NUS LitSoc poetry

The NUS Literary Society concerns itself with an appreciation of all things literary. It hosts an annual national Creative Writing Competition for amateur writers to showcase their prowess in prose, poetry or playwriting. The society generously shared the work of their 2016 poetry winners with SWAG.

Hare Snare by Seng Leong

The mind, imperfect in its recall
does wonders like a mother’s dishes.
Seasoned and spiced over time,
adding to, subtracting from –
the less vivid, the more there is
to imagine, each rumination
bringing a different taste.

The photo is a seed – no,
the photo is a landmine buried;
the rabbit pawing for carets
inserted between periods long forgotten
will not find shoots nor saplings, but
hair-triggered explosive remembering.

The mind builds upon the real and derails,
extrapolating into: what happened,
what should not,
what should have happened more,
what should have happened instead;
a train of thought
with defective brakes.

Seng Leong has a 20-year-old body in a 50-year-old decline. When he’s not whining about sore joints he writes about sore hearts. He tries to make simple things complicated at

After The Fall or Daedalus Thinks of Icarus

You recall the way his eyes shone
When he first took flight-
Brighter than any sun
You recall how he scythed through the air
Like he was made for the skies.

When he reached out a trembling hand
A moth drawn to a flame
You saw a god.
Perhaps this was what doomed him
A father too entranced
By the sight of divinity
To sense danger
Until it was too late.

Sometimes you wonder
If you had stayed closer,
Attached more feathers
To that skeleton of wood
Caught him when he fell
Would he still be here today?

Did he think of you
When he hurtled through the sky?
Is one moment of freedom
Worth a lifetime of pain?

Now, alone,
You watch the sun
Wondering if
It gave him the warmth
You never could.

Sarah is a 16-year old professional daydreamer who often spends her time staring off into the distance. Her works have been or will soon be published in literary journals such as LITRO magazine, The Claremont Review, and Page & Spine.

ah ma’s lesson by adam l.

tonight got english lesson
how to say how are you
yesterday i say to jj but he walk away
he look at me like i forget to make dinner
he go back to his room and lock the door

i scared to tell teacher nobody answer me
she scold me why i never practise
and make me say to uncle beside
he only laugh and say ya ya ya
i thought must say i ok

my ah girl say english good can talk to people
can make friend
ya i must make friend
like ah girl and jj make friend
they make many friend

i knock on jj door after i make dinner
i say eat and he say ya
maybe later can practise with him
jj how are you
i ok

adam l. is currently a freshman at Yale-NUS College, Singapore. he is drawn to the limitation of words, and how even in this limitedness, meaning and emotion can be conveyed effectively. at times when words seem utterly insufficient, he turns to physical movement in dance and theatre. he can be reached at

Queen of Carthage by Jollin Tan

This is the same, grand ache.
Spear in ivory flesh, neither yielding,
skin flakes cemented into time.

It hurts like manufacture.
Like azure frostbite, pain fossilised.
It hurts like analysis.

Behind orderly lines it is easy
to dissect, framed and gilded, or
written on paper, centuries of identical shock

quantified. Here the wound is crystallised.
Here, made immortal, the despair
approximated and worshipped.

To inhale all the turpentine-clean, all
the sterile residue of last week’s emotional
aspirational Pollock, close the eyes.

In resisting the sight of you, the foul rot in my big toe –
it is easy, when in possession of a jar,
to watch something decompose, and then say
it was the oxygen.

Jollin Tan is the author of Bursting Seams and Derivative Faith, collections addressing intensely personal issues about the body and faith. She also is a sub-editor on the team of Wallflowers Magazine, an online curating journal that works to feature under-exposed artists, talented individuals and their work. Jollin’s work has been curated by Prairie Schooner, and appears in Body Boundaries. She has performed her poetry multiple times in public settings such as Speakeasy (curated by Pooja Nansi). She is still a young writer and regularly experiments with different textual forms and approaches to (almost confessional) poetry.


To find out more about NUS LitSoc or the annual competition, check out To read more, check out our society magazine at