Theophilus Kwek

Theophilus Kwek writes poetry and nonfiction. His poetry collections Circle Line (2014) and Giving Ground (2016) have been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and his pamphlet The First Five Storms (2017) was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and won the New Poets’ Prize. His most recent collection, Giving Ground (2020), was published by Carcanet Press. He has also co-edited two anthologies of Singapore writing, UnFree Verse (2017) and Who Are You My Country (2018), and edited the genre-crossing memoir of Bangladeshi poet MD Sharif Uddin, Stranger to Myself, which won the Singapore Book Award in 2018. He previously served as co-editor of Oxford Poetry, poetry reader for The London Magazine, and editor-at-large (Singapore) for Asymptote. He currently co-edits the online journal The Kindling, and serves as poetry editor for the Asian Books Blog.

Theophilus Kwek


WindowSwap »

Newly commissioned poems inspired by the WindowSwap project


Sat 6 March - Wed 31 March | (All day) | FREE | StAnza Online



There’s a scientific explanation
for most things
                          like how life, as they say,
flickers into view moments from the end
or how the soul slips the body briefly –
a sneeze, then dark – but
                                        for what he saw
that early bright afternoon as it fell
with a clang about him, sky cold as steel
flinching from the sea as if in shock
and the waves
                          with a dash of alchemy
turning to iron as he was, then wasn’t
a shadow stretched over their salt surface
has still not been found
                                        any known cause
nor sequence from which we might begin
to derive some hypothesis, some guess
towards a truth…
                          no, merely the report
of his mouth which was seen, as he toppled
from the bow into a stretch of channel
uneasily held
                          between two territories,
to be holding in its yell the start
of some unspoken sentence, an opening
that could be imagined
                                        by some of those
who saw the shape of him falling, and knew
something of the deep that would come,
to be the same syllable
                                        that they too
heard, too often, and hated, and understood.


Theophilus Kwek

From No News: 90 Poets reflect on a unique BBC newscast (Recent Work Press, 2020)