Her days are guided by the twin obsessions of opera and the written word, but more than anything she is a lover of life, learning and long runs. Meet Michelle Tan, a poetry-writing mezzo-soprano at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Math Paper Press recently published Michelle’s debut poetry collection, The Confusion of Happiness. BooksActually’s Marketing Manager, Angelin Chua, talks to the young author on our behalf. Here goes …
It’s difficult to choose a single word to be your favourite, but if you ABSOLUTELY have to choose one, what would it be? It might be ‘daze’ because of how it’s a homophone with something as banal as ‘days’ and yet it captures precisely the overwhelming explosiveness of being alive in time through hazy colour and muffled hearing.
As a lover of music and opera, do you think that music has played a major role in your writing?
Definitely. Music awakens sensations and emotions beyond anything anyone can reliably describe. Because of its gorgeous complexity, it intensifies the struggle to be accurate and honest in relaying one’s experience of the world. My operatic training has been particularly helpful for poetry since it constantly increases my sensitivity to beauty built into the sounds of language. But far beyond writing, music has played a major part in my life.
At the launch of your poetry collection, you’ve touched many with your reading of some poems. Which is your favourite in this collection?
Apostrophe, because Stein made me realise that even a punctuation mark can be as irrational in love as us silly humans are.
If you need to make a choice between writing and having a voice, which would you choose?
I would (cheat a bit and) choose to have a voice in the sense of having any mode of expression that can be heard by others. :P I think it’s so important to have an output to process and share our experience of the complex world we live in. It’s perhaps the only way to keep on living.
Given the words CAT, STARS, CABIN, and MISCELLANY, have fun and come up with a little poem for our readers!
it’s not the bodies that lie
that gave the warmth we wanted
but what we once left behind
in rooms other than our own
miscellany first strewn like whiskers
across his quiet cabin, then
clean-shaven, blown astray
casting shadows like dead stars
‘all things for the cat’
in this cruel case of whispers
*’Alles für die Katz’ is the really cute German way of saying ‘it was all in vain’.
BooksActually’s big boss is giving away 2 copies of Michelle Tan’s book each topped up with a copy of Cyril’s Wong “Unmarked Treasure“. Want a set? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with “I’m a BooksActually spoiled brat!” in the subject line. The first 2 readers to comply with these instructions, can pick up their bundle from the BooksActually shop (No. 9 Yong Siak Street, Tiong Bahru). The contest is open to Singapore based readers only! The contest is closed. More luck next time!