Boey Kim Cheng

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Boey Kim Cheng
Poet Boey Kim Cheng at Nanyang Technological University, 2013
Poet Boey Kim Cheng at Nanyang Technological University, 2013
OccupationPoet, Teacher
Alma materNational University of Singapore
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese梅健青
Simplified Chinese梅健青
Hanyu PinyinMéi Jiànqīng
Hokkien POJBôe Kiānchheng

Boey Kim Cheng (梅健青; born 1965) is a Singaporean Australian poet.[1]

As a student, Boey won the National University of Singapore Poetry Writing/Creative Prose Competition and has since received the National Arts Council's Young Artist Award (1996). He taught creative writing at the University of Newcastle in Australia from 2003 to 2016.[2] In 2016, Boey joined the Nanyang Technological University, where he is Associate Professor at the School of Humanities, but recently stepped down as Head of its English department in 2020.[3]

Early life[edit]

Boey was born in Singapore in 1965. He received his secondary education at Victoria School and graduated with Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Arts degrees in English Literature from the National University of Singapore. In 1993, he won a scholarship from the Goethe-Institut to pursue German. He was sponsored by the United States Information Agency to attend the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Boey embarked on a doctoral program with the National University of Singapore which he later discontinued. He entered the workforce and was employed by the Ministry of Community Development as a probation officer.

Disillusioned with the state of literary and cultural politics in Singapore, Boey left for Sydney with his wife in 1997 and became an Australian citizen.[4] He completed his PhD studies with Macquarie University.

Literary career[edit]

In 1987, while studying as an undergraduate, Boey won the first and second prizes at the National University of Singapore Poetry Writing/Creative Prose Competition.[5] At age 24, he published his first collection of poetry. Somewhere-Bound[6] went on to win the National Book Development Councils (NBDCS) Book Award for Poetry in 1992. Two years later, his second volume of poems Another Place received the commendation award at the NBDCS Book Awards. In 1995, Days Of No Name, which was inspired by the people whom he met in the United States, was awarded a merit at the Singapore Literature Prize. In recognition of his artistic talent and contributions, Boey received the National Arts Council's Young Artist Award in 1996. After a long hiatus, Boey returned with his fourth volume of poetry in 2006. After the Fire deals primarily with the passing of his father in 2000. Boey's works have also appeared in anthologies like From Boys to Men: A Literary Anthology of National Service in Singapore, Rhythms: A Singaporean Millennial Anthology of Poetry and No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban Poetry. In 2009, Boey released a book of travel essays and autobiographical reminisces, Between Stations, and in 2012, Boey returned with a fifth volume of poetry, Clear Brightness, which was selected by The Straits Times as one of the best books of 2012.[7] Boey returned to Singapore in 2013 as one of the Nanyang Technological University's writers-in-residence.[8] In 2014, he co-edited the anthology Contemporary Asian Australian Poets.[9]

Boey's works are highly regarded by both the academic and writing communities in Singapore.[10] Writer Shirley Lim remarked that he is the "best post-1965 English language poet in the Republic today",[11] while Lee Tzu Pheng said: "I think he's the finest poet we've ever produced. The themes and existentialism of his writing, I've never seen anyone in Singapore who could write like that."[citation needed] His own sense of restlessness about his life in Singapore is reflected prevalently in his poems. According to him, Singapore's rapid growth and his swift economic success were achieved at a cost. His feelings of displacement and disconnection with the past occurred precisely because places where one experienced his or her sense of belonging are now gone.

Angelia Poon argues that Boey's poems have "wrestled with the idea of travel as an inevitable part of poetic being and negotiated the multiple meanings of place as geographical location, private memory, personal association, and past fragment".[12] Besides travel, family plays a large part in Boey's poems–in particular, the figures of his deceased father and grandmother. Boey says that his poems about them are "attempts to memorialize them, to deal with their disappearance. It’s like giving myself a second chance, for me to see them, and they to see me, in the light of what has passed. With forgiveness. And love. You are afraid to lose them, the images, the very sense of who they are."[13] At the same time, Boey resists the label of 'autobiographical poet', describing himself as a "poet of experience".[14]

Boey's poems are on the A-level syllabus for English literature in Singapore.[15] His poem "The Planners" was included in the international O-level Literature in English and International General Certificate of Secondary Education syllabi from 2013 to 2015, and 2017 and 2018, while "Reservist" will be tested from 2017 to 2019. In addition, the New York University Sydney has Boey's Between Stations on its reading list.[16]

In 2014, Boey served as one of the English Poetry judges for the Singapore Literature Prize.[17] In October 2017, Boey's first novel, Gull Between Heaven and Earth, a fictionalised biography of Chinese poet Du Fu, was published by Epigram Books.[18]


  • Somewhere-Bound (Times Books International, 1989)
  • Another Place (Times Books International, 1992)
  • Days of No Name (EPB Publishers Pte. Ltd., 1996)
  • After the Fire: New and selected poems (Firstfruits, 2006)
  • Between Stations (Giramondo, 2009)
  • Clear Brightness (Epigram Books and Puncher and Wattman, 2012)
  • Gull Between Heaven and Earth (Epigram Books, 2017)


  1. ^ "Boey Kim Cheng". National Library of Singapore. Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  2. ^ "Associate Professor Boey Kim Cheng". University of Newcastle, Australia. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  3. ^ "Academic Profile: Assoc Prof Boey Kim Cheng". Nanyang Technological University. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  4. ^ "Boey Kim Cheng (b. 1965)". Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  5. ^ "Prize-winning writer". The Straits Times. 9 May 1987. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  6. ^ Book review: "Army poems and social satire", Koh Buck Song, The Straits Times 20 September 1989.
  7. ^ "Meet Award-Winning Singapore-Born Poet Boey Kim Cheng". The List. 11 January 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  8. ^ "Four acclaimed writers call NTU home". Nanyang Technological University. 9 July 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  9. ^ "Contemporary Asian Australian Poets". Puncher & Wattmann. 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  10. ^ Gwee, Li Sui (2006). "Boey Kim Cheng's Singapore". Dialogue. 2 (2). Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  11. ^ "Clear Brightness". Epigram Books. 2012. Archived from the original on 15 February 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  12. ^ Poon, Angelia (2009). "The "swaying sense of things": Boey Kim Cheng and the Poetics of Imagined Transnational Space, Travel, and Movement". Postcolonial Text. 5 (4). Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  13. ^ "A Sense of Questing: Kim Cheng Boey on Poetry". Cerise Press. Spring 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Interview with Kim Cheng Boey". Poetry International. 5 September 2013. Archived from the original on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  15. ^ "Roving poet Boey Kim Cheng returns to his Singapore roots". The Straits Times. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  16. ^ Sin, Yuen (15 February 2016). "Who's afraid of 'chao ah beng'? Overseas universities use Singaporean literature to teach". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  17. ^ Tan, Corrie (6 November 2014). "Gender bias allegations over Singapore Literature Prize English Poetry results". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  18. ^ "In Conversation: Boey Kim Cheng on his new novel, Gull Between Heaven and Earth". Asymptote Journal. Retrieved 23 September 2019.

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