Poetry Moves: A Perennial Collection Of Poems For Teens

After reading this anthology of poetry published by Ethos Books, Frederick Asaph Law shares his thoughts on it.

Poetry Moves was published with the primary aim to help adolescent readers to draw parallels between poems and the real-world. Image from Ethos Books.


Published on
December 25, 2020
Poetry Moves Book Review Panel

Good poetry seems to be always hidden behind boring book covers. This is my main theory on why good poetry is so hard to find. For Poetry Moves, publisher Ethos Books has designed the book cover to blend in with the curtains; think pastel colours, thin and faded serif fonts… but I digress. This is not a book cover review after all.

With 113 poems written by almost as many poets, this carefully curated collection features eminent Singaporean poets such as Edwin Thumboo, Wong May, Aaron Maniam, Lee Tzu Pheng, Arthur Yap, Alfian Sa’at, Pooja Nansi, among many others.

Although the anthology is dominated by Singaporean poets, they are joined by several internationally loved poets such as Seamus Heaney (Ireland), Carol Ann Duffy (UK), Li-Young Lee (USA), Boey Kim Cheng (Singapore- Australia), and Sujata Bhatt (India).

Poetry Moves is ordered in five sections: ‘Words & Things’, ‘Spaces and Places’, ‘Connections’, ‘Crossings’, and ‘Origins’. Although the poems are loosely organised in those categories, each category seems to be independent of the other, with no common thread or narrative to link one category to another. However, this makes for an interesting read, as the editors have cleverly chosen the poems in each category to feature a diverse array of voices that will continuously surprise you with every turn of the page.

My personal favourites are the oddballs in each category; the poems that jolt me out of my poetic reverie with some clever literary device, the poems that make me purse my lips with an inaudible ‘ooh’ (the ‘ooh’ one makes when someone does something really naughty but delightful). Here is a peek at some of my favourites.

‘Being Beautiful’ by Jollin Tan

By sharing her thoughts about beauty and self-love, I found this an exceptionally striking piece. An excerpt from her poem, “…I am not your Barbie doll, with the perfect hourglass figure…”, contradicts the way she has structured the words in her poem to appear on the page in an hourglass shape. Truly ingenious, her poem will leave you with many questions but no real answer.

‘Said The Urban Farmer To The Heritage Lover’ by Janice Heng

This is the poem that made me go “ooh” and then grin like a naughty little boy that has been party to some mischievous deed. To give you some context, her poem appears about midway through the ‘Spaces and Places’ category, where all the poets are either waxing lyrical about memories of places long gone, mourning the loss of the old community spirit, or musing about the destruction of nature as a country develops. The first line of her poem reads, “Stop this overwrought palaver, this hysterical injured nostalgia kick”. The rest of her poem is similarly worded, in a straightforward in-your-face style of writing that leaves little imagination to the reader as to what her stance on the topic is. Good on you Janice, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Final Thoughts

There are many other treasures that I will leave for you to discover on your own, and in the famous words of novelist George Sand: “He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life”.

This anthology is largely composed of short poems – one pagers – but this does not mean it will be a short read. What it will be, is a journey that will bring you back and forth in time, across borders, and even across languages. You will lose yourself in these pages as you get carried away by a different voice on every page. And this is why, Poetry Moves.

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