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Creativity As Told By Marc Nair

Updated: Nov 20, 2019

He’s both a poet and a photographer.

He’s taught Literature at local institutions.

He’s performed and published his creative work — and gotten recognition for it.

Marc Nair, the author of Vital Possessions, takes centre stage for our second narrative in our Creativity As Told By Singaporeans series.

Marc began writing poetry some (gasp!!) twenty years ago. Sometime later in 2007, his first collection of poems was published, and in that year, Marc began to explore photography as another creative medium.

On Muses

“I look for moments that allow for a particular kind of subversion.”

His poetry is influenced by his background in spoken word poetry, but Marc gets inspired by relatively ordinary things — like scenes, conversations and topics on the news.

Oh yes, an aromatic cup of freshly-brewed Kopi does inspire him to create as well.

Though he draws inspiration from everyday situations, he’s not one to blindly follow the crowd. Instead, he pivots away from the ordinary by keeping an eye out for the unusual.

His creativity knows no boundaries. As he says, “To create borders is to restrict and restrain the very ethos of creativity.”

Specifically, he looks for moments where he can inject satire in a subversive way.

On Vital Possessions

“A Site of Interrogation”

I’m no literary expert, but I like to indulge in some good local literature every now and then. I attended the launch of Vital Possessions last year and was thoroughly impressed by the way Marc was able to marry the Singaporean “grind” and the concept of nature so creatively.

The book was a refreshing read — his poems manage to capture sentiment without being sappy.

The book is essentially a collection of poems that illustrate and explore the uneasy relationships Singaporeans have with nature.

Published in mid-2018 by Ethos Books, the book is Marc’s ninth piece of published poetry.

It makes sense that his stint as Writer-In-Residence at Gardens By the Bay played a big part in shaping his Vital Possessions.

In fact, the first draft of the manuscript was developed during his residency.

“The poems that are directly inspired by spaces within the Gardens reveal a certain tension between the individual responding to or against nature as construct and conflict.”

Marc views poetry as “a site of interrogation”, and goes on to explain that poetry “redefines space and sentiment.”

In Vital Possessions, he writes about the “garden”, and questions its agency as a monument, as policy and as possession.

Remember how we said Marc likes to inject satire in a subversive way?

In another poem of his, Twice Daily, Marc writes “ For yours in the garden, the sun and the shade/ for as long as you have your lunch hour.” There we go. Satire, weaved effortlessly into a poem, accompanied by a hint of painful truth.

“The poems that are directly inspired by spaces within the Gardens reveal a certain tension between the individual responding to or against nature as construct and conflict.”

On Overcoming Creative Blocks

“If I can’t write a poem, I pick up my camera.”

He’s distilled the process into three simple steps.

1. Create with a different medium.

2. Pick up a book to refill the well of ideas

3. Go for a jog. It’s amazing how necessary white space is.

His first point makes a lot of sense. Sometimes creativity doesn't come in the form you expect it to. Allowing your creative juices to flow out through another medium may just be the catalyst you need to get your gears turning again.

The next time I encounter a writer’s block, perhaps I’ll retrieve my stash of old art supplies and throw some paint on canvas.

So, what does creativity mean to you, Marc?

Unsurprisingly, Marc quotes a few lines from a poem by Bob Hicok when asked to describe what creativity means to him.

Calvino had an idea for a book that appeared to have been pulled

from a fire.

What wasn’t there would be as much of the story

as the little bells, the indentations of eye teeth in a pencil

the shape of wind against a sheet.