Hello world, after months of birthing pains, this is now a real thing that you can hold and read and buy. If you have ever liked my writing, please support me by buying my book. Shipping in Singapore is free, and if you live overseas it is a flate rate of SGD17, which means that that is a perfect reason to buy lots and lots of things to read. I used to work at this bookstore and am familiar with many titles, and am happy to give book recommendations if you’re not sure what else you want to buy. Continue reading “MY FIRST BOOK IS HERE”
I have actually paid for a domain and you can find me on the official website nataliewang.me
I’ve been fairly anal about logging down all my reading activity on my Goodreads account and have technically completed 76 books this year, with like 15 other books I started but never got round to finishing. I’m a little disappointed that I got so close to a full 100 (I had almost 60 books in August so you can tell I really fell off the bandwagon there). BUT if you count the sheer amount of fanfiction and /r/nosleep horror stories I have read, not to mention that ridiculously long web novel which is supposed to be three times the length of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I did good.
- Circe by Madeline Miller – I read this book three times this year, that’s how good it is. Greek mythology + feminist retelling seems like an overdone formula but Miller really brings the characters to life.
- The Adventures of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – This was slow going at first because a lot of the first three hundred pages is devoted to solid world building.
- Hoshimaruhon series by Wena Poon – A hilarious but still deeply moving trilogy that that is a bizarre landscape of East Asian tropes – think swordsmen training in the mountains, and fox spirits, and ninjas – and also a loving tribute to all of these things.
- Gaze Back by Marylyn Tan – A lot has been written about how this book is obscene or taboo stomping. All true. It is also pushing at the boundaries of how we understand form and language in poetry. Go read it.
- Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – For anyone who likes high fantasy. Devoured this 600+ page edition within a day because it was a story that was easy to swallow.
- The Book of Lost Things by John Connelly – A fairytale for adults that like all fairytales uses a literal adventure as a metaphor for grief and change and growing up before you feel ready to. This is basically the kind of novel I want to write at some point in my life.
- Pachinko by Min-Jin Lee – I first read this book in 2017 while on holiday in Japan and almost started crying in my tiny one-room Airbnb when my favourite character died. The book was no less brutal on the feels on a second read. This was probably my third book by a Korean author (the first two being Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and Human Acts) and was a complex family saga that spanned three generations which dealt with complexities of Korean-Japanese relations in the 20th century with so much grace and humanity. Highly recommended.
Continue reading “Literary Roundup 2018”
(After Topaz Winters’ ‘July’ and Samuel Caleb Wee’s ‘August’)
Bless the green hills & the robins
who sing at 8pm & the sheep
who flee the camera-wielding tourists.
Bless the lamb who become haggis & kebabs
that we masticate during the cold nights.
Bless the swaying grass in the gardens
that I keep calling the ang moh lalang,
the brick walls & white columns
& the black-veined marble we imitate
at home with plaster & paint. Bless how
“old” here means something to be kept so
bless every building torn down at home
for ours is a country with no time
for the past which is only sentiment
& still we make the Victorian buildings
by the river our heritage sites.
Bless the statues of white men we inter
on high, who when alive fled whenever the going
got tough & whose names we still use
as a mark of quality & perhaps this explains
the state of our nation today.
Bless every child who thought that
our country began in 1819 & who raged
against this tragedy of history after.
Bless the fictions in our textbooks that tell us
that peace make a country strong & bless
the ones who do not believe this.
Bless our government who feared the implosion
of elections around the world & decided
to make the correct choice for us & I cannot tell
sometimes if I am being sarcastic or not.
Bless the prince who did not know a lion
from a tiger from a fox because can you imagine
having a fox-fish as our national mascot?
Bless the great white merlions who guard our rivers
& who I still believe will one day descend down
from their posts with their laser eyes
& beat a tsunami with their fins
if those invading boats ever do come
& this time our guns will face the right way.
Bless every poet that has written about fall:
the air, the apples, the leaves,
the old man who sits on the chair
telling stories to the other months of year.
Or do I call it autumn in this country?
Because when young I learnt all the Englishes,
the difference between ‘z’ and ‘s’, the extra ‘u’,
but my mouth swells as I try to say
Worcester, Reading, Magdalen
& it feels as though my own mother tongue
has been stolen from me. Bless the actress
who practices Gloucester, Gloucester
to herself before a mirror. Bless the mother
who told her child to study hard & get scholarship
& go study at Oxford. Bless the student
who made it to Oxford but had no idea what to study.
Bless the Singaporean at SingSoc booths in London
who remembers to talk to the students
who are not Chinese. Bless the Singaporeans
who tag #blessed when they upload their selfies
& mean it. Bless the Singaporeans who move
into rich autumns & wet winters & still think
of the endless summers as home.
Bless the Singaporeans who do not
but come back anyway. Continue reading “OCTOBER”
So I have been saying this to friends: I don’t believe in public apologies.
Because I don’t. The entire ritual always feels like some kind of sham; person says something hurtful or distasteful or just morally suspect, the pitchforks come out, there is a lot of blustering and arm waving on both sides, and then the person appears with a metaphorical shaved head to show their contrition, and proceeds to announce that they are donating their chopped off hair to charity. Or announce some tangential inner pain or suffering that they have been going through. Or the apology is either so insincere or tone deaf that it just makes things worse.
So no, I will not do a theatrical performance because I have already done what I needed to do in private channels. So this is not an apology. This is just to say: I fucked up.
Ten years ago I dated a transman. Only he didn’t identify as that at that point in time, and he was what I thought was just my senior when we were studying in an all-girls school. After finding out recently that he has transitioned, I have used his gender as a punchline to a tasteless joke, and not even a funny one at that – no I don’t dare date another girl because I’m so straight they’ll change their gender after dating me. And that’s something I should have known better not to do, given my interests and access to literature. I admit that I should do so much more to read up on trans issues, and I will. Continue reading “On Calling In vs. Calling Out, Growing Up & Being An Emerging Writer”
The other day I said about a friend – every time she posts about her heartbreak I feel better about my life decisions. And then I added – but she always has something to write. As though art was a graveyard that I must keep excavating. As though pain was the only kind of story worth hearing.
And here’s the thing right it doesn’t matter that I had to break up with the boyfriend who didn’t even have the spine to leave me properly after he lost interest, just as it didn’t matter that I spent my lunch break crying into my soup because I found out the one I had been sleeping with was now with other girls or that I got drunk and someone I thought was my friend started taking off my clothes after I just cried to him about how I am so sick of people wanting me only for my body I still turn up to fucking work as though my ability to pretend that nothing had happened was my armour.
And now I have the material to make the kind of pain porn indignant women like me scream at every slam for an audience to judge and a part of me is measuring where my experience rests on a scale of trauma and a part or me never wants to speak of it again, if only to become less of a cliché.
And at the same time I want to write that poem that says fuck respectability and fuck anonymity and fuck any kind of pretence at art that is still divorced from the pain of the artist I want to write the thing that will name every boy who has ever disappointed me and the ones who I still see at events will cross their legs and shift when they hear it because I will not let them hide from the consequences of their actions anymore.
At the same time I want the poem that will give me the answer to every question I had too much bleeding heart and not enough spine to ask – the questions like Why was I never enough for you to stay. Like Was sex the only thing you ever wanted from me was that why you could only tell me you loved me (as a friend) when we were leaving?
And still, I want the poem that says This is worth it. The one that, when finished, when read, when performed on a stage will take all this cracked ground teeth and tensed back and silent tears and it will be as if they were fat caterpillars chewing on my insides until they curl up and this was worth it released into the air to flutter under the lights and brush themselves against skin and they will sigh and all my muscles will finally unclench themselves and there will be a hand that will stroke my skin and say yes it was worth it and I will no longer need to search for answers to all the questions I dare not voice.
This is my ‘Angry Woman’ poetry set
because in the fog fugue of my days the only thing
that moves me is the flint strike of another man’s
words sparking with the same air of a schoolboy’s glass
burning through ants under a beating sun and you would think
after all these years i would have learnt to stop pressing
this knife of indifference against my chest whittling down
all my longing until the dagger weight of it slices through
my body and after all these years love and pain still come
together clutching hands that will not let go and i think
of my mother and how she cradled my rag doll limbs
telling us that our swollen faces were nothing
next to our father’s and his rage was only
a difficult guest that we would one day understand.
It’s been three months since my last update so I feel like I should do a new one.
Photograph by Rai – check out her Instagram because her work is so good
So uh. Book sales aren’t doing as well as I hoped that I would, but at the same time, I’ve received reviews from both friends as well as total strangers (who should have no incentive to lie) saying that they really really enjoyed it.
If you did like it I would really appreciate if you could share about it with friends or review it on its Goodreads page. Or buy copies to give friends. None of these being mutually exclusive options hehe.
Also, you can purchase the The Woman Who Turned Into a Vending Machine at 40% off this weekend (ends 23 September) at BooksActually’s online store! There’s also free local shipping in Singapore so yes now is the perfect time to go for it if you still have been on the fence on buying the book. Just key in the code MPP40 at the checkout. This applies to all other Math Paper Press books so yes, perfect excuse time to go wild and fill your shelves with Sing lit.
I’m going to be a featured poet in October’s Spoke & Bird session! If these words mean nothing to you, Spoke & Bird is a monthly open mic session organised by the indomitable Stephanie Dogfoot which has got great poets featured each time. I’ve really enjoyed the sessions since I started attending them semi-regularly this year and I’m really excited to be part of this one, and not just on the open mic. I’ll have a 15-20 minute set, so come down on 3 October if you’re in Clarke Quay area and say hi.
I’m actually going to be at the Singapore Writer’s Festival with an actual Festival pass for the first time ever this year – when I was a student it always clashed with exam season and debate tournaments and while I would go for the SingPoWriMo I would always skip everything else, and of course I was working at the festival bookstore last year. But this year, I’ll not just be attending, but I’m also a featured writer and will be involved in some panels! Which is incredibly exciting! ! ! And yes I might have squealed a bit when I saw the emails. More details on these up soon. Continue reading “Exciting Updates”
Yes, I know what it was like
to be split open in a place
you thought was a temple.
And yes, I know the curl of your body
as another woman loomed.
A gorgon who moved only
to spit at your pain. The venom
of her words as she cast you out.
I too know the rage that twisted
your face when you realised that the men
would not leave you alone
in your shame. How they tried
to pull you from your cave, headfirst.
Your hair twisted and hissed
but no one would bind you with your locks
again and then they called you monster.
Medusa, your name meant protector
and I know that was all
you tried to do for yourself.
I dream of the scales
of your hair, and how they
would wrap their tendrils
in mine. Of tipping over
the statues and covering
Perseus’s shield with the rubble
of every hero that came before him.
But those are only dreams.
Poseidian continued feasting
below the seas. Zeus bore down
on girl after girl. Apollo cursed
the ones who would not want
him back. And your head hung
from the hand of your killer while
he raised his sword in salute.
If you asked me which was easier, to think that the only wrong one was myself, or to finally give a name to the worms that buried themselves in my gut, I could not give you an answer. At least when you think you are the one who has to change, you can do that, until the day you pull the bloating worms from your body and realise that you have been feeding them while they bled you inside out.
Today I block the trash before it can invade my insides. I can say rape culture. I can say gas lighting. Today I can say, fuck off. Sometimes.
I still cannot say bully. It is a word that lives in American sitcoms where people are tossed into dumpsters. It means cuts running down the length of my limbs, a therapist I cannot afford. In my head it slides away from the company of other words or silence, no matter how many hooks they are lined with. It is not people treating your sex life as the dinner’s entertainment. It is not someone telling you that it will be your fault if your ex kills himself. It is not someone telling you that the world hates you but he still is your only friend. It is not a boy saying he has to punish you because you didn’t choose him. I tell myself it cannot be bullying if I deserved it.
Over dinner I tell my mother how I had sat the boys from the high school and managed to shove the b word from my mouth. Said locker room talk. Stared them down until they couldn’t look me in the eye and mumbled an apology. I didn’t know if it was a victory because the weight of those years still would not lift even as every word fell over my tongue.
My mother said, why do you do these things. I said I was so tired of sandwich jokes. That’s what she said jokes. That I shouldn’t have to explain that a girl wasn’t a fucking goalpost.
My mother says, don’t swear at me. My mother thinks that she should have never sent me to theatre classes because now she has a drama queen for a daughter. On some days I regret it too. Wonder if it would be easier to laugh along and tell myself off for overthinking. Easier to keep saying yes to things I do not want, or to keep my tongue still, because it is so much harder to say no. Easier to think rape only ever happens when you are on your back and screaming. That the friends around you with open lips and flashing teeth were only joking.