"Void Deck" by Alfian Bin Sa'at

Essay by laneles August 2005

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In the poem "Void Deck" by Alfian Bin Sa'at, the poet establishes the Singaporean Identity by using the term "void deck" as the title of the poem. The term is unique to the Singapore context as it is not used in any other country. The poem is also filled with the 'voices' from the HDB heartland which many Singaporean readers can closely relate to. The poet uses phrases such as "wet market" (stanza 1, verse 2), "stone-table chessboard" (stanza 5, verse7) and "caged birds" (stanza3, verse3) to portray the familiar sight at the void decks of HDB flats.

The poem also reflects the nature of Singapore housewives in the verse 1 and 4, where it states that the "neighbourhood wives" "trade snatches of gossip" "after a morning at the wet market". Its shows that the wives are gossipmongers and had plenty of time on their hand to be able to laze around after the marketing session in the morning.

The verse "Lazy daughters, who by some miracle or mistake always score well in class" is reflecting that the mindset of many Singaporeans, especially the older generation, who favour boys over girls in the family. This issue is very true especially for the older Chinese, as it is in their culture that they perceive boys as being superior due to the fact that they carry down the family name, and should be treated better than girls who 'belong' to the husband's family once they are married.

In stanza 3 verse 1, the poet describes the elderly as sages. This suggests that the elders are respected by the younger generation, or it could also suggest that the elderly perceive themselves as very wise beings and more knowledgeable than the young. The elderly are often very obstinate and would insist...