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Powerful women’s voices will be heard at this year’s Singapore Writers Festival.

Britain’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy headlines a strong roster of women writers from other parts of the world, including China, Pakistan and the United States.

Duffy, known for her lyrical poems, is one of the most recognised names in poetry today. She was named Britain’s Poet Laureate in 2009 and is the first woman to hold the title in the post’s 341-year history.
Readers of The Straits Times can win a chance to have dinner with her when she is in town.

Also attending are other big names such as Jung Chang, author of the successful and critically acclaimed book Wild Swans; Pakistani poet and novelist Fatima Bhutto and Indian poet Salma.

Both Chang and Bhutto have new books out, which make their appearances at the festival timely.

Chang has a work of non-fiction titled Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, which will be the subject of one of the festival’s lectures on Nov 4. Bhutto will discuss her fiction debut, The Shadow Of The Crescent Moon, in a session with novelist Romesh Gunesekera on Nov 9.

Festival director Paul Tan, 42, tells Life!: “As with many other literary festivals, you sometimes need a serendipitous alignment of the stars. Fortunately, both Jung Chang and Fatima have exciting new works out this year.”

He adds that the festival’s programming approach has always been to cover a range of genres and topics, and offer “a good balance of men and women’s voices”.

This year, there are 91 women writers from 15 countries across the world, with 52 authors from Singapore, compared to 66 women writers last year.

Now in its 16th edition, the festival is themed on Utopia/Dystopia and will explore broad issues ranging from war and peace to love and hate.

In addition to strong panels centred on women’s issues, festivalgoers can expect more lectures, a focus on crime and a theme that allows the festival to look at the darker side of humanity, including some of the challenges women writers such as Indian poet and novelist Salma have had to face.

This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on October 1, 2013. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.