Women Writers of Malaysia and Singapore

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PART ONE: POETRY IN ENGLISH

The fact that it is possible to publish a bibliography of women's poetry and fiction in English from Malaysia and Singapore signifies two major shifts in literary production there which have developed over the last quarter of a century: 1) the acknowledgment and inclusion of women poets and authors; and 2) the quite widespread use for creative writing of English along with native languages.

Both of these changes are due to educational reforms which took place after Malaysian independence when Singapore was still a part of the Federation of Malaysia. When they became two separate countries, both continued to emphasise the importance of education and both opened their classroom doors to girls. Because of this commitment to educating all their citizens, the literacy rate for females in both countries jumped dramatically.

The schools also included instructional training in English, and today more and more writers in both countries are at ease using that language. However, there has been a growing concern that by writing in English, many of the countries' authors and poets are losing the nuances that their own native tongues provide. English was brought to Singapore and Malaysia by the British, and it is seen more as the oppressor language. Therefore, it is argued, it cannot adequately describe the genuine experiences of the people. On the other hand, some argue that the use of English makes work accessible to people outside Southeast Asia who might never otherwise have been exposed to such writings.

This bibliography is, therefore, an attempt to identify the current pieces of literature available to an English reading audience. The first section covers poetry, and the next issue of Hecate will include women's works of fiction. The majority of these poems and short stories were originally written in English, but some have been translated from Chinese, Tamil, and Malay.

DAN YING

Born in 1943, her real name is Madame Lew Poo Chan. She is known as one of the best women poets writing in Chinese.

-----. "The Fragments of a Cliff." Wong Meng Voon. 34-36.

The poet identifies herself as a cliff, dependent on another to appeciate its worth.

-----. "Poems of Taiji," Wong Meng Voon. 31-33.

She searches for the true meaning of Tai-ji or the Supreme Ultimate by examining Buddhist symbols and their meaning in her life.

HENG, GERALDINE

-----. "For Anais Nin." Thumboo. 34.

She is so much a "wispy, tiny" woman that she disappears if not treated gently enough.

-----. "Images of Love." Thumboo. 50-51.

Her lover is like a clear pool untouched by those around him, and it is too easy for her to see him this way, forgetting the stones that lurk beneath the surface.

-----. "Little Things." Thumboo. 76.

Written during the Chinese Moon-cake and Lantern Festival, the poet speaks as a child lit up by the colors, sounds and lanterns of the festival, as a child whose glow remains as long as she is young.

-----. White Dreams. Singapore: Woodrose Publications, 1976.

LAM, AGNES

-----. "Comsie." Commentary. 7.4 (1987): 47-48.

-----. "Concert." Singa. 17 (1988): 78.

-----. "The Echo of Your Footsteps." Singa. 17 (1988): 48.

-----. "Holiday at Home." Singa. 17 (1988): 61-67.

-----. "Smiling Eyes." Singa. 17 (1988): 49.

-----. "Woman to Woman." Commentary. 7.2 and 3 (1987): 121.

-----. "Yuppy Water." Commentary. 7.4 (1987): 47-48.

LEE GEOK LAN

This poet was born in 1939 and educated at the University of Malaya.

-----. "Batu Road." Wignesan. 46.

A marketplace for envy and complaints and the selling of bodies.

-----. "Credo (To-)." Wignesan. 44.

An attempt at understand the use of prayers and songs and the "pulse-beat" of her faith.

-----. "Cross-Roads. Wignesan. 45.

The poet does not find comforting worship in the preacher's words, but in her own awaiting of fate. …