Our third issue features some familiar voices as well as some brand-new ones and, for the first time, includes short prose as well as poetry.
What all the writing in this issue shares in common is a deep engagement with the stories and histories embedded in each of the fourteen languages represented in this issue, and what it means to find oneself carrying these into an uncertain future. In these pages, you will find writers speaking of their parents’ pasts, their own present as they move between languages and negotiate a sense of self within them, and the challenge of raising children who retain a connection to their parents’ languages and cultures while thriving in Australia.
Each writer has put great care and attention into creating an audio version of their writing. I encourage readers to experience the nuance, texture and depth these recordings add to the poetry and prose in this issue.
In its first year, the AMWP has put out three issues, a special mini-issue with the Emerging Writers Festival 2019, and a live showcase at the Generations Festival with the generous support of Multicultural Arts Victoria. None of that would have been possible without the ongoing support of a growing community of writers, editors, academics, language enthusiasts and readers. Thank you to everyone who has contributed their time and energy to the AMWP along the way. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
I was both moved and delighted by the response to the first issue of the AMWP and I don’t think it an exaggeration to say that our readers are some of the most generous on the internet. Thank you for the emails, the messages and the tweets (and re-tweets!) and for being willing to sit with what must no doubt have seemed somewhat strange.
In its second iteration, the AMWP continues to showcase writers who play with language in exciting and innovative ways. AMWP 2 features writing in thirteen languages drawn from all over the world. Each poem is accompanied by an audio recording so that readers may once again immerse themselves in the unique soundscapes that each of these poets creates.
Borders feature heavily in this issue, spanning the ideological borders imposed by colonisation or self-imposed by prescriptivism, the literal borders created by war, the physical borders of distance and time, and even the borders that separate versions of a language from each other. There is an overarching theme of loss and alienation from culture and language, of having to fight to reclaim language and culture on the one hand and of learning to live with always being one step removed from them – a visitor in one’s own family – on the other.
But learning (or re-learning) language necessarily leaves room for happy accidents and surprising connections. This is most obviously reflected in the more playful poems included in this issue, but all the poems here are a demonstration of the relationships with culture and language that persist despite the barriers put up against them.
This issue would not have been possible without the fantastic network of multilingual artists, writers, and readers who contributed their time and expertise to the project once again. Thank you, Ameel Zia Khan, Aydée Bigaton Medina da Cunha, C.B. Mako, Jasmeet Sahi, Sameena Ali Jaffery, and Vanessa Giron for your generous advice and assistance.
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.
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.