Kirpal Singh (b. 1949)
Kirpal Singh, poet, literary and cultural critic, and university lecturer in English language and literature, has written and published three collections of poetry and edited many literary journals and books. He was a founding member of the Centre for Research in New Literatures, Flinders University, Australia in 1977, the first Asian director for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1993 and 1994, and chairman of the Singapore Writers’ Festival in the 1990s. He is currently an Associate Professor with the Singapore Management University (SMU). Singh was born in Singapore in 1949 to a father of Sikh descent and a Jewish-Scottish mother. At the age of 6 months, he was brought to Johor, Malaysia, to be raised by his late paternal grandmother, who lived in a Batu Gajah village called Kampung Changkat. During his time with his grandmother, Singh led a care-free existence where he could wander wherever he liked in the village. When he was about six years old, his idyllic life was disrupted when his father’s elder brother, Uncle Bill, brought him back to Singapore. His uncle had wanted him to have a Singapore education. His parents were divorced by then, and his mother had re-married in Scotland.
In Singapore, Singh lived in Jalan Eunos and was enrolled at Jalan Daud School. His first attempt at writing poetry was in 1958, when he wrote a poem about his primary two class teacher. He began to write poetry more consistently after 1965. Upon graduating with O-Levels, he wanted to join the army. However, Singh’s school principal, Mr. Vaithinathan, intervened and persuaded Singh to continue his education. Singh was then admitted to Raffles Institution in 1967, where he studied Arts for his A-levels. While pursuing his A-levels, Singh published his first work in a book called Singapore Pot-pourri, a collection of poems, essays, plays and short stories by a group of local writers, which Singh put together.
After attaining his A-levels, Singh enrolled at the National University of Singapore (NUS) where he was taught by some of the early Singapore writers including Edwin Thumboo and Lee Tzu Pheng. While an undergraduate in 1972, Singh published his first anthology of poems, Articulations. He went on to graduate with an honours and masters in English Literature at NUS. Singh counts Singapore writers such as Thumboo and Lee as significant to his literary growth. In addition, other Singapore writers who have influenced his thoughts and works include early local writers, Ee Tiang Hong, Wong Phui Nam and K.S. Maniam. Singh was also exposed to the writings of African, Caribbean, Indian and English writers during his university days.
Singh is an internationally recognised scholar whose core research areas include post-colonial literature, Singapore and Southeast Asian, literature and technology, and creativity thinking. He has won research awards and grants from local and foreign universities. His research articles and critical writings have been published in international journals such as Ariel, Diogene, Commonwealth Novel In English, Literary Criterion, Quadrant, Southern Review and Westerly. He has written three books of poetry and edited over 15 publications, including the prestigious literary journal, World Literature Written in English. He has attended international writers’ festivals in Adelaide, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Toronto and Kent, to give readings of his works. He had the distinction of being the first Asian director of the prestigious Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1993 and 1994. In addition, Singh is a member of several international literary journals and associations. Currently, he is involved in conceptualising and promoting creative thinking in Singapore’s undergraduate education system at the Singapore Management University (SMU). In 2004, Singh became the first Asian and non-American to be made a director on the American Creativity Association’s (ACA) board.
Author Photo © Kirpal Singh. All rights reserved. Author Biography from National Library Board Infopedia (2004).