Published in Issue 25 Vol 2/2015 of "My Green Space"
Read the full article and photographs on:
The Inspiration Behind Excursion to HortPark
By Jocelyn Lau; Illustrated by April Yip
ISBN: 978-981-09-2836-0 (paperback)
In late 2013, my child’s preschool arranged a guided visit to HortPark, which included the Playgroup children – i.e. the two-year-old students; the youngest kids in the school. I accompanied my son on the trip, armed with a bagful of his things – water, snacks, change of clothing, and spare diapers.
The morning event, which began at 10am, quickly became rather warm and humid. As parents will know, toddlers have a mind of their own and are easily distracted, which meant that on this trip, the children had other things to do than follow along in an organised manner behind the guide. Very soon, it was the parents who were the ones trying to pay attention to the guide while minding their children at the same time. As you can imagine, the situation was somewhat funny, though perhaps more from an outsider’s point of view.
As I followed the group, often having to carry my kid, who became hot and bothered, I started to document the visit. I did not have pen and paper with me at the time, so I typed out my poems onto my Facebook wall using my mobile phone as I composed them. By the end of the trip, I had ten haiku. A colleague saw the posts and encouraged me to write more of these short poems so I could publish a book. And that’s just what I have done with Excursion to HortPark!
I think the book has made many of the teachers who went on that trip, as well as the parents of the children, and even the children themselves, very happy to see themselves in a published book. That is the greatest reward for me, as I had published this title as a little memento dedicated to that class. One of the teachers, Hazel, says that the excursion is now immortalised.
Why did I write haiku? Because it’s short – only 13 syllables. While it doesn’t mean these poems are easier to write than the other forms of poetry, the haiku form does lend itself to my present needs as a working mother of a very young child: with 13 syllables, I could visualise the entire ‘story’ without having to first put it down on paper, or in a Word document, to see it take shape. The haiku was a form that I started experimenting with when my child was born, and you will be able see more of the ‘baby’ poems in my other two works, Hey There, Tot! (also just published) and Hello, Baby (published 2013).
In this article, I am pleased to share two of the haiku that appear in Excursion to HortPark, which show the hilariousness of that morning’s visit: small children scattering in different directions, despite the instructions given by the guide and parents; and the toddlers’ interpretation of instructions.
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(p37) Neo Chwee Kok trained at the Chinese Swimming Club, not Farrer Swimming Complex.
(pp172–173) The images of the Singapore Swimming Club are from old postcards in our collection; images courtesy of Lim Kheng Chye.