The Best of Edwin Thumboo
Selected by the National University of Singapore Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences as one of 85 Landmark Books
Edwin Thumboo, Emeritus Professor and Professorial Fellow, National University of Singapore, has been involved in Singapore’s literary developments since 1951. A recipient of the Cultural Medallion and numerous other awards for his poetry, Thumboo remains one of Singapore’s most distinguished and widely acclaimed poets to this day.
Here, for the first time, is a definitive collection that gathers the best of Thumboo’s work. Including his most prominent poem, 'Ulysses by the Merlion', this collection of over 150 poems personally selected by Thumboo celebrates the landmark contribution he has made to Singaporean literature.
This book is part of the Singapore Pioneer Poets Series. A showcase of the best works by local literary giants, the Singapore Pioneer Poets Series is a must-have collection for all Singapore literature fans, old and new.
“He was at the forefront of Singapore poetry when it was founded and he is at the forefront of Singapore poetry now.”
— Dennis Haskell, Professor of English, Communications and Cultural Studies, University of Western Australia; editor of Westerly magazine
“Edwin Thumboo is an artist with a message. For him, the art of poetry lies in the poet’s technique. Each of his poems is a highly textured, grammatically intricate work of art with multiple layers of meaning and metaphor. Thumboo’s ‘David’ is an example of poetic narrative crafted not just to tell a story, but also to render deeper levels of meaning.”
— Jonathan Webster, Professor and Head, Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics and Director, The Halliday Centre, City University of Hong Kong
“This passage (from ‘Uncle Never Knew’) bears all the hallmarks of Thumboo’s poetry—the Yeatsian sensibility, the complex world of inner emotion, social awareness, a sense of melancholy, and an alluring stoicism and cosmopolitanism, and the interplay of symbolic geographies.”
— Wimal Dissanayake, Affiliate Faculty of the Department of Political Science, University of Hawaii; formerly Wei Lun Distinguished Professor, Chinese University, Hong Kong
“There was Thumboo’s ‘Ulysses by the Merlion.’ I read it and was immediately moved by Thumboo’s profound weaving in and out of history…the poem had touched the mythmaker in me, and I had the genesis of my own response, my own poem in that instant. Yet I walked around with Thumboo for days before I could write…”
— Sasenarine Persaud, Guyanese poet, novelist, short story writer, and essayist
“...the ever-renewing Edwin Thumboo, as critically important NOW to safeguarding the truth of his “post-colonial” nation’s creativity against its on-going appropriation by the dominant global order as he was THEN, bearing Singapore through, in the words of Yeats, the pangs of her birth and the uncertainties of her setting forth.”
— Thiru Kandiah, Adjunct Professor, Curtin University of Technology Australia, formerly Professor of English, University of Peradeniya
“He has almost single-handedly sought and achieved a necessary transformation of the individual into the collective while preserving the particular energy of his stereotypes. Thumboo successfully articulates the need for a continuity whose meaning must be found not only in the personal but the larger purpose of society.”
— Ban Kah Choon and Lee Tzu Pheng, Singapore
“For Edwin Thumboo, as for E. M. Forster in India, the testing ground of human conduct is not in the realm of passions, but in the ability of ordinary decent people to become friends and to sustain friendship. That, one would assume from his poetry, is the last refuge and most vital hope of a civilisation that might bridge the differences between Indian, Chinese, Malay and British ways of life.”
— Bruce Bennett, Emeritus Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra
“More than any other writer in Singapore, Thumboo has demonstrated his awareness of the roles and responsibilities that poets must take towards the creation of a Singaporean identity and a Singaporean image of itself.”
— Ee Tiang Hong, Malaysia and Western Australia
“Thumboo writes as a committed Singaporean. He is a poet of skill and maturity whose imagination has clearly been fired by the growth and change that have transformed his homeland…”
—Yasmine Gooneratne, Emeritus Professor, Department of English, Macquarie University, Australia
“Thumboo’s language is continually probing, weighing, and clarifying: the poems attempting always to say something, and determined to do so in crisp, taut language.”
— Lee Tzu Pheng, Singapore
“Thumboo has…moved…towards a more public kind of writing which assumes that the ‘voice’ of the poem cannot be hived off from politics, race, a particular linguistic placement at a particular historical point.”
— Vincent O’Sullivan, Emeritus Professor of English, Victoria University of Wellington
“Edwin Thumboo has travelled the world in search of the missing hinterland—and brought back poems whose complexity is concealed/revealed through the surface/depths of the words. The poems are social, historical, spiritual, metaphysical, and mythic: a geography of the collective conscious/unconscious. And they sing!”
— Peter Nazareth, Professor of English & Advisor to the International Writing Program, University of Iowa
“From the very start Thumboo’s has been a powerful voice — one which lingers and demands attention: each poem contains gems which together form an inimitable filigree of literary excellence.”
— Kirpal Singh, Director, Wee Kim Wee Centre, Singapore Management University
“Thumboo’s variations on the lyric mode are held together by an integrative vision focused on two themes: the interpenetration of the personal by the historical imagination, and the role of friendship in the private and public realms. Myth, symbol, allusion, fable, and anecdote all are harmonised by the overarching consistency of these twin concerns.”
— Rajeev Patke, Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore
“…the poems which strike the deepest chord are those the poet delves into a moment in time and place and brings it vividly alive, plunging the reader, like a bold immigrant, into the embrace of a wondrously new context.”
— Stephanie Yap,The Straits Times
About the Poet:
Edwin Thumboo, Emeritus Professor and Professorial Fellow, National University of Singapore, has been involved in Singapore’s literary developments since 1951: editing, anthologising, initiating programmes (eg Creative Arts Programme with the Ministry of Education), running a poetry column in The Straits Times, teaching a degree-level creative writing course etc. He published Rib of Earth (1956), Gods Can Die (1977), Ulysses by the Merlion (1979), A Third Map (1993), Friend (2003), Still Traveling (2008), and Bring the Sun (poems from out-of-print volumes; 2008). He is working on a volume of translations into Chinese, as well as a Selected Poems due to appear in 2012. Studies of his work include Ee Tiang Hong, Responsibility and Commitment: The Poetry of Edwin Thumboo (1997) and Peter Nazareth, Edwin Thumboo: Creating a Nation through Poetry (2008), Essays on Edwin Thumboo has contributions by Jonathan Webster (editor), Thiru Kandiah, Wong Phui Nam and Lily Tope. He has edited Seven Poets: Singapore/Malaysia, An Anthology (1973), The Second Tongue: An Anthology of Poetry from Malaysia and Singapore (1979), and was General Editor for the Anthology of ASEAN Literatures: The Poetry of Singapore (1985), and The Fiction of Singapore (1990). He received the National Book Development Council of Singapore, Book Award for Poetry in English (1978, 1980 and 1994), Southeast Asian Writers Award (1979), Singapore’s Cultural Medallion (1980), ASEAN Cultural and Communication Award in Literature (1987), the Raja Rao Award (2002), and the Meritorious Service Medal, Singapore (2006). A Fellow of the International Writing Program, University of Iowa (1977), he has given readings in various universities and international literary festivals and book fairs.
Size: 153 x 226mm
Published: July 2012
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