Felix Cheong

Singapore Infopedia


Felix Cheong Seng Fei (b. 1965, Singapore–) is a poet and recipient of the National Arts Council Young Artist Award for Literature in 2000.1 He has published three volumes of poetry: Temptation and Other Poems (1998), I Watch the Stars Go Out (1999) and Broken by the Rain (2003). Cheong is also an active promoter of Singapore’s literary arts scene. He was a freelance writer for local newspapers and publications such as TodayThe New Paper and The Edge.2


Cheong graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English Literature from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 1990.3 During his undergraduate years, he was actively involved in varsity literary activities as vice-president of the NUS Literary Society.4 Several of his poems won prizes at university writing competitions.5 After graduation, Cheong worked as a producer with the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation and later as a studio director with CNBC Asia.6 In February 2001, he embarked on a creative writing programme with the University of Queensland on a bursary awarded by the National Arts Council (NAC). He graduated with a Masters of Philosophy in Creative Writing in June 2002.7 

Cheong displayed an affinity with words at an early age, having had several of his writings published in his primary school magazines.8 He continued to write during his college days but only turned to serious writing when he entered university.After dabbling with poetry for 15 years, Cheong published his first work Temptation and Other Poems in 1998.10 The publication brings together a collection of poems that reflects his Catholic faith, as well as on love. It also contains poems dedicated to his ex-wife and also to his mentor, Lee Tzu Pheng.11 

In the following year, Cheong released his second work I Watch the Stars Go Out, which continues the religious questionings found in Temptation and Other Poems. Here, he reflects on his family and friends, as well as the relationship between media and society. His poems on media and society, clearly influenced by his years in the media industry, inject a socially conscious element to an otherwise personal and contemplative collection.12 

In 2003, Cheong published his third volume of work Broken by the Rain, which was developed from his Masters of Philosophy dissertation. This remains Cheong’s most mature work to date. Looking elsewhere for inspiration, Cheong employed the use of the dramatic monologue, giving a voice to those living on the margins of society. These include the bigot, wife-beater, stripper, prostitute, pimp and serial-killer.13

In 2009, he took a hiatus from poetry-writing and by 2014, the writer had gathered enough inspiration to publish Singapore Siu Dai: The SG Conversation In A Cup, a collection of satirical tales ranging from the woes of the loanshark runner to the perennial competition amongst parents to get their children into good schools – stories that many Singaporeans are familiar with.14 Riding on the success of this publication, two other flash fiction books in the Singapore Siu Dai series followed in 2015 and 2016.15 In 2018, he released B-sides and Backslides, a new anthology of poems that brings together his poems written over three decades including previous unpublished works from his Masters thesis in Creative Writing and poems he had written as an undergraduate.16

Cheong’s poems, articles and reviews have appeared in foreign journals, anthologies of local poetry, newspapers and poetry websites. These publications include No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban PoetryJourneys: Words, Home and Nation: Anthology of Singapore poetry (1984–1995)Singa; and Words for the 25th: Readings by Singapore Writers.17 His poems have also been dramatised in various productions such as One Night StandingPoetic Licence and Second Link: The Singapore-Malaysia Text Exchange.18 

Cheong is an active promoter of Singapore literature, locally and abroad. He was invited to perform at the Brisbane Writers Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival, Austin International Poetry Festival, Hong Kong Literary Festival, Singapore Writers Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival and Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali.19 He has led Singapore contingents for reading tours to the Philippines, Australia, United States and the United Kingdom.20 Cheong is also a mentor in the NAC’s Mentor Access Programme, and has conducted several creative writing workshops in Singapore.21 In 2000, Cheong became one of the first recipients of the Singapore Internationale grants awarded by the Singapore International Foundation. He used the grant to promote Singapore literature abroad by purchasing and then donating local literary works to Southeast Asian departments in foreign universities.22

The writing process
Cheong finds writing a difficult and lonely process.23 He notes his ideas and inspirations on a notepad or a piece of paper that he carries wherever he goes, rather than on his personal computer.24 To him, writing is a cathartic process so he writes best when he is troubled.25 His ideas for his works usually spring from an image, a metaphor, rhythm, or message that he wants to convey. He enjoys wordplay and puns, and his favourite technique is word inversion.26 Recurrent themes in his works are love, the act of writing and humanity. Cheong credits Lee Tzu Pheng, his mentor, as a major influence in his development as a writer. So strong was Lee’s influence that between 1991 and 1996, Cheong stopped writing because he felt his works to be inadequate when compared to hers.27 

2000: NAC Young Artist Award for Literature.28
2004: Third prize for Nothing Without an Image in Theatreworks’s 24-hour playwriting competition / Singapore Literature Prize nomination for Broken by the Rain.29
2013: Frank O’Connor award nomination for Vanishing Point.30

List of published works

1998: Temptation and Other Poems31
1999: I Watch the Stars Go Out32
2003: Broken by the Rain33

2005: Different34
2006: The Call from Crying House35
The Woman in the Last Carriage36
2009: Sudden in Youth: New and Selected Poems37

2012: Vanishing Point38
Singapore Siu Dai: The SG Conversation in a Cup39
Singapore Siu Dai 2: The SG Conversation Upsize!40
Singapore Siu Dai 3: The SG Conversation Dabao!41
B-sides and Backslides42
Use your head43
The case of the phantom woman44
The case of the moaning mansion45


Gracie Lee

1. Clarissa Oon, “An Easy Ride for Young Artistes?” Straits Times, 23 September 2000, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Alvin Pang, “Sex and the City Poets,” Quarterly Literary Review Singapore 2, no. 3 (April 2003)
3. “Felix Cheong Seng Fei: A Biographical Introduction,” Contemporary Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature in English, accessed 1 November 2016.
4. Nancy Koh, “Six Readers in Search of an Audience,” Straits Times, 2 January 1988, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
5. “In Her Death,” Straits Times, 23 April 1988, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Ovidia Lim, “Gotcha Gags, Gotta Laugh,” New Paper, 30 March 1993, 17; Ong Sor Fern, “Found: Rhyme and Reason,” Straits Times, 19 June 1998, 4; Akshita Nanda, “Funny Coffee Shop Stories,” Straits Times, 23 February 2014, 19. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Pang, “Sex and the City Poets.”
8. G. E. Tan, “Following the Call of the Muse,” New Straits Times, 29 November 2000. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website) 
9. Koh, “Six Readers in Search of an Audience”; Clarissa Oon, “Old Economy Writer Cuts It,” Straits Times, 23 September 2000, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Oon, “Old Economy Writer Cuts It.” 
11. Pang, “Sex and the City Poets.”
12. Paul Tan, “Double Your Vision of Things,” Straits Times, 10 July 1999, 13. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Pang, “Sex and the City Poets.”
14. Nanda, “Funny Coffee Shop Stories.”
15. Olivia Ho, “The ST Guide to…Singapore Writing,” Straits Times, 10 February 2017.
16. Olivia Ho, “Living in the Present,” Straits Times, 4 September 2018. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
17. Alvin Pang and Aaron Lee, eds., No Other City: The Ethos Anthology of Urban Poetry (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2010) (Call no. RSING S821 NO); Edwin Thumboo, et al, eds., Journeys: Words, Home and Nation: Anthology of Singapore Poetry (1984–1995) (Singapore: UniPress, 1995) (Call no. RSING S821 JOU); Edwin Thumboo, E., et al., eds., Words for the 25th: Readings by Singapore Writers (Singapore: UniPress, 1990). (Call no. RSING S820 WOR)
18. “Poetry in Motion,” Today, 29 June 2005, 26; Yong Shu Chiang, “Always a Strip Act,” Today, 13 February 2003, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Leong Liew Geok, ed., “Felix Cheong,” in Literary Singapore: A Directory of Contemporary Writing in Singapore (Singapore: National Arts Council, 2011), 10. (Call no. RSING 809.895957 LIT)
20. Contemporary Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature in English, “Felix Cheong Seng Fei.”
21. National Arts Council, “New Initiatives for Mentorship Programme to Nurture Emerging Writers,” press release, 2008; Yong Shu Chiang, “Always a Strip Act.”
22. “6 Win Awards for Promoting Singapore,” Straits Times, 22 December 2000, H12. (From NewspaperSG)
23. Tan, “Following the Call of the Muse.”
24. Oon, “Old Economy Writer Cuts It.” 
25. Koh, “Six Readers in Search of an Audience”; Tan, “Following the Call of the Muse.”
26. Tan, “Following the Call of the Muse.”
27. Tan, “Following the Call of the Muse.”
28. Oon, “An Easy Ride for Young Artistes?” 
29. “The Writer’s Lab: 24 Hour Playwriting Competition 2004,” TheatreWorks, accessed 1 November 2016; Clara Chow, “Literature Prize Makes Comeback,” Straits Times, 25 September 2004, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
30. “The Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award: The 2013 Longlist,” Munster Literature Centre, accessed 13 January 2019.
31. Felix Cheong, Temptation, and Other Poems (Singapore: Ethos Books, 1998). (Call no. RSING S821 CHE)
32. Felix Cheong, I Watch the Stars Go Out / Poems by Felix Cheong (Singapore: Ethos Books, 1999). (Call no.: RSING S821 CHE)
33. Felix Cheong, Broken By the Rain (Singapore: Firstfruits, 2003). (Call no. RSING S821 CHE)
34. Felix Cheong, Different (Singapore: Pagesetter, 2005). (Call no. YRSING 920.05957 CHE)
35. Felix Cheong, The Call from Crying House (Singapore: Landmark Books, 2006). (Call no. YRSING S823 CHE)
36. Felix Cheong, The Woman in the Last Carriage (Singapore: Landmark Books, 2007). (Call no. YRSING S823 CHE)
37. Felix Cheong, Sudden in Youth: New and Selected Poems (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2009). (Call no. RSING S821 CHE)
38. Felix Cheong, Vanishing Point (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2012). (Call no. RSING S823 CHE)
39. Felix Cheong, Singapore Siu Dai: The SG Conversation in a Cup (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2014). (Call no. RSING S823 CHE)
40. Felix Cheong, Singapore Siu Dai 2: The SG Conversation Upsize! (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2014). (Call no. RSING S823 CHE)
41. Felix Cheong, Singapore Siu Dai 3: The SG Conversation Dabao!  (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2016). (Call no. RSING S823 CHE)
42. Felix Cheong, B-Sides and Backslides (Singapore: Math Paper Press, 2018. (Call no. RSING S821 CHE)
43. Felix Cheong, Use Your Head (Singapore: Straits Times Press, 2018). (Call no. JRSING 428.6 CHE)
44. Felix Cheong, The Case of the Phantom Woman (Singapore: Landmark Books, 2018). (Call no. JRSING S823 CHE)
45. Felix Cheong, The Case of the Moaning Mansion (Singapore: Landmark Books, 2018). (Call no. JRSING S823 CHE)

The information in this article is valid as at January 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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