Saturday, 28 May 2016

Book Marks: Migrant Poet Cements Cred, Etc.

Construction worker Md Mukul Hossine, a migrant from Bangladesh in Singapore, further cemented his cred as a poet with a collection of poems, Me Migrant, published by Ethos Books.

"Angry at a former boss for threatening to cut the workers' pay, Bangladeshi construction worker Md Mukul Hossine started scribbling poetry on the bags of cement he was carrying in 2014," according to the Straits Times.

The poems "were further refined in English by local poet Cyril Wong, based on translations from Bengali that Mr Mukul had paid a lecturer back in Bangladesh $500 - or half his monthly salary - to do."

But prior to arriving in Singapore, Md Mukul was already writing poems, having started at 12 and has two books published in Bangladesh. But his parents couldn't send him to university, so he came to this part of the world.

The Straits Times also reported that:

Mr Mukul hopes his poetry can challenge the sometimes negative perceptions Singaporeans have of foreign workers, especially in the wake of the arrests of Bangladeshi nationals for suspected terrorist activities. Last month, eight radicalised Bangladeshi workers were detained for setting up an Islamic State of Bangladesh cell here.

"Sometimes"? That's something we in Malaysia might need to note as well.

Md Mukul isn't just churning poems in his spare time. He also...

...volunteers weekly as a translator at the non-profit HealthServe clinic at his former dormitory in Mandai, even though he has moved to Sembawang and it takes him an hour to get there after work.

He first went to the clinic nine months ago while suffering from indigestion and was moved by the work done there by community doctors. "I think that if I help many people, maybe God will help me too."

Mr Mukul, who is now working on a book of short stories, dreams of carving a niche for foreign workers in the Singapore literary scene.

To think it all began with scribbles on bags of cement.

The reaction to Md Mukul's story appears to be concrete proof of the allure of diamonds in the gravel. He was fortunate to meet people who helped pave the way for his poems to be published and his dreams of becoming a professional writer appears to be, as a friend said, cemented in reality. Now that he's left his handprints on the Singaporean literary scene, will his path be more smooth than rocky from now on?

Singapore's Straits Times also said that the island republic's literary scene is "enjoying a revival".


Despite encouraging interest from the rest of the world, Singapore literature has not caught on with the public here, possibly because of fierce competition from international titles and a lack of a reading culture, say industry observers and those in the literary community. This is exacerbated by hectic lifestyles which leave little time for reading, distractions aplenty and a tendency to read for knowledge and self-improvement rather than leisure and pleasure, they add.

Much of this applies to us as well, and it's dispiriting to hear this still, despite the strides being made in regional literature. We still have a-ways to go, it seems.

"Editing a book is so much more work than writing a book," writes author Jonathan Kile. Well, duh.

An excerpt, because you can never emphasise it enough: "Writing the first draft is full of triumph and excitement: You create new characters, discover new twists, and the feeling when you finish is exhilarating. But in the editing process, there is rarely good news. Editing is the art of identifying, measuring and eliminating the bad writing. It's subjective and thoroughly boring. It's as fun as putting on a second coat of paint: Not very satisfying, but it has to be done."

Apparently, there's a holy war on children's books going on in Sweden. But bigger issues are also being spotlighted.

The question arises: How much purging and expiation will be needed to render a country's culture politically correct?

That question raises an even bigger one: How high is the price of political correctness in terms of "cleansing" the past and present of perceived slights, anywhere, to just about anyone?


  • "In addition to being a mother, Catherine was an author, a very talented actress, an excellent cook and, in her husband’s words, a superb travelling companion. But as the wife of such a famous figure, all of that has been eclipsed." Lucinda Hawksley, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Catherine Dickens, explores "the forgotten wife of Charles Dickens".
  • What makes bad writing bad? According to English writer and academic Toby Litt: "Bad writers continue to write badly because they have many reasons – in their view very good reasons – for writing in the way they do. Writers are bad because they cleave to the causes of writing badly."
  • Arab social media activists campaigned against prominent Arab bookshop Obeikan Publishing ("Publishing"?) for selling books by Israeli author David Grossman. What struck me (and probably everyone else reading) is what an activist in the campaign said: "The Koran does not prohibit us from learning what our enemy thinks about." Because, how do you wage a successful war if you don't know your enemy well enough?
  • "When it comes to outmoded language it is our ability to discern context and intent, not our sensibilities that are under attack," writes Will Gore, Deputy Managing Editor of The Independent and Evening Standard.
  • Illustrator, author and storyteller James Mayhew asks readers to reconsider buying heavily discounted books, given how hard it is for authors (and illustrators) to earn a buck. Someone on social media resurrected the issue of how little authors earn (or nothing) from the sales of bargain books and print overruns at such events as Big Bad Wolf, so I'm bookmarking this for future reference.
  • Some writers and literacy activists in Indonesia condemned what appeared to be efforts to ban communism or leftist movements, according to The Jakarta Post. The outcry was spurred by recent confiscations of leftist books and materials by military officials. Writer Eka Kurniawan also spoke up against the raids and confiscations at this year's Makassar International Writers Festival.
  • Say hello to Bloody Good Book, India's first crowd-sourced and mass-curated e-book publishing platform. founded in 2014 by author-cum-entrepreneur Rashmi Bansal and Niyati Patel, a graduate in English Literature from the University of London.
  • The surge in adult colouring book sales is getting the tax men's attention in the UK. While children's colouring books are zero-rated, the lines for adult colouring books are a little blur, the Financial Times reported.
  • Waterstones outsourced its e-book business to Kobo and will stop selling e-books directly.
  • This is "hybrid publishing"? From what understand of this article, the "hybrid" part is redundant.


Post a Comment

Got something to say? Great!