Every now and then, I wonder about the year of my birth, the year that my grandfather died. His A4 framed black and white portrait looked on benignly in our family hallway, and while there was nothing scary about his appearance, as a kid, I’d be scampering from one end of the hallway to another switching on all the lights so that I was never left in the dark for too long. His absence fueled my imagination of a ghostly world, this supported by growing up in a Malaysian culture where there were a proliferation of ghost stories –spirits lurking under the table, up the banana trees ready to lure you into doom. To scare these ghosts away, I remember brandishing my Christian cross acting as a protective shield for my grade one friends, convincing them that this would protect us from the toilet block ghost. I wasn’t Christian and neither were they, but somehow this didn’t matter.
Whether other-worldly matters influence us or not, Peril issue 14 delves into “Spirit Worlds” as a theme. The selection of eight articles in this edition demonstrates a broad interpretation of ‘Spirit Worlds’ – from the ethereal and supernatural to embodied and tangible.
Michele Lee’s latest radio play, See how the leaf people run explores poignantly the early settlement of Hmong men of various generations in Melbourne, survivors of a Communist war, haunted by their dead. Hoa Pham’s “The seed of enlightenment” examines another type of war – this time on religion. Hoa’s piece draws on the teachings of Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and her visit to the Prajna Monastery, which was destroyed by the Vietnamese government in 2009. While some migrant families move away from practicing rituals they used to practice ‘back home,’ others like Sheila Pham’s dad is dedicated to keeping the spirits happy by his ritual offerings during Tet. Sheila muses on this observance in “A traditional offer” when her aunt in Vietnam doesn’t practice the same ritual any longer. Keeping the spirits of the land happy is also a theme that is covered in Anna Trembath’s “The turning land”, as her work as a gender researcher and feminist development worker brings her into a close encounter with East Timorese land spirits. Komi Sellathurai’s “Tuesdays with my mother” is a playful reminisce on an after school ritual with her mother at a Singaporean Hindu temple doing tealight prayers and being a hormonally-charged teenager. In a more embodied sense of ‘spirit’, Rosey Chang’s newest arrival, her daughter, Emi, is the subject of “In the spirit of your name”. Ouyang Yu offers insights into a poet’s creative process reflecting on the everyday as spiritual inspiration in “Ways of Writing, Reading and Translating: genre-crossing in the 21st century”. He also translates John Sheng’s “The Head Transplant”, a sci-fi piece with a gory premise originally written in Chinese. Later on, I’ll also present a piece by young adult and children’s author, Gabrielle Wang whose viewpoints of the world traverses the edges of reality and the ghostly/supernatural.
In this edition Peril also happily welcomes our newest team member Eleanor Jackson as Poetry Editor. I’m excited about Eleanor’s addition to the team and can’t wait to see where she’ll take Peril.
Having edited Peril since 2009, I’m still surprised at receiving articles that don’t relate to the submission guidelines. I really appreciate when I receive queries from authors who aren’t sure if their work would fit into “Asian-Australian related” or the edition theme. While we didn’t receive as many prose submissions in comparison to other editions, I’m pleased with the current selection. Many of the articles in this edition have drawn from the author’s own Asian heritages and sense of spirituality and religion. This tendency in interpreting the theme from the supernatural to the spiritual was also my own, however, some of the pieces presented a living and embodied perspective that made me question my interpretation. However you read them, I hope each article’s sense of spirit touches you in some way.