Upon speaking with Singaporean poet, Angeline Yap, I was able to learn a lot about the crafting and messages of her poems. In particular, learning about her creative process of writing poetry was fascinating. When I have personally written poetry, I have found that I am very conscious of the poetic techniques I use and create poems with this in mind. However, upon talking to Ms Yap, I’ve realised that sometimes poets come up with these craft features because “they just feel right”, without a clear intent to include them.
When discussing the poem ‘Only Hiroshima’, I posed this question: What is the significance of the progression from “it was not you, it was not i”, to “it is you and it is i”？My group and I had personally taken this to be Yap’s way of portraying the importance of remembering significant historical events and conveying these to younger generations. However, Ms Yap discussed how it was used to create a certain detachment between her in the moment and her family that had suffered at the hands of the Japanese occupation. She realised that at that moment, she could have not returned the smile to the Japanese tourist. Instead, she didn’t feel any animosity towards the specific individual. She referenced this idea of belonging outside of past events and not blaming individuals of current generations for mistakes in the past. However, at the same time, she reiterated this idea of teaching younger generations events of the past to ensure remembrance. While on one hand, we must move forward, on the other, we cannot bury the past either.
“It is you, it is I, we can be friendly but we cannot walk away from it” Angeline Yap
The indentations used in the poem was also a decision made as she felt it was ‘just right.’ She tried to separate her streams of thoughts but at the same time, not create a neat division, representing events in history that remain unclear and muddled. She believed that her poem created a sense of working through ideas, considering both sides but not separating thoughts completely. By doing so, she aimed to represent her stream of consciousness at the point in time.