An Interview with Alvin Pang: Finding the liminal spaces in Singaporean writing
Authors: Teo, Y.
Journal: Wasafiri: International Contemporary Writing
Alvin Pang, born in Singapore in 1972, is a prominent Singaporean poet, author, editor, translator and literary activist. He graduated with First Class Honours in Literature from the University of York in the UK and taught for two years in a junior college in Singapore. He has also worked as a civil servant, journalist, web producer and is currently an independent editor of both corporate and literary publications, including the public policy journal ETHOS, for which he is Editor-In-Chief. A 2002 Fellow of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, he was named 2005 Young Artist of the Year for Literature by Singapore’s National Arts Council and conferred the Singapore Youth Award (Arts and Culture) in 2007.
Pang’s first two poetry collections, Testing the Silence and City of Rain, both published by Ethos Books (Singapore), were listed in The Straits Times' Top Ten Books of 1997 and 2003. A collection of creative prose What Gives Us Our Names was published by Math Paper Press (Singapore) in 2011. His poetry has been translated into over fifteen languages; translated volumes of his work include Other Things and Other Poems (Brutal: Croatia, 2012), Teorija strun [String Theory] (JKSD: Slovenia, 2012) and När barbarerna kommer (Rámus: Sweden, 2015). His first UK collection When the Barbarians Arrive was published by Arc Publications in 2012.
Pang has made numerous appearances at major international festivals including representing Singapore at the Poetry Parnassus festival, part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad in London, alongside Seamus Heaney (Ireland), Wole Soyinka (Nigeria) and John Kinsella (Australia). He participated in the StAnza Poetry Festival in St Andrews in 2013. After appearances at the Hay Festival Segovia (2014), he featured in the 2016 Zee Jaipur Literature Festival in India and the International Festival of Poetry in Granada, Nicaragua, and will appear at festivals in Bucharest and Belgrade later in the same year.
Pang’s work has been featured in the Atlanta Review, The Wolf, English Review, Salt, Westerly, Australian Poetry Journal, Bonniers Literary Magazine, Washington Square Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and many others. His work has appeared in anthologies, including Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond by W W Norton (USA) in 2008, RHYTHMS: The Millennium Anthology of Singapore Poetry by Singapore’s National Arts Council in 2000, for which he was the English Language Poetry Editor, and The World Record by Bloodaxe Books (UK) in 2012 as part of Poetry Parnassus.
Pang is a leading advocate and anthologist of Singapore writing. Anthologies he has curated include No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban Poetry in 2000; Over There: Poems from Singapore and Australia (co-edited with John Kinsella) by Ethos Books (Singapore) in 2008; and Tumasik: Contemporary Writing from Singapore, comprising both translated work and work in English, by Autumn Hill Books (USA) in 2009. In collaboration with US-based journal Drunken Boat in 2015, he curated UNION: 15 Years of Drunken Boat/50 Years of Writing from Singapore, a 600+ page anthology featuring 140 distinguished Singaporean and international contributors. Pang is also a translator of the Chinese language poems of the Singaporean Cultural Medallionist author Yeng Pway Ngon.
Yugin Teo first met Pang when he was in the UK for the London Book Fair in 2013. Their conversation in April 2014 began at the independent bookstore BooksActually in Singapore, where Pang introduced him to a wide array of new Singaporean writing, and the interview then took place in a nearby café.