GOLDEN POINT AWARD 2019

Ecstatic to announce that I’ve been awarded Third Place in English Poetry for the Golden Point Award, 2019.

The Golden Point Award is Singapore’s premier creative writing competition for Short Story and Poetry in the nation’s four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil.  Established by the National Arts Council since 1993, the national literary writing competition is a significant platform for discovering new writers whose works exhibit literary merit and encouraging literary expression in Singapore.

The winning works can be found here: https://www.nac.gov.sg/naccorp/naccorp/events/golden-point-award/golden-point-award-past-winners#winners-list-2019

FREEWRITING EXERCISE #97

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

A ball on a table, my thoughts
unspool and drape off the edge,
sentences unravelling their silk
as my words break formation,
their knees buckling under the
weight of yet another period.
I am constantly catching up
to the kite-strings of my own
tongue, and all its struggles
against the walls of its cell.
Apostrophe, apostrophe.
Nothing makes sense anymore
and it is nothing people care about.
My tongue is tied into a
noose. I am sat in a room
forever watching myself
say the wrong thing
over and over again
until I can no longer
remember what it is
to be right. Thoughts
rattling in the chamber
of skull, how all I can say
are but meaningless now
in the totality of every
word that has ever been
uttered, every sentence
said in a courtroom, every
I love you I love you I love you
quickly extinguished between
the neighbouring firework of
two world wars, and perhaps
a third, and how every word
sounds like defeat if you’re
willing to let yourself be, and
I want so badly to wrest
control over this language
and ride it into the sunset
my anxiety’s lasso twirling, twirling

Freewriting Explanation: Every day, Valen shall use 5 minutes to write completely unprompted and uninterrupted, letting the words lead the way. There is no end purpose to each piece, but rather, the pieces are allowed to develop naturally in their own way. The pieces are then uploaded without edits.

FREEWRITING EXERCISE #96

Photo by Derek Owens on Unsplash

What have you done to me
I demand an explanation
What have you done to me

I am here having a heart attack
over the smallest of minutiae
like an entire story clumped as a comma

I am no longer alone
in the living room of my head
thoughts of you pack themselves to the ceiling
and spread themselves from wall to wall

I am watching a video loop itself
over and over again as though
practicing how to write a name
on the curvature of my ribcage

I don’t want to be horrible
but it was a video of you

That reminds me
a friend once asked me
what the secret to my writing was
and warned me, for some reason, that
becoming happy would stymie the stream
and block it off entirely
like a clot in a vein
like joy would become fatal

Frankly, I didn’t like her poetry that much
It was alright, all things considered
But not something I’d read a book of
So I wonder if she was speaking
from personal experience
or she was merely trying to be ominous
like a witch from a Shakespearean play
who’s wandered her way into Wilde

I will gather all my things
sweep clean the dusty desk where I write
and go back, again and again
and start over anew
and find the hidden waterfall
tucked away amongst the leaves of an overgrown jungle
where the sunlight hits the water just right
and there are birds, always, chirping somewhere

for now
I will partake
(allow myself)
in this feast of sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet
sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet

Freewriting Explanation: Every day, Valen shall use 5 minutes to write completely unprompted and uninterrupted, letting the words lead the way. There is no end purpose to each piece, but rather, the pieces are allowed to develop naturally in their own way. The pieces are then uploaded without edits.

FREEWRITING EXERCISE #95

Photo by Orlova Maria on Unsplash

In a room with the curtains drawn
a single ray of sunlight scans the
parallel lines of bodies on the floor.

It is a weekend, because
when else do we associate
with love, that ugly landlord,
without feeling the urge to break
away, tearing away from the scene
with the work of an unsteady hand?

There are a few moments of focus
where the camera zooms in to
rest its tired eye on some act
of little significance; a hand
behind the back of the head,
soft crooning in the background.

I lend the space in my head
to imagination. I have lost
the link to poetry. Severed
and blocked at the same time,
I find myself unfurling.

I do not know what to write about
without some further prodding.
What works? What doesn’t?

I’d rather lend myself to
matters in physicality;
not words but swords,
edges of finger-tips
and the reward
of sweat after a long day’s work
toiling away at making something
that, like poetry, will be worth remembering
and sometimes that is okay
and sometimes that is alright
but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss poetry

Freewriting Explanation: Every day, Valen shall use 5 minutes to write completely unprompted and uninterrupted, letting the words lead the way. There is no end purpose to each piece, but rather, the pieces are allowed to develop naturally in their own way. The pieces are then uploaded without edits.

Apologies for the long hiatus, was busy with school.

FREEWRITING EXERCISE #94

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

Sorry about the half-hung
phone calls, the beeps’ chain
a single car on the highway
in the valley under dial-tone
stars. Sorry for the minute gap
between your mouth and my ear.
Sorry that I have been such a
hypocrite, that my love has turned
out to be so apologetic, an abashed
schoolboy out alone in the corridor,
his thoughts rattling the lockers,
rapping on every window. Sorry
that my love is the second hand’s
waltz in the middle of this glassy hall.
My love is the one that never feels
complete, constantly a step more
up the winding stair. Sorry my love
is a seed waiting for the death of
snow. Sorry we don’t have power
to decide what lives and what grows.
My love is so small in the face of
everything else, and too big to
fit quietly inside my chest pocket.
I am sorry that I don’t know how
to express this sentiment other
than through half-forgotten letters
I’ve stuffed throughout the house,
hoping you will chance upon them.
But soon, I will be with you again,
and it’s like everything is possible,
and the phones redial themselves,
and the car drives backwards out of the desert,
and the stars blend back into the sky,
and the children are playing in the yard,
and I am at the top of the stairs now,
and it is quiet, so quiet here, save
for the small rosary I keep under my tongue –
I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you –
my mouth. Your ear. Nobody else in the hall.

Freewriting Explanation: Every day, Valen shall use 5 minutes to write completely unprompted and uninterrupted, letting the words lead the way. There is no end purpose to each piece, but rather, the pieces are allowed to develop naturally in their own way. The pieces are then uploaded without edits.

FREEWRITING EXERCISE #93

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

A half-finished bridge is a lure,
a line to an unmarked haven.
Hanging in midair, the eyes
naturally complete the shape.
Workers on the edge, melding
the rebar, their helmets lit
with the light of progress,
process. I distract myself as
we duck under them, our cab
ducking in and out of snaking
crowds, looking for the next exit.
My family’s in the back-row, and
in my memories this will be
a different city, a new country.
A junction can become a crossroads,
a crosswalk becomes a scramble.
Turning past a night market,
its citizens bustling about,
hustling their wares and
going about their days,
my mother says that
actually
this place is still so undeveloped
compared to where we come from
but I wonder if that was meant to indicate
some kind of success of government policy
or whether some sign
of how this becomes the market of progress
progress progress progress progress
it is measured in dollars and cents
it is measured in numbers and statistics
rising arrow-like before the lurch
towards God himself in the upper-right corner
of the umpteenth bar graph
I am tired of thinking of progress
it would be nice if we could live
for the sake of being alive
and not for slaving our lives away
paying off a degree or a loan
that lets us qualify to slave our lives away
I am almost back to the hotel now
and I can sleep tonight forgetting all of this


Freewriting Explanation: Every day, Valen shall use 5 minutes to write completely unprompted and uninterrupted, letting the words lead the way. There is no end purpose to each piece, but rather, the pieces are allowed to develop naturally in their own way. The pieces are then uploaded without edits.

FREEWRITING EXERCISE #92

Photo by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash

The sun must dip under the horizon
like ducking under a gantry,
breaking its way into a secured compound
where the secret to all that makes up
happiness
can be found,
or perhaps,
where every past love has gone to die
a slow burning
as they grind their knees to dust
on the cold uncaring linoleum floor
of an unnamed factory
pumping out name after name
for some unspecified purpose

many things now exist
without purpose or meaning
just stationary in their spotlights on
the stage of some higher power
as they sit around waiting
for the light to beam them up
or slowly cook them alive

I am one of those things
I am determined to be meaningless
I do not need a Wikipedia page
although it might be nice
nobody needs a Wikipedia page
just like nobody truly needs
a suitcase full of twenty billion dollars
how large a suitcase I don’t know
possibly the size of 3000 olympic-sized swimming pools

I don’t need anything
I mean I am alive
I have a roof over my head
and a love all to myself
I am fed and clothed and warm
I can enter a store
and not have shifty eyes follow me
but the entirety of human civilisation
is built to emphasise and sharpen
that pang of want
want
want
to keep the gears turning
blood sweat tears as lubricant
for foreplay
for the foreman to keep the machine going
again, for some unnamed boss
who earns more than everyone else
without having lifted a finger
and you will have people
throw themselves onto
the railroad spike of progress
if only to say

there is nothing wrong with anything ever

Freewriting Explanation: Every day, Valen shall use 5 minutes to write completely unprompted and uninterrupted, letting the words lead the way. There is no end purpose to each piece, but rather, the pieces are allowed to develop naturally in their own way. The pieces are then uploaded without edits.

FREEWRITING EXERCISE #91

Photo by Scott Walsh on Unsplash

A week from now, the sea will
bend itself back, pulling at the
edges of continents and islands,
tugging them together again with
the slow patient touch of a long-
loved grandfather. Yesterday, I
dreamt about the long journey
it would take to shorten this
distance; in a snowy terminal,
flanked by snaking briar trees
naked for the winter, I could
see you, lugging up one
suitcase after another onto
a sleeping, humming bus;
I could see the slow burn
of relocation, how each
little gesture is but
a larger step of moving on;
I can see the rear view of
the bus as that white world
is left behind – oh how the
bus will turn onto the
interstate, and how
the planes will take
off forever and ever.
I am imagining small conversation,
a bustling airport, and you
sitting in a cafe thinking
about home, and maybe
when you are done
with your morning tea
in the well of the teacup
I’d be there in the dregs
as though a vision, a sign.

slowly tugging them
together again.

Freewriting Explanation: Every day, Valen shall use 5 minutes to write completely unprompted and uninterrupted, letting the words lead the way. There is no end purpose to each piece, but rather, the pieces are allowed to develop naturally in their own way. The pieces are then uploaded without edits.

FREEWRITING EXERCISE #90

Photo by Mubariz Mehdizadeh on Unsplash

There is a slack in the arm,
where the elbow
bends taut
like a crane
dipping its head into the water.

Its beak
disappearing
only to reeemerge
filled with fish.

The way the scales
must run,
all slimy and cobblestone,
down the tongue.

To cut to the point
I am feeling
like a felled tree
the thud of timber
muffled on my mattress
and there, being no birds
to fly off dramatically into the distance.

I wanted more from this life,
I wanted suspense. I wanted
dagger-throat romance,
I wanted sea of green swimming-pool,
bills plucked fresh
with their faces still clean.

I wanted absurdity, I wanted freedom,
and now all I have is peace, and
a little quiet on the weekends,
yet some wind in my chest
is rifling through the
papers, flipping
the channels
and water splashing like a prophecy
onto the banks of man

I don’t know what it is I want
but I never feel like I have it

Freewriting Explanation: Every day, Valen shall use 5 minutes to write completely unprompted and uninterrupted, letting the words lead the way. There is no end purpose to each piece, but rather, the pieces are allowed to develop naturally in their own way. The pieces are then uploaded without edits.