Editor’s note: We are delighted to bring to our readers today another outstanding experience of bilingual creativity, the poem Malay Sketches by Sydney author Aisyah Shah Idil, a runner up of the 2012 Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year competition. Bilingual writing is even harder to publish than monolingual writing because it lacks the ready-made audiences that standard languages enjoy. Australia has an immense pool of bilingual multicultural talent and we are proud to be able to feature Aisyah’s poetry along with Sadami Konchi’s visual art, Voices of African-Australian Youth, or migrant poetry.
Author’s note: ‘Malay Sketches’ charts the poet’s gain/loss of language following the British colonisation of Singapore. Mirrored in three columns, the first poem’s silence presents her ignorance of the Jawi script; the second mourns the gradual loss of her Malay mother tongue, while the third celebrates childhood scenes in Lakemba, Sydney. Words that are obscured she has no current knowledge of.