Published on 14 Mar 2024

Singing of memory, change and loss

Poetry collection explores experiences across places and time, underscored by music and song.

Memories can be potent. They remind people of cherished experiences but also prompt a recollection of what has been changed and lost to time.

In his latest poetry collection, The Singer And Other Poems, Assoc Prof Boey Kim Cheng from NTU’s School of Humanities explores these themes through experiences across places and time, underscored by music and song.

The book won the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry in May 2023 at the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards – Australia’s longest-running state-based literary awards.

The collection’s first part evokes Assoc Prof Boey’s memories in Asia. From walks through Singapore’s Little India to rickshaw rides in the streets of Punjab, the Singapore-born Australian reflects on the hopes and dreams of others, and laments the loss of comforting bygone days – often juxtaposing the past with a starkly different present.

Prose and poetry blend in the collection, highlighted by the titular piece, The Singer. In it, the poet pays tribute to his late seamstress mother and likens her work on the Singer sewing machine to a heartfelt performance capturing her joy and pain. Penning his journeys abroad in the middle segment of the book, he ruminates on local sights and sacred sites and being a traveller in foreign lands.

The collection’s final section delves into Assoc Prof Boey’s life in his adoptive country down under. Despite carrying the weight of his past life and new experiences, he finds contentment and comes to call Australia home.


The book The Singer And Other Poems is published by Cordite Books (2022).

The article appeared first in NTU's research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #22, August 2023).