Gaze Back by Marylyn Tan


In 2020, this debut volume shocked Singapore’s literary world by winning the country’s premier English-language poetry prize, making its then twenty-seven-year-old author the first woman to ever win the award. Moreover, it is not a polite book. It 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.


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


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, resulting in unforgettable poems of deviance propelling culture forward.
—CAConrad, author of While Standing in Line for Death
This is an eviscerating, deliciously sacrilegious poetry that enacts, transgressing parameters of comfort and convention, 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 And The Walls Come Crumbling Down Tender Delirium



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 or She lives in Singapore.