THE INSATIABLE NEED to put word after word defines a true writer; everything else follows. However, Euginia Tan would disagree. Euginia suffered from depression. Her lengthy battle made her see more than a normal person’s fair share, and when she emerged victorious after 5 hospitalized trips, she found herself armed with resilience and a unique yet sharp view on life. And like many, writing became a form of solace and a place of comfort.
Writing is like sex. At first it’s for need, then love and then gradually it’s for money.
Euginia has self-published two collections of poetry, the first being ‘Songs About Girls’ followed by ‘Playing Pretty’, launched earlier this March. The latter is a play on words; when recited in Mandarin, they mean ‘Perfect’, and like the title, Euginia’s poems and insights can be cheeky, captivating, and peppered with a healthy dosage of truth.
Excerpt from Small Talk With Guests, Playing Pretty
I ask, as I pour the steam
Brown liquid into their cups.
How good of you to drop by
My mother offers, let you try these new biscuits.
Mr and Mrs Newlyweds
Nibble at the crumbs
And ask questions I am tired of answering.
I say, I am in the midst of working on something.
They repeat the question, oh.
I try, in vain, to hide my irritation.
Oh, no no, it is
I am not yet engaged. As far as I know.
Because of circumstances, Euginia would argue that it takes courage and a good dose of determination to write too. Talent alone is overrated. After all, she was alone when she decided to self-publish her debut ‘Songs About Girls’. Her family and friends were more concerned with her health than her need to create art. Having walked the path of publication alone, Euginia is of course, right.
Euginia was first drawn into literature by the enchanting themes of murder and darkness of S.E Hinton. Being someone who was first inspired by Hinton’s usage of a masculine name (as it would promise a greater audience), Euginia seem to harbor noble notions that extend beyond words and into people’s hearts.
And they do.
Euginia achieved the dream that was planted by S.E Hinton; to publish under a female name. She is grateful for it, for if not for Hinton, she probably wouldn’t be writing and become who she is today. But why poetry?
“I don’t want it to fade out. Poetry must never be a thing of the past” Euginia remarks.
Never beating around the bush and never the one for euphemisms, Playing Pretty touches personal chords and Euginia's words transcend typical topics into fantastical yet relatable realms. What is more impressive can only be the meaning of the poetry which the reader finds staring back at them.
Excerpt from Religion, Playing Pretty
“So they build your coffin before you die.
Sometimes the truth is not so different from the lie.
So I wish that I could know somebody like you.
Someone who understand and does not question what I do.
Someone who knows that fish don’t come to your hook
If you keep tugging at your line
Or playing by the book.”
She wants the future generation to have something to appreciate, stories to listen to, and local art to look up to. In these aspects, Euginia represents a warrior of literature, perhaps not a game changer, but a symbol of strength for women and for the local arts community.
Limiting classifications have no place for someone talented, beautiful and strong, all at once. Euginia is a survivor, a people’s woman, and a true artist.
She could very well be ‘Playing Pretty’.