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Voices on the Verge: Writing from Southeast Asian Creole Languages

October 2021

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

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.

A blue and yellow ceramic bowl in the shape of an ocean wave.
Wave bowl attributed to Christopher Dresser, ca. 1880. Glazed earthenware. Public domain, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Purchase, James David Draper Gift, in memory of Robert Isaacson, 2001.