Proust Questionnaire: 17 questions with Tania De Rozario
By Yong Shu Hoong
While indulging in Tania De Rozario's poems, the imaginative reader can try to compare the experience with swallowing fire or drinking liquid nitrogen, as suggested by her fellow Singapore poet, Cyril Wong. "This is no contradiction," Wong wrote in his blurb for her debut collection, Tender Delirium, published by Math Paper Press in 2013. "The poet's red-hot honesty and wit, framed in a voice that is chillingly sober and vulnerable, ensure that her words are not for the bland or emotionally vacant."
Meet De Rozario, a writer and visual artist who bravely tackles pertinent issues of gender and sexuality, themes of home and memory, and representations of women in the horror genre. She was the winner of Singapore's Golden Point Award for English Poetry in 2011, and the Nonfiction Prize in the 2020 New Ohio Review Contest. Tender Delirium was also shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize in 2014.
Her other books include And the Walls Come Crumbling Down (first published by Math Paper Press in 2016, with a North American edition published by Gaudy Boy in October 2020), which is described as "part queer memoir and part poetic rumination", and the "literary game-book" of fiction, Somewhere Else, Another You (Math Paper Press, 2018). Her poetry, fiction and comics have been published in various anthologies, as well as journals including The Malahat Review, subTerrain, The Laurel Review, Blue Lyra Review and Softblow. Her visual art has been exhibited in galleries and art spaces in Singapore and other cities like Moscow, Amsterdam, London and San Francisco.
De Rozario has undertaken residencies around the world like Hedgebrook (USA), Toji Cultural Centre (South Korea), Sangam House (India), The Substation (Singapore) and the National University of Singapore's Centre for Quantum Technologies (Singapore). She recently received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, Canada.
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.
5. Do you believe in writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I think how we keep ourselves in that attentive space is different for everyone. It might mean starting the day by reading a poem every morning and letting it wash over you as you get ready for the day. It might be making a commitment to having only one internet tab open at a time when we are writing, or maybe keeping a journal, or maybe dedicating more time to reading. It could be a daily meditation practice. It could be allowing yourself to get so emotionally devastated by the death of a fictional character on TV that the only thing you can think to do is write about them.
Sustaining attentiveness to the things that move our craft seems like an easy thing to do, but it really isn't there is so much that fights for our time and attention every day. We may not need to be writing consistently every day, but we do need to be pre-occupied with the thing that moves us to write. It's not just about the words that come out of you, but also what you put into you. Sometimes, when you can't write, it's not because you're blocked it's because you're running on empty.
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 I...
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 words: gape, safe, yelp.
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. Now that you've been living in Canada for some time, what's one thing that made you look back at Singapore with love, and another that made you look back in anger?
17. What would you write on your own tombstone?