Introduction to AMWP Issue 1

Welcome to the first issue of the Australian Multilingual Writing Project journal.

When I first posted the call for submissions, I was unsure of what kind of response I would get. Although I knew there were poets in Australia who spoke more than one language, and that some had published or performed work in two or more languages, what I was setting out to create was different from the kind of multilingualism generally presented in Australian poetry. Usually, the focus is on translation or translatability and, more often than not, poets will use just a word or two of another language in a poem written otherwise in English. While this is understandable given that Australian establishment literature is largely monolingual, my objective was to capture the way that multilingual people actually speak and think.

To be multilingual is to have access to multiple musics, multiple vocabularies, multiple idioms and, most importantly in this context, to be able to combine them in ways that create whole new musics, syntaxes, and idioms. It is to have multiple, complex relationships with each language while also knowing how easily languages cross-pollinate and combine if permitted (and even if not). It is to understand, and even delight in, the slipperiness of language and all the deliberate and accidental connections that we make daily. Why keep that much sound, music, joy, experience and potential bottled up?

This issue features poetry by 13 different poets in 14 different languages. Some of these poets have always spoken their languages while others have acquired their second or third or fourth languages as older children or as adults. Some have inherited their parents’ languages while others have made a deliberate effort to re-learn what had been lost, while still others have simply fallen in love with a language. Some are comfortable with the way their languages have receded over the years, while others fight to retain their fluency and even pass it on to their children and students. Some work with languages as translators, linguists, academics, language learners, and language teachers, while others live with languages as migrants, expats, and third culture kids. None are limited to a single category. In fact, as it arguably typical of multilingual people, most inhabit multiple identities fully and simultaneously. Facets, not fragments, is the overarching theme here.

Facets, not fragments, is the overarching theme here

I would not have been able to edit this issue without the very generous help of my friends and colleagues who volunteered their time and efforts to review the poetry that was submitted and help make the final selection. They did everything from engaging in deep, involved discussions regarding usage and declensions to proofreading and checking for spelling errors in scripts I cannot read. Thank you, Asha Bedar, Nadia Clarice Budiman, Felipe Castillo, Vanessa Giron, Daniela Karky, Sangeeta Shresthova, Daphanie Teo, and Maria Tumarkin for your time, energy, and linguistic prowess. Thank you also to Ameel Zia Khan for editing the audio recordings of the poems, being my sounding board throughout the process, and addressing any and all technical questions.

Finally, thank you to all the poets who entrusted their work to this fledgling project. I hope this publication is a source of joy and inspiration to everyone who reads it.

 – Nadia Niaz

How To Navigate These Poems

An audio version of each poem is provided at the top of the page, between the title and the text of the poem. This is a way of inviting you into the poem even if you do not speak all of the languages it uses. Sound, cadence, and music are at the heart of poetry and this audio provides a way to access parts of texts that we cannot manage by reading alone.

The poems in this issue represent the individual relationships that the poets have with the languages in which they write. Because of this, the decision to translate or transliterate the non-English languages, or to provide glossaries, explanations, and notes, was left up to each poet.

If the poet has chosen to provide any explanatory material, you will find it after the poem, towards the bottom of the page, or in their bio. Some poets have done full translations, some have provided glosses, and some have presented their work as is.

CB Mako: Telefono

Mr Bear reading CB Mako’s ‘Telefono’

Comadre,    my    beloved   iho    has    an    ugly    new
girlfriend.    Que    horror!       Her     nose     so   pango,
her   skin   so   itim,      so    dark!     Why     didn’t     he
pick                someone          mestiza              like       us?
And    she    is    so    short!    Pandak    and   mataba! I 
have        had        prettier      katulongs       than      her.
Hadn’t    we    already       matched      my      son      to
your   daughter,    Miya?    With      our         American
and    Spanish        bloodlines       our      future       apo
would   be    beautiful,      so    puro!   Ay,   Diyos   mio,
what     should     I    do?     They    will     have      ugly
babies.     My    apos     will    be        ugly!      I need  to
pray       a       novena     to      Nuestra      Señora      De
Guadalupe.      Please       say       a      rosary   for   your
handsome       godson.      The                     impertinent
maldita,    punyeta.        I’ve     got     to    go,  comadre.
The    block    rosary      Blessed    Virgin     Mary       is
here.           We          have             guests              coming.


Glossary

Apos – grandchildren
Ay Diyos Mio – Oh my God
Block Rosary – The Block Rosary is a devotion wherein animage or statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary visits the home of each family for aweek or so. It encourages the family to pray the Rosary everyday not only fortheir own intentions but for the intentions of the whole community.
Comadre – son’s godmother
Iho – Son/Male child
Itim – Black
Katulongs – domestic helpers
Maldita – a woman with attitude, as opposed to the stereotypically modest Filipina who’s always thinking of others ahead of herself. Possible translations in English: snob, aloof, cruel, sharp-tongued, rude, mean, bitchy,self-centered
Mataba – fat
Mestiza – female of mixed native and foreign descent.
Nuestra Señora De Guadalupe – Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a venerated image enshrined within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City
Pandak – short in stature
Pango – a flat nose
Punyeta – profanity expressed in anger, borrowed from the Spanish word puñeta or ‘wank’
Que Horror – How awful


CB Mako is a West Writers Group member and a perpetual art student at Footscray Community Arts Centre. CB Mako has performed as an artist and panellist at the Emerging Writers Festival, Digital Writers Festival, Melbourne Fringe Festival, and Melbourne Writers Festival. Winner of the Grace Marion Wilson Emerging Writers Competition (non-fiction), CB Mako has been published in The Suburban Review, The Lifted Brow, The Victorian Writer, Pencilled In, Peril Magazine, Mascara Literary Review, Writers Victoria, Writers Bloc, Djed Press, and Wild Tongue Zine. She is @cubbieberry on Twitter and @cb.mako on Instagram.  Her website is https://mercurialmum.wordpress.com

Maria Takolander: Teaching My Son Finnish

 Maria Takolander reading ‘Teaching My Son Finnish’

1.
when i was a child it was minun kotini

the sound of it alone made me safe and whole

2.
then englannin kieli leveraged a hairline crack . . .

i don’t know how but soon the whole edifice was gone

3.
hyvää huomenta i chant to my son each dawn

hyvää yötä i whisper before sending him to sleep

4.
as if the pagan blessing of sunlight and midnight might help

us both—kadonneita lapsia—lost children—find our way home


Glossary

minun kotini – my home
englannin kieli – the English language
hyvää huomenta – good morning
hyvää yötä – good night


Maria Takolander was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1973 to Finnish parents. She is the author of two full-length collections of poetry: The End of the World (Giramondo 2014) and Ghostly Subjects (Salt 2009), the latter of which was short-listed for a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award. Her poems have appeared in The Best Australian Poems and/or The Best Australian Poetry every year since 2005, and they have also been widely anthologised and translated. Radio National aired a program about her poetry in 2015, and she has performed her poetry on ABC TV and at various festivals, including the 2017 International Poetry Festival in Medellín, Colombia. Maria is also a prize-winning fiction writer. Her short-story collection The Double (Text 2013) was shortlisted for the Melbourne Prize for Literature. Maria teaches at Deakin University in Geelong, where she also lives. Her website is mariatakolander.com

Rashida Murphy: Sab Ki Diwali

Rashida Murphy reading ‘Sab ki Diwali’

My nephew was born during Diwali
every dhamaka
of every phataka
rumbled through his body
like an earthquake,
and he couldn’t sleep

Years later, another Diwali
another birth
At dawn my mother rose from namaz
to hear my daughter’s first cry
What shall we name her, she asked
meri jaano jigar, meri baade sabah?

Diwali didn’t always
herald birth in my family
my brother once set fire to a cane palm
with lit phuljaris
and stubbed mombattis
We smouldered for days

Before our children interrupted Diwali
our mother bought us payals and kangans
and toe-rings
in chaandi
to appease a goddess
she didn’t believe in

Now, that girl born at Diwali dawn
wears chaandi and khadi
and names her cat Tulsi
What was it like, she asks
growing up where
everyone celebrated everything?


Notes and Glossary

The Hindu festival of Diwali is celebrated to honour the return of Lord Ram from exile. It is typically celebrated with the lighting of lamps and candles and is also known as the Festival of Lights. Silver and gold jewellery is bought to mark the festivities and appease the Goddess of Wealth.

Sab Ki Diwali – Everyone’s Festival of Lights
dhamaka – Explosion
phataka – Firecracker
namaz – Muslim prayer
meri jaano jigar – Endearment, loosely meaning heart of my heart
meri baade sabah – A line of poetry, meaning early morning breeze; Sabah is also used as a name
phuljaris – Sparklers
mombattis – Candles
chaandi – Silver
payals – Anklets
kangans – Bangles
khadi – Coarse cotton
tulsi – Sacred herb (basil), also used as a name


Rashida Murphy is a Perth-based writer and the author of The Historian’s Daughter (UWA Publishing, 2016). She is an Adjunct at Edith Cowan University. She runs workshops on writing at various writers centres and writes about identity and appropriation. Her poems, short stories and essays have appeared in national and international journals and anthologies.


Rose Hunter: High Roller

Rose Hunter reading ‘High Roller’

since the only direction to take is more
i cast my questioning aside.            lift me 
in a bubble turn me on a rolling ribbon        
spin me on a tambourine            of visions
             a bicycle wheel with bobbles
             a diadem with thought balloons

wanting sockets, looking for air pock(ettes)
            flashing fuchsia & 
magenta ice cream cones sideward 
glances or            a reckoning, ¿he estado 

soñando todo este tiempo?             a ride
            a rite            a great white 
tumbleweed spinning in which to have big 
& little thoughts, to wonder about that man 
that woman, you.            a place to inhabit 
yourself as podling, hatchling, fledgling
as someone to frame.            a way 
              of levitating, a way of lingering            
an unprocessed            regret, a place to be 

             fugitive without even knowing
             si pudiera aceptar una invitación

or cease my self-talk with repetition            
(this head skirmish)            momentarily
            a starting point is
not easy to pin down, but easy to forget


Glossary

¿he estado / soñando todo este tiempo? – Have I been dreaming all this time?
si pudiera aceptar una invitación – if I could accept an invitation


Rose Hunter’s book of poetry, glass, was published by Five Islands Press in 2017. From Brisbane, she lived in Canada for ten years and currently spends a lot of time in Mexico, where she works remotely as an editor and ESL teacher. More information about her can be found at rosehunterwriting.com, and she tweets @BentWindowBooks, a chapbook publisher she founded. These poems were written during a stay in Las Vegas. 

Paula Abul: Горчивник

Paula Abul reading ‘Gorchivnik’

I still think of you as a quiet man,
the kind of man who, stepping
in plainly human shit on
a riverbank could scrape himself 
clean in silence, who wouldn’t even 
wrinkle his nose because gestures 
are words and why speak when не нужно.

it’s my duty as a daughter to flatten you
into something I can hold, tuck you into 
the top of my boot and call it growth. 
горе живое и ржавит тебя. 

how sweet and baffling then,
your застольный routine
me – aghast,
you – lining them up:

          3 chillies (green), 
          2 cloves garlic (raw), 
          1 teaspoon mustard (hot english)

with hands soaked in method 
you’d deliver each one, and I’d 
brace for the tears and the thunder
горчит! алxамдулилла, горчит!

it seems to me now the 
most adult thing, to twist in the
heat and call it pleasure.

I think if Openness had eyes they’d 
be fringed in fine gold petals, холуд
dancing down her arms, gauzy орна
flapping in the sticky жар.

на его месте, у нас есть холод, 
Российская верность, склизкие
слова напиханные в шершaвыe
чемоданы, a language that casts
mustard in sorrow’s shadow. 

now I buy шориша oil labelled
‘for human consumption’ and
think of a yellow so bright it
seems lit with sin, a lurking vapour
like sirens, capable of firing twelve 
rounds into your sinuses with a laugh. 

I stepped in shit by the river too, 
caked it deep in the grooves of
my self-conscious boots
and the crescent boats curling
towards the sky rocked as my cries
thundered across the Подда. 


Paula Abul is a poet, linguist, and illustrator living in Naarm. Through a quirk of Soviet international education policies, they have grown up communicating with their Bangladeshi father in Russian, a language neither of them is entirely fluent in. This particular situation has been both beautiful and isolating – their father has a dexterity with Slavic grammar that is unhindered by canon, and together they have filled in any gaps with etymological leaps and creativity; on the other hand, they are not easily understood by Russian speakers, and there has been no functional distinction between Bengali and Russian words since they are all plugged into the same almost-Russian grammar. This poem reflects that linguistic landscape, as well as the encroaching position of English as we continue to settle in so-called Australia.

Rose Hunter: girls, girls, girls, & God

Rose Hunter reading ‘girls, girls, girls, & God’

or being a bit precious i mean semi-
precious, i mean burning out of EZ Pawn            

& por favor conduzcas on the right

side of the road            anytime now–

confetti & polyester sweat            sliding
               gunning the bumps

the thunder            (vámonos Jimbo!)
of martillo neumático & I-15
rocket ship liftoff; Jimbo!            spaghetti 

bowl billboard & horizontal freefall
end of the world en todas las direcciones

               a no woman’s land

the Wynn            sweats & swells
a giant/cooking/golden/            almohada


Glossary

por favor conduzcas – please drive
vámonos Jimbo! – come on Jimbo!
martillo neumático – jackhammer
en todas las direcciones – in all directions
almohada – pillow


Rose Hunter’s book of poetry, glass, was published by Five Islands Press in 2017. From Brisbane, she lived in Canada for ten years and currently spends a lot of time in Mexico, where she works remotely as an editor and ESL teacher. More information about her can be found at rosehunterwriting.com, and she tweets @BentWindowBooks, a chapbook publisher she founded. These poems were written during a stay in Las Vegas. 

Anita Patel: Hati Ini (This Heart)

Anita Patel reading ‘Hati Ini’

This heart is as tiny as a faraway star
(hard to catch hold of) – kecil hati
But don’t be discouraged because
It can grow into an elation of sunlight –
besar hati  
This heart can float joyously – like pollen dusting the
spring breeze – ringan hati or
sink like a frozen rock into icy seas
berat hati, hati beku, walang hati, hati mutu
This heart rises high like hot air from
a proud man’s lips
tinggi hati and bows low because it knows its place –
rendah hati…
This is not a precious heart
It is easily given – murah hati, hati luluh
But it can become hot with envy and rage
and eaten up by regret – panas hati
makan hati…
This heart is sometimes hard like stone
hati batu, rawan hati, hati dendam…
If not cared for – this heart can
rot away – hati iblis, busuk hati
and just disappear – sampai hati
This heart can be fearful, fretful and insincere
kecut hati, hati bercagak, susah hati…
But also filled with courage – this can be
a brave heart – hati bejar
This heart can hurt inexplicably
sakit hati – fall and break
patah hati
but mend again with kindness
and good intentions – baik hati,
senang hati…
This heart should be nurtured
in a heart to heart conversation
dari hati ke hati
with our better selves or
a loved one buah hati
This heart blossoms in heartfelt
compassion hati berjantung…
so hold this heart
gently it deserves to be observed closely
menaruh hati, memperhatikan…
And above all
Be careful with this heart
hati hati dengan hati ini…


Anita Patel is a Canberra writer. She has had work published in the Canberra Times, in Summer Conversations (Pandanus Books, ANU), in Eucalypt: a tanka journal, Pink Cover Zine, Block9, Burley Journal, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Demos Journal, Cordite Poetry Review, FemAsia Magazine and Mascara Literary Review. Her children’s poems have been published by Harper Collins. She won the ACT Writers Centre Poetry Prize in 2004 for her poem ‘Women’s Talk’ and her poetry has recently been selected for Australian Book Review’s States of Poetry ACT, 2018. She has performed her poetry at many events, including the Canberra Multicultural Festival, the Poetry on the Move Festival (University of Canberra), Noted Festival, Floriade Fringe Festival, at Smith’s Alternative and at Word in Hand in Glebe. She was the guest editor for Issue 2 of Not Very Quiet Journal.

Consuelo Martínez Reyes: ‘Ficciones’

Consuelo Martínez Reyes reading ‘Ficciones’

Ficciones
which usually is
a widely known book by Borges
is now this

the thought that San Juan and Africa are not so close together
despite their common
              drought
              enemy
              natural disaster
of people who left
without consent.

We both draw graffiti
a la postmortem.

Los polvos del Sahara nos asfixian
y llegan hasta aquí, tarnishing los carros
con el mismo barro del que estamos hechos
nosotros los inhumanos.

We hear
the whispers coming from the photo
stuck to the fridge door
held together by cheap metal, just like us.

We are
comunes dromedarios,
anélidos,
agua edulcorada por los cuerpos abandonados a su suerte.

But do not worry.
My period is here.
Involuntary blood,
como nosotros,
rogando a los dioses
no reproducirnos
because not all of us can be president
of the united states
or anything else united for that matter

Ficciones
such is the idea that we may reproduce
freely and willingly
or not, if we decided,
because this is not our body,
only land
to be conquered.


Translation of Spanish Verses

Los polvos del Sahara nos asfixian
y llegan hasta aquí, tarnishing los carros
con el mismo barro del que estamos hechos
nosotros los inhumanos.

Dust from the Sahara Desert asphyxiates us
and make it here, tarnishing cars
with the same clay with which we, the inhumane, are made

comunes dromedarios,
anélidos,
agua edulcorada por los cuerpos abandonados a su suerte

common dromedaries,
annelids,
water sweetened by the bodies left to fend for themselves

como nosotros,
rogando a los dioses
no reproducirnos

like us,
begging the gods
not to reproduce ourselves


Dr Consuelo Martínez Reyes (San Juan, 1980) is a Puerto Rican writer, translator, and Lecturer in Spanish and Latin American Studies at Macquarie University. She is the author of the short-story collection En blanco [Blank Canvases] (La Pereza, 2018), as well as editor and translator of Not the Time to Stay: The Unpublished Plays of Víctor Fragoso(Centro Press, 2018).