Lust for words
The Proletariat Poetry Factory at The Arts House. (Photo: The Arts House)

Lust for words

Have you ever had a moment of panic when a birthday or farewell card lands on your desk and you are lost for words to convey your heartfelt wishes eloquently, or at least channel your wonderful sense of wit? The poets of the Proletariat Poetry Factory get you.

This loose collective of literary enthusiasts composes personalised poems on the spot, and for each poem, they get only one word, picked out by a member of public, for inspiration.

Members of the collective will be popping up at the porch of The Arts House this weekend with their old-school typewriters. The poetry-performance event is part of the centre’s signature programme, Textures. Co-commissioned with the #BuySingLit movement, Textures celebrates Singapore literature and the literary scene here.

The collective was co-founded in 2006 by siblings, Daren and Rachel Goh. Rachel, a graduate of the Chelsea College of Art and an artist, says her love for verse stems from how “poetry evokes an immeasurable depth of feeling with such scarcity of words.”

She counts herself lucky to have had the thrill and privilege of composing a poem for renowned author Neil Gaiman. He was in Singapore for the 2009 Singapore Writers Festival and he had stopped by a Proletariat Poetry Factory pop-up as part of the festival.

On words she would like to compose poems around, she says: “’Sphere’, because I love the way the mouth moves enigmatically to pronounce it. And ‘onomatopoeia’, also because of the way it sounds, and its meaning, which is related to sounds.”

And words to avoid?

“Birthday, love and happiness,” she says. “They are the same words that keep appearing during the performance, and as you can imagine, it drives our poets insane.”

If you plan to have the Proletariat Poetry Factory compose a poem for you, but you are stumped for a word to inspire them with, fret not. Play our “word generator roulette” on Instagram Story (@alistsg) and you will be well on your way to a unique poem.


Details on the Proletariat Poetry Factory’s event at Textures here.

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