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The Votive Pen: Writings on Edwin Thumboo

Nilanjana Sengupta
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A rivetting look at the fiercely original, intellectually brilliant mind of Singapore’s unofficial Poet-Laureate, Edwin Thumboo. Born of Tamil and Teochew parents, he embraced the Protestant faith late in his life. He has a self-confessed fetish for Yeats and Pound and yet completed his doctoral thesis on post-colonial African poetry. He taught himself the Ramayana and I-Ching but found traces of the Odysseus in the shadows of the Merlion. He is brusquely vocal about poetry with a purpose and yet appears a hopeless romantic in his poems about his wife. What happens when a mind which is such a melting pot of brilliant ideas and contrary emotions tries to unscramble the identity of a country like Singapore which is complex, multiracial, has known a fierce economic growth that has often elbowed aside everything else? The Votive Pen sets out to see Edwin Thumboo’s poetry – steadily and see it whole – without the intervening static of earlier critical writing and with an intense alertness to the text.

Published: Dec/2020

ISBN: 9789814882132

Length: 280 Pages

The Votive Pen: Writings on Edwin Thumboo

Nilanjana Sengupta

A rivetting look at the fiercely original, intellectually brilliant mind of Singapore’s unofficial Poet-Laureate, Edwin Thumboo. Born of Tamil and Teochew parents, he embraced the Protestant faith late in his life. He has a self-confessed fetish for Yeats and Pound and yet completed his doctoral thesis on post-colonial African poetry. He taught himself the Ramayana and I-Ching but found traces of the Odysseus in the shadows of the Merlion. He is brusquely vocal about poetry with a purpose and yet appears a hopeless romantic in his poems about his wife. What happens when a mind which is such a melting pot of brilliant ideas and contrary emotions tries to unscramble the identity of a country like Singapore which is complex, multiracial, has known a fierce economic growth that has often elbowed aside everything else? The Votive Pen sets out to see Edwin Thumboo’s poetry – steadily and see it whole – without the intervening static of earlier critical writing and with an intense alertness to the text.

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Nilanjana Sengupta

Nilanjana Sengupta is a notable author of Singapore who has built a reputation in writing books which travel to unchartered territories. In A Gentleman's Word she chronicled the legacy of a forgotten war hero, Subhas Chandra Bose across Southeast Asia. In, The Female Voice of Myanmar, she wrote of the latent masculine bias of Burmese culture and women voices which have managed to cut through the clutter. A Biography of M Bala Subramanion was a nuanced look at the Tamils of Singapore who though the majority Indian community, struggle with vulnerabilities of their own. Sengupta, a research scholar at NUS and ISEAS-Yosuf Ishaak Institute, has been critically acclaimed, widely read and her books have been translated and included in the university course.