10 x 10, An Intergenerational Literary Equation

10 × 10: an intergenerational literary equation is a community arts project conceptualised by Ceriph in collaboration with the National Arts Council. 10 youth writers and 10 senior citizens explore each others’ memories and lives—with creative prompts and literary devices woven in—and write together, culminating in a print publication featuring 100 pieces of writing, presented at Silver Arts and the Singapore Writers Festival.

What does the colour grey conjure up for you? For Daryl, 21, it was canals on a rainy day. For Ellen, 64, it was a fresh pomfret, soon to be relegated to the steamer. The differences are as stark as they are sweet. 10 x 10 has been particularly delightful in yielding—and bridging—these intergenerational differences, where seniors and the younger folk get to know one another, learn to write together, and craft literary nuggets around their own, as well as one another’s, experiences. In the still-fledgling scene of community arts in Singapore, community arts is quite often executed in terms of a more privileged (be it in the currency of youth, social status, artistic predilection) community doing things to a certain community demographic, rather than doing things with this demographic. I think the difference between these two prepositions are very keen. With 10 x 10, we sought to vest both participating groups with the power of equality: sharing, learning and creating together. We designed the exercises from scratch, factoring in how well they would translate into low-pressure yet emotive prompts; weaving in the imparting of literary devices. The learning was twofold: youths helped the seniors along if and when they needed an additional adjective with the right tonal weight; seniors inspired youths with their thought processes—Diana, 20, says of Carena, 61, her partner for the six sessions: “She taught me to be instinctive.” The fixed partnership across the six sessions also yielded an environment of trust and the cumulative intimacy of memory. Partners shared amongst one another memories of love and loss: the taste of the lips of a Nepali girl, the death of a young sibling; of everyday life, beautiful in its ordinariness; of turning points; of embarrassments; of moments of pride. These memories have been distilled and embellished into pockets of standalone creative-writing for your perusal here: 10 seniors x 10 youths, with an end result of 100 pieces of prose and poetry. Certainly, the equation need not, and should not, end here—Michael, 63, said that we’d activated a dormant creative streak in him, whilst his partner, Rocco, 20, is sprucing up longer pieces for submissions to literary journals. Mdm Teoh Guat Kim, 79, told me as she crafted a piece based on her memory of her husband gardening in the morning and evenings: “I never thought of my life as being full of moments that can be thought of poetically.” Erny, 21, thinks she might become more open about her writing, which she had the tendency to keep private. Rita, 61, is experimenting with keeping her diary in haiku form. Surely, then, the accruing whole of 10 x 10 is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Youths and seniors will give a reading at the SWF ilovebooks Pavilion on the SMU Campus Green from 8-9pm on 9 November.

 

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