Programme (CAP) to hone their creative writing skills, hear from practitioners from the writing world and ultimately to learn from each other. It is an opportunity for iron to sharpen iron.

This year, we are proud to have four SOTA students attending the CAP which theme is ‘Unearthing Truths.’ In this sharing, Ashley Hi ZhiQi reflects on her learning points.

With “Unearthing Truths” as the theme for this year’s CAP, we were prompted to find truths within ourselves or excavate truths from pieces of writing. We also have been urged to continue unearthing truths even after the seminar.

In a literary critique session led by Jason Lundberg, as a group of seminar participants, we sat together to give feedback to each other’s writing that we wrote before the camp as a pre-seminar task with the theme “Unearthing Truths”. Among others, I learnt that writing short stories require a different set of skills from writing novels. In novels, we are given the luxury of writing long expositions to include many details and have a longer development before reaching the climax. In short stories, writing is very succinct and has limited chance to add too much details as there is hardly time for much development before requiring to go straight into the climax. I also learnt that we can be creative in our approach to prose writing. For example, I learnt that it is okay to split my story into seven parts. It is also fine to write a prose just by using bibliographies like what Jason Lundberg once did.

In hands-on workshops, I acquired practical tips. For instance, in the workshop about plays by Ms. Verena Tay, I was reminded that factors such as the ‘how,’ the intention, the impact and the subtext need to be weaved together in building the matrix. Particularly, I should pay attention to the subtext which foregrounds the unsaid and helps to achieve the overall effect and objective. From Professor Rajeev S. Patke, I learnt that poetry bridges the incomprehensible and comprehensible through creative resources such as metaphor and personification. He also reminds me that acts of making are also acts of finding. The writing of poetry can be framed in the mind as a piece of work that I “found” rather than a piece of work that I “made.” This removes the ego attached to having made the piece of work when I consider myself to have found it instead.

At a profound session, Dr Cyril Wong discussed cosmopolitanism. This workshop was rather taxing because of its substantial and conceptual matter. In this session, I learnt that cynicism is a contemplative way of looking at life which reduces things in life to basic necessities to make you happy. Similar to cynicism, cosmopolitanism in writing provides a homology between literature and society. It is a stylised demonstration of society, which includes surrealism and detachment and in turn challenges the reader to want something better for the protagonist as the characters are constantly unhappy. This shows me that writing in this way can indirectly pull my readers to agreeing with me as cosmopolitanism reconnects on a different level and rethinks how interconnected we all are. The constantly bleak situation of the characters maybe a reflection of society. Readers who empathise with the characters are therefore reminded – as we often forget – that we all face similar problems and are united in humanity. Cosmopolitanism, as I understand it, shows the challenge faced by society and does not suggest a solution. It is also a conscious form of tolerance.

Besides the immersive experience with the literary arts, I also had the opportunity to dabble with performance arts because as writers we should also expose ourselves in other artistic expressions. The other workshops offered were A cappella, Comic Art, Photo Poetry, Drama, Mime and Poetry Slam. At first, I thought that poetry slam was a poetry competition where we talk in poetry or something. But afterwards, the workshop showed me that poetry slam is like performance poetry where we write poetry in a style for performance and actually perform it. I would say it is a mix of poetry and drama.

In the writing process, we were split into groups of five to write a poem based of a different perspective of the story of Icarus. A challenge I encountered was merging the widely divergent ideas that each of us have. As a result of this obstacle, we ended up pulling extra hours to work at it. But eventually when we got our poem out, the facilitator said that we did a very good job in getting the tone right.

For the performative stage, we had to actually do choral singing for one part of the performance but I think the facilitator found us so bad at it that instead of singing the words, all we had to do is recite the words. The performance was really fun as cool music effects and projections on the screen as well as light play were added. We also stood on chairs on stage to emphasise that we were “high up in the sky”. I found this exercise brilliant as everyone recited a part of the poem and it felt like all the spotlight was focused on that single person when he or she spoke. Everyone had their one minute fame.

While the CAP can be mentally and physically tiring, it is also thoroughly enriching and really very fun. However, it is of utmost importance to keep the passion for writing burning in order to make the most of the experience.

Below is the poem I wrote on my own before combining it with the others in my group for the poetry slam activity.

It was my choice.

Besides, there weren’t any other.

I chose the dope to replace

My father and mother.

And indeed there had been a tedious argument,

In my body,

In my soul.


How this stimulant taps

Right into the acute sensibility of the


With insidious intent,

Sending me to foreign levels high.

Bring me up.


At high,

The west wind cuts my hair

Cold and harsh.

But up here,

The sky is near.

I watch a tempest become a zephyr.


Extending arms which come as wings,

Stepping up on the ledge,

Feel victorious as kings.

As the heater sunrise

Colours me–

Melts away my case.


Rising here,

A step towards completion–

Full transcendence,

My life’s deletion.

Free from dependence in confusion,

Electrification. Immortality.

Creative Arts Programme 2013 – Megan Lim En

Every June, young literary aficionados gather at the Creative Arts Programme (CAP) to hone their creative writing skills, hear from practitioners from the writing world and ultimately to learn from each other. It is an opportunity for iron to sharpen iron.

This year, we are proud to have four SOTA students attending the CAP which theme is ‘Unearthing Truths.’ In this sharing, Megan Lim En reflects on her learning points.

At CAP, I had the privilege of attending many workshops of various literature genres, prose, play and poetry. They were held by esteemed authors such as Ms. Josephine Chia, Ms. Verena Tay and Mr. Nicholas Liu. We even had lectures from professors and Neil Humphreys on the theme of “Unearthing Truths”.

There were many pivotal moments during the camp for me. These are some:
1.  The extrapolation of the authors about their viewpoints of what “Unearthing Truths” means to them and the inspiration for their work.

2. Neil Humphreys’ memorable and hilarious lecture about how we can use humour to bring across political, social and environmental issues to a large audience.

3. The deepest and most thought-provoking Q&A sessions I’ve ever experienced.

4. My participation in performance workshops beyond writing activities – I was placed in an acapella workshop and I really had to get out of my comfort zone and sing.

5. The insightful comments received from the authors, counselors and my fellow CAP participants. They advised me on ways to improve as well as gave me tips on creative writing. Furthermore, many of the authors shared so much with me, giving me so much information in the 3-hour workshop. They talked about their work, ways to go about writing, main ideas when writing, inspiration etc. They also exposed me to various writing exercises like free writing (Jean Tay), writing from objects (Josephine Chia) and writing from a news article (Marc Nair).

6.  Debating over what is more important: Putting your truth/ideas out there or letting your readers interpret.

7. The open, honest and encouraging sharing of the authors which I will be forever grateful for. During the panel sharing “Poetic Excavations,” the authors even shared their first poems with us.

8. Going back to the basics, such as the foundation of a short story, a play and even back to simply finding inspiration for our poems.

9. Emphasising, experiencing and experimenting.

Josephine Chia shared this provocative statement, “Cease your searching my friends, for there is nothing to find.” Over the CAP, I’ve come to understand this quote and uncover its meaning – writing is not just a selfish pursuit, it is our interpretation of everything we want to share with the world or ‘unearth’. Writing is our sharing of the meaning that we put to the truths we try to understand. So there is ‘nothing to find’ because the truth lies around us and writing is our way of interpreting and conveying this message, be it for ourselves or to spread a message to the world.

‘There are no facts, only interpretations” – Mr. Nicholas Liu

Not only did I benefit from the intellectual stimulation and the vast amount of learning, I also had the opportunity to forge such great friendships with my fellow CAP participants. I had the chance to meet so many people with similar interests as well as the same passion for writing. We could switch from discussing High School Musical to discussing the recent workshops we attended. I made such close friends that cared for each other. Our orientation groups became our second family during the five days at CAP and all of us were bawling on the last day, unwilling to leave.

We had the best counselors who taught us from their experience and took such good care for us. The bonding we had among the CAP family was amazing, from the late nights to the group dynamics.  I am glad that I had the chance to meet such a great bunch of people.

A Short Story based on a Courts advertisement on washing machines in Ms Jean Tay’s workshop “Stories for the Stage.”

In their developmental pitch, my mum said that I was “a new advancement”, “breakthrough technology”, “a new age”.

Little did I know, she was also talking about the tens and thousands of my siblings, twins and cousins. Shipped, tossed roughly into a van and dragged into a dank dusty factory, surrounded by rows and rows of my kin, identical to me, I knew I was nothing special.

It shattered me to pieces.

I saw my mother order someone else, an unknown shadow in overalls to put the broken parts of her little boy together. Barely sparing a glance, she turned away, phone in hand and nose in the air.

She merely glanced at the man, dressed in the uniform of fluorescent yellow clashing with the slimy walls of black, making him seem like a working bee merely following the orders of the all-powerful queen bee.

“Destroy that faulty one would you?” the honey coated voice that sang praises about the same machines, treated each one of them like dirt.

I began to doubt her love for me, or for any of the others, all of us trapped and confined, hidden from our mother’s sight. Her ashamed creations that forced her to jabber rapidly on the phone, assuaging the voice on the other side that the children she had never paid any attention to were the ‘best and latest models’. Or telling the men and women in suits across the hall, in the room with the glistening tiles and white washed walls, that they could take her word for the quality of the machines she shut away in the recesses of her mind, waiting for the day she could shove them into trucks by the crate and ship them away.

After all, the only thing wrong with ‘that faulty one’ as she put it, or as her silver tongue once named it, ‘Pan 100B3’, was that he could not shut his lid.

So she threw him in the fire, burning the metal leaving the acid smell of a lost family member. Of course, her pale hands were squeaky clean she made others do her dirty work, made others take care of her ‘children’.

Her heels clicked on the floor, as she ignored the cardboard boxes labeled “Panasonic” and the muffled cries and screams of her rejects.

SOTA’s Creative Writing Club: Open Call for 2013 inaugural publication

SOTA Creative Writing Club:

Open Call for works for our 2013 inaugural publication



What is R.A.M.?

  • In computer terminology, R.A.M. means ‘Random Access Memory’ which is computer data storage that can be accessed in any order.
  • Because of this, R.A.M. can also be the ‘working space’ a computer needs for processing instructions that come in from your interaction with the software before you save it on say, the hard drive.
  • R.A.M. is thus transient, ephemeral, volatile, changeable, malleable – and ‘work space’ or ‘temporary storage.’



This Open Call will consider entries from Years 1 – 6.

Formatting Guidelines

  • 35 lines at most for poems and dramatic monologues.
  • The accepted forms of poetry are ballad, sonnet, free verse and haiku.
  • Haikus must be submitted as a series of three or more.
  • Prose submissions are subjected to a limit of 1500 words that can be an extract.

Writer’s Statement

A brief writer’s statement must be submitted with each entry.


The target deadline is 31 May 2013.

Entries sent during the June break will also be accepted for consideration.

Entries are be emailed to ramsota2013@gmail.com


The projected release date for the publication is September 2013.

It’s all true – except for the Facts by Minfong Ho

Having studied The Clay Marble in Year One, it was a great pleasure to meet with the author, Minfong Ho, in person and be provided with writing advice. Ms Ho enthralled the workshop participants with her stories about her own writing experience. Impassioned by her skill and love for writing, the students learned how to prize a private space for writing what matters most and from that honesty, nurture the impetus for another creative form to take root.

We are grateful to NAC for organising the annual Words Go Round and making possible the opportunities for students to be impacted at such workshops in profound ways.

9 March 2013 Minfong Ho 9

Megan Lim En shares her thoughts about her experience at the workshop:

The workshop gave me the opportunity to meet the author face-to-face. Through her guidance and teaching, I was better able to understand the various literary techniques writers actually use. Personally, I thought that authors sometimes use literary techniques without the actual intention of creating such effects, but Ms Ho shared with us about her deliberate use of these literary features to create effects for the readers’ enjoyment and understanding of the story, which was interesting because while reading, I never truly identify these features, however upon close analysis I realise how important these tiny details contribute to the story as a whole. Furthermore, she went through various techniques and pointers that were relevant to the literary components we study now, such as her elaboration on setting and point of view, I felt that this workshop gave me an understanding on how these theoretical aspects of literature we learn about in school are actually applied in the real world of writing.

9 March 2013 Minfong Ho 6

The notes or guidelines she gave us were very helpful as well, especially with the extra information she added in about how to write a story and the literary techniques that can be used to make a story better. Having an actual writer tell us about how literature is not only a school subject, but is still such an integral part of writing is great because sometimes we forget about this side of literature which is not just about memorising quotes and literary features but the understanding and appreciation of literature. I felt like it really showed me how much more literature could be, more than an academic subject, more than tests. Also, we were given the chance to read the works of our classmates, share opinions and listen to the advice Ms Ho had on how to improve the stories. This was an extremely enriching experience as I got to see an actual writer’s viewpoint on my work, which was also very cool. But to see such a professional viewpoint on our work gave me a new insight and understanding of how widespread and extensive the range of literature is.

9 March 2013 Minfong Ho 2

Ms Ho shared some personal stories about her writing career and finally hearing first-hand about the real-life experiences that authors undergo that inspire their books gave me a refreshing outlook on prose. The fact that these authors write prose based on such realistic experiences created a greater sense of connection with the writers as this reminds us that they are human as well and they all experience the same things that we do. This gives me a better appreciation for poetry too as I remember that these writers all have personal connections with their work.

She shared about how Sing to the Dawn was inspired by her homesickness and I felt that in knowing the background of her book, I was able to better understand and comprehend her work. Furthermore, finding out about the effort authors put into each literary work, be it literary features or structure, the intention is clear and meaningful. It really increases your appreciation for poetry and prose as you know that each phrase or word has a deliberate meaning that the author has worked painstakingly to create.

9 March 2013 Minfong Ho 8

The most important advice I learnt at Ms Ho’s workshop was the point she made about allowing and accepting critique or interpretation by other people. The various examples she highlighted showed me how we had to listen to the opinions of others and if the occasion calls for it, heed their advice and make amends to your work. I feel like sometimes I may have been stubborn and adamant about keeping my work as a sole effort of myself and avoid listening or accepting the critique of others. I think I should be more open to the opinions of others because many a times, other people can see what I alone cannot. They can point out flaws that I may have not seen or be willing to admit, which can only push me to make my work better. Ms Ho also added that in spite of all the critique of outsiders, we should also take it with a pinch of salt, evaluate constructive criticisms and have enough discernment to make the right decisions. In the end, we still have to trust ourselves, after all it is our story.

9 March 2013 Minfong Ho 10

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