Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories Epigram Books 2014
"An eclectic collection of short stories that is original and often deeply moving."
- Dave Chua, author of The Beating and Other Stories
"Cyril Wong's largely character-driven stories demonstrate clearly how they are inspired, in each case, when a personality passes through a moment of crisis, as in the tales of R. K. Narayan. Whether his people are young or adult, female of male, gay or straight, there is always a struggle and a revelation. Sometimes there is no resolution. Cyril writes with insight and sympathy about people in a Singapore spectrum that readers can identify with."
- Robert Yeo, playwright and author of The Adventures of Holden Heng
"This is an anthology of twelve stories from twelve unique Singaporean voices: S. Rajaratnam, Yeo Wei Wei, Goh Sin Tub, Simon Tay, Stephanie Ye, Alfian Sa'at, Suchen Christine Lim, Wena Poon, O Thiam Chin, Claire Tham, Philip Jeyaretnam and Felix Cheong. These stories chart the emotional ups and downs of protagonists who strive to find meaning against the backdrop of negotiations between the local and the global, between the past and an ever-changing, urbanised present. Rediscovering the self and the value of relationships form the focus of these tales, which range from the realistic to the surreal, with the occasional epiphany about one's mortality and the meaning of existence within the bustling city."
(Synopsis by editor, Cyril Wong, from the back cover.)
Rainbow Voices: An Anthology of Creative Writings The Arts House 2014
"Rainbow Voices is an anthology of creative writings by beneficiaries of the Singapore Association for Mental Health, compiled and edited by Cyril Wong after a six-month series of workshops. These works reveal the hearts and minds of participants suffering from mental illness and struggling heroically to find a voiec and make sense of their lives. Rainbow Voices is a collaboration between The Arts House and Singapore Association for Mental Health."
(Synopsis by The Arts House, Singapore, from the back cover.)
"Cyril Wong distils the many moods of a relationship made all the richer by the hostility of the society in which it is lived.... His poems remind us that love is almost always a pearl enriched by an irritant, that it always contains the seeds of its own end, and therefore that even its smallest routines are a triumph over the adversity of indifference."
- Gregory Woods, author of May I Say Nothing
"This book of poems is a tender, lamp-lit portrait of a same-sex marriage, one that is filled with domestic ecstasy and yet tinged with universal anxieties about aging, separation and marginalization. I love these lyric quatrains, they are decisively old-world and elegant and yet, they feel boldly Singaporean fresh."
- Marilyn Chin, author of Rhapsody in Plain Yellow
"Cyril Wong is...queer in the most exciting sense: wresting time away from the linearity of its inevitable end, and returning it to the mythic moment, the prophetic and the episodic. This is the poetry of gesture and music and pause."
- Lawrence Ypil, author of The Highest Hiding Place
"This isn't a love poetry of saccharine sweetness, of the accursed or of the cynic. Read it and you'll surely be relieved of those blinders, but be forewarned and heartened, too, by Wong's own confession: 'I write first to see clearly / then lastly to blow out the flame.'"
- Kevin Simmonds, author of Mad for Meat
The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza Epigram Books 2013 (Listed amongst BORDERS Singapore's top 10 fiction bestsellers in Jan. 2014)
"An unsentimental yet moving narrative, a sobering alternative to Dead Poets Society and To Sir With Love. With its deep probing look at the teaching profession it unveils a rich array of themes—homosexual awakening, human actions and consequences, the individual in conflict with society, and most compellingly, the nature of perhaps the most noble and difficult of vocations."
- Boey Kim Cheng, author of Clear Brightness
"Cyril Wong tells a simple and stylish coming-out tale that is shaped like a bullet and aimed at the heart of liberal selfrighteousness. Under it all, this is also an age-old story of the child who learns a last lesson about trust and the 'good adult' whom life is not done rebuking. Do not give this book to an unsuspecting retiring teacher—unless he or she utterly deserves it."
- Gwee Li Sui, literary critic, poet, and graphic novelist
"The novel calls for a change in the ways we think of freedom, individual merit, feelings, emotional relationships, and above all, personal identity. It also questions the devastating importance given to economic success and global relevance in contemporary times, and...sensitises us to the need to nurture a society in which children can express themselves freely and develop into emotionally healthy adults."
- Uma Jayaraman, Asiatic, Vol. 8, No. 1, Jun. 2014
"Singaporean writer Cyril Wong's first novella is a bittersweet story about acceptance and the courage required to move on, even if one is not granted redemption for past sins. Wong brings a sense of rhythm and wonder to this prosaic premise of a teacher's final day in school... A striking portrait emerges not of Amir but of Mrs De Souza, a woman who did her best, failed and finally manages to shed the burden of her own weaknesses and failures."
"An enthralling pyroclastic flow of poetic flagellation ripping the mask of stoic indifference and lapdog-media concocted majestic stature of a narcissistic tyrant. And every wordstroke of the poet never fails to decode and eviscerate the megalomaniac to the grave."
- Elangovan, recipient of the 1997 SEA Write Award
"Cyril Wong weaves an epic tale of a dictator's rise and fall, his rehearsals in self-validation and self-love, and his randomly inspired means of holding on to power. His eyebrow's trivial life becomes central to the map of his face turned inwards to a delusional mind and outwards to a grand social personality. This latest addition to Wong's increasingly uncountable books of verse is Swiftian in humour and Ionescan in drama, bitchy, bathetic, and tragic at quiet turns. Through it, he has recovered the original political charge in a sustained absurdist study of the human condition."
- Dr Gwee Li Sui, author of Myth of the Stone
"No one innately understands the terror of modern 'witch-hunt' or the gravity of manicured eyebrows for stares and status the way sensitive and intelligent repressed-Singaporeans do. But it takes a poet to elevate the understanding to a grand level of intuitive soulfulness. A disquieting elegy and a sinfully sharp ode to the horror of self-aggrandizement. Very deliciously flavorful."
"In Cyril Wong's poems, we find, again and again, desire in its multifaceted manifestations preying upon bodies, upon memories... Language oscillates between the familiar and the unfamiliar. Syntax creates a new kind of temporal tension. His poems offer us wisdom; they offer us impossible consolations and we, the readers, cannot help but to be awed by the precision and uneasy truths found in these songs of fierce yearnings."
- Mariko Nagai, author of Histories of Bodies
"Wong's poetry performs its duty as art. It chronicles the courage and perseverance of man in face of the impending end and reminds him of his ability to choose good over evil. It transcends dated political bickering and essentialist notions of language."
"Wong resists the glib certainties of language, implying what is achieved by examining the inability to describe it... The uncertainty of our existence is the lifeblood of Straws, Sticks, Bricks; a void Wong discovers to be 'an invitation to everything, the door to unending creation.' ('Matins') His poems are not an indictment of our deepest fears (be it death, loneliness or fear itself), but the lengths we would go to escape them."
"Cyril Wong's book offers startling poetic flashes; moments of pure meditation on the one hand and a strange sense of absurdity on the other. These prose poems are metaphors in search of meaning, sometimes with abandon and at times with an intense engagement."
"These little poems are my orphaned children, with no book or anthology to call their home (until now) due to their mysterious, even surrealist, qualities that have begun to occupy my writing in a gradual but certain way. The ambivalences of love, depression, mortality—you will find all of these themes here, all grounded in a perspective that remains, I hope, fiercely introspective and personal."
(Written by Cyril Wong on the chapbook's back cover.)
Satori Blues Softblow Press 2011
"Phrasally, 'satori blues' is a sort of tonal totality that balances enlightenment with catharsis, high with low, insight with outsight. Blue is a color, as well as a state of mind. Satori is an inner lens, as well as the light it focuses. And satori is a bright word, while blues are naturally noctilucent. Cyril Wong's Satori Blues is a book-length poem that sites the sights it cites, in sound—that concentrates balance, straddles its own meditations, follows its own suggestions, and lodges everything quietly between loud vowels."
"[A] sustained meditation that recalls turn-of-the-century Geoffrey Hill in its intricately patterned probing."
- The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English, 2013
"Writing, almost speaking, in riddles and opposites, Wong teases us out of our complacencies and directs/guides our thinking along the long, hard route to self-awareness...Hence 'blues'. Hence the extraordinary attempt to seduce the reader into somnambulance-via-rhythmic, rhymic language, the language of meditative poetry."
"Wong delivers heartbreaking and tender lines of poetry, as light as a dream's remembrance, as hard-hitting as a dream's sudden flash of insight."
- Jenny Boully, author of The Body: An Essay
"Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, God, the familial dead, Walter Benjamin, Anne Sexton and the Road Runner all inhabit the same philosophical and poetic plane...the semiotic field is flattened in a brave thunderclap of reduction, and images begin to drift towards the toroidal opening of the wormhole some might call awakening, others might call death."
- W. B. Keckler, author of Sanskrit of the Body
"There is...a sense that Wong is coming to terms with the precarious balance between love and loss, desire and hopelessness. His newfound ambivalence, coupled with the endless possibility of dreams, carves out a space for the dreamer to contemplate the indeterminacy of the self, and the enduring silence of a vague and uncertain future."
Let Me Tell You Something About That Night Transit Lounge 2009 | Ethos Books 2012 (Listed by The Straits Times as among the best 5 books of 2009)
"Wong takes fairytales and works them into a surreal lustre...the heart of these stories gestures to a time before fairytales were saccharine fantasies. Their magic springs from the fact that they incorporate—within realms crammed with elves and water spirits and weird metamorphoses—an unvarnished sense of life's desolations. Some deal overtly with sexuality: The Boy With The Flower That Grew Out Of His Ass is a fable of wounding poignancy about homophobia; The Queen & Her Eventual Knowledge Of Love is a post-mortem coming-out story. Others stray towards more classical magical realism. A vivid collection that will enchant and disturb."
- Cameron Woodhead, The Age, Aug. 29 2009
"With their largely timeless, mostly placeless settings, the 16 stories in Singaporean poet Cyril Wong's first prose collection focus on the individual and his moments of despair and epiphany, cutting swiftly to the emotional quick. These fairy tales provide the pleasure of being transported into fantasy realms, yet they also offer the sharp bite of contemporary issues and themes that appeals to a more mature audience than the folkish narratives would suggest."
- The Straits Times, Dec. 27 2009
"Inflected with the lyrical cadence of his poetry, these timeless, universal vignettes by Wong serve paradoxically to re-envision the raw sense of humanity in our immediate, mundane reality."
- Dr K. K. Seet, author of Death Rites
"Reading Wong's tales is a mind-blowing experience. It is a literary journey as well as a philosophical quest. Conveyed in accessible language is a strong sense of defiance, interrogating many of our established beliefs instilled by (popular versions of) traditional fairy tales regarding sexuality, desire, life and death."
Tilting Our Plates To Catch The Light Firstfruits 2007 | Math Paper Press 2012 (Listed by The Straits Times as among the best 5 books of 2007)
"[The] collection...serves up three narrative strands which, in their apparent unconnectedness, might lead one to wonder at first glance if the poet is biting off more than he can chew. One describes the lives of the Hindu god Shiva and his lover Mohini, the female incarnation of the god Vishnu. Another draws from the poet's classical music background, with love poems which bear Italian musical terms as titles. A third is told from the perspective of a couple coping with illness and impending death. But in what is his most polished collection thus far, Wong manages to interweave and merge the three strands into a luminous symphony, best appreciated when read straight through in one sitting, as per concert hall conditions."
- The Straits Times, Jan. 13 2008
"Cyril's seventh and latest—it was published in November—is a display of prowess; an unabashed paean to a relationship, it is divided into sections titled by Italian musical directions, and given a divine counterpoint by way of interwoven Indian myth. This last device, itself, is pretty slick: the poet takes a relatively insignificant (at least, in the vast, History-of-the-Universe context of the Hindu Puranas) scene—that of Mohini dancing before the demon Bhasmasur to save the Shiva's skin—and re-imagines it into a tryst between The Destroyer and Vishnu, by way of the latter's voluptuous avatar... Cyril's verses are haunted... by the struggle to stave off tragedy: 'I touch your arm now / to draw you back into the present / to remind you that the music is still beautiful.'"
- Zedeck Siew, Kakiseni, Dec. 28 2007
Excess Baggage & Claim Co-authored with Terry Jaensch | Transit Lounge 2007
"[It] is with Wong's contribution that the collection takes on a haunting tone. From the outset, the spectre of childhood sexual abuse looms large. The poem Don't Move—'My father climbing/over me./How many boys would/know what that's like?'—opens the suite, and each successive piece is testament to the destructive effects: 'Is this/damage I must unstitch for the rest of my life?'
This is strong stuff, and while Wong's delivery is more direct than poems on the same subject by Sharon Olds, his unflinching, flinty voice is reminiscent of that North American writer. The poems have a devastating cumulative effect."
- Jaya Savige, The Australian, Oct. 3 2007
"The poems in Excess Baggage and Claim are sharp. They're emotive and evocative. Not entirely separate but they don't contain a strictly interlaced narrative. They are impressionistic and complete. Wholly satisfying."
"This is a shimmering, hard and beautiful collaboration."
- Christos Tsiolkas, author of Loaded
"This endless exchange—between the two poets' philosophising and sharing their experience in love; between what is and what isn't love; between being Singaporean and being an Australian abroad; between memories conscious and subconscious—is what makes Excess Baggage and Claim as enduring as the pop music referenced in the poem, and the conversations we have to this soundtrack; as our lives go on, with memories evolving, and we lose and find ourselves in love."
"In these poems, the expressions of rebellion against a seemingly pre-ordained world order resemble those of the English romantic poets William Blake and A.C. Swinburne. The book title is taken from the poem, 'Walls, loss of light', which interrogates the Creator about his purpose in creating man. The poet suggests that the Creator's 'singular purpose' was simply to create. Compared with such a work of creation, none of created man's achievements can be considered a success. Wong's own creative and personal ambitions are expressed movingly and terribly in the inverted, unjustified, self-doubting, final statement of the book: 'If my self is a shadow, at least I made a dent in the light.'"
- Gillian Bickley, South China Morning Post, Nov. 12 2006
"The literary scene in Singapore is small. And one of the biggest voices in this small scene is poet Cyril Wong's (Unmarked Treasure). This latest collection of Wong's poetry, just published, is a continuation of the style he has become known for: Erudite, lyrical and very personal."
- Elaine Meyers, IS Magazine, Sep. 1 2006
"The poems in Cyril Wong's collection are indeed seeds—each one starts something vibrant and new growing in the world. And though he may write of disaster, it is with triumph; though he may look into the darkest corners, he finds a light there that he brings back to fill his poems, and from there, to fill the reader's mind."
"Cyril Wong is the custodian of a strand of Singaporean poetry that is rare indeed. One would have thought that being confessional in a hugely autobiographical age is commonplace enough. Yet, we forget that to be Asian still means keeping one's sentimentality in check, which in turns renders sensitive and sentimental outpourings unnecessary. It has been suggested by one Singaporean critic that such biographical musings could also be viewed as a form of social protest from within the authoritarian island-state. While this could be wholly possible, I feel that we should not miss the essence of what Wong's poetry is all about. His is an art that works simply from a personal plane, and from within such a plane we have some of the most sensitive, articulate probings into the nature of one's self that have never been seen before in all of contemporary Singaporean verse."
- Leonard Jeyam, Southeast Asian Review of English, No. 47 April 2006/07
"Poetry is about life, and Cyril Wong's poems in Unmarked Treasure are poems of his time in this present age. He uses his poetry in the form of letters by narratively listing his dreams and fantasies, but bases them on tangible relationships—writing about his family life: his mother, father, sister and his mate. But as the nature of poetry goes, Wong has turned his experiences, emotions and feelings into art through the use of his chosen language."
- Sarah Loyola, The Business Times, Aug. 27 2004
"Reading Cyril Wong is always to encounter risk, the painful suturing of art and life, trials of faith and baptisms of fire. I have only the deepest respect for someone who has razed the walls between the private and the public, and in doing so, carved more space for all of us."
"One feels excitement when Cyril Wong's lyric heart breaks free of the quotidian into altogether unexpected territory 'divided between time zones,' his transpacific sensibility a fine refreshment in a world where 'Artaud sneers/ and looks oddly/ like K.D. Lang.' There's no telling where this poet might be heading next."
- Timothy Liu, author of Burnt Offerings
"Wong's sustained meditation on the nothingness from which the poems seem to have emerged, allows its counterpoint (above: context of light) to gather strength as the collection proceeds. white of the paper and fixed positions both convey with delicate precision the paradoxes of the poet's craft; the latter particularly impressive in its embedding of poem within commentary and vice-versa... His is an affirmation of emptiness in a time and place where this is barely possible."
- John Phillips, The Arts Magazine, 2003
"Tender and poignant, stopping at the edge where words cannot go but desire enters in the poet's form, these poems push again and again to where the prosaic and the lyrical meet, where common language takes on the edges of passionate form."
"Cyril Wong, like many young Singapore poets, demonstrates confidence and delicacy in that overwhelmingly dominant poetic mode—the lyric. The sheer range of prosodic skills he employs to evoke uncanny, sensual, sometimes brutally open emotional vignettes between his various personae and their addresses is impressive. Neatly organised sections contain apostrophes, odes and elegies to parents, lovers, friends and teachers, to the poet himself, to parts of his body and his name, and in a final section he hands the lyric first person over to historical and mythical personae, a brief series of witty alternative perspectives."
- John Phillips, The Arts Magazine, 2002
"Wong's poetic orbit remains, with an almost voyeuristic fervour, around the human form in its hitherto unwitnessed routines. It is as if he is convinced that insight and authenticity is to be found entwined within the husk of daily lives and everyday routines: from cooking to dressing or simply the way a cup is carried from one end of a room to another."
- The Straits Times, Dec. 15 2001
"There's nerve and light at the heart of these poems, a candor that both disarms and delights. Cyril Wong's poetry is for lovers of the urban lyric."
"There is a remarkable inwardness in Cyril Wong's poems. Almost without exception, they leave us with the feeling of subjects—occasion, non-happening, an especially poignant experience—explored to unusual limits, and with, moreover, a language very much concurrently medium and message. This is the result of Wong's careful, yet free flowing mapping, in which the degree of intimacy is also a matter of a distance. He is simultaneously the moving centre, and the observer."
- Edwin Thumboo, author of Gods Can Die
"This collection shows that, far from being self-indulgent or self-pitying, [Cyril] is making every attempt to rise above it; to portray each experience for what it is while rendering each moment of joy or despair as accurately as a photograph. It is a testimony to his spirit and character that he has been able to elevate personal observation to the level of art."
- The Straits Times, Sep. 2 2000
"The poems are full of tactile, sensuous—and even at times sensual—imagery, and evince a strong bond between mother and male child, all written in a clear style at times resonant of the work of the American Confessional poets of the mid twentieth century."
- Assoc. Prof. Barnard Turner, National University of Singapore