On grassroots efforts
By Toh Hsien Min
For just the third time, I have to apologise for having to publish QLRS late. I had already foreseen that there would have been complications to this 15th January deadline, because I was also involved in getting Wordfeast 2004 off the ground. Wordfeast, which took place in Singapore from 15th-18th January, was Singapore's first ever international poetry festival. We had prominent poets, essayists and editors from Australia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and the USA joining our own homegrown writers in a four-day programme of readings, discussions, workshops and plain good fun. As such, I was trying to anticipate the schedule collision by timing all the work for this issue in the week before that. However, real life doesn't always follow the script, and as it happened I had a work project come in during that crucial week, to do about two weeks' worth of work in four days. Delivering on our projects under such tough deadlines isn't anything new to me, but having three separate streams of high commitment jostling for the same limited time was nonetheless trying. Not surprisingly, the project that paid my bills knocked the one that didn't even pay for itself into third place. It was still a third place that found me working on it over Chinese New Year (believe it or not, I'm uploading this in between home visits), and even this didn't manage to prevent a sequence of five 4am nights in a row topped off by one night, just before Wordfeast, of no sleep whatsoever.
QLRS Vol. 3 No. 2 Jan 2004
Wordfeast 2004, as many of you may know by now, was a success. We drew sellout crowds to all the food-and-poetry events, including a raucous wine-tasting-cum-poetry-reading event that was as notable for the excellence of the readers (absolute silence and attention!) as for the quality of the wines. A high proportion of the audiences were people who didn't normally attend poetry events, and their enthusiasm was revitalising. There were of course many high points during the four days, but one that I recall was meeting a lady from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, who was keen to find out more about how the three of us had put together such an event. For me, it seemed strangely apt. Wordfeast was a result of grassroots volunteerism; it didn't involve only three of us, we had roped in many other volunteers, who unstintingly lent their invaluable time, effort and resources. Similarly, QLRS has a similar energy source; I've been working with a brilliant team of volunteer editors, and I know that much of the time, they're no less busy than I am, but they still put in their time and effort towards getting this journal out. And it's this team (currently: Kai Chai, Siok, Elaine, Cyril and Yueh Chin) that keeps QLRS going; without them, the journal wouldn't have come so far, and I'd like to record my appreciation to them.
My thanks also to all those who have, in the past week, asked about QLRS's release. It's good to know the work isn't going to waste. We hope this issue has been worth the wait. There is a good crop of poems; this time, local poets, among whom are some of the brightest up-and-coming talents, are out in force. The short stories are also in good shape, and the reviews have asserted themselves again. Taking us back to the Singapore Writers' Festival is an interview I did with British poetry starlet Bernardine Evaristo, and the usual theatre reviews and Cyril's Acid Tongue rounds out the issue.
See you in three months! Happy Chinese New Year!
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