Poetry proves popular

Congratulations: Allison and Jack Kin posing with their certificates.

THE heart of Malaysian literature continues to beat as a total of 860 poets submitted 1,913 works for the 2021 Malaysian Poetry Writing Competition.

The competition, mooted by the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) in collaboration with Maya Press, called for the submission of original unpublished poems on any topic, and was curated for Malaysian writers of all ages to showcase unique literary perspectives.

UNM Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences dean Dr Jason Pandya-Wood expressed his enthusiasm for the future of literature in the country following the positive response from local poets.

“I am really pleased to see that this competition had drawn so much attention and so many poets had submitted their works.

“The School of English at UNM is actively involved in promoting creative writing through its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. We are happy to promote poetry writing through this nationwide competition,” he said in a press release last month.

The competition celebrates the universal language of poetry writing and its ability to communicate impactful emotions and messages.

The poets, some making their debut through the competition, had the opportunity to share their works on various Malaysian world views and on contemporary issues.

Organising committee chair and UNM Emeritus Professor of Faculty of Arts, Malachi Edwin Vethamani, shared, “Poetry is not a very popular literary genre. Not many people read poetry. But it is exciting to see a new generation of poets emerge over the last few years. With the overwhelming response in the submissions we received, it is safe to say that poetry is very much alive in the Malaysian literary scene.”

Malachi: Poetry is very much alive in the Malaysian literary scene.Malachi: Poetry is very much alive in the Malaysian literary scene.

The competition culminated in a prize-giving ceremony held at the UNM Kuala Lumpur Teaching Centre (KLTC) recently, with Lim Jack Kin taking home the top recognition with his poem titled “Year of the Rat”, Lim Jing Yi winning second place for her poem titled “Rape Culture Pyramid”, and Allison Jong Chia Ning placing third for her poem titled “A Ui/Ux Review of You”.

The winners were awarded a cash prize incentive of RM1,000, RM750 and RM500, respectively.

Jack Kin, 25, from Subang, and Allison, 26, from Sarawak, shared insights into their winning poems and their passion for poetry.

“My poem was inspired by everything that was going on around me in 2020. It was truly the year of the rat, in more ways than one.

“As a kid, I had always enjoyed playing with words. As I got older, that evolved into learning to use words to make sense of what I felt. I’ve learned that you should always chase your feelings, good or bad.

“Writing is an important skill that everyone should have, but your experiences and how they make you feel, that’s the most important part of writing poetry,” Jack Kin shared.

Allison said her piece was inspired by love.

“It is actually dedicated to my partner, who is a product designer himself. Since I was 13, I’ve always used poetry as an outlet to express myself.

“I think it’s important to be comfortable with being vulnerable in your emotions, especially in writing poetry.

“For those only starting out in poetry, the best advice I can give is to just pick up a pen and write. It will be hard and you won’t get it right, but what’s important is that you write anyway,” she said.

Shortlisted and longlisted finalists received certificates of recognition, as well as RM200 and RM100 each, respectively.

Recognising great potential in a number of submissions, the judges also awarded eight poets with honourable mentions.

The competition’s esteemed panel of judges comprised poet and writer Wong Phui Nam, spoken word poet Melizarani T. Selva, and poet, writer, translator, and journalist Eddin Khoo.

Eminent Malaysian poet Wong Phui Nam, who spoke at the ceremony, said, “Overall, I find the poems to be more interesting than many submitted in past competitions or for selection for the purpose of publication. Some of the poems have turned out to be a pleasure to read.”

“It is a great achievement for Jack Kin, Jing Yi and Allison. We hope that they and all the other winners will continue to pursue their love for poetry, and that following the success of this competition, we’ll see greater support for the Malaysian literary community,” added UNM Emeritus Professor Malachi.

The first quarter of this year will see the winning poems published in a compilation entitled “Best Malaysian Poems: Selected Poems from Malaysia Poetry Writing Competition 2021”.

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