Singapore workers’ poetry

There was a poetry competition for migrant workers some months ago which created a splash in the literary scene. With memories of the Little India riot still fresh in the national memory, it gave a voice to the migrant workers in a way that humanized them and made people stop to read what they had to tell the world.

Here are some of the submissions!submissions/c1559.

Two of my favourite stanzas:

The opening of ‘Pocket 2’ by Zakir Hussain Khokhon for its simple poignancy:

Still in the same world, we belong to different spheres
You on that side and me on this:
we can do nothing but remember each other
The memories of you and me hang like posters
on the wall of the Ekushe bookfair

and this section from ‘Oh Worker’ by He Shromik

Hungry, you watch at times
the poetry in the bird’s flight
Till now I have not said, O Workers
you are the best poets of the world
From the dust you build the civilised city

I’m glad that there was this initiative, as it adds another dimension to the activities that have been organised to allow for better bonding and more productive ways of entertainment for our foreign workers, which so far have comprised concerts and singing contests, etc. Many of the workers who contributed to this competition are published and prize-winning authors in their own right. Writing is a wonderful way to break down barriers, and I’m wondering what the possibilities for school involvement are. Would it be possible to have a joint activity between students and workers on poems? Could one of the workers conduct a poetry workshop for a class? Or a talk, after showcasing some poetry?

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