Poet in Translation: Tan Chee Lay

Tan Chee Lay and Tan Inn Shin transcreate a Chinese poem inspired by Royston Tan’s coming-of-age movie 15 (2003).

2 min read

This poem has been translated from Chinese by Tan Inn Shin, along with the poet Tan Chee Lay. Read the original here.

reading in between tattoos
a dyslexic youth

puffing on cigarette butts
in a weightless time

drilling a facial hole
through a thick-skinned youth

watching porn and pretending
unchanged lives have a genuine orgasm

cursing with the foulest language
at self-criticism and self-pity

scribbling graffiti on the wall
as if self-mutilating

swinging chopper better than shaking pen
untucked uniforms, such as misplaced responsibility
showing the biggest middle finger to the staring world

until finally the world turns

About the poet

Born and bred in Singapore, Dr. Tan Chee Lay is an Associate Professor of Chinese Literature at NTU and the Executive Director (R&D) of the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language. He has a BA in Chinese, MA in English, MBA and PhD. He has won the Golden Point Award, Young Artist Award, Singapore Youth Award (Art and Culture) and has published over 20 creative writing and scholarly books. His recent publications include Landmark Poetics of the Lion City (poetry, 2017). Besides creative writing and academic research, he enjoys Chinese calligraphy, painting and badminton.

About the translator

Tan Inn Shin is a bilingual secondary student who enjoys literature, besides dancing and baking.

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