June 28, 2017

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by Joshua Ip

IN THE wake of all the controversy of the United States ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries, here is a human interest poem on the struggle of four immigrant ladies who traveled across the oceans and fought against the odds to make America great again.

An immigrant aged seventeen,
Mary MacLeod, sailed serene
From Glasgow to New York upon the SS Transylvania.
Her listed job: “domestic maid”
The fisherman’s kid scrubbed and stayed
Till she was naturalised with citizenship twelve years later.

Ms Knavs, from former Yugoslavia
Entered on a visit visa,
Found illegal jobs before she got her work credentials.
Twenty-six, she modelled
Five long years before she got her
Green card on her “extraordinary“ glamorous potential.

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Elisabeth Christ of Bavaria
Daughter of Anna Maria
Was a tinker’s child who wed eleven years her senior,
Friedrich, who promptly dodged
The draft and was compelled to lodge
A claim for US citizenship by unclear procedure.

Ivana Zelnickova
Born to Czech Marie Francova
In the tiny town of Zlin, showed talent as a downhill skier.
She traveled to New York to tout
The Montreal Olympics out
Found love, marriage and a new passport in eleven years.

What these girls have in common
Besides struggling from the bottom
Is that the USA is not their first nation of residence.
Immigrants of various
Legalities, they came to us
The mother, last wife, grandmother and first wife of the President.

 

Joshua Ip is a poet and founder of Sing Lit Station, a literary non-profit that organises Singapore Poetry Writing Month, Manuscript Bootcamp, poetry.sg and other activities to promote writing in Singapore.

 

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by Joshua Ip

AT THE “Singapore Perspectives” conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, 27-year-old lawyer-poet Amanda Chong accused the development of our arts infrastructure as (and here I begin to quote the Mothership article):

“… a branding exercise grounded in the desire to transform ourselves so we might be attractive to the world’, citing our beautiful galleries and museums as well as the government’s annual $700 million expenditure on the arts.

‘If we continue this trajectory of pursuing a global city built from the outside in while opening our doors wide to the world, we are ultimately closing the doors on ourselves… Singapore’s arts scene is important for our own sake. The arts should not just or even primarily be an instrument of the State to attract global talent.”

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In doing so, she drew the ire of Tommy Koh, but made a strong and strident argument for art for art’s sake. She made three points to back this up. I feel the need to further expand on the three points of her argument, as it seems inadequate to me. In the spirit of “Cabinet Battle” from Hamilton, I have crafted my retorts in a hip-hop beat:

 

1. The arts teaches us to be more mindful of dissenting views that exist, and enrich our understanding of the truth.

The arts assists the state to be more mindful of those
who must persist in making noise, who try to oppose;
it gathers them in easily-observable groups
so everywhere they feasibly go, Big Brother snoops.
Dissenting views enrich the few with faux independence,
so call a poetry reading and just take the attendance!

 

2. The arts helps us to see other members of our society as equals and as humans, not as objects to be dealt with.

The arts helps us to see other society members
as inspiration for our literary adventures;
Prostitutes or prisoners or even the Prime Minister
are equal opportunity protagonists in literature!
They won’t object to be subjected to our prolificity,
from nothing, we make something, we’re increasing productivity!
Human interest stories might be individually worthless;
we can monetise them if we just put the right word first!

 

3. The arts can contribute to the national conversation about our future in a meaningful way.

The arts can contribute to conversation.sg,
by making richer countries think that we are so edgy.
Unlike third world regimes that can be much more demanding
we never censor arts, we only pull back our funding!
If liberals want to gibber about freedom and passion
the free grants that we give will be our kneejerk reaction!

So what is wrong, Amanda Chong, with art not for art’s sake?
Observe the upward market curve that all of us partake.
We started with a junket to take part in this whole damn response
to marketing a market and its artificial Renaissance:
if foreign talent is inherently arts-obsessed,
why can’t our parent-state apparent fake its interest?
So Amanda, I contend there’s nought to contend with,
its fine to sell your soul but please just make it expensive!

P/S: (She plays the part of starving artist slightly too well:
please give her book a look at the attached URL.)

 

 

Joshua Ip is a poet and founder of Sing Lit Station, a literary non-profit that organises Singapore Poetry Writing Month, Manuscript Bootcamp, poetry.sg and other activities to promote writing in Singapore.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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by Joshua Ip

AMOS, Amos why so famous?
Now the whole world come and blame us
New York poster boy for free speech
Human rights all come and preach preach

Insult PM Iron Lady
Go to jail enough already
Offend all diverse constituents
Regardless race or religion

Troll so many, kena summon
Little boy versus the gahmen
Goliath overcompensating
But David damn irritating!

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Delinquent on a new scale leh,
but irritant must throw in jail meh?
Obscene video? But who say so?
Who’s aroused? Just bloody kaypohs

Sentenced ready finished doneded
Still dunno whose feelings wounded
Must be forum uncle write crap
Can’t control, give you one tight slap

Try to teach you lesson, fail
End up ownself go to jail
Martyr conscience funny fella
Self compare Gandhi Mandela

Sent to Woodbridge super frightened
(Out already, go asylum?)
People come support protest you
Then you claim bailor molest you

Tell the press you will say sorry
Laugh at them from lavatory
One time arrest not sufficient
One more time insult religion

Go to jail this sounds familiar
Qualify as conscience prisoner
Give up freedom days a few less
Secret scheme to go to US

Anarchism communism
Any pattern suits your jism
Change your thoughts like change your deh kor
Wan to siam NS just say lor

Shee shee shor shor coca cola
Wan to caogeng then say so lah

 

Joshua Ip is a poet and founder of Sing Lit Station, a literary non-profit that organises Singapore Poetry Writing Month, Manuscript Bootcamp, poetry.sg and other activities to promote writing in Singapore.

 

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by Joshua Ip

Twenty years after humiliation
A nationalist strongman shouts defiance,
And vows to marshal his resurgent nation
Westwards past a crumbling alliance.

A waning oceanic superpower
Believing itself safe across the seas
Wants to be great again, decides the hour
Has come to turn inwards, withdraw, appease.

A league of nations formed to end all war
Instead becomes the system that effects it
By gathering to veto and ignore
The stormclouds. One by one the nations brexit.

A tribe of people from the Middle East
Wander through Europe. Men perpetuate
Stereotypes that spread and do not cease.
Easy to rail against, easy to hate.

“Countries aren’t what they used to be.
These immigrants! Now, wasn’t it much better
When the neighbors were as fair as we?
Our heritage requires a defender.”

A rising Asian nation eyes the treasure
All around it: living space, resources;
Preaches co-prosperity, and as the
World goes mad elsewhere, builds up its forces.

Local strongmen chafe at the restraints
Imposed on them by neo-imperialists.
The economic system’s skewed with taint.
The winners win. The losers seethe and hiss.

All diplomats uphold this orthodoxy:
Conflict should be nicely outsourced rather
Than directly waged; thus war by proxy.
Of course, one thing does not lead to another.

Everybody learned thinks a war
Lasts just a week. Is localised. Not here.
We’ve seen the horrors of world war before.
It’ll never come to pass. That much is clear.

But all the wheels are turning and in motion
And most of us are merely passengers.
Will someone strike the flint of charged emotions
And shoot an archduke or ambassador?

 

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by Joshua Ip

In 2016 Singapore lives in a cloud of fear
Where cyber-vigilantes now police the public sphere
No need for courts, due process, or a neutral media —
Our country is in thrall to a brigade of bao tou kia.

They lurk around the Internet like trolls lurking in grottos.
They’re scared to show their faces, so they have no profile photos.
Their favourite trade is loud tirades cloaked in obscurity.
They’re noisy but they like to shout “silent majority!”

Who are these shady characters, so dank and sinister?
Why do they like to complain every day to Minister?
These keyboard warriors guard the gates, so deeply paranoid,
Because they have no life, they must delight in schadenfreude!

See something they’re not happy with? A show they won’t attend?
Then no one can attend it! Asian values! Must defend!
One rambling complaint post from them with incoherent grammar,
Then some poor civil servant has to deal with all the clamour.

See one book they don’t like? Triggered! Offended! They must help!
Just swarm the NLB with complain letters – penguins pulped!
See happy LGBTs holding picnic in a park?
Insinuate that foreigners have motives deep and dark!

Our government in all its wisdom, rules with a soft touch:
By which it means that one complaint is one complaint too much.
So opaque unelected private Internet dark forces
Can overturn a public and transparent artist process.

Social media amplifies both rage and influence.
Before it, we lived with more tolerance (or ignorance.)
Raised our kids how we wanted to and left others’ alone.
This is what happens when you give kaypohs a megaphone.

 

Joshua Ip is a poet and founder of Sing Lit Station, a literary non-profit that organises Singapore Poetry Writing Month, Manuscript Bootcamp, poetry.sg and other activities to promote writing in Singapore.

 

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by Joshua Ip

An old white guy called Bernie
Made some comments to the press
Without asking his attorney
Now he’s cleaning up the mess

“Look what we did for Singapore!
Before we came along
They were only an airport
That you flew to or flew from.”

Before that we were just
A fishing village in the sea –
So thank you for your business:
You can take back your Grand Prix.

F1’s been leaking viewers
Like a punctured fuel tank
200 million fewer
putting money in your bank

Attendance dropped 15 per cent
From ’15 to ’16
It seems the wheels are coming off
The Formula One machine

You called us the “crown jewel
When you wanted to move here
It doesn’t hurt that we accrued you
60 million a year

And now Malaysia’s had enough
Brazil has got cold feet
If you’re trying to bluff
You’re barking up a one-way street

If you liked your one night race, see,
you’re gonna have to pay
Or say bye to the 23
turns of Marina Bay

Too late now to backpedal, brake,
bail out the words you say
Or make the claim your “words were taken
In a funny way”

You could have maybe figured
That the nation feels the Bern
Well, the hiatus is triggered
Let‘s let Brunei have its turn!

 

Joshua Ip is a poet and founder of Sing Lit Station, a literary non-profit that organises Singapore Poetry Writing Month, Manuscript Bootcamp, poetry.sg and other activities to promote writing in Singapore.

 

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by Joshua Ip

In order that we will not have to roam
two miles down rifle range in search of dark,
or circle round the lots of Kent Ridge park
to find a spot; that rooftops may be home
to birds alone, that smokers may have stair-
wells to themselves, that public toilets might
be less mysteriously occupied,
that cinephiles need never turn and glare,

we humbly bid the government erect
more libraries. Since all books lead to sex,
the inevitable best place to shag
is back against the shelves or on the stacks –
and there, we’ll find our private cul-de-sacs
to make the beast with many paperbacks.

 

Joshua Ip is a poet and founder of Sing Lit Station, a literary non-profit that organises Singapore Poetry Writing Month, Manuscript Bootcamp, poetry.sg and other activities to promote writing in Singapore.

 

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by Joshua Ip

IN 2020 all the schools agreed to fight a crisis:
A monstrous insurgency more virulent than ISIS
A pedagogical distraction from the goals they’re reaching
The number one obstruction to good schooling is GOOD TEACHING.

It’s too labor-intensive. Doesn’t meet clear KPIs.
Technology is not exploited in this enterprise.
One staff for forty students, can you multiply the cost?
Spend so much time with children, then who spends time with the boss?

If you’re standing in the classrooms, who will sit on all the comms?
If you try to teach them lessons, who will fill in all the forms?
You look at all these teachers – where are their priorities?
How can schoolwork be more crucial than school anniversaries?

Experiments have proven if you take a Sec 4 class
And fire all their teachers – teaching will not help them pass –
Play tuition centre advertisements five hours a day
Their grades will drastically improve, hip hip hip hip hooray!

No need for any marking. Work life balance will improve!
Co-curriculars excel when the curriculum is removed!
Don’t worry about scaffolding, leave each student to each –
every school’s a good school when it doesn’t have to teach!

The School just has to make them Think, no need to make them Learn
The Nation will help out (depending what the parents earn)
We’ll mould our students’ minds like pots, well-rounded as they spin,
And empty in the middle. Someone else can fill them in.

 

Joshua Ip is a poet and founder of Sing Lit Station, a literary non-profit that organises Singapore Poetry Writing Month, Manuscript Bootcamp, poetry.sg and other activities to promote writing in Singapore.

 

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by Joshua Ip

THE rubberstamp cannot anyhow anyhow stamp.
The rubberstamp cannot ownself ownself stamp.
Even if rubberstamp suddenly dowan to rubberstamp
Got people tell him stamp then he must stamp. 

Just in case he stamp wrongly better mark a cross
point finger put the Post-Its so he can double
confirm chop stamp rubberstamp. Of course
The best rubberstamp stamps without causing any trouble.

The life of a rubberstamp is very very siong.
So every now and then must take out the list
Of things he must rubberstamp and tolong tolong
unstamp some stamps so he don’t sprain his wrist.

The rubberstamp must look like a rubberstamp.
The rubberstamp must have the proper brand.
The rubberstamp must appear as rubberstampy
And friendly as the nice KFC man.

The rubberstamp is part of the stationery.
You put him in the filing cabinet he must blend in.
The stationery comes in a set and is not solitary
ownself anyhow ask for homework then ownself hand in.

But everybody must say this is my rubberstamp.
It must be a good rubberstamp world best rubberstamp.
Got stamp many things before that kind of rubberstamp.
Not just watch other people stamp but must ownself stamp rubberstamp.

Not just stamp small one but must stamp bloody big rubberstamp.
How big is big every few years must compare than restamp the rubberstamp.
Until last time all the rubberstamp also not as big as next time rubberstamp.
If rubberstamp wrong colour every now and then also must change rubberstamp.

Wah.

The life of a rubberstamp maker is very siong.
Anyhow make people also anyhow say wrong.
Actually rubberstamp so retro, so has-been.
Maybe we should just buy a brand new photocopy machine.

 

Joshua Ip is a cheem poetry writer. His girlfriend says he should try to be less cheem, so liedat lor.

 

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skillsfuture_300x250

Zika zombie apocalypse, Ipster

by Joshua Ip

BLOCK 102 Aljunied Crescent – where it all began
Where patient zero hit the ground, and shuddering, rose again
The woman moaned an undead groan that echoed through her flat
A female mozzie bit her, and moved on – and that was that.

The lone mosquito buzzed her way down storey after storey
Zoomed in on a construction worker housing dormitory
And made her bloody evening meal without wiping her mouth
On forty resting workers – that’s where everything went south

It began with fever, spreading rashes, muscles and joint pain
All symptoms of the virus taking root inside the brain
The dormitory door swings forth, they spilled out like a flood
Inheriting the humble mozzie’s taste for human blood

They tackle blur pedestrians and sink teeth into their veins
Saliva enters bloodstream as their victims scream in pain
Then scream turns into moan as yet another anguished soul
Reanimates as one more hungry, shambling, mindless ghoul

Citizens flee as this slow-moving plague spreads into Geylang
Aided by zombie mosquitoes sucking fresh blood like tulang
Soon walkers of the night are wall to wall in every lorong
Shambling shoulder to shoulder in an undead gotong royong

The Singapore Police, although no longer wearing shorts
Are ill equipped to fight mosquitoes, let alone a walking corpse
Their short-sleeved shirts do not avert a single buzzing bite
So they call in the whole army, change to long four! Overnight!

Rumors spread faster than the zombie curse: “It’s pandemonium!
They’ve makaned all Old Airport Road! They’re swarming past the Stadium!”
The generals curse, they fear the worst, their orders are chapalang:
“Blow the Merdeka bridge, my boys! We’ll hold them at the Kallang!”

An overstretched defence line forms along the CTE
North to Seletar Reservoir, South to the PIE
Then southwards down the Kallang till it forms Marina Bay
For Serangoon is all walking, and Hougang not far away

And all the East is teeming with an undead zombie mass
Survivors flee to MRTs for evacuation west
The Changi Airport fences are a temporary haven
The government mounts a rescue effort by 747

Across the river, NSFs don their chemical defence gear
The bite of an undead mosquito is their greatest fear
The buzzing is now audible, their hearts are all a-flutter…
Till Bzzt! Steps forth an auntie armed with an electric swatter.

“Ah boy, mian kia! Auntie lai liao!” At every battle station
The line is reinforced by our pioneer generation
Dual-wielding Baygon tubes, swinging swatters about
Uncles and aunties doing the 5-step mozzie wipe out

The NSFs advance, the human army of the west
Headshotting zombies with their skills drilled in an FPS
They pause to put down a brigade of infected zombie otters
While all the aunties empty out the pools of stagnant water

Our scientists send sterile mozzie males on the attack
Because poor Singaporeans are not known for having sex
They will cockblock the zombie stock, their numbers will not grow –
Reduce the mozzie TFR to under 2.0

Between the science and NS boys and aunties on patrols
The living push the dead back into Pasir Ris-Punggol
We’re winning, cry the analysts, observing their diagnostics
As an active-aging grandma crushes mozzies with her chopsticks

And as the armies finally establish their position
Some minister thinks: “Ah, Aljunied. Can blame the opposition.”
But in his ear, the buzzing whisper of a helpful aide:
“Sir, cannot lah, Aljunied Crescent’s in Marine Parade”

 

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