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Jan 13, 2010

In Memory of Dr Goh Poh Seng


Dr Goh Poh Seng passed away peacefully in Vancouver on Sunday, January 10, 2010 at age of 73.

The newspaper reading this gloomy morning makes me sad and somewhat emotional.

I have stopped watching the obituary section since many years. For sure I will no longer be around to read the obituary of myself...when, where and how will never be able to know.  Not depressed though, life is mortal. Its all life impermanence anyway.

It was saddened to hear the loss and bereavement of Dr Goh, who is a special person to remember his books, thoughts in poetry, prose and plays. I have never met Dr Goh Poh Seng in person but I will include a memory in this blog to express for myself.

I do not know Dr Goh in person or related to him in anyway; neither did he know who I was during the published of "If We Dream Too Long" in 1972. Reading the first book in my youth generations; we were somehow influenced by the young Singaporeans who appear the young life story like real, like personal perception at our young stages...

As touched by Dr Goh and every reader who remember the books and published articles in public. Mark Twain says "It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense."

"Artsy and gutsy, the late Dr Goh Poh Seng pushed hard for what he believed in" an excerpt reports by Akshita Nanda in The Straits Times, Wednesday, January 13, 2010. In the "Life!" Section, Dr Goh was captioned as "a man for all seasons".

"He was passionate, a dreamer. He loved life in all its aspects," says Robert Yeo, 69, who had some of his first poems published in the now defunct Tumasek. "He was a person of immense talent and generosity."

"His interests were wide," says fellow literary pioneer Edwin Thumboo, 76, describing his colleague as a "poet, novelist, dramatist and cultural activist".

It was a welcome reunion with friends such as Prof Thumboo.

He said: 'Goh Poh Seng and I used to meet and talk about our writing and the various issues involved in the making of a Singapore-Malaysia literature in English.

'I'm glad we spent time together when he visited in December 2007. We revisited old haunts and continued talking about literature.'

Activist and entrepreneur Ms Lena Lim says: "Poh Seng is somebody who as a Singaporean we should be very proud of. He was head and shoulders above the rest, and quite a few miles ahead."

She remembers him as a man deeply involved in all forms of the arts - from writing to music to fine cuisine.

But his love for expanding boundaries met many obstacles. Feeling thwarted and misunderstood, he and his wife and their four sons emigrated to Canada.

There he devoted his time to writing and his medical practice, though he had to give up the latter in 1995 when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, which affects nerve and muscle coordination.

Yet this did not hold back the "quiet and dignified gentleman", according to his brother-in-law, retired architect Alfred Wong.

Dr Goh continued to invest his passion in poetry, reading and prose and his third novel, Dance With White Clouds: A Fable For Grown-Ups was published in 2001.

"He was always adventurous, a very active person," says Mr Wong, 79, who designed the National Theatre.

Find out Wikipedia here .

The book follows the life of Kwang Meng, a young, 18-year-old working adult who has just graduated from secondary school. He currently works as a clerk, a job which he finds drab and monotonous. Two of his secondary school friends, Hock Lai and Nadarajah (nicknamed Portia), follow different career paths in their diverging lives. Hock Lai becomes a white-collared worker, determined to climb the corporate ladder, while Portia intends to further his studies in the UK. Kwang Meng meets and strikes up a relationship with a local bar girl, Lucy, at Paradise Bar. Unfortunately, owing to their very different social backgrounds, the couple has to break up (initiated by Lucy).

Hock Lai tries to matchmake Kwang Meng with one of his female acquaintances Anne. Kwang Meng meets Boon Teik and Mei-I, neighbours who are both teachers, and whom Kwang Meng finds an ideal couple. Hock Lai himself gets married with Cecilia, whose father is one of the rich tycoons of Singapore. Throughout all this, Kwang Meng comes across as a rather passive figure, preferring merely to observe and seek solace through activities like sea swimming, smoking and drinking in bars. At the novel's end, Kwang Meng's father suffers a stroke, which destined him to take up the burden of supporting his family.

Dr Goh was best known in "If We Dream Too Long" which won the inaugural National Book Development Council of Singapore Award for Fiction.

My contemporaries, my younger friends and classmates used to discuss this book. I used to take many quiet Tanah Merah beach at Changi, under the coconut trees over two weekends to read the book. Are the young people believe the stories, or are they just fictions. Nobody have the same characteristic in all the same stages in a lifetime. Life has changed, but the drama is moved on for every reader. Dr Goh had done a worthwhile to share his experience through life of work.

 NORA   (National Online Repository of the Arts) previously known as the "NLB Online Repository of Artistic Works" by National Library Singapore.

In my young days, it was like Mary Hopkin's "Those Were the Days":

"Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way".

Dr Goh's stories of the young people was like the "intoxication of youth" when we may have thoughtlessness, "boh chap" and full of energetic, whatever think that we will forever be young ones...

By the way, Dr Goh was the first playwright who dared to use Singlish and local scenarios on stage and he also started a club where the hip crowd hung out in the 1980s". Bold guy, he was.

We were wondering to ourselves and we dream too long...its no longer to us for dreamy days during our young days. Perhaps we should do a revisit to the "If We Dream Too Long" book.   Like during the NS days...heh..don't dream too long, "wake up your ideas" !

Self-penned epitaph

O My beloved ones
Watch how
I spring into
The sunlit day.
Swim into
The moon drowned night
So full of joy.
There's no cause for grief.

Goh Poh Seng
April 8, 2002

This epitaph was published on Dr Goh Poh Seng .


"Thimbuktu is a Singaporean man in the street, ordinary guy to convey my condolence and respect to Dr Goh Poh Seng.

Just say an individual to A Son of Singapore to be remembered always".

Goodbye Dr Goh Poh Seng, in longer memories of you!   Your fellow book readers and yours truly of "If We Dream Too Long" thank you and wish you rest in peace.

God Bless.



Blogger Victor said...

Sad to hear of Dr Goh Poh Seng's passing. You seem to be one of his book fans.

January 14, 2010 at 1:02 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

I am a fond local book writer of non-fiction, preferably learning experience to remember about Singapore stories in the 1980s.

January 14, 2010 at 6:47 AM  
Blogger Unk Dicko said...

Yes, it's sad. He will always be remembered as one of the icons of local literature and poetry.

January 19, 2010 at 10:15 PM  

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