My loves, you might have noticed that I’ve been rather quiet recently on the front of releasing new creative projects. I couldn’t be more excited (thrilled, terrified, relieved) to finally unveil the reason behind that: I’ve been hard at work on my very first dip into the scholarly realm, with a paper that is now published in the Journal of Homosexuality, the world’s oldest & leading peer-reviewed scholarly journal dedicated to the study of gender & sexuality.
This lovely innocent beast tackles a subject that, before now, hadn’t been explored in the scholarly realm to the extent it rightly should: the formation of queerness as a sociocultural identity in Singaporean adolescents, & precisely how the consumption & production of poetry might factor into that identity. As an LGBT+ Singaporean adolescent myself, this research is so very close to my heart, & I’m honoured to bring it to light.
The abstract of Queering Poetics is as follows:
This qualitative study explores identity formation in LGBT+ Singaporean adolescents, and how reading, writing, and listening to poetry shapes Singaporean adolescents’ social identities as queer people. Analysing in-depth interviews with nine LGBT+ Singaporean adolescents, four themes were found: (1) LGBT+ Singaporean adolescents interested in poetry believe that reading, writing, and/or listening to poetry has been an integral part of constructing their queer identities; (2) the poems that have impacted LGBT+ Singaporean adolescents’ queer identities the most have been informed by queer sociocultural values; (3) poetry provides validation to LGBT+ Singaporean adolescents that their identities are real and that others before them have experienced the same challenges they are going through; and (4) poetry serves as a third space for LGBT+ Singaporean adolescents to safely construct their growing queer identities. Implications for teachers, counsellors, and adult supporters of queer Singaporean adolescents are discussed, and recommendations for future research are provided.
Put in simpler terms, Queering Poetics: The Impact of Poetry on LGBT+ Identity in Singaporean Adolescents explores how & why young people in a socioculturally homophobic environment like Singapore turn to art forms like poetry for a sense of comfort & solace in their identities. I conducted this research across a year & a half, & got to know nine incredible queer adolescents as part of it. I truly hope & believe it will add to our collective lexicon & discourse around queerness & literature in Singapore.
One rather exciting thing worth mentioning: as part of the study, I asked each adolescent interviewed to share with me any specific poets they’ve read that have had a particularly large impact on their LGBT+ identities. As you know, I write under a pen name (& all of the research conducted for this paper was done under my birth name), & it was so stunning & surreal to hear a few respondents cite my own work—without knowing they were, in fact, talking to me—as influences on their identities. One of my favourite quotes from the study’s participants, regarding my first book, Heaven or This:
It’s a book of poems about girls who love girls, and you know, the first time I read it I burst into tears. Because it feels like everywhere I look in Singapore there are people telling me that the person I am and the people I love aren’t real or aren’t good, but you have these poems about people just like me, and it feels like a lifeline, you know? It feels like somebody’s taking my hand and telling me that it’s all going to be okay. And that I’m going to be okay … It’s kind of a validation, like someone saying “you aren’t alone in this, now or ever.”
& another soft, bright note: with this publication, I’ve now broken three records. In addition to being the youngest Singaporean ever to be nominated for the Pushcart Prize & the youngest writer ever to be published by Math Paper Press (both at 17 years old), I’m now the youngest scholar ever to be published in the Journal of Homosexuality (at 19 years old). What a privilege to be here. I hope the paper does not disappoint.
You can talk about Queering Poetics on social media using the hashtag #queeringpoetics, & read the full paper—as well as citing it in your own research, if you’d like—right here. Thank you for your support in this new venture, friends. Here’s hoping the paper opens a dialogue about what queer poetry is & could be in this wild beautiful terrifying precious island city of ours. xx