GRANS! a poetry zine to celebrate our elders

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G R A N S!



FOREWORD This zine is launched at ‘GRANS! A Poetry Reading to Celebrate Our Elders’ at the Hidden Door Festival on June 12, 2022. We are glad to perform in the Central Chamber in the Old Royal High School, or the New Parliament House. It seems to be one of the best spaces for our theme—I was told that the building was a ruin neglected for 50 years since the 70s until a group of enthusiasts decided to repurpose it by bringing in the arts. Our theme originated from one of Ryan Van Wrinkle’s writing workshops at the University of Edinburgh. Haig Lucas shared a poem in which his grandmother bakes an apple pie, which also happens to be a mathematical pie. The poem is funny in the way it uses (fake) jargons, and moving in its attempt to imagine someone you feel close to but do not fully know. After the workshop, I asked if anyone was interested in doing something poetry (and party) related. The rest is history (i.e. scrambling in the library one peak paper season to make the zine you’re holding come to life). We are honoured that Jennifer Wong, L. Kiew and Jinhao Xie agreed to join us all the way from England. I knew them through the ‘Poetics of Home: A Chinese Diaspora Poetry Festival’. Coming from polyvocal-Chinese backgrounds, we met each other through our Anglophone poems, some of which explore the nuances of identities and memories. While we hail from different places (UK, Malaysia, India, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, the States and so on), we all care about the elders in our homes and communities. We are fascinated by the many meanings of “ancestry”, and our tool is poetry. Some of us chose to present our poem in plain text. Some of us created poem-collages with reference to Victoria Chang and Chen Chen. I hope you will flip through our childhood photos and images of objects we hold dear thinking of the elders you love, just as how I have missed my grandmother who raised me as I create this zine.

Tim Tim Cheng June 4, 2022

(If you’re interested in other things I do , check out timtimcheng.com x) 3


INDEX Haig Lucas Susanna Demelas L. Kiew Medha Singh Devki Panchmatia Olivia Thomakos Jennifer Wong Magnus Mcdowall Flora Leask Emma Dodd Jinhao Xie

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Haig Lucas Haig Lucas is a young poet with jumbled roots. Born into an Armenian family in south west London he is interested in cultures, their confluences and their departures, in both the practical-social and theoretical sense. This will be his first foray into the publicly poetic world. Before now his poetry has been treasured by a small and select group of friends, who have left such glittering reviews as, “yeah its aight” and “its 3am shut up and go to bed”.

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Susanna Demelas Originally from Inverclyde, Susanna Demelas is a writer and literature student based in Edinburgh. So far, she has had poetry, articles and essays published in Women’s Republic, Disobedient, Screen Queens and Interpret Magazine. Connect with Susanna: Twitter @/susannaajane Instagram @susannademelas

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L. Kiew L Kiew is a poet of chinese-malaysian heritage. Her debut pamphlet The Unquiet was published by Offord Road Books in 2019. She was a 2019/2020 London Library Emerging Writer. Connect with L. Kiew: Twitter @l_kiew www.lhhkiew.co.uk/

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Wayang kulit Let me introduce you to my elders: silhouettes finely cut from leather of water buffalo or sometimes goat, characters cast by stance and headdress. Their shadows embrace and dance against the bright screen, my skin lit with their stories. We are who we are because who came before.

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Medha Singh Medha Singh is a poet, translator, and editor. She is the editor of Berfrois, London. Her first book is called Ecdysis (Poetrywala, 2017) and her second book is a work of translation, a collection of love letters that she translated from the French, penned by Indian modernist painter Sayed Haider Raza during his time in France, I Will Bring My Time: Love Letters by S.H. Raza (Vadehra Art Gallery, 2020). She is currently at the University of Edinburgh. Connect with Medha: Twitter @medhawrites

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Outlived: Origin Story I buried this carelessness in the pith of my orange heart. Inheritance from godless ancestors who picked cherries under sunlight. And my mad appetite for love? Sleeping with a thousand Penelopes, one carved a silver bed for them, etched and honed, later thrown away—as he lay dying of syphillis—by his angry children, flinging their shame with it, to the grey depth of the sea. How does Lillith's vanity spring in this chest? Call of self & world swam amid the earth’s flowers, in the mucous of an old womb, as I lay there, orderless. Bodies leave things behind, the mind unkinks from fiber and sinew, memories of love crawl into the brain, their parentage, forever unknown. 'Self love, is also love of the other, despite oneself ' —my skin absorbed it all, as mother endured the protracted sorrow of gestation. Yes, I carry this vanity I still mistake for self love—it’s not mine: it belongs to that cherubic ancestor, once furiously worshipped in adjacent villages. A sage, a saint, aghori who feared little & found after years of penance that the gods dined with him already; they lay in his bed, clung to his jowl as water when he bathed, trickled down his back, in the thin air he breathed; hot sun pickling his dimpled arms— the Gods thronging among his people, in the things & souls he cast out; he stood deified under temple-eaves, sightless, meditative, man’s man, as they now say. And towering? I think, tall. — venturesome pilgrims trudging from Kashmir, whirling through the Ganges, and arriving, slow, for a glimpse, as they parted with some answers the holy route prescribed. 16


My great-grandfather, quiet and still as he sat inside the red noise. How do I inherit this torrential anger, which really is all my fear trying to hide away its embarrassment from these provincial ties? We remember without language— a woman was ravaged in the family she married into, five generations before mine. Fifteen year old widow cornered, left with her womb full the morning after; when they knew her belly was proof of their crime; taken to the woods, she was left to die. This story trickles down the mother lines in whispers, whispers & cries. How do we forge these nameless trajectories? Who chose to stay in the village? Who came to the city? Who was flayed alive? Who were the executioners? The landowners? The code-keepers? Who came to the capital? Who was brought against their will? Who, was left behind? Listen—I know the obsession with ancestry these days but I’m afraid to learn I may have some whiteness muddying me, as that unnameable thing that is done to a woman, was done then too to her who could have been fifty, but was fifteen. Where the will to surrender persists, history takes root—my grandfather in the gulf, rescuing Indians and Pakistanis, Kuwait against Saddam’s mad war,

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a silver print of the day, grandfather smiling in the white light. It’s said that the soldiers grabbed all that their eyes could. Ripped the stone clean from the flooring. Ground once marble-tiled at banks and hospitals now cracking into craters: what Kuwait was soon to be. They tossed out infants, yesterday's leftovers, wrested them from their incubators, the sanatoriums overflowed with the wailing of widows, the sins of demolition men. My grandfather, they say, could have died, with the babies he tried to rescue. Ninety, weary, his eyes now say nothing.

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Devki Panchmatia Devki Panchmatia is a British-Indian writer and literature student. She is currently based in Edinburgh. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the 2019 Orwell Youth Prize, and for the 2022 Lewis Edwards Memorial Prize at the University of Edinburgh. She has had poems featured in The Broad student journal, and in multiple zines. Connect with Devki: Twitter @dorsduro

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Olivia Thomakos Olivia Thomakos is an English teacher and poet from Ohio, USA. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh. She is published or forthcoming in Berfrois, Dreich Magazine, Loud Coffee Press, and small leaf poetry studio among other blogs and university magazines. She is the Poetry Editor-in-Chief of the From Arthur’s Seat anthology. Olivia writes to make sense of the world around her. Connect with Olivia: Instagram @livoutloud__ oliviathomakos.com

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Jennifer Wong Born and grew up in Hong Kong, Jennifer Wong is the author of Goldfish (Chameleon Press), a pamphlet, Diary of a Miu Miu Salesgirl (Bitter Melon Poetry 2019) and 回家 Letters Home (Nine Arches Press 2020) Connect with Jennifer: Twitter @ jennywcreative jenniferwong.co.uk

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Por por, 2022 In my mind I’d carry you, because you have tiny feet. Bring you to try the tastiest dumplings, share soup-spilling memories, and laugh at the way Alex holds his chopsticks. You’d meet his family, and they’d welcome you with their homemade chorizo and preto feijão dishes, and teach you how to say obrigada and maluco. I’d carry you to see Big Ben, turn the clock backwards like Mary Poppins surely can, all the time your frail body regaining strength, as we take a ride in an ombre-pink, sheepskin-soft rickshaw to cross the Thames, feeling triply young, singing Jasmine Flower all the time in the river breeze.

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Magnus Mcdowall Magnus McDowall is a student at the University of Edinburgh and is from London. His poems have appeared in The Pittsburgher, HEADACHE, and little living room, among others. Connect with Magnus: Instagram @magnusdoespoems @magnusmcdowall

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Flora Leask Flora Leask Arizpe is a young writer based in Scotland. Her writing is greatly influenced by her dual Scottish and Mexican nationalities, as well as a lifelong affair with books. She has been published in several online and in print publications, such as Gutter Magazine. Connect with Flora: Twitter @rxflx

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Emma Dodd Emma Dodd is a poet based in the Lake District but currently living in Edinburgh, studying psychology. Her poetry talks about sensations, relationships, and djungleskogs (teddies from IKEA) among other things. Until now, her work has only been shared privately with friends and other poets. Connect with Emma: Instagram @emm.dodd Twitter @emlouisedodd

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Honey She was of honey and wine. Honeyed pastry, the back garden patio With wine glass depleted, From which she could hear the hives’ Sleepy insectile thrums. She liked dressing as an earthbound astronaut, Beekeeping suit blinding white Jars of honey lining the kitchen counter (Please take one home darling!) With the astronaut the bees were quietly enamoured. Her colonic sting came from an Unrelated fatal bullet That appeared too fast, stayed too long. It grew with malignance, absorbing her sweetness, so she Walked beyond the garden and crystallised into snow. Now she sweeps over the sky releasing Divine snowflakes, melting at touch, Animating a lamplit romantic walk. The pair Pause open-mouthed, to catch crystals On love sweetened tongues.

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Jinhao Xie Jinhao Xie was born in Chengdu. Their poetry has appeared in POETRY, Poetry Review, Gutter Magazine, Harana, Bath Magg, Spilled Milk Magazine, and elsewhere. Connect with Jinhao: Instagram @xie.jin.hao Twitter @jinisnotfound

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moonlight in my dream. I hold hands with my brother. we are both boys: he looks at me through his thick lashes. a squint. three years of time travel, between him and me. we are blue boys. he looks like my future, and I am his past. three years. time holds us together in summer and it’s always summer in my dream. my future and his past are nothing but a smudge. his free from worry glint of summer. always summer when I dream of him. we laugh. we blow up cowpat in dad’s village. a punch: a smudge is his free from worry glint as if graphite glides past his cheeks. look! how our laughter blooms, in dad’s punch. I stand by him, hold on to his soft hand. graphite draws wind blowing past our cheeks. I look at him—through our thick lashes— our shoulders barely touch, tiny hand in tiny hand. and there it is, where my brother’s stubborn heart beats. I look through him, behind his thick curtains of lashes. we are both boys for once: looking ahead. his stubborn heart laughs with mine. so loud. I wake up. and there! my brother is the moon: watching over me. (first appeared POETRY magazine September Issue 2021)

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You hold my hand along Oxford street You hold my hand along Oxford street, and I am your child again. Still feeling the guilt for not picking you up at Heathrow. We are accustomed to missing unions like that. Life isn’t scripted TV shows. You say, licking strawberry ice cream off your hand. Knowing how you came for my graduation – from Chengdu to Canterbury – knowing the flights, the trains and the waiting – Knowing that your body barely spoke enough language to ask for help. Knowing that you had to salvage sorry-s and thank you-s from my nursery rhymes. Knowing your wit, I am not surprised that you managed to arrive. Right now, I am angry that you are tired. Too much of following my footsteps, you complain, crouching on a bench by the river Thames. Too eager to love, I accuse you like you once did me. I want you to see everything, everything I’ve seen. You take off your pumps and suck in air as the blisters kiss your heels like the sun. Gesturing me to sit next to you and tenderly you speak like a poet, my dear, be my eyes to see the world and be my ears to listen to all the songs.

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Poems from Haig Lucas Susanna Demelas L. Kiew Medha Singh Devki Panchmatia Olivia Thomakos Jennifer Wong Magnus Mcdowall Flora Leask Emma Dodd Jinhao Xie ~ Curated by Tim Tim Cheng