â€œhad to laugh todayâ€: Arthur Yap, Singapore and â€œBlind Faithâ€
AbstractIn this paper I identify a key source for Arthur Yapâ€™s early and rarely discussed poem â€œnewsâ€: Steve Winwoodâ€™s lyrics to Blind Faithâ€™s rock song â€œHad to Cry Todayâ€ (1969). Yapâ€™s curious and sustained appropriation and reworking of this experimental English â€œhippyâ€ text is set in the contexts of, first, the poetâ€™s other literary responses to popular music of the 1960s and, second, the Singapore stateâ€™s increasingly hostile response to the hippy movement during this period. Informed by discussion of Winwoodâ€™s cryptic lyrics, and an exploration of the Singapore stateâ€™s expedient introduction and regulation of televised news broadcasts during the 1960s, I present a reading of Yapâ€™s â€œnews,â€ highlighting the poetâ€™s adroit reworking of â€œHad to Cry Todayâ€ in the context of mass communication in a culturally conservative Asian city state. Yap, I argue, exploits tensions in Winwoodâ€™s lyric between both reality and representation, authoritarian diktat and personal-plebeian response. Parodying the Singapore stateâ€™s pragmatism, Yap reduces the polysemous possibilities of â€œHad to Cry Todayâ€ to mundane, unambiguous statement. I conclude by suggesting that Yapâ€™s deployment of satire via subtle parody of a hippy source till now unidentified by the majority of Yapâ€™s readership, materially extends Rajeev Patke and Philip Holdenâ€™s recent characterisation of Yap as a poet with an â€œobsessive interest inâ€¦ mimicryâ€¦ and subversion.â€ I conclude by suggesting that Yap in his early engagements with hippy culture reveals a conspicuously less ambiguous stance toward the emerging postcolonial city state than has been previously suggested.
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