Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) Lecturer Dr Wong Lih Lih, Biotechnology alumnus Tay Yi Lun and Chinese Studies graduates Tan Jee Chin, Wong Siew Jye and Lee Xuan Chun were proud winners at the First Hai-O Youth Literature Award Presentation Ceremony (第一届海鸥青年文学奖) held at the University of Malaya on 15 October 2016.
Organised by The Writers’ Association of Chinese Medium of Malaysia and sponsored by the Hai-O Foundation, the event aimed to nurture more promising young writers and successors for the Malaysian Chinese Literary circle.
Dr Wong’s winning entry titled “At a Place Named Alzheimer Sea (《在一个叫阿兹默海的地方》)” earned her a Judge Award in the Modern Poetry category (新诗组). She walked away with a trophy and cash prize of RM2,000.
“A Place Named Alzheimer Sea” was inspired by her grandmother and her Alzheimer’s disease. She started writing this poem when her grandmother was still alive, but completed it only after she had passed.
She mentioned, “The feeling of writing poetry is akin to playing the childhood game of hopscotch, while winning this award is reminiscent of the happiness of hitting one of the blocks. I appreciate the comfort and bountiful rewards gained from poetry writing.”
As a lecturer-cum-poet, she expressed, “The literary atmosphere of UTAR is not rich, but there are still many lovers of literature quietly working for it. For example, ICS students long ago began to establish their own campus publications for circulation among students, such as Man Yan (《漫延》), Dao Cao Ren (《稻草人》) and Wen Chuang Sen Lin (《文创森林》). The UTAR Chinese Studies Society is also planning to organise the UTAR Chinese Literature Week and UTAR Intervarsity Chinese Literature Award next year to further cultivate the creative writing environment among students.”
Previously, she also won an international award from Taiwan’s 10th Ye Hong International Women’s Poetry Competition.
Biotechnology alumnus Tay Yi Lun’s winning entry titled “Mamak Stall (《嘛嘛克》)” earned him the First Prize in the Modern Poetry category. He walked away with a trophy and cash prize of RM5,000.
His winning poem was written during his internship at Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University. He was inspired by the cultural environment in Taiwan but as time passed, started to miss his time in Kampar and the happy moments with friends at mamak stalls which are not found in Taiwan. The poem also framed the transition in mindset from the shift from student life to working life.
For him, his studies in UTAR were full of dreams, happiness and freedom. “Every day you see the blue sky and white clouds and unspecified birds around the campus. How could there be no literature among such beautiful scenery? Science and literature, these two seemingly parallel disciplines are intertwined around my life. Both are what I love and wish to implant on UTAR’s land by writing poetry.” As a student of science, his advice for juniors was to “create regardless of your programme. Literature is not the sole domain of language students. Try to realise it if you have ever dreamt of creating literature.”
His poetry anthology “If The Time Has Not Been Worn《如果时间尚未磨损》)”, which commemorates his three years of university study, collects all his poems and will be published in December 2016. He also took this opportunity to send his gratitude to his academic advisor Deputy Dean of Faculty of Science Dr Tee Chong Siang for writing the preface poem for his first publication.
Chinese Studies alumnus Tan Jee Chin’s winning entry titled “The Time Killing Epic (《弑时史诗》)” clinched him a Judge Award in the Modern Poetry category. He walked away with a trophy and cash prize of RM2,000. He is currently pursuing his postgraduate studies in Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University.
His winning poem was about how to keep the freshness of love alive through literature. It stimulates the reader to think of how to protect their loved one when the decay of time comes to threaten their life together, with the ambivalent struggles reminiscent of an epic poem.
He shared his views on poetry writing, saying, “Winning an award is a boost that builds up the confidence for continuous writing, and encourages us to ponder on new themes to explore.” Not forgetting to send his gratitude to his lecturer Toh Teong Chuan, he said, “He is a teacher that puts a lot of heart into nurturing young writers. I really appreciate and am thankful for his encouragement throughout my writing journey.”
It is worth mentioning that Tay and Tan were proud winners at the 13th Sin Chew Hua Zong Literature Newcomer Award for the Modern Poetry category in year 2015.
Chinese Studies alumnus Wong Siew Jye’s winning entries titled “Long Journey (《远行》)” and “Requiem (《安魂曲》)” earned him Judge Awards in the Novel and Prose categories respectively. He walked away with two trophies and cash prizes totalling RM4,000. He is famous as a local Chinese songwriter and writer.
His winning novel “Long Jouney” is a story on leprosy patients, aimed to record the history behind this fading disease before it disappears before our eyes. Meanwhile, “Requiem” is his favorite piece of work, written about the people and things that he has met since his teenage years, and his stories on songwriting and rock music.
Wong has been a talented writer since his secondary school days and started taking part in literary competitions since his second year in UTAR. He has competed in the First UTAR Chinese Literature Awards, the National Intervarsity Chinese Literature Awards, the Xingyun Literature Awards, and the Southern Literature Awards, and achieved good results. Hailing from the first batch to graduate from the Chinese Studies programme, he still remembers fondly of the assistance and encouragement given by his teachers Ng Bung Chen, Dr Khor Boon Eng and Tiong Ee Ping.
His advice was to “read more, look more, observe more, and most importantly to live with an open heart to enhance your writing journey.”
Chinese Studies alumnus Lee Xuan Chun’s winning entry titled “Drive Slowly (《慢速行驶》)” earned him a Judge Award in the Prose category. He walked away with a trophy and cash prize of RM2,000. As with Wong, he is a famous local writer and has achieved wins in various literature awards.
His winning prose is a touching story of him and his late father, concerning how his father faced the end of his life, the sadness he was left to face and how his life returned to normality after the death of his father. He said, “I wish to use this award to mourn my father. The award brings the opportunity for the prose to be more widely read, and, more importantly, for readers who have had the same experience to feel comforted.”
“I started to get actively involved in literary writing, reading and studies during my time in UTAR. I have really appreciated the guidance, enlightenment and inspiration shed by my teachers as the experiences accumulated during those times have shaped my attitude and view of life, and also enriched my literary journey.”
For juniors keen on writing, he advised, “A capable writer needs to have deep-rooted knowledge in writing, and the way to build up your knowledge is to read with sincerity, observe your surroundings carefully, and to be humble to all around you. A good piece of writing will reflect truly the glories and disgraces, the environment, era and atmosphere of the place we live in. Most important of all if you choose to pursue a life of writing is to nurture and treasure you writing ability and manage it well.”
The Hai-O Youth Literature Award was previously known as the Hai-O Literature Award. In order to coincide with the Malaysian Chinese Literary Festival, the writing competition reformed from an annual event to a biennial one, with the inclusion of an age limit of below 35 years old.
拉曼大学 Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman