Fifteen years ago, Koh Jee Leong left a promising career in Singapore’s Education Service in order to become a poet in New York City. The change was transformative. Bite Harder: Open Letters and Close Readings tells the story of the change through essays that blend the personal and the literary: unlikely friendships in graduate school and the Village; encounters with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and the activism of gender rights advocate Pauline Park; reading Eavan Boland on the Upper West Side and reading Gregory Woods in Queens. These formative experiences are described alongside pioneering essays on Singapore poets, such as Goh Poh Seng, Cyril Wong, Yeow Kai Chai, and Justin Chin, and uncompromising letters about the struggle for freedom of expression. Koh’s unique perspective as both insider and outsider informs these essays and letters.
Bite Harder is a vital contribution to the nascent genre of literary essays and the field of cultural criticism in Singapore.
Bite Harder: Open Letters & Close Readings / By Koh Jee Leong
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