Malaysian poet Zurinah Hassan has grown up in a village. She was told that she shouldn’t be seen or heard.  When she felt like reading, she was asked to cook rice, instead. About half a century later in the year 2015, she was the first women who was had been given the Sasterawan Negara literary award.  This made her the first female poet laureate of Malaysia.

She is 69 years old and goes by the name Haniruz says that this is not exactly a surprise her name has been in contention since 1990s even though the award have been given to 12 men prior to her.  Yet, she was delighted to make history. She says that it encourages her to go on. However, at the same time, she fears that that she is not doing enough to carry the title.

This is the reason she says that she is happy to be invited to Singapore Writers Festival, where she is going to take part in panels with the local Malay-language writers like Aidli Mosbit Hamed Ismail and also Farihan Bahron, Singapore Literature Prize-winner. It is something that she should do for promoting Malaysian literature.

She says that she is the author of 22 books. However, she doesn’t consider being much as she is almost 70 years old and started writing when she was 12years old. She had been raised in the remote village of Kedah by her grandparents and aunts. Her father had died when she was only six months old while her mother was a nurse who was too busy to care for her.

The village that she belonged to didn’t have electricity, let alone a library. She was forbidden to go out. Thus, she sat in the house listening to radio. Songs were played using pantums in the lyrics. This is how she fell in love with the beautiful words.  She became a writer as she wasn’t allowed to speak.  Haniruz,


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