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October 2021

Voices on the Verge: Writing from Southeast Asian Creole Languages

Image: Krista Nogueras, Exquisite Risk, 2020, gas-fired stoneware and vitrified china.

Our October 2021 issue is devoted to poetry and prose written in five contact languages, or creoles, of Southeast Asia. These languages, most of which are today at risk of extinction, arose out of both intra- and intercontinental linguistic encounters between different language communities, often in the closely connected contexts of trade and colonialism. The seven texts presented here explore the unique cultures and communities that developed alongside these hybrid languages, and many demonstrate a particular preoccupation with themes of heritage and belonging. Writing in Sri Lanka Portuguese, Magin Mario Balthazaar offers two poems on love, leisure, and music; the late poet Francis C. Macansantos, writing in Zamboangueño Chavacano, traces the desperation of a junk dealer and ponders the human relationship to the ocean. Sara Frederica Santa Maria re-creates a chilling Melaka Portuguese folktale she heard as a child, while poets Nironjini Pillay, Shagina Bhalan, Nadarajan Mudalier, and Mahendran Pillay contribute a traditional pantun in Chetti Malay. H. Miguel de Senna Fernandes pays homage to Macau in a poem written in Patuá, and guest editor Stefanie Shamila Pillai takes readers on a lively tour of the historical trade routes and bustling port cities that gave rise to these remarkable languages. With translations by Sara Frederica Santa Maria, Francis C. Macansantos, Nurul Huda Hamzah, Hugo C. Cardoso, Stefanie Shamila Pillai, and H. Miguel de Senna Fernandes.

The Voices of Contact Languages in Asia: An Introduction

For multilingual writers, choosing to write in their heritage languages can be seen as an expression of agency, an active choice to communicate in a nondominant language.

The Gut Demons

“When you go in search of food, you must do so at night, and you must only go with your head and intestines.”


Eyes of the Wave

Eyes of blue-green watch you, / Dimpled smiles hidden in water.


Mr. Marcos (A Soliloquy)

The moon taunts, smiles, / “Come into my parlor, old man.”



We are known as the Chetti of Melaka, / Guardians of tradition and culture.


The Land of Our Lives

The fish sing over here, / The fish sing.


My Beloved Lady

There will be no trouble, life will be good, / Come and dance the káfriinha.


Macau, Our Homeland

A tiny land of a thousand wonders / A flower for anyone in grief



Book Reviews

Mario Levrero’s “The Luminous Novel”: Writing as a Spiritual Experience

Reviewed by Isaura Contreras

In a work that takes the form of a diary and a novel, Uruguayan writer Mario Levrero contemplates failure and procrastination to ultimately affirm writing as an act of freedom.

“Psychedelic,” “Profound,” “a Feminist Classic”: Magda Cârneci’s “FEM” Challenges Definitions

Reviewed by Jozefina Komporaly

Blurring genre boundaries, Cârneci's debut novel brings to life a mesmerizing landscape of female desire and frustration. As the fragmented yet captivating narrative examines the twin subjects of love and loss, readers are confronted with the ultimate feminist agenda of a woman’s right to choose, together with the numerous hurdles and dilemmas associated with it

“Last Summer in the City,” Gianfranco Calligarich’s Ode to a Long-Gone Lifestyle, Hits a False Note

Reviewed by Allison Grimaldi-Donahue

Set in a deserted Rome during a hot and melancholy August, this 1973 novel now touted as a classic rehashes a familiar theme within Italian literature and film: a country and art of malaise. At turns beautiful and frustrating, it ultimately feels like a pastiche of the works it attempts to keep company with.

Recent Issues

Animal Kingdom

Our Nueva York: Writing the City in Spanish

The Language of Identity: Kaaps Writing from South Africa

Voices on the Verge: Writing from Southeast Asian Creole Languages

The Slow Burn of Inner Chaos: Writing from Malaysia

Backstories: Afro-Italian Women Writers

The Queer Issue XII

Movement and Multiplicity: Writing from Mauritania

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