MALAYSIAN MILLENNIAL VOICES, published by Maya Press, is a book of poems that captures the voices of the young and the restless. It highlights 69 poems from 37 poets under the age of 35.
“When I called for submission of poems early last year, I wanted to make sure it would reach as many Malaysians as possible,” said Malachi Edwin Vethamani, 65, who edited the collection.
“I had to depend on social media,” said Malachi, a former professor at the University of Nottingham Malaysia.
He is also a writer, bibliographer and a critic and has written a collection of short stories called Coitus Interruptus and Other Stories (2018) and two volumes of poems – Life Happens (2017) and Complicated Lives (2016).
Malachi posted the announcement on his Facebook page as well as on Facebook reading and writing groups, and relied on people sharing the call on social media.
About 135 writers submitted a total of 530 poems. Malachi set up three panels comprising15 writers and literature experts to read all the submissions. The team went through four rounds of selection to get the final 69 poems to be published in the anthology.
“I was really surprised at the number of submissions we received,” he said.
According to Malachi, the panels had to look for certain criteria when making their final selection.
“Creativity in the use of the English language and paying attention to various poetic literary devices, especially sound, are what they looked for,” he pointed out.
He said most of the poems were written in free verse, and the language used was contemporary, youthful and often conversational.
“It has the distinct flavour of Malaysian English.”
The poems touch on themes that range from everyday concerns to identity, growing up, dealing with loss of parents and grandparents, and political awareness.
One of the poets featured is content executive Puteri Yasmin Suraya, 25. This is the first time her poems have been published in an anthology. Some of her poems were previously published in a magazine.
“I write both short stories and poems. But poems come naturally to me,” said Puteri Yasmin.
Four of her poems were chosen for the collection. Her first poem Ghazal: On Growing touches on the topic of moving forward in life while her second poem So Apropos deals with the difficulty of ending a fragile relationship. Her third and fourth poems Songs for Adonis and Persephone Leaving have elements of Greek mythology.
“I am a big fan of Greek mythology and I draw inspiration from it when I write my poems.”
She credits her parents for encouraging her love for books from a young age.
Another poet featured is Yee Heng Yeh, 25, a translator who is based in Penang. His three poems deal with different themes.
The first one deals with politics, the second is about his childhood, while the third is about a spider.
“My poems are my personal reflection of what I experience in life,” he said.
This is the third time his work has been published in a book. His first poem was published in Unmasked: Reflection on Virus-time while his second poem appeared in Home Groan: A NutMag Anthology. Both books were published late last year.
“I discovered my love for poems late in life,” he said.
His started writing poems when he was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English and Literature from 2015 to 2018.
He also dabbled in writing scripts and his scripts were selected for the Short+Sweet Festival, winning Best Script in Penang in 2019. Last year, he also co-wrote a stage play called Have/Had, that was staged at the Performing Arts Centre of Penang.