Interpreting the every-day

21st October 2021

News, Student news

A debut poetry collection by Wadham DPhil student Ann Ang explores how things and places can become portals to other lives and spaces.

  • Ann Ang book cover

Burning Walls for Paper Spirits is a poetry collection about how everyday objects become invested with soul, and how we have in turn become thing-like amidst the mechanics of everyday living.

With whimsical meditations on why walls are like skin and why the rain in Singapore is capitalist, Ann Ang’s debut collection refreshes our capacity to experience feeling and sensation. 

“Burning Walls for Paper Spirits, though very much centred in the everyday life of suburban Singapore, is also an exploration about how things and places become portals to other places and other lives,” says Ann (DPhil English, 2018). “We live among things that we call memorabilia but many of the poems ask about what happens when buildings, trees, walls and water can be so strongly evocative that they hold our lives in place.” 

One of Ann’s favourite poems in the collection is Keppel Port, set by the seafront on the southwest coast of the island, fringed by the cranes of the busy container port. 

“In this neighbourhood is a church on a hill and from it, one gets a view of the sky above the open sea, which is rare in the urban jungle. Here in this poem sits a priest, who listens to confessions from the container cranes and in this unlikely moment, among the creaks and groans of the machinery, he hears something that springs open a ‘small door in his heart’.  This poem is an attempt to listen to the other-language of seemingly ugly engineering, from the invisible underbelly of maritime trade. Like so many of the poems in the collection, this poem is listening to ‘living things’ so we can return to ourselves, refreshed.” 

Commenting on the collection, Wadham’s Placito Fellow and Tutor in English Dr Jane Griffiths writes:  “To read them is to be drawn into processes of juxtaposition, transformation and word-play, and to share in Ang’s strange yet precise way of seeing.” 

  • Ann Ang

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