Shawn Hoo is a writer and editor from Singapore. His poems are anthologised in New Singapore Poetries (Gaudy Boy, forthcoming) and can be found in New Delta Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Queer Southeast Asia, Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, OF ZOOS, and elsewhere. His translations appear in the Journal of Practice, Research and Tangential Activities (PR&TA) and Exchanges: Journal of Literary Translation. He is Assistant Editor at Asymptote, where he curates the Translation Tuesdays showcase. Shawn received his BA in Literature from Yale-NUS College and a fellowship at NYU Shanghai. Of the Florids, a five-time contest finalist which won the 2021 Diode Editions Chapbook Prize, is his debut chapbook.
Select Poems from Of the Florids
Portrait Courtesy of Victoria Oliha, Photographer
Of the Florids
About the Book
Tapirus Indicus . . . Dugong Dugon . . . Cicadoidea . . .
Of the Florids begins with an inability to speak of the natural world in the urban fortress of Singapore; a tropical island’s fading romanticism for a city boy. Unrooting the lyricism of an archive that sprawls across natural history drawings ordered by British colonists, wartime reports on animals in Japan, queer myths of the Rabbit God and the miracles of modern landscaping—the book teems with its own polyphonic, multispecies world where place can once again be enchanted. The map of the Florids start to materialise and grow like a defiant root system: even as it feeds on the soil of history, it too speculates and twists according to its own ebullient, baroque music.
"If poetry be that sly accomplice to taxonomy, its fall guy, its wingman, its muse, then what a bird of a book Of the Florids is—meaning it makes a ruckus, ruffles our feathers, and unlocks the cage that is language so that we might be set free. What a wild, worldly, ravishing collection this is!"
—LAWRENCE LACAMBRA YPIL, author of The Experiment of the Tropics
"In this sequence of erudite and startlingly lucid poems, Shawn Hoo asks us to behold the gulf between knowledge systems and the slipperiness of visual representations and mental events. He presents scenes from the writing of natural history in archipelagic Southeast Asia, opening them up on the bench, as it were, to examine the vital organs of language, memory, power, and desire, still very much alive within them. It seems to me that each poem operates like a small machine whittling down the raw material of history into something like a razor. But the effect is not one of reduction or spareness. Hoo’s thematizations of nonhuman life—indeed, that which is unseen and speculated upon—sparkle like new instruments for inquiry and imagination. I felt transformed, after encountering the referentiality and mystery of this set of poems, into a kind of early-modern florilegium, upon which the wisdom of multiple botanical, aqueous, and geological realms have been impressed."
—SAMUEL LEE, author of A Field Guide to Supermarkets in Singapore
"Hoo drops language into the caldron of natural history, causing it to overflow into complicit etymologies and complex heredities. With close, yet inventive, attention to the animal, insect, and plant life of his home, Singapore, and its surrounding Southeast Asia, all always at the mercy of the human, Hoo turns natural history inside-out to reveal its entirely human construction. Focused on the intersection of history and ecology, this compelling work acts as a call to responsibility."
—COLE SWENSEN, author of Art in Time and On Walking On
"Shawn Hoo’s Of the Florids showcases the interception of hyperactive language and concepts. These ambitious poems are like a turnstile that refuses to remain still. History, the body, cultures, the pastoral, the urban: poems in this collection glitter and make their mark in these thematic trajectories. 'The florids are the sparring grounds of rootless epics,' as Hoo’s words turn into futuristic architectures erecting in a challenging reality no one quite knows how has come into being."
—NICHOLAS WONG, author of Besiege Me and Crevasse