Proust Questionnaire: 17 questions with Aaron Lee
By Yeow Kai Chai
Among the generation of Singapore poets who rose to prominence in the mid-1990s, Aaron Lee Soon Yong is probably the most discreetly contemplative.
Preferring the discursive to the disruptive, he pursues his concerns on matters of the heart and mind in his own quiet ways. He isn't prolific but every book of his is thought through and duly feted. His first poetry collection, A Visitation of Sunlight (1997), was voted one of the year's best books by The Straits Times. His second collection, Five Right Angles (2007), was shortlisted for the 2008 Singapore Literature Prize.
Together with Alvin Pang, he co-edited two influential poetry anthologies, namely No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban Poetry (2000) and Love Gathers All: the Philippines-Singapore Anthology of Love Poetry (2002).
Lee's work has been published internationally and performed at international festivals and conferences. 2014 will see the publication of his third poetry collection, Coastlands, which explores of the idea of a spiritual "home".
A banking lawyer and a writing mentor, he is married to the artist and educationist Namiko Chan.
1. What are you reading right now?
2. If you were a famous literary character in a novel, play, or poem, who would you be, and why?
3. What is the greatest misconception about you?
4. Name one living author and one dead author you identify with most, and tell us why.
The late American novelist Chaim Potok, whom I had the pleasure to meet, wrote a book that impacted me greatly as a young writer. Titled My Name is Asher Lev, it was a wrenching, compassionate story about a tortured artist. I am not particularly tortured myself but I do know some struggling artists and I can understand some of their plight.
5. Do you believe in writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?
6. What qualities do you admire most in a writer?
7. What is one trait you deplore most in writing or writers?
8. Can you recite your favourite line from a literary work or a piece of advice from a writer?
9. Complete this sentence: Few people know this, but
10. At the movies, if you have to pick a comedy, a tragedy, or an action thriller to watch, which will you go for, and why?
11. What is your favourite word, and what is your least favourite one?
12. Write a rhyming couplet that includes the following three items: hula hoop, painter, gavel.
13. What object is indispensable to you when you write?
14. What is the best time of the day for writing?
15. If you had a last supper, which three literary figures, real or fictional, would you invite to the soiree, and why?
16. You're among several lawyers in Singapore who write creatively. Why do you think the legal profession breeds creative writers? And who are your favourite lawyer-writers, here or overseas?
17. What would you write on your own tombstone?