“The ecology and economy of the region is under threat. This Transpacific Literary Project folio, Monsoon Notebook is for these essential, vanishing, and unruly waters.”
July 9, 2020
“Have seen the outline of a large fish caught and thrown in the curl of a wave, been where nobody wears socks, where you wash your feet before you go to bed, where I watch my sister who alternatively reminds me of my father, mother and brother. Driven through rainstorms that flood the streets for an hour and suddenly evaporate, where sweat falls in the path of this ballpoint, where the jak fruit rolls across your feet in the back of the jeep, where there are eighteen ways of describing the smell of a durian, where bullocks hold up traffic and steam after the rains… And after the party the thunderstorm we walked through for five seconds from porch to car, thoroughly soaked and by the time we had driven ten minutes – without headlights which had been stolen that afternoon at the pool – we were dry just from the midnight heat inside the vehicle… One morning I would wake and just smell things for the whole day, it was so rich I had to select the senses.”– Michael Ondaatje, Running in the Family
The word “monsoon” evokes enormous nostalgia for me. I remember running up the steep incline of Jiri Mountain with my cousins as kids in a torrential downpour. In rainwater so warm it felt like an embrace. My flip-flops slippery, dragging with water that sluiced down the slope.
The word “monsoon” originates from the Arabic موسم mawsim which meant “seasonal things,” such as winds, a voyage, a festival, a pilgrimage. The Portuguese and the Dutch sailors picked up the word in the 1580s during the age of maritime empires, that is the age of wretched colonialisms, and it became known in their languages as monçao and monssoen. And the word travels to us into my American English here in New York. It now signifies a season marked by the appearance of torrential rains.
Along the Pacific Rim, we experience monsoons viscerally. Our literature is a humid literature. We know what it feels like to hold pages of newspapers or paperbacks softened and limp with from the heat of an afternoon. And to watch destruction brought about by flooding. This Monsoon Notebook gathers poetry, photography, short stories – original and translated – from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, and Burma (Myanmar) and will publish in installments. For these writers, the word “monsoon” recalls jungles, romance, ghosts, floods, rivers, interruption, relief, rain, and drinking water.
Due to the climate crisis, these rains are arriving later and leaving sooner. The floods are fiercer. The ecology and economy of the region is under threat. This Transpacific Literary Project folio, Monsoon Notebook is for these essential, vanishing, and unruly waters.
– Esther Kim
Contents: THE TYPHOON DAYS Lu Yinyin • Na Zhong | THE SEA LION THAT JUMPED OVER TERRACED FIELDS A Leng • Zhou Sivan | AINAA ZH Liew | THREE POEMS by Marjorie Evasco | BAD WEATHER Kim Sehee • Paige Aniyah Morris | ONE DAY Park Nohae • Brother Anthony
Monsoon Notebook Extras: BE WATER
Table of Contents
THE TYPHOON DAYS by Lu Yinyin, translated by Na Zhong
An ex-couple meet for a holiday in the mountains only to be hemmed in by a typhoon
THE SEA LION THAT JUMPED OVER TERRACED FIELDS by A Leng, translated by Zhou Sivan
Illustrations by Leopold Adi Surya
Government schemes to monetize juveniles’ dreams Kenichi talks to salamanders and turns into water
AINAA by Zhou Hau Liew
A hermit recalls her childhood on the outskirts of the Malaysian jungle, its inhabitants, and its enemies
A TURTLE-POET DREAMS, GIVEN TIME: THREE POEMS by Marjorie Evasco
A yellow-vented warbler builds a nest out of prayer flags
BAD WEATHER by Kim Sehee, translated by Paige Aniyah Morris
Fanfic queers gossip about their hagwon director on a rainy day
ONE DAY by Park Nohae, translated by Brother Anthony
A poet abroad photographs the rivers, droughts, and seas