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Songs From A Distance is a compilation of 31 poems composed by migrant workers in Singapore. We were commissioned by Potato Productions and TCW2 to design this anthology that was launched at Singapore Writers Festival 2017. Written in Bahasa Indonesia, Bengali, English, Mandarin Chinese, Punjabi, Tagalog, and Tamil, these poems offer readers a glimpse into the thoughts and dreams of Singapore’s invisible workforce. An endeavour that celebrated the literary talent of migrant workers, the publication also opened up a new and exciting literary genre. Recurring themes such as identity, migration, displacement and distance were intimately explored in the poems, along with grim realities of the migrant workers that were presented in a way that preserved authenticity.
The midnight blue cover was apropos to an anecdote from one of the poets, recounting how he would write after hours in his dormitory, composing his poems on his mobile phone. The design of the entire publication was deliberately austere to reflect the solitude and constraints of being a migrant worker. The names of the poets were also indexed on the inside spine, alluding to the fringes of society these workers frequently find themselves in. Essays from Shivaji Das (Organiser), Vanessa Lim (Editor) and Randy Yeo (Designer) were printed on foreshortened pages and a different paper stock, further emphasising the distance and dissociation between Singaporeans and the migrant workers.
In an attempt to conceptually bridge a distance that we felt should not have even existed, we printed the book title on the edge of every page such that the words would move closer together with each turning of the page.