The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English

By Rajeev S. Patke; Philip Holden | Go to book overview

11
Contemporary poetry 1990–2008

Overview

The contemporary poets of Southeast Asia bring to writing a cosmopolitan awareness of allusion and reference that aligns their best work with what is currently being accomplished by practitioners in English at the international level. Their role models are drawn not simply from their respective national pasts but from the virtual museum of world poetry. Most contemporary poets treat urban life as a mixed blessing. They evince little enthusiasm for the theme of nation building or the urge towards collective identity that preoccupied their predecessors. They are more interested in the consequences and implications of living in a world that is globalized and postmodern. The relation of writing to history might interest some, but many more are interested in the spatial dimension of their environments, and how that is transformed by migratory displacements and relocations. Very little of their writing is directly political in its commitment, although much of it is ethically self-aware, and many profess admiration for poets and writing practices derived from regions where the responsibility of bearing witness to trauma and violence in the public sphere has been of paramount concern, as in East Europe, South America and the Middle East.

In terms of the number of writers active in the genre, poetry probably takes second place to fiction in Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines; whereas in Singapore, it has retained a primary appeal for young writers, who turn to the genre in greater numbers than are drawn to fiction. Without counting publications from overseas-based Southeast Asians, a period of less than two decades, from 1990 to 2008, has seen the publication of over a hundred volumes of poetry in English from the Philippines, approximately the same number from Malaysia and Singapore combined, and the beginning of a much smaller but quite distinct new tradition of poetry in English from Hong Kong (and Macao). The issue is not one of mere quantity, but of interest and confidence in poetry as a vocation, and in English as the medium for that vocation, although for some it remains one among several viable linguistic options.

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The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English i
  • Routledge Concise Histories of Literature Series ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments x
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Historical Contexts 9
  • 3 - Linguistic Contexts 28
  • 4 - Malaysian and Singaporean Writing to 1965 43
  • 5 - Filipino Writing to 1965 62
  • 6 - Narrative Fiction 1965–1990 81
  • 7 - Poetry 1965–1990 100
  • 8 - Drama 1965–1990 125
  • 9 - Expatriate, Diasporic and Minoritarian Writing 137
  • 10 - Contemporary Fiction 1990–2008 151
  • 11 - Contemporary Poetry 1990–2008 165
  • 12 - Contemporary Drama 1990–2008 190
  • 13 - From the Contemporary to the Future 203
  • Works Cited 217
  • Guide to Further Reading 236
  • Glossary of Terms 252
  • Index 257
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