2006

Beyond Words
Asian Writers on Their Work

Series Editor Frank Stewart
Guest Editor Brent Fujinaka

Where the Rivers Meet
New Writing from Australia

Series Editor Frank Stewart
Guest Editors Larissa Behrendt,
Barry Lopez, and Mark Tredinneck

Beyond Words presents more than two dozen authors from China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Malaysia. The issue features a full range of perspectives on writing shaped by nationality, language, age, gender, and aesthetics through essays, interviews, stories, and poems.

Some of the contributors write to effect social justice, political reform, or freedom from an oppressive government. Others are more concerned with the inner movements of the heart, to family, or to their spiritual nature. Some adopt experimental forms and the mixing of genres, while others look to traditional spoken or literary forms. Still others write of the hazards and surprises of creating in other languages, or writing in countries with many languages and dialects.

Despite their diverse viewpoints, every author in Beyond Words is committed to the power of literature to transform readers, society, and themselves. The effort to write well, to be understood, to innovate, to celebrate, to comfort, and to protest—all are contained in this rich and engrossing collection of voices from Asia.

Extract

The poet is, in a certain way, like a masked dancer with poetry as his mask. The writer is hidden by his mask, and when he is “on stage,” we cannot be sure that in his exciting and memorable expression he is describing the character of the mask or the face of his own soul. In the end we must come to the realization that we are faced not with an individual self, and not with a final conclusion or something finished, but with a dance: a form and a statement in process. There is always something in the dance that is not, or never will be, final—a question that will arise time and again. That is the pasemon, the allusion that rejects the certainty of knowledge.
—from “Pasemon: On Allusion and Illusions” by 
Goenawan Mohamad, translated by John H. McGlynn

Where the Rivers Meet is a collection of new fiction, essays, and poetry from Australia, a complex society and a country with a multilayered history. Among Australia’s many resources is a large community of outstanding writers that includes a growing number of novelists, poets, and essayists of Indigenous descent. Their stories—many of them previously untold in literature—deepen and expand our understanding of the experiences that make up Australia’s past and present.

Many of the authors in Where the Rivers Meet — both Indigenous and non-Indigenous — address their country’s struggle to create a shared citizenship and sense of belonging for people whose histories have often been embattled. Some state that the key to this shared belonging is the creation of a more just relationship to the land and issues of ownership. Others seek clarity and rejuvenation in the continuity of the country’s harsh and beautiful wildness. Still others emphasize, in the words of Melissa Lucashenko, that we need to hear “the small, quiet stories in a human mouth” in order to truly know this land and its people.

Authors include Judith Beveridge, Tony Birch, Vivienne Cleven, Louise Crisp, Robyn Davidson, Luke Davies, Adrienne Eberhard, Stephen Edgar, Delia Falconer, Robert Gray, Martin Harrison, Kevin Hart, Ashley Hay, John Jenkins, Melissa Lucashenko, David Malouf, John Mateer, Roger McDonald, Louise Oxley, Bruce Pascoe, Deborah Bird Rose, Kim Scott, Don Watson, Samuel Wagan Watson, Tara June Winch, and Alexis Wright. The art consists of photographs by Ricky Maynard.

Extract

He is said to be a mighty hunter, and maybe he is, but that’s not what matters. Nobody who was just chasing rabbits would wear his belt slung low at that interesting and supremely attractive angle. He is chasing the Seven Sisters, and he really gives them a run—all over Australia, north and south, east and west, and all around the whole world. Call him what you will, everywhere people seem to know that it is women he’s hunting. I knew him in North America, where I grew up with him, and when I came to Australia, I started hearing about his adventures in this country. I imagined him wearing an Aboriginal belt: a well-ochred string with the brightest and shiniest of pearl shells strategically placed. Actually, I didn’t fully appreciate the meaning of men’s thighs until I saw Aboriginal men dance. Even the oldest greybeard can make you feel dizzy as you sit on the ground with your eyes fastened on…but these are not the best thoughts for a lady in a single swag on a night when it’s way too cold to even go for a walk. Best to leave Orion to his nightly chase and try to get some sleep.
—f
rom "The Rivers of Babylon" by Deborah Bird Rose

184 pp., summer 2006 (18:1), $20
ISBN 978-0-8248-3058-8

200 pp., winter 2006 (18:2), $20
ISBN 978-0-8248-3178-3