This August, we welcome USP alum Ms Koh Xin Tian (English Literature + USP, Class of 2010) as our part-time Creative Writing Instructor. Xin Tian will be with us for one semester conducting the “Tell all the truth but tell it slant”: A Lyric Poetry and Nonfiction Writing Workshop every Friday, 7pm, starting 31 August. This workshop is open to all USP students (USP alums are welcome too!) who are interested in or curious about poetry and creative nonfiction.
We spoke to Xin Tian to find out more about her works since graduating eight years ago, her motivation for taking up this position, and the workshop that she will be running for USP students.
Xin Tian graduated with a B.A. (Honours) in English Literature and USP from NUS in 2010, and did her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing programme with a concentration in poetry at West Virginia University in 2015. Currently, she is a content strategist at a digital marketing agency. Beyond that, she is also a mentor with the Creative Arts Programme jointly organised by the Ministry of Education and the Department of English Language and Literature at NUS.
She recalled, “As a literature undergraduate [back then], I was particularly interested in poetry as a creative writing practice, and in modernist and contemporary literature. I read a lot of fiction though I don't write it; the ability to authentically get into the voice of a made-up character eludes me as I write more from the self and real-life observation (which makes for an accurate lens into reality and into the author).”
She shared further about what she did during her postgraduate days at West Virginia, “It provided the opportunity to teach undergraduate composition and creative writing, and to tutor both US and international students in the university writing centre. Teaching complements writing, and vice-versa; through your students, you get to see the nature of how rhetoric and writing tools are acquired and practised, which reflects on your own work. Through composition and academic writing courses, our students got to write about and discover pieces about the self, about others, about texts, and about differing perspectives.”
|You may check out some of her writing online at Tinderbox Poetry Journal (click HERE and HERE), Softblow, and offline in collections such as We Contain Multitudes: Twelve Years of Softblow.|
On why she applied and took up this position at USP, she said this is a chance for her to contribute her take on lyric poetry as self-discovery, iteration and community-building. She added, “Teaching is also a way for me to stay connected to the world of creative writing, even though I don't consider myself involved in academia or in literature, and work in what may appear to be a regular office job. The practice of writing, in many ways, is applicable to many seemingly unrelated domains and disciplines. As Dorianne Laux says, ‘Writing and reading are the only ways to find your voice. It won't magically burst forth in your poems the next time you sit down to write, or the next; but little by little, as you become aware of more choices and begin to make them -- consciously and unconsciously -- your style will develop.’”
On the Singapore literary scene, she opined, “I feel that in the new wave of Singapore literature, attention to craft, choices, and context in the written word are unfortunately not widespread. We need to keep asking ourselves: why are we saying what we are saying? What are the meanings and implications of what we say and write? How does what other people have said affect the reception of how we communicate? These can be overwhelming to think about, but the good news is that if we dare to question our own writing, writing will give us many opportunities to become better communicators. If your writing is not quite where you want it to be the first time, you can only stand to gain if you revise and improve on what you want to say to the world, with help from your fellow writers.”
When asked about her workshop for USP students, she said, “Since this is not a graded course, I would love to have students who know absolutely zero about the world of literature, writing, and poetry to join us. Find out how writing is not about isolated or mysterious magic, but about working on a craft, always improving, and endlessly creating newer and better forms of your self-expression. We will have a bonus creative nonfiction exploration, where we learn about how poetry and nonfiction are two seemingly disparate genres of writing which actually are deeply interrelated. By the end of the semester, students will have a mini-chapbook and a community sharing event where they show off not just their final work, but the thought and the process which led them there.”
|If you are interested to know more about the “Tell all the truth but tell it slant”: A Lyric Poetry and Nonfiction Writing Workshop, do join Xin Tian in her Introduction Talk this Friday, 24 August, 7pm at the USP Chatterbox. Register at bit.ly/CW-INTRO.|
For students who are unable to commit to the full length of the workshop but would like feedback on one or two pieces of writing, you are most welcome to consult and chat with Xin Tian at the USP Chatterbox every Friday from 4pm to 6pm. Drop her an email if you are coming.
We look forward to the valuable contributions that Xin Tian will bring to the USP community as she helps USP students discover the beauty and joy of creative writing. She has expressed her excitement to interact, and share her love for writing and poetry with everyone in her alma mater. If you see her around, be sure to say hi!