Despite their often-limiting qualities, common binaries like male/female, day/night, good/evil, nature/society, black/white etc, continue to confound and fascinate me, although perhaps perversely so. I’m often curious about the male in the female, the female in the male, the evil in the good, the good in the evil and so on. I’m a sucker for ambiguity.
As Prose Editor, Lian Low, foreshadowed in her editorial, this double edition of Binaries/Dualities invited submissions, paired or otherwise, on the theme of binaries, dualities, opposites.
After some 70 or so submissions, I’m not sure of my up from my down, my in from my out, my write from my wrong – or my Asian from my Australian. The themed nature of the Peril edition format always presents some challenging questions when considering which works to include and which works to omit. Time, space, money and quality are all factors when streamlining the many, varied submissions we receive each round, and these are considerations that confound even before I reach the repeated questioning of “What is Asian Australian anyway?”, “What is of Asian Australian interest?”, “What makes a poem ‘good’?”, “Who am I to judge?” and “Why can’t we all just get along?”. Then I realise that I’m totally off topic, living in the grammatical slash that separates in/out.
So where does that leave us?
In Edition 16, Binaries, we see the first of a series of paired and unpaired works: Maxine Beneba Clarke’s audio poem Lady/Boy, which confronts issues of childhood and gender head on; Christine Ratnasingham, with her elusive birdsong in Sydney’s streets, Virgina Jealous’ Changi of then and now (which may start talking to another upcoming submission – look out!); Nguyễn Tiên Hoàng, who uses poetry like a temporal mapping of a ghost tinged day; Martin Kovan, both reaping and sowing; and Dan Bledwich, the momentary arbiter of man/wife. Finally, Genevieve offers us the extended prose-poetic vignettes of memory and loss, of belonging and losing.
Several of these authors have work that will reappear in Edition 17, Dualities, poems that in some way complete, confound or just wrangle with oppositional qualities of their accompanying pieces, or perhaps they don’t? Binaries are always unstable, just as we try to contrast neat/messy. Just as the illusory neatness sits in contrast to the muffled, complex and messy of reality, it’s simultaneously in collusion with duality, the neat also being the messy, and the messy also being the neat.
I hope you will enjoy these works and I look forward to readers’ responses and engagement with the works.