Title Details

Pages: 88

Illustrations: 2 b&w images

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 03/01/2022

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6242-7

List Price: $19.95



Poems that challenge power and elevate the powerless

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  • Description
  • Reviews

Marylyn Tan’s debut volume complicates ideas of femininity, queerness, and the occult. Theoretically informed, imaginatively reckless, and politically fierce, these poems gaze back at visual arts, literature, and everyday life to present a feminine grotesque that subverts the patriarchal viewpoint that has structured these terrains of thought and life. GAZE BACK, ultimately, is an instruction book, a grimoire, a call to insurrection to wrest power back from the social structures that serve to restrict, control, and distribute it among those few privileged above the disenfranchised. It is a poetic call to arms. This book rocked Singapore literature upon its publication, winning the Singapore Literature Prize in English Poetry in 2020 and making Tan the first woman to earn the nation’s premier English-language poetry prize.

Excerpt from “Nasi Kang Kang”

the idea is
witchcraft comes naturally
to women
but which

The monsters fought by the witch in GAZE BACK are the hoarders of power and the proclaimers of acceptability and order. But this collection is really for the monsters that fight alongside her: the vilified women and girls made grotesque in their rebellious femininity, the true readers of her grimoire. Tan waves her tongue like a wand, ensnares her demons, and finally banishes them from the closing lines of her poems. Those looking for desperation and hopelessness in the face of adversity will find nothing in this collection; those looking for magic and a fierce kind of loving will find everything.

—Singapore Review of Books

This is eviscerating, deliciously sacrilegious poetry that transgresses parameters of comfort and convention and enacts its own agency for freedom within a post-gender, non-essentialist, even post-verbal, perspective, while also re-empowering what it means to be feminine and queer.

—Cyril Wong, author of The Lover's Inventory

GAZE BACK is eloquent confrontation; it challenges the ways in which society polices gender and the boundaries by which many define poetry. Tan’s gaze is not just a reciprocal look. It is a forceful glare, an unapologetic gape, an accusing stare. It is a refusal to break eye contact.

—Tania De Rozario, author of Tender Delirium

Marylyn Tan is an essential badass! Here is a voice for the audience of outcasts, an extraordinary poetry where the endangered body can find true solidarity. With an uncompromising lens on the human condition with sexts and symbols of moons and gender, these unforgettable poems of deviance propel culture forward.

—CAConrad, author of While Standing in Line for Death

About the Author/Editor

Queer, female, and Chinese, MARYLYN TAN is a linguistics graduate, poet, and artist who has been performing and disappointing since 2014. Her work trades in the conventionally vulgar, radically pleasurable, and unsanctioned, striving to emancipate and restore the alienated, endangered body. Tan is the poetry reader for Singapore Unbound, founder of multidisciplinary arts collective DIS/CONTENT (, and can be found in her habitat at instagram/marylyn.orificial or She lives in Singapore.