Transpacific Literary Project

The Transpacific Literary Project holds a space for writing and translation from East and Southeast Asia, shared in ways that may reorient reader relationships to languages and literatures. Organized by themed folios, the project draws connections between emerging and established voices across this expansive region in collaboration with a key group of contributing editors who advise on resonant themes, translate and circulate calls for submission among their networks, and broaden the language communities who contribute to each folio.

Exploring themes that tackle issues of aesthetics and politics as shared concern from diverse perspectives, past folios of the project have dug into unlikely subjects as tiny as grammar (The Pronoun), or as mundane as a house shoe (The Slipper), to bring out surprising discussions of representation and relationality, constraint and hierarchy, resistance and refusal to settle within established frames. Indeed, the “Transpacific” and the notion of this region as a fixed place observed from the outside, is itself one such frame that the Transpacific Literary Project attempts to disturb.

This project is made possible by support from the Henry Luce Foundation.


Transpacific Literary Project's monthly column collects essays, translations, and hybrid works that grapple with language, culture, and translation from Asia.


“The Rainforest Speaks: Reimagining the Malayan Emergency,” gathers writers, translators, filmmakers, artists, historians, and critics to revisit a significant period of Southeast Asian history—the Malayan Emergency.


In time for Nowruz, we share the notebook “Spring Will Come: Writings from East Turkistan”—fifteen poems, short stories, and translations from writers connected to East Turkistan, the contested region in...


On September 23, 1972, Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr., then President of the Philippines, set up a one-man authoritarian regime. As Noel Pangilinan writes in an essay written for this collection,...


A collaborative notebook between the Transpacific Literary Project and the e-zine chogwa, Channg features a single Khmer language poem translated 17 different ways into English. Guest editor...


Queer time challenges normative history, bringing to light the fragmented narratives, asynchronous lifestyles, and suppressed voices of marginalized subjects. In Taiwan, time has never been straight.


tôi viết (tiếng Việt) i write (in Vietnamese) imagines and constructs an exhibition of word-objects and letter-beings born from a play between texts and images and sounds in various materials and mediums,...


This week marks the one year anniversary of AAWW closing down its New York City office and beginning a period of work-from-home. One year ago, billions of people entered a...


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...


In a time of rising authoritarian leaderships around the globe, dismantling the myriad languages of domination—from explicit militarized lexicons to insidious vestiges of colonialism—is vital. The Insurgent Tongues folio interrogates...


The bringing home of prepared food from a kopitiam, restaurant, or cafe is a cornerstone of Malaysian culture. The Ta Pau folio takes this practice as a launching...


Disposable and ubiquitous, this everyday object is also imbued with deep personal and cultural significance and beneath its surface appearance. The Slipper folio gathers six works of writing,...


How much does this cost? This practical question of the marketplace can reach into the deeper waters of vulnerability and capitalist corruption, memory and nostalgia, labor...


This category of little words entwined in big discussions of identity and representation is ripe with possibility when shared across language and culture. The Pronoun folio...


This material substance, its deathless refusal to disintegrate, its poison, its falseness, its relentless production and our growing dependence on it makes for the critical subject of the...


Whether it’s in the strangeness of returning to a place that has so quickly and drastically changed, or as the projection of colonial imagination onto a landscape, or...


How can we trust the evidence of our eyes, when no gaze is ever neutral and images are constructed things, when time alters perspective and everything is always...


The Fluid folio wanders through liquid nature of memory, the continuous shifting of human circumstances and identity, and the wild surges and still waters of language. The pieces of original...


Few things vanish so completely as to leave no trace of themselves. In the Residue folio, a collection of essay, memoir, poetry and prose take a look at...


From migrant workers remitting their wages home, to the burning hell money as a remittance between the living and dead, or the remittance of culture itself under the...

In search of a shared language

لكن المنـفى ينبت مرة أخرى كالحشائـش البرية تحت ظلال الزيتـون | Exile sprouts anew, like untamed grass beneath the shade of olive trees

A young woman struggles to stay in a loving relationship while being haunted by a past abuser.

Translating Anuradha Sarma Pujari’s My Poems Are Not for Your Ad Campaign

On Joma Sison and Julie de Lima, the Philippines’ most famous leftist couple

A Filipino and a Chinese girl, both comfort women, find friendship in a piece of critical fabulation

How learning a third language became a place of reconciliation for my mother tongues.

How translating the writings of a former Malayan Communist Party member changed me

Transgressing spatial and temporal bounds through the image

An examination of Malayan Emergency fiction’s depiction of Sinophone, Anglophone, and Indigenous points of view

A researcher visits the UK National Archives in search of Malaya.

Three artistic works, recently showcased in Kuala Lumpur and beyond, suggest why it matters that we think about the history of the Malayan Emergency in concert with the contemporary COVID-19 and climate emergencies

| As long as the traveling carnival committed self-destruction, it could come alive once more in a different place.

Nine essays and stories from a new generation of writers grappling with the Malayan Emergency | 新世代作家的九篇文章和故事探討馬來亞緊急狀態

Malaysian-born filmmaker Lau Kek Huat grapples with the difficulties of visually representing the Emergency

Reimagining the Malayan Emergency

Imagining the future through words and through kin

etc.books founder Akiko Matsuo on building a space for feminism and solidarity in Tokyo

A Truku writer on his relationship with his tribe’s traditional craft

우체국을 나서면 아직 태어나지 않은 음악처럼 | When I leave the post office, I’m like unborn music

A familial haunting returns a Palestinian writer to Arabic.

On translators’ labor and invisibility

Mit Jai Inn’s sculptural paintings thrive in abstractions and calculated ambiguity

ئىنتىزارلىقنىڭ سۈبھىدۇر ئىسمى، / زۇلمەتنى چاققان ئەزان كېلىدۇ |
Intizarliqning sübhidur ismi, / Zulmetni chaqqan ezan kélidu. |
The name of longing is Dawn. / Breaking the chains of oppression, the call to prayer will come.

نەقەدەر گۈزەل- ھە / يوللار ئىچىدە / قايتىدىغان يول پەقەت ئۆيىگە |
Neqeder güzel–he / yollar ichide / qaytidighan yol peqet öyige |
of all the paths to take / is it not the most beautiful?

Artist Efvan’s portraits and vignettes of Uyghur life

құсың түлкі алса бүркіт, алмаса лау мінген шүршіт |
If your bird gets a fox, then it is an eagle; if not, then it is lightning riding a lion

سۈڭەكلەر قىرىلىپ، ئۇۋىلىپ ھەتتا، / تەجىرىخانىدا ئەگىسە روھىم |
Even as my bones are scraped and rubbed / my spirit circles where this work is done

ئاي يۇلتۇزۇمنى شەپەرەڭلەرگە ساتقان كېچە |
Ay yultuzumni sheperenglerge satqan kéche |
Oh night, you sold the moon and star to the moths.

يۇۋاشلىق.يۇۋاشلىق.يۇۋاشلىق |
Meekness. Meekness. Meekness.

ئېقىپ كەتمەستىڭ كۆكتىن يۇلتۇزدەك، / سەن ئۈچۈن قانات، پەر بولغان بولسام |
Éqip ketmesting köktin yultuzdek, / sen üchün qanat, per bolghan bolsam. |
You may not have dropped from the blue like a star / if I were wings for you

كېرەك بولسا بىرقانچە پاي ئوق، \ ئات مېنى، يۈرىكىم بار پارتلايدىغان |
Kérek bolsa birqanche pay oq, / At méni, yürikim bar partlaydighan. |
If bullets are what you need, / shoot me, I have a heart that explodes.

ياق، توختاڭلار! بۇ بۇغداي سېلىقى توغرىسىدىكى سۆز ئەمەس، مانا بۇ يەردە باشنى يە، دەپتۇ |
“No, stop it! This isn’t talking about a tax on wheat, look, it says bashni ye here, that’s ‘eat your head.’”

Say: I am still alive in the birds flown west.

ئېزىپ باق بۈگۈن يوچۇن يوللاردا \ ھېچكىم يادىغا كەلمىگەن بىر رەت |
Try to get lost today on strange roads / A path where no one is called to mind

ئۈمىدىم بۈگۈن خىيالدىن يۈكسەك |
Ümüdim bügün xiyaldin yüksek |
My hopes are greater than my thoughts today.

Guest editors Munawwar Abdulla and Rahima Mahmut reflect on hope and persistence in East Turkistan, in time for Nowruz.

Аза бойым қаза болып осыған, / Балтаң маған тиердей-ақ шошынам. |
A sparrow if it sprouts, a stick if it falls, / my whole body is tingling.

自分が国民になりたい国家とはどんな国家か? |
What kind of state would I want to belong to as a national citizen?

平和の条がキラキラと輝いている |
O how radiantly the Article of Peace sparkles

A notebook on the fiftieth anniversary of martial law being declared in the Philippines

The “New Society” had its own tricks. Billions disappeared from the nation’s coffers, clowns filled legislative positions.

Creating a life in the shadow of the martial law years

Neil Doloricon’s art centered farmers, workers, underground revolutionaries, and those on the margins

The United States would support the Marcos dictatorship disguised as a “constitutional coup d’etat”

It was Imelda as much as Ferdinand who brought about the country’s ruination

Kay hirap maging mahirap, kung hindi ka pa manginig sa galit ay hindi ka pa iintindihin.
| It’s so hard to be poor. If you don’t tremble with rage, they won’t try to understand you.

We walked uphill where tall cogon grasses were already starting to don their silver shade.

The Marcoses have always been the masters of myth-making

How does it feel to watch / the seeds of your destruction / walk away from you?

Rebolusyonaryong panulaan noong panahon ng batas militar |
Revolutionary poetry during the martial law years

I became a full-time community organizer in 1971. The Marcos government declared martial law in September 1972. A month later, the Marcos military came and arrested me.

I wondered if Pia was right, then, if I was seeking something too dangerous to be handled, a bomb that would kill me someday.

A brief history lesson on the fourteen-year military-backed dictatorship in the Philippines

The minute I arrived at the University of the Philippines as a freshman, I joined the marches.

Marcos knew that power rested not just on fear and terror, but also censorship and propaganda.

On the urgency of remembering the fourteen years of Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr.’s military-backed dictatorship in the Philippines

An open call for essays on language and translation

The editors of Ulirát on creating an anthology of Philippine literature that captures the “multilingual aspect of living in these islands”

“It’s not really about trauma—it’s about what it means to resurrect out of that.”

The stories in this folio piece together alternate, speculative histories that reflect distinctly queer modes of life: often without a clear resolution, a “moral,” or a sense of “straight” logic

“What’s more difficult? Gay marriage or ghost marriage?”

Not just her former hands, but the whole scaffolding of the skeleton in front of her had become a Jenga tower whose crucial block had been pulled away from the bottom

when does / a door become / a door , as it opens / or when it closes , / revealing an entirety – its face / or a fixed movement / of its hinges , is that smiling / or saying goodbye , / moonlight / or memory.  

“Meth was Trainspotting and Dust of Angels. Taiwanese education had worked like a charm, and he had taken a step back from the idea. What else was out there for him to try?”

As I looked in the mirror, Master flexed His fingers against my skin, as naturally as a handler would lovingly caress their pet puppy.

The concrete tetrapods tempered the waves, and the space between them made room for love between boys.

“Discipline”, “Survey on Female Occupational Injuries in a Fishing Village”, and “Goddess Transformation”

When the epiphyllum buds reached peak bloom, petals everywhere began to fall. They began to fall like rain.

On the “impossible archive,” the historical and future queer imaginary of a “lesbian cultural archive” and Grandma’s Girlfriends 阿媽的女朋友

It didn’t bother him that he attracted, and was attracted to, people of the same gender—all of this felt perfectly natural to him.

Im lặng nhẫn nại của vực sâu hối thúc tôi mở mình | The patient silence of the abyss urged me to open myself

Poem by Linh San, translated by Châu Hoàng

Poems and translations by Nguyễn Thùy Dương, Nguyễn Lâm Thảo Thi, and Mai Duy Quang

Poems and translations by Red, Lượng Trần, Vũ Anh Vũ & Nguyễn-Hoàng Quyên

Poems and translations by Nguyễn Khánh Duy, Mai Duy Quang, Hải Anh, and Nguyễn Quang Kiếm

Poems and translations by Lan Anh, Thu Uyên, Thùy Dương, and Nhi Đàm

Poems and translations by Thu Uyên and Hương Trà

Poem by Sơn Ca, translated by Lan Anh and poem by Kai Ng, translated by Thu Uyên

Poem and self-translation by Nguyễn-Hoàng Quyên

Tôi phải ở lại trong ngôn ngữ này, như đã trong một cơn mơ bổng, như đã trong một cú kéo chìm, một tự trói buộc, nhọc nhằn và vẫn ở đó, chút lửa nhen. | I have to reside in this language, as in a flying dream, as in a sinking down, a self-bound, burdensome and still there, little fire.

They say singing makes them recall the peaceful time in Arakan, that once upon a time, they used to sing these folksongs freely and proudly

Her grandma had once asked her how you could tell the difference between something that had disappeared and something that had escaped

Kutenun seikat mimpi / dari telapak pemigi | I weave a bundle of dreams / from the palm of the pemigi loom

거울로 들어가는 문을 찾지 못해 / 내게는 오늘의 밤이 계속된다 | Since I / can’t find the door, the night ceases to end

និស្វាសវាត / អស្សាសវាត / បស្សាសនៃ / ខ្យល់ចេញមិនចូល | In, out, held – / so goes the breath. / Winds leave but no longer come

Sudah hampir sepuluh tahun Ambe terbaring di sumbung | Ambe has been lying on top of the casket for almost ten years now

O ngồi đó chờ đợi một linh hồn lạ mặt vẫn còn sống/ như cánh-đồng-tử-cung của bình minh | O sits there waiting for an unknown soul that is still alive / like a uterus-meadow at dawn

They sit surrounded by items they have prepared for the ritual of Jejak Tanah: fine sand, peat soil, pea gravel, petals from seven kinds of flowers, a baby bathtub, and a large terrarium bowl

今夜我抱着我妈 今夜我唱着夜曲 | Tonight I hold my mother in my arms

A gathering of Lullabies that swirl in various transitional spaces and threshold crossings, carried by the voices of writers and translators

But the children are frolicking inside the palace of their mother’s empty stomach. They can’t say whether it’s day or night.

The Transpacific Literary Project is calling for writing from the space between waking and sleep, consciousness and dream, between the living world and the underworld

“What’s the most serious problem? Home lor! Drugs lor! Everyday besides sleeping and playing games you do what? Yes, kill people lor! So the government commercialized the plan lor, scientists spent ten years to research how to store up sleep, so these Juveniles can be useful lor.”

“Big rain, isn’t it?”

You couldn’t claim that you were lost. The footsteps of your comrades dragged you sharply back into the present, no wavering possible.

Snapshots from a South Korean dissident poet

The hagwon director was the most successful woman we knew at the time… Her short hair was perfectly coiffed, her full lips painted red like a Western woman’s.

Perhaps it is now the other way around, / and I have become an almost-perfect lover, / caring little that the Gods love poets less.

“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.”

“Indonesian literature is gaining traction. More slowly than we might want, but it’s an upward trajectory.”

The young author from West Timor who writes dark, deeply irreverent prose that reflects on Suharto-era violence speaks with Lara Norgaard about the figure of storyteller, the role of humor in discussing state violence, and Javanese hegemony in Indonesian historical narratives.

A headline buried deep inside the paper catches my eye. “They’re extending AFSPA for another six months in Assam,” I announce. She nods, and continues to massage the green beans in her bowl.

paperless people / of the earth say,
/ “this place is mine, / can you not see we birthed it?”

perhaps, every day is always a ‘perhaps’, a ‘maybe’, for queer people in Indonesia, since every day is a fight, a faith, a hope

我忽然屏息 / 是風吹開妳襯衫 / 一顆煙彈正微微露餡 || as if with prophecy / wind peels back your shirt / a teargas gives away its shape

no tiene otra ley que / su mismo cuerpo feliz || with no law other than / his own joyous body

Mishima’s Patriotism reveals the drives operating behind political movements and how ultranationalistic ideas become deeply entangled in the personal

One of the challenges in this novel was to figure out a way in which time can be manipulated the way it’s so interestingly manipulated in film.

사람들을 따라갈수록 나는 거짓말이 되어가. || The more I follow people the more I become a lie

When the streets are stained sea blue, they are graven in time

น้ำลายเฟ้อเต็มปากสำรากมนต์ / กลิ่นคละคลุ้งฝูงคนนะจังงัง || Spewing out its gibberish chants / Luring people into rhetorical trance

api tak sempat bertanya: apakah kata-kata bisa / terbakar? || fire didn’t have the chance to ask: can words / burn down?

It is a school for the children with no tongues who were born to tongueless mothers. The school teaches only one subject: patience. “Patience is the greatest virtue in life,” say the fathers who can speak.

不要以為 / 八八十月 過了還會回來 / 除非有十一月 || don’t assume that / October ‘88 will ever return / except in November

It’s not the bullet that makes you bolt, / but the very words /
emerging from the muzzle’s restraint / the classroom in disguise

How does violence blossom // What’s known must be made unknown

Is every english word I pull from my mouth a child screaming / over the soft chants of ma and nanni ma?

a land mistaken for a people is a people / objectified as spoils of the land

I forced myself to tell her to accept it and think of it as entering into a new theater. Turn it into raw material and endure to write about it.

/ Pərˈ(h)aps / preceding us, one ballad to each tongue,
oh, / ‘absəˌlōō(y)tlē /, we refrained from singing

& if the speaker does not know that this language is faulty, then the speaker has been secretly muzzled

Dialect Talks Back
By SueKi Yee, Ann Lee, and Anne Louis

it was such a big no-no that I had this impression of dialects 方方言言 being like swear words, or haram

Codeswitching Home
By Preeta Samarasan, Marion F. D’Cruz, Su-Feh Lee

This involves modulating my voice and accent so that I sound more Malay. It’s like having to work for my right to eat there.

The Vulnerability of Mistrust
By Ivy Josiah, Jahabar Sadiq, and Yee Heng Yeh

We are becoming hardened. I sense a hardness in the so-called liberal circles, artist circles, activist circles.

Food, Fingers, and What (Not) To Touch
By Carmen Nge, Joseph Gonzales, and Natasha Krishnan

having grown up using utensils she will never understand the comfort it brings: someone forming little mounds of rice that are pushed by the thumb into your mouth

Ta Pau: Conversations on Food and Politics in Malaysia
By Preeta Samarasan, Foo May Lyn, and the Transpacific Literary Project

The questions of who can eat what, and where, and with whom, are facts of Malaysian life, negotiated daily and often subconsciously.

Sandal-Sandal Jepit di Penjara || Sandal Jepit Swallows in Prison
By Ayu Prawitasari and Madina Malahayati Chumaera

Salah satunya: mengumpulkan sandal dari seluruh Indonesia dan diberikan kepada si polisi. || One such action: collect sandals from all around Indonesia and give them to the police.

The Slipper Folio
By Maureen S.Y. Tai and The Transpacific Literary Project

A collection of the six works of writing, translation, audio, and photography that nuzzle into different corners of this apparent insignificance

do you know somewhere inside their language, lies something mine?

땀과 핏물과 진물이 뒤섞여 끈적한 그의 맨발이 젖어 번들거린다. || His bare feet, sticky with a mix of sweat and blood and ooze, glisten.

By Emily Yang

if I extradited myself from my body cleaved into infinite / particles you’d never step all over me at once

Grandma Love
By Ji Hyun Joo

The slippers allowed her the pleasure of spatial recognition, an opportunity to go back in time and become the person cared for, rather than the one perpetually burdened with the responsibility of caring.

一隻人字拖 || A Flip-Flop
By 陳抒 Hazel Chen and 吳鍄穎 Aaris Woo

總有一次不想丟掉 / 太容易丟掉 || Don’t want to lose it this time / It’s too easy to lose

[Call for Submissions] Insurgent Tongues
By Transpacific Literary Project

A new folio interrogating authoritarian attempts to control formations of self, family, school, and nation. Deadline October 7

Caution, Extremely Hot Stuff
By Phina So and Cyntha Hariadi and Tania De Rozario and Phyu Hnin Phway

A conversation on Marylyn Tan’s debut poetry collection, Gaze Back, plus a brief interview with the author

the hot air rising from the cooker / has tightening effect on your lovehole

Trans:Act: A Folio of Marketplace Exchanges
By Transpacific Literary Project

20 Thai Baht = 33 Philippine Pesos = 44 Indian Rupees = x bolt of fabric = y square vuông of rice = 15,000 Vietnamese đồng = 2,600 Cambodian Riel = 2.6 Malaysian Ringgit = 9,100 Indonesian Rupiah = unquantifiable sweat

Sanggup menahan jerit, menukar peluh menjadi ringgit || [we’re] able to swallow shrieks, exchanging sweat to ringgit

slipper/sandal/house shoe/ flip flop: send your best original writing or original translation on this shared (in)significance to TLP by July 14

Van Runcit Putih | Neighborhood Sundry Van
By Zedeck Siew and Sharon Chin

Sakit lelah aku tidak lain dan tidak bukan harga hidup senang aku kini || My asthma is the cost of the middle-class life I live now

៦០០០០រៀល! មើលទៅបង! បង្កងធំៗណាស់! || 60,000 KHR. Big ones! Look at them, sister!

một cây vải đổi lấy mười vuông thóc || one bolt of fabric for ten vuông of unhusked rice

Grandfather would have bought the Ilish—not wincing at the 1200 rupees per kilogram

ตลาดนัด | The Flea Markets
By Duanwad Pimwana and Mui Poopoksakul

รองเท้านักเรียนคู่นั้นยี่สิบบาทเองหรือ || These school uniform shoes are only twenty baht?

By Nikka Cornelio-Baker

Mamsa! Sitenta’ng kilo! || Jack fish, seventy pesos a kilogram.

Not an assumption; not a name you learned to remember, not a fleshy shape or a face you already recognized

In English, you choose to be gender-neutral. In Indonesian, it’s a gift from the language.

Safe sex and Exile | Tình dục an toàn và Lưu vong
By Vũ Thành Sơn and Kaitlin Rees

Bạn sẽ gọi quê hương bằng một đại từ nào? Tôi sẽ gọi đó là một ám ảnh | What pronoun would you use to call your birthsoil? I would call it a haunting

A changing consciousness within Mu Dan’s poetry stirs a listening in his translator

By what divine aberration did our souls divide into two, unaware of the splitting?

Everyone is here but the one who matters
By Li Qingzhao and Jenn Marie Nunes

夜來沉醉卸妝遲 || With night you sink drunk slow to undo/ your hair

How the blurring of a relationship may point to a more fertile ground lying between the lines, in which multiple desires can co-exist.

The Pronoun
By Transpacific Literary Project

An introduction to the folio, featuring 누가, 네, nhân vật, con, chanh, …, 그 (kû), 님 (nim), 형 (hyeong), tôi, em, chúng ta, một ám ảnh, I, [ ], [who?], 我 (wo), kau, aku, dia, ia, you, and a selfsame similarity

In the Hardware Factory
By Zheng Xiaoqiong and Eleanor Goodman

as I bear loneliness in the shrieks of iron, it carved / my residence registration on a hole-punch

Remembering the Anonymous
By Xie Xiangnan and Bing Ma and Eleanor Goodman

This is a rectangular dream / which inevitably brings forth a rectangular waiting / a floating country can’t pillow a broken dream / and I’ve never dared say goodnight

It wasn’t the kind of place you’d notice as a casual passer-by, but one you could only find if you were looking for it.

Tonight, too, there are turning lines…/ I say I do not know, do not know.

By Phan Bá Thọ

love you because i / hate your lovers loving your peripheral love

Two Poems by Sawako Nakayasu
By Sawako Nakayasu

Taking advantage of opacity, Girl E goes for it and punches indiscriminately.

As soon as they touch your saliva, the filaments dissolve. Their structure can’t sustain the contact. The sweetness is the taste of collapse.

Careful, Mama Says
By Esumi Fujimoto

A two-minute stare-down with their father’s deathbed occurs. As though the thing will explain itself.

into such sen / sitivity of it / such sense / could not say

Ultrasound waves / pulse between fluid, tissue, and bone一 / the embryo echoes.

Poor Unfortunate Fools
By Silvia Park

Astra unwrapped her long spindly fingers and weighed his member with a chilling fascination.

I will outrun the smell of wet decay, your Mekong river in a Gatorade bottle.

By Divya Victor

After a sperm whale sucks in a squid, it will vomit out its beak.

Opening the Folio: Plastic
By Transpacific Literary Project

An introduction to the Transpacific Literary Project’s pieces of Plastic through a weaving of voices and questions to come

Mythologies have their way of explaining the basic human condition: that there will always be some where or thing you wish to get to or back to.

The Hong Kong poet talks the Umbrella movement, being an outsider and an insider in Hong Kong, and how she translates the world.

Empty Altars
By Johanna Dong

Văn An had neglected ritual, not realizing that this was a land now full of ghosts left too long unmoored. That there might be consequences for forgetting to fear.

Indigenous Species
By Khairani Barokka

Hard to tell from your / Silence where you’re taking me. / But I’m guessing / It’s loin-deep in the place / Where they’re collapsing / Entire cosmologies into pulp and paper.

By Lawrence Ypil

How do I tell you that I have done this before? / How to build a diorama of what I am not.

By Nabila Najwa

I keep the butts of my clove cigarettes in a candy tin. I pound it shut, hide it away. So it stays a secret.

I am the last of them—a woman with her own dreams, not salvaged from the cloud-based data lake that I created.

Deep End
By Kaitlin Chan

I remember exactly where I was when I found out Ren Hang killed himself.

Baby Doll
By Zhu Yue

The doll stares at its owner, eyes sparkling with cruelty. It wakes the baby up, hands her the toy block. The baby, as though possessed, crams the toy in her mouth.

The usual / drama of chiaroscuro, / how it begins / in medias res for the sake / of the viewer.

Portraits of Mao
By Faye Yan Zhang

For some reason, all of Warhol’s portraits show Mao from an angle that reveals only one of the Chairman’s ears.

Filipino time
By Janelle Marie Salanga

but really every word sounds like the sun/ sweltering in the middle of Santacruzan

Literature as a Third Eye
By Hideo Furukawa

Having two eyes prevents us from simplifying things, from seeing everything around us two-dimensionally. I guess you could say that seeing through two eyes is what makes us human.

The world held us / In glass circles

Sea Mothers
By Janet Hong

My child, we all become white-haired soon enough.

Nyima Tsering’s Tears
By Tsering Woeser

This was the first time he had seen so many exiled Tibetans of his own flesh and blood in a foreign land. Though they were only a few feet away, it was as if they were separated by ranges of mountains.

i have seen the line at the bottom of sky crack glimmers of clear light

Think about it: if rain accumulating above someone / resumes descent, where does it fall?

From its very beginning this story is fated to be exposed by the light.

In an increasingly divided world, translated literature brings us closer together. As the year draws to a close, we asked some of our favorite writers, editors, and translators for their recommendations.

‘These were / all the gold coins that he laid by in a life of poverty, / saved up in the vault of his mind’

Animals are strangely perceptive—in their instinct to survive, they find a home

Nobody can stop things if they want to go back to their roots.

The Debt of Fish and Ant
By The Transpacific Literary Project

When the tide rises, it is easy for the fish to prey on the ant, but when it ebbs, the fish becomes the ant’s prey.

Koh Su
By Puthut EA

All my early life was tied up in tales of nasi goreng.

The Experiment of the Tropics
By Lawrence Lacambra Ypil

That American thing · The good old good

Suppressed sexual violence in the name of revolution lay in the abyss of our consciousness.

Funny how it ends up that you’re the leftovers.

They always had us at hello, the Americans.

Pray tell me, how much
are we paying for the sermon?

One person’s ancestor is another person’s ghost—it’s all a matter of perspective.

Where Is
By Lawdenmarc Decamora

showbiz etceteras · commercial spaces · newspapered ideas

We don’t know what we need because we don’t know who we are. We don’t know who we are because we don’t remember who we were.

By ko ko thett

People judge me by my skin. My skin’s purpose in life is to prove them wrong.

ASEAN at 50: Poems from Across Southeast Asia
By The Transpacific Literary Project

Half a century on, what does it mean to be part of ASEAN?

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