While the specific etymology of the term “Asia” is not entirely clear – as is understandably the case for a word first attributed to Herodotus in approximately 440BCE – it is necessarily the case that at one point “Asia”, as a word at least, had to “begin”, and as such might one day, “end”.
What the people who occupied those lands “not Greece or Egypt but easterly/elsewhere” thought at the time of Asia’s linguistic conception, and what the people who will occupy those lands will think at the time of its death, is a delightful speculation. In the meantime, here in Australia, we’re left to wrestle with just what Asia is, where it is located, how it conducts itself, why it exists at all, and what we are to do about it, taking equal amounts of pleasure in treating it as real and dismissing it as imaginary.
When we asked you to consider Asia in the margins, poets answered with a range of reflections that were more about the broken mirror than the accurate telescopic lens. Instead of looking to the geographical edges of Asia as a landmass, the poets whose work will feature in the coming days offered a cracked, sometimes acidic view of “Asia” – hardly the myth of the Orient.
Featured instead in this edition, are two works by Ivy Alvarez that bring just the “right amount of calamansi” to upset the stomach of those looking for a digestible, female, sexualised Asia, a sentiment that is echoed by Eunice Andrada’s amaroidal anger in Roots (A New Taxonomy). Perhaps it is no coincidence that both writers hold connections to the Philippines, a country that has most publicly experienced the social and economic impacts of the global sex industry. But then again, perhaps it is. Editing is often an act of manipulated congruence – finding thematic coincidence by dint of willpower. In contrast, with terrible calm, Benjamin Brown’s work, Prey Sar, Block C, Room 3, makes a broken catalogue of men in a purgatory in Cambodia. Finally, Prerna Kerswell asks questions of the enduring legacy of colonialism, which – despite the geographical markers of its referents, are in many ways relevant for those of us in (post?)colonial Australia. We are custodians of our own broken bangles and invisible legacies.
As always, we welcome your comment and interaction with the works – this is only the start of the conversation, launching the edition is just the opening clause, and feedback never “the full stop”.