Proust Questionnaire: 17 questions with Anne Lee Tzu Pheng
By Yong Shu Hoong
Singapore's foremost female poet and Cultural Medallion Award winner, Lee Tzu Pheng writes poetry without the title of "Dr" appended to her name – even though she is a retired associate professor from the National University of Singapore (NUS), where she taught for over three decades. These days, she prefers to reflect her faith by prefixing her Chinese name with "Anne", a name she adopted when she became a Catholic in 1989. So it is no wonder that her latest poetry collection,
Singapore's foremost female poet and Cultural Medallion Award winner, Lee Tzu Pheng writes poetry without the title of "Dr" appended to her name – even though she is a retired associate professor from the National University of Singapore (NUS), where she taught for over three decades.
These days, she prefers to reflect her faith by prefixing her Chinese name with "Anne", a name she adopted when she became a Catholic in 1989. So it is no wonder that her latest poetry collection,Catching Connections (2012), is a smooth blend of poetry and religion.
The book was launched in December 2012 in her parish, Church of St Mary of the Angels, together with two other books: Short Circuits, a collection of prose reflections, and Sing a Song of Mankind, a book of satirical nursery rhymes. These three books, released in one breath by Landmark Books, mark Lee's new publications after a gap of 15 years.
Born in 1946, Lee has previously published other collections of poetry, including Prospect of a Drowning (1980), Against the Next Wave (1988), The Brink of an Amen (1991) and Lambada by Galilee and Other Surprises (1997). She was the recipient of numerous awards like the S.E.A. Write Award (1987) and the Montblanc-NUS Centre for the Arts Literary Award (1996).
1) What are you reading right now?
2) If you were a famous literary character in a novel, play or poem, what would you be and why?
3) What is the greatest misconception about you?
4) Name one living author and one dead author you most identify with, and tell us why.
5) Do you believe in writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?
So I am the last person to give you a sensible answer on how to get rid of it.
6) What qualities do you most admire in a writer?
7) What is one trait you most deplore in writing or writers?
8) Can you recite your favourite line from a literary work or a piece of advice from a writer?
Favourite lines… ah, these one does not forget! "'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: / All mimsy were the borogoves, / And the mome raths outgrabe…" I know the whole poem perfectly, but it would be an imposition to quote it here in full.
9) Complete this sentence: Few people know this, but I…
10) At the movies, if you have to pick a comedy or a tragedy to watch, which would you go for?
11) What is your favourite word, and what is your least favourite one?
12) Please complete a couplet with the following words: formless, spirit, vault.
13) What object is indispensable to you when you write?
14) What is the best time of the day for writing?
15) If you have a last supper, which three literary figures, real or fictional, would you invite to the soiree, and why?
Sorry about Sam Whiskers if you find him repugnant; he is an unforgettable old friend from childhood. That he is a fastidious fat rat bothers me not at all; I think he would enjoy the repast and I'd make sure there is plenty of butter in everything, and we most certainly will have roly-poly pudding.
William Brown has given me more laughs than my school friends when they were his age. He has a gift for creating the most side-splitting confusions. I would like him to give me my last gasp of laughter. He would most likely kidnap Sam Whiskers home to put in his sister's bed, so I'll have to be careful, for his sake (Sam's, I mean).
Ramona Quimby (aka Ramona the Pest) – another guileless and grossly misunderstood child, a natural misfit in the adult world. I think she and William would get along like a house on fire. The idiom could well prove unfortunately literal, but who cares? This is my last meal and I invite who I like, so there!
I love it when little people get together. They are a microcosm of our adult society, minus the hypocrisy, and it would be a lovely last supper to relive a last glimpse of what my world might have been.
16) What would you write in your own "letter to a young poet"?
17) What would you write on your own tombstone?