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Ink a-flow on the Net

WRITING has been nicknamed the solitary vice. But with the Internet, home grown writers have found a new way to connect with one another.

For poet Alfian bin Sa'at, 23, the proliferation of ideas is made more accessible though online forums.
'Writers can use it as a full-dress rehearsal of their works before they are printed and officially sold.' -Poet Alvin Pang, 28, on the Internet as a development tool

"It cuts down a lot of time for face-to-face meetings,'' explains Alfian who is juggling studies at the medical faculty at the National University of Singapore with an active presence in the arts scene. He is a playwright as well as being a published writer and his latest project is a collaborative installation work online.

With the internet, enthusiastic amateurs can also contribute to critical dialogue on Singapore's burgeoning arts scene. The Flying Inkpot, a five-year- old online e-zine, has made a name for itself among the arts-savvy community with its tongue-in-cheek theatre reviews.

According to Mr Arthur Kok, 25, Inkpot's editor, web content can offer new perspectives and ideas not found in print.

"We want to open a space to discuss about theatre in a non-threatening manner,'' explains Mr Kok, who is doing his accelerated masters in English language at NUS.

Another lure of the web lies in the opportunities for self-publication. Ms Syn nette Sng, 22, who just graduated from National University of Singapore, created a website at to showcase her own writing.

She notes: "The Web Community is tightly woven together because they tran‰ scend time and geographical boundaries. And it is absolutely incredible to be able to access exceptional literature via the Internet.''

Ms Elaine Pang, 19, who is studying literature at the University of York in England, also set up a homepage, A Play On Words, in March last year (1999) to showcase her poetry.

One advantage to web publishing, she says, "is real-time editing of whatever material I put up on the web. If I find I don't like something, I can change it the very next day.''

But there are disadvantages, she admits: "Literature on the net is not something that is particularly rare. It's difficult being found and read if nobody knows the nooks and crannies you've hidden your website in.''

Poet Alvin Pang, 28, sees the Internet as a development tool:

With the online scene, writers can lock themselves in the attic to work, and still stay in touch with the scene.


Geograffiti V1.0
By Alfian Sa'at and Heman Chong

This is an online installation work. Co-creator Alfian explains that his collaboration with Chong, a visual artist, aims to give new meaning to Singapore, which is ""under-fictionalised''.

The idea, he says, is to ""put a few writers and photographers in to re-write Singapore and provide more idiosyncratic and personal perspective''.

The website invites artists and writers to submit their creative interpretations of places that trigger off memories and emotions of Singapore.

Alfian is hoping to create an online arts community that transcends the borders of specialised disciplines.

Geograffiti V1.0, which is funded by The Substation, was launched in March this year. It features the works of seven contributors.

When the reader clicks on the nostalgic pictures scattered on a pop-up window, he is taken on a ride down memory lane as the text evokes a sense of familiarity.

If you like the site, look out for Version 1.1 -the update -of the website, which Alfian says will be ready later this month.


The editor's note on the site declares: ""This magazine is about self- expression, about talking out loud. We want you to care about self- expression because what you feel matters.''

So if you are a spitfire with flaring nostrils, be inspired to find a vent in words.

With eight issues under its belt, the2ndrule also scores a boost with regular contributor Alfian Sa'at.

Exploring social matters in Singapore, every issue is a selection of writing, ranging from interviews to poems, essays and prose pieces.

But expect more dazzle, as the site takes on Flash, the multimedia programme, after a facelift to incorporate more interactivity.

The Flying Inkpot

By Arthur Kok, 25

The editor calls it a ""microcosm of the arts community''. The e-zine, with a team of 10 writers, offers reviews of plays, concerts and movies. Its theatre review section is the most active, although Mr Kok promises the other sections will be revived soon.

The e-zine adopts a tongue-in-cheek tone. For example, in its classical concert catastrophe section, there is a Noise Rating Index, ""a partially-objective measurement of pager and handphone blasts'', measured on a scale of zero to five, in increasing annoyance.

According to Kok, the online magazine though he prefers to call it a ""site'' has gained credibility as an alternative theatre reviewer since its inception in 1995.

Despite the site's popularity, he has never considered turning it into a commercial enterprise.

He explains: ""There is a suspicion of websites that have gone commercial. We do not want to get our hands tied.''

He is more interested in reaching more readers.

Today, the hits counter on the site reads ""5,809,060 inkheads bashed since 24 Oct 1999''.

Altered Consciousness
By Synnette Sng aka Pei

On this website, Sng takes her adventures in design online.

The page may look bare in its design, but Altered Consciousness takes the reader on a highly-interactive tour as he has to hunt for the buttons to click on, before guessing what each little icon leads to.

Started as a personal homepage in 1997 to display her poems, Sng says that she has also cottoned on to web designing.

In fact, she gives the website a facelift every six months.

Sections on the homepage are given names like Paper, Pencil and Eraser.

She explains that ""Paper'' is a showcase of some works that she has read and is fond of, while ""Pencil'' is a repository of poems that she has written.

And if you were a voyeur, ""Eraser'' offers a peep into moments that she wished never happened.

On the irony of displaying these moments of embarrassment in the public eye, Sng explains that these records are like little journals, except that she makes no qualms about sharing embarrassing details with people who visit her website.

The Poetry Billboard
By Alvin Pang, 28

This homepage was set up in 1996 and has brought together more than 20 writers' works highlighted on the site.

Pang laments that not many Singaporean writers use the Web for publicity: ""The Net helps to put Singapore on the world map. Singaporean writers should use it to reach a wider pool of audience.''

His site has garnered more than 17,500 hits since its overhaul in 1998. However, with his busy schedule, he admits that he is able to update his "hobby'' only once a month.

This site links to another site, No Other City, a poetry collection he helped edit. With excerpts, soundbites, wallpapers and a chat forum, the site also invites readers' comments and poetry submissions.

This site is a treat for the eyes, with its savvy design and layout featuring black-and-white pictures and downloadable wallpaper.





Click here for past issue


Weblinks to other local poetry sites:


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