Moved by his electrifyingly confessional style, we interviewed Shuffle Ambassador, Cyril Wong, to explore his artistic upbringing and to learn more about how he relates to his work as a writer and multidisciplinary artist.
To start, how would you summarize your creative mission?
Not only to gain insight into my life, but into the subtlest aspects of my consciousness.
Can you recall a moment, early in your life, that influenced you to move towards this "creative mission"?
When I was lonely and depressed as a queer kid serving my National Service (compulsory military duties in Singapore), I had plenty of time to travel into myself and discover what needed to be learnt, creatively and otherwise, in order to know myself.
Do you find genre important? What about it is useful or, on the other hand, unhelpful?
Only in how genre directs me to other writers who are closest to my temperament in how I hope to excavate and analyse the world to uncover surprising to life-shattering revelations.
How do each of your passions intersect? Does this happen in any unexpected or surprising ways?
Yes, when I find opportunities to insert sung fragments into poetry to augment personal themes and intimate feelings during a performance. Also, I think music already shapes the way I write in ways I will never fully understand.
What excites you about your writing practice? What keeps you growing and pushing forward?
Living excites the practice in the first place. Reading pushes it in new directions. And writing is exciting because it is its own teacher and mentor; writing teaches me something new about my life and my thinking every day. Writing writes me into existence and extinguishes me utterly.
Tell us about an influential teacher you've had on your creative path (in or out of literary arts)
My first singing teacher, a mezzo-soprano from Shanghai. Through her, I discovered that learning to sing is a metaphor for learning how to live, and live better. To create a better "sound" or quality of presentation. To discover parts of myself that are beautiful yet difficult and challenging, paradoxical aspects that were already part of me all along. Unknowingly perhaps, she taught me to accept and harmonise the unique colours of not just my "sound", but also my being.
How do you think about social impact while working on your writing?
I only think about it when I publish, as publishing queer poetry in Singapore can be challenging, since it is deemed socially controversial. Publishing queer works adds to the diversity of society and culture, I like to think, which pushes me to publish more of it.
How does community play a supportive role in your creative / literary life?
It can support but it can also undermine, both at once. The pressure to write or behave like others (in order to fit in) can be oppressive, but the community can also provide examples of what kind of artists/writers I would prefer not to become, which can be inspiring or curiously supportive in an ironic way.
Have you ever shocked yourself as a writer? If yes, why, how and when?
Every time I write, it's already a shock, as I am always surprised that there is this energy inside me which is constantly searching, creating, and seeking the truth. It seems to be its own creative life-force that has nothing to do with my own personal ego or paltry sense of self.
What is your definition of creative success?
When I learn something new and bewildering about my life through what I have created, I consider this a "success".
Quote your own work: share a line or paragraph that you feel is exemplary of your best work.
"Everything woven through with its own unmaking, a storm brewing silently in an apple, that shattered net of clouds. Cracks in walls rocket to a big finish in the ceiling, one arm going suddenly numb, the final poem of a life left unfinished on the page."
Satori Blues, Singapore: SOFTBLOW Press, 2011
What about the literary / publishing world would you like to see change in the next decade?
I just want to see an even greater and greater diversity of voices and styles over time in any version of a "literary world".
Just for fun, what's a word that you love? What about it compels to you?
"Nothing" or "nothingness", because its quality is what I live by, for it's a word full of infinite potential and not at all empty, after all.
What are you currently working on?
A short novel about souls speaking to each other in a garden in hell.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your practice?
I write, I think, in order to stop writing eventually.