Singaporean author and artist Desmond Kon has clinched an independent publishing award for his book Babel Via Negativa, which was published last year.

Last Friday, Kon won a Gold in the poetry category of the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards, which are given out by the Independent Book Publishers Association in the United States.

These “honour the best in indie publishing across a variety of fiction and nonfiction categories for children and adults”, according to a press statement issued by the association.

The 44-year-old Kon is the first Singaporean to win this accolade.

Babel Via Negativa is co-published by Ethos Books and Kon’s own literary press, Squircle Line Press. It is a book of experimental writing, including essays, poetry, hybrid scriptings and texts written like tweets.

It beat two other books – Become A Message: Poems by Hungarian poet Lajos Walder (Upper West Side Philosophers) and Orbital Paths: Poems by American poet Richard Meyer (Science Thrillers Media).

Kon feels “floored and humbled” by the win. He says: “It’s taken quite a long time for contemporary poetics to accept experimental writing, much less recognise such work…. Perhaps it was the sheer ambition of the collection, in trying to jam so many different styles, forms, genres and traditions, that got it noticed by the judges.”

Kon, who has a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Notre Dame in the United States, was trained in book publishing at Stanford University there. He has produced an epistolary novel, two hybrid works and six poetry collections so far.

He is a writer-in-residence at the Nanyang Technological University this year.

Earlier last month, he also won in seven categories at the USA Regional Excellence Book Awards, which “recognise and reward excellence in books that take readers into the heart of a ‘place’, delivering the experience of a locale”.

The awards are open to works in English and are given out to works that mention or allude to regions in the United States.

Kon’s wins include Sanctus Sanctus Dirgha Sanctus (Poetry, Mid-West region), Singular Acts Of Endearment (Adult Fiction, North-East region) and Eye/Feel/Write: Experiments In Writing (Anthology, South-West region). Babel Via Negativa also won for Spirituality in the North-East region.

Kon has just released a new poetry collection, Thirty-Seven Reasons Red Is Rad, and will publish another poetry collection later this year, Mirror Image Mirage. – Straits Times/Asia News Network


 

Babel Via Negativa is available at ethosbooks.com.sg and squirclelinepress.org.