Guest Foreword: Home & Away
Yong Shu Hoong

Memories of studying English literature in secondary school return to me, as I click through the essays and interviews concerning the study of literature in this issue of Unseen magazine. But for the life of me, I cannot remember if I’d ever been tasked to analyse unseen poems or passages way back then. Or did I choose to blot this morsel of information out of my memory?
Now the idea of the unseen is a mysterious one – I imagine an entire cohort of lit students being blindfolded before they are led into the exam hall. At another level, it is nothing short of a romanticised notion, like how the Chinese-American poet Li-Young Lee writes in his poem ‘A Hymn to Childhood’: “Still thinking you hear low song / in the wind in the eaves, / story in your breathing, / grief in the heard dove at evening, / and plentitude in the unseen bird / tolling at morning.”
This request for me to write a guest foreword, came out of the blue, though not unwelcome (cc. Editor-in-Chief, Dominic!). Strangely, it also felt like it was meant to be, and indeed there are many things happening, or have happened, in my life that seem to bear some relevance to the theme of this issue, ‘Home & Away’. I wonder if this is the poet’s way of viewing occurrences in life, connecting the dots, finding associations in things that aren’t necessarily associated in the first place.
After reading ‘On Returning’ by Chloe Tong, I think of my own past experiences living outside of Singapore. It was during my time in the United States, pursuing an MBA in a university in Texas, that I properly began writing poems – including an early rhyming effort titled ‘Away from Home’.
Even though most of my time is taken up by teaching these days (for which some articles in the magazine provide good insights), the writing project that is supposed to emerge out of my residency at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve weighs heavy upon my mind; as an endeavour still ongoing, the writing isn’t proceeding as quickly as I’d hoped for. With the migratory birds once again flocking to the Reserve from colder climate, it is only natural that I’m also thinking about the concept of home from the birds’ perspective: Is home the place where they mate and reproduce – perhaps as far as Canada, or by a lake on the Tibetan Plateau? Or is this place that they escape to year after year so familiar by now that definitions and distinctions get blurry, and Singapore becomes, for them, more than a second home?
Perhaps, it is in such fuzziness that ideas and feelings come to life, and we make space for further contemplation and art-making. In the fog that renders everything it taints beautiful, we delight in pondering the tension between going and returning, there and here, the foreign and the familiar. For writers and literature lovers alike, we don’t stop investigating the mystique of the unseen. Just as how the elusive bird continues to warble in the trees, invisible to the eye but never the heart.

Yong Shu Hoong is the author of one poetry chapbook, Right of the Soil (2016), as well as five poetry collections, including Frottage (2005) and The Viewing Party (2013), which both won the Singapore Literature Prize. He has edited anthologies like Passages: Stories of Unspoken Journeys (2013) and Here Now There After (2017), which was commissioned for the #BuySingLit movement. He has also co-written The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (2015) and Lost Bodies: Poems Between Portugal and Home (2016).

Editor’s Foreword
The worlds of literature always feel to me at once both Home & Away, and pulling together this issue has been a comforting process of realising many others share similar sentiments. Going forward, we hope to feature contributions from all levels of literature education. Here’s to converting some of these imaginative possibilities into reality.
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On returning
[Creative] When Chloe Tong writes of returning, she invites us to consider the leaving as much as the coming back – the homecoming, after all, is simply a corollary of the sojourn.
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Can Creativity Be Taught, Then?
[Discussion] Hannah Weiss’ comparative reflection on the reception of creative writing in schools across the UK and Singapore arises from her recent summer school experience at NTU in Singapore.
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Dear dirty dublin
[H2] Dear Dirty Dublin is Lisa Zuliana Binte Zulkifli’s poetic tribute to James Joyce’s Ulysses, a work testament to Irish Modernism in its concerns with sense of belonging, nationalism, what makes a true Irish citizen, wandering and the usurpation of the home.
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Home, the final frontier
[Creative] If Home & Away posits a binary between two places, then Benedicta Foo’s Home, the Final Frontier dissolves such binary assumptions with her country-crossing, planet-hopping and time-trekking essay straddling three countries and two planets, timezones and centuries.
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Flitting Across Leaky Roofs Real and Imaginary
[H2] Our first submission at Unseen responding to A Streetcar Named Desire, Lisabelle Tan’s Flitting Across Leaky Roofs Real and Imaginary is a critical essay (written closer to the A Level format) that traverses the interrelation between setting and character in Tennessee Williams’ play.
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[Discussion] Can choosing to study literature ever be a pragmatic choice? Does enjoying literature necessitate, or permit one to study it further? These are perhaps the wider question lurking in the background of Sneha Varma’s The Literature Plunge: an honest personal reflection on the moments of anxiety in one’s education journey.
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Group Therapy with NTU Lit Lurkers
[Discussion] In this extended dramatic interview, the Unseen team reaches out to several literature majors from NTU at Cathay Cineleisure to have candid conversations about the experiences of living and studying literature.
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Re-Situating Literary Studies
[Discussion] In this exclusive sit-down session with Dr. Nazry Bahrawi of SUTD at the cosy Mellowers Cafe in Bugis, we explore his multifaceted work as a critic, educator and translator.
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[Discussion] In Football, Bloody Hell, Rachel Eng kicks off a riveting game in search of scoring her most important literary goal: Why isn’t there more of football literature?
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Away and Apart
[Creative/Discussion]  Away and Apart by Colin Huang explores in gentle tones and touches the familiarity of homesickness shared by Singaporean youths who travel and live abroad for their studies.
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The Insidious Picture of Dorian Gray
[Creative] Complete with her own original artwork drawing upon (missed) connections of desire, beauty and absence, Constance Teng layers the world of Basil and Dorian Gray onto a personal coming-of-age story of loss and belonging.
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Three Course Homecooked (Second) Breakfasts
[Discussion] An impromptu visit to The Second Breakfast Company’s secret hideout kitchen reveals an exclusive insight into what’s cooking for this breakout theatre group founded by youths, for youths.
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[Discussion] For our special tribute to our fellow A Level (and IB) Literature student friends taking papers this exam season, we sought out notes of encouragement, shared frustration and reminiscence from friends of Unseen.
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[Discussion] In our new feature column “Source-Based Unseen”, Dominic samples some of the main thrusts of Dr Suzanne Choo’s Reading the World, the Globe, and the Cosmos in the style of source-based responses, before scattering brief personal musings about her arguments.
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