Cyril Wong

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Cyril Wong
Artistry Cafe (Singapore) on 19 Sep 2013.
Born (1977-06-27) 27 June 1977 (age 39)
Occupation Poet
Nationality Singaporean
Ethnicity Chinese
Education Doctoral degree in English Literature from National University of Singapore
Temasek Junior College
Saint Patrick's School, Singapore
Notable awards Golden Point Award (Singapore, 2004), National Arts Council's Young Artist Award (Singapore, 2005), Singapore Literature Prize (2006)

Cyril Wong (simplified Chinese: 黄益民; traditional Chinese: 黃益民; pinyin: Huáng Yì Mín; born 27 June 1977) is a poet, fictionist and critic.[1]


Born in 1977, Cyril Wong attended Saint Patrick's School, Singapore and Temasek Junior College, before completing a doctoral degree in English literature at the National University of Singapore. His poems have appeared in journals around the world, including Atlanta Review, Fulcrum, Poetry International, Cimarron Review, Wascana Review, Prairie Schooner, MĀNOA, Dimsum, Asia Literary Review, The Bungeishichoo (Japanese translation), La traductière (French translation) and Die Horen (German translation). They have also been featured in the 2008 W.W. Norton & Co. anthology, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond, and Chinese Erotic Poems by Everyman's Library. Cyril was guest editor for Gangway (#35 – Travel and Transitioning), co-editor of the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, founding editor of poetry webjournal, SOFTBLOW, and a featured poet at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, the Sydney Writers' Festival, and the Singapore Writers' Festival. TIME magazine (10 December 2007) has written that "his work expands beyond simple embrace themes of love, alienation and human relationships of all kinds."[2]

Along with Yong Shu Hoong, he is one of only two poets writing in English to have won the Singapore Literature Prize twice.[3]

Cyril's poetry[edit]

Cyril has been recognised as Singapore's first truly confessional poet, mainly "on the basis of the brutally candid sexuality in his poetry, along with a barely submerged anxiety over the fragility of human connection and a relentless self-querying; but the label understates Wong's constant evolution".[4] By turns "acerbic and tender, ironic and meditative",[5] the poet "has many styles, all of them limber, which combine the anecdotal and the confessional with the intuitive and the empathetic."[6] His poems are known for their "lyrical intensity" and for "training an almost anthropologically curious eye on the laws and customs of his own family: their strange taciturn ways, their gnomic references to disappointment and guilt, and their penchant for self-delusion."[7] In a way that makes him especially distinctive within the Singaporean poetry scene, his work possesses "a heightened awareness of the physical body, and a desire to probe its visceral materiality for emotional truths."[8] Edwin Thumboo has praised Cyril's poems for their "remarkable inwardness" and how, "without exception, they leave us with the feeling of subjects – occasion, non-happening, an especially poignant experience – explored to unusual limits."[9] With regard to his third collection and its play of presence and absence in the context of Singapore's urbanity and cultural memory, John Phillips described Cyril's poetry as offering "an affirmation of emptiness in a time and place where this is barely possible."[10]

Although Cyril has also been popularly known as a gay poet,[11] Singaporean critic Gwee Li Sui has stressed that readers need not perceive the poet's persona in terms of gay exceptionality, "his qualities of spaciousness and morphing images also manifesting an interest in a kind of New-Age irreligious spirituality."[12] This interest is fully expressed in Cyril's book, Satori Blues, in which the author "teases us out of our complacencies and directs/guides our thinking along the long, hard route to self-awareness...Hence 'blues'. Hence the extraordinary attempt to seduce the reader into somnambulance-via-rhythmic, rhymic language, the language of meditative poetry."[13] In a review by the Southeast Asian Review of English, Cyril's poetry has been described as "an art that works simply from a personal plane, and from within such a plane we have some of the most sensitive, articulate probings into the nature of one's self that have never been seen before in all of contemporary Singaporean verse."[14]

Poets who have responded to his work include Timothy Liu who has called Cyril's "transpacific sensibility a fine refreshment";[15] Lewis Warsh with his description of Cyril's poems as "evocative and sensual" and "untainted by bitterness";[16] Margot Schilpp who has pointed out that his work shows "how great the divide between expectations and outcomes can be";[17] and Robert Yeo who has commented on the framing devices in his work that "deliberately blur distinctions between the real (Cyril Wong) and the persona (the poet who 'wonders at his own existence'). The result is a distancing that layers the poems and renders them more fraught and complex and encourages, indeed demands, repeated reading."[18]



  • Fires (Book Merah, 2009) ASIN: B002P8MPK8, Kindle Edition


Anthologies (as editor)[edit]


Awards and acclaim[edit]


  1. ^ Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  2. ^ TIME Magazine (Asia Edition). Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  3. ^ Asia Today. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  4. ^ Toh Hsien Min. "Wong, Cyril (1977– )." The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English. Ed. Jeremy Noel-Tod and Ian Hamilton. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 662.
  5. ^ Cheong, Felix. "Out in the City." The Edge, Singapore. 28 July 2003. 45.
  6. ^ Patke, Rajeev S. and Philip Holden. "Contemporary poetry 1990–2008: Singapore." The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in English. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2010. 185.
  7. ^ Holden, Philip, Angelia Poon and Shirley Geok-lin Lim, eds. "Section 2 (1965–1990): Introduction." Writing Singapore: An Historical Anthology of Singapore Literature. Singapore: NUS Press/National Arts Council, 2009. 370–371.
  8. ^ Writing Singapore: An Historical Anthology of Singapore Literature. Singapore: NUS Press/NAC, 2009. 370–371.
  9. ^ Thumboo, Edwin. "Introduction" IN Cyril Wong's Squatting Quietly. Singapore: Firstfruits, 2000. 9.
  10. ^ Phillips, John. "The Future of the Past: Archiving Singapore." Urban Memory: History and Amnesia in the Modern City. Ed. Mark Crinson. London and New York: Routledge, 2005. 160.
  11. ^ TIME Magazine (Asia Edition). Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  12. ^ "The New Poetry of Singapore." Sharing Borders: Studies in Contemporary Singaporean-Malaysian Literature II. Ed. Gwee Li Sui. Singapore: NLB/NAC 2009. 250.
  13. ^ Singh, Kirpal. "Poetic Meditations: Two Singaporean Poets and a Personal Reflection." Kunapipi. Vol. XXXII No. 1-2 Dec 2010. 109–110.
  14. ^ Jeyam, Leonard. "The Poetry of Personal Revelation: Reviewing Cyril Wong's Unmarked Treasure." SARE. No. 47 Apr. 2006/07. 99.
  15. ^ Liu, Timothy. "Praise for previous collections" IN Cyril Wong's like a seed with its singular purpose. Firstfruits, 2006. 7.
  16. ^ Warsh, Lewis. "Praise for previous collections" IN Cyril Wong's like a seed with its singular purpose. Firstfruits, 2006. 6.
  17. ^ Schilpp, Margot. "Praise for previous collections" IN Cyril Wong's like a seed with its singular purpose. Firstfruits, 2006. 6.
  18. ^ Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  19. ^ TODAY. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  20. ^ The Straits Times. Retrieved 31 March 2016.

External links[edit]