How to Fall in Love with Classics: Poetry

Venue: Various venues in National Library Building Start Date: Various dates End Date:  Time: 7.00 - 8.30pm Organizer's Details: 

How to Fall in Love with Classics

Literary classics are classics because they have stood the test of time. They have dazzled generations of readers with their compelling writing as well as with their approaches to universal themes. Each new age discovers in them not just fascinating layers of meaning but also fresh relevance. A reader is often profoundly satisfied and feels his or her life changed for the better.

How to Fall in Love with Classics is an exciting, new NLB lecture series that wishes to celebrate the classics. This series looks lovingly and thoughtfully at a few texts to understand the special pleasure we get from them. The study should help to ignite or rekindle your own passion for literature. You may grasp more firmly the importance of particular works and learn to appreciate them more.

Every lecture will explore one classic for its various forms of meaning. The text will be dissected to reveal connections it makes to ideas in history, culture, and society. We will also observe how it can enhance our reflections on ourselves and the world.

The first series started in Jan-Feb 2018 with a focus on four famous novels: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, George Orwell’s 1984, and Rex Shelley’s The Shrimp People.

The second series ran in June-July 2018, and in line with the Read! Fest 2018 theme on happiness, focused on four humorous books: Voltaire’s Candide, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Adrian Tan’s The Teenage Textbook.

The third series in Nov-Dec 2018 will focus on four influential poems: T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”, Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the Thing with Feathers”, Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy”, and Edwin Thumboo’s “Ulysses by the Merlion”.

Current series: How to Fall in Love with Classics (Poetry)

All sessions below will open for registration on Go Library on 20 Oct.

“The Wasteland” by T. S. Eliot
Friday 23 November, 7.00 – 8.30pm,
Possibility Room, National Library Building

S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” is a landmark work in modern English-language poetry. First published in 1922, the five-part poem appears in a disjointed and highly allusive style. It explores the individual’s relationship to tradition and culture while capturing the disillusionment, despair, and wish for rebirth of modernity. Gwee Li Sui’s lecture will show why “The Wasteland” remains an important text in how it has paved the way to our literary sentiments today.

“Hope is the Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickinson
Friday 30 November, 7.00 – 8.30pm,
Possibility Room, National Library Building

One of Emily Dickinson’s most well-loved poems, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” is short but unforgettable. It pictures hope as a singing bird perched within the human soul as its life. While penned in 1861, this poem, like the bulk of Dickinson’s enchanting works, did not see print until after her death in 1886. Gwee Li Sui will lecture on the art of its powerful lines in connection to the lively, dynamic, inner world of the poet.

“Daddy” by Sylvia Plath
Friday 7 December, 7.00 – 8.30pm,
Possibility Room,  National Library Building

Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” is one of the most haunting works in the poetry of the English language. Published posthumously in 1965, the poem considers Plath’s relationship with her father and a broad landscape of hurt, trauma, and confusion. It is especially striking in its use of psychological imagery. Gwee Li Sui’s lecture will evaluate “Daddy” in terms of not just biographical information but also the nature and workings of the human mind.

“Ulysses by the Merlion” by Edwin Thumboo
Friday 14 December, 7.00 – 8.30pm,
Possibility Room, National Library Building

“Ulysses by the Merlion” is arguably the most famous and most cited Singaporean poem in any language. This work, the title piece of Edwin Thumboo’s 1979 collection, captures the alluring spirit of self-fashioning in a young nation. It brings together myth and yearning, quest and certainty, in a way that has ignited the public imagination. Gwee Li Sui’s lecture will explore the poem’s various concerns and its reception through the years.

About the Speaker

Gwee Li Sui is a poet, a graphic artist, and a literary critic. His works of verse include Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems? (1998), One Thousand and One Nights (2014), Who Wants to Buy an Expanded Edition of a Book of Poems? (2015), The Other Merlion and Friends (2015), Haikuku (2017), and Death Wish (2017). A familiar name in Singapore’s cultural scene, Gwee wrote our first long-form graphic novel in English Myth of the Stone back in 1993. He has edited several acclaimed literary anthologies, taught at several universities, and lectured on a vast range of subjects. He has also written FEAR NO POETRY!: An Essential Guide to Close Reading (2014) and Spiaking Singlish: A Companion to How Singaporeans Communicate (2017).