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Celebrating the art of Malaysian poetry


The heart of Malaysian literature continues to beat as a total of 860 poets submitted 1,913 poetry submissions for the 2021 Malaysian Poetry Writing Competition, mooted by the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM) in collaboration with Maya Press. The competition, curated for Malaysian writers of all ages to showcase unique literary perspectives, invited the submission of original unpublished poems on any topic.

UNM Dean of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Dr Jason Pandya-Wood, expressed his enthusiasm for the future of literature in Malaysia following the positive response from Malaysian poets. “I am really pleased to see that this competition has drawn so much attention and so many poets have submitted their work. The School of English at University of Nottingham Malaysia is actively involved in promoting creative writing through its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. We are also happy to promote poetry writing through this nationwide competition,” he said.

Discovering local talent

The 2021 Malaysian Poetry Writing Competition celebrates the universal language of poetry writing and its ability to communicate impactful emotions and messages. The poets, some making their debut through the competition, had the opportunity to share their work on various Malaysian worldviews and on contemporary issues.

Chair of the Organising Committee and UNM Emeritus Professor of Faculty of Arts, Malachi Edwin Vethamani, shared, “Poetry is not a very popular literary genre. Not many people read poetry. But it is exciting to see a new generation of poets emerge over the last few years. With the overwhelming response in submissions we received, it is safe to say that poetry is very much alive in the Malaysian literary scene.”

A big win for Malaysian literature

The 2021 Malaysian Poetry Writing Competition culminated in a prize giving ceremony held at the UNM Kuala Lumpur Teaching Centre (KLTC) recently, in which Lim Jack Kin took home the top recognition with his poem titled, “Year of the Rat”, Lim Jing Yi took second place for her poem titled, “Rape Culture Pyramid”, while Allison Jong Chia Ning rounded off the winners’ bracket in third place for her poem entitled, “A Ui/Ux Review of You”.

The winners took home a cash prize incentive of RM1,000, RM750 and RM500 respectively.

25-year old, Jack from Subang, and 26-year old Sarawakian, Allison, shared insights on their winning poems and their passion for poetry. “My poem was inspired by everything that was going on around me in 2020,” Jack shared. “It was truly the year of the rat, in more ways than one. As a kid I’ve always enjoyed playing with words. As I’ve gotten older, that’s evolved into learning to use words to make sense of what I felt. I’ve learnt that you should always chase your feelings, good or bad. Writing is an important skill that everyone should have, but your experiences, and how it makes you feel, that’s the most important part of writing poetry.”

“My piece was inspired by love and is actually dedicated to my partner, who is a product designer himself,” Allison said, “Since I was 13, I’ve always used poetry as an outlet to express myself. I think it’s important to be comfortable with being vulnerable in your emotions, especially in writing poetry. For those only starting out in poetry, the best advice I can give is to just pick up a pen and write. It will be hard and you won’t get it right, but what’s important is that you write anyway.”

Shortlisted and longlisted finalists also received a certificate of recognition as well as RM200 and RM100 respectively. Recognising great potential in a number of submissions, the judges also awarded eight poets with honourable mentions.

The competition’s esteemed panel of judges comprised poet and writer, Wong Phui Nam, spoken word poet, Melizarani T. Selva, and poet, writer, translator, and journalist, Eddin Khoo. Eminent Malaysian poet, Wong Phui Nam, who spoke at the ceremony said, “Overall, I find the poems to be more interesting than many submitted in past competitions or for selection for the purpose of publication. Some of the poems have turned out to be a pleasure to read.”

“It is a great achievement for Lim Jack Kin, Lim Jing Yi, and Allison Jong Chia Ning. We hope that they and all the other winners will continue to pursue their love for poetry, and that following the success of this competition, we’ll see greater support for the Malaysian literary community,” added UNM Emeritus Professor Vethamani.

UNM’s School of English provides students with the opportunity to deep-dive into the English language through their Literature and Creative writing courses. The School of English also provides students with the opportunity to benefit from local literary events like public talks, readings and festivals.

Maya Press, the collaborative partner of the competition, will be publishing the compilation of winning poems entitled, ‘Best Malaysian Poems: Selected Poems from Malaysia Poetry Writing Competition 2021’, which will be available for the public to purchase in the first quarter of 2022. 

(Article and thumbnail image caption: Uplifting Malaysian poets new and old, and shining a spotlight on the local literary scene. (From left): Chair of the UNM 2021 Malaysian Poetry Writing Competition Malaysian Organising Committee and UNM Emeritus Professor of Faculty of Arts, Dr Malachi Edwin Vethamani, first place winner, Lim Jack Kin, third place winner, Allison Jong Chia Ning, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and Associate Professor in Industrial / Organisational Psychology, UNM, Dr Hazel Melanie Ramos)


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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Posted on 14th December 2021

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