The word “monsoon” evokes enormous nostalgia for me. I remember running up the steep incline of Jiri Mountain with my cousins as kids in a torrential downpour. In rainwater so warm it felt like an embrace. My flip-flops slippery, dragging with water that sluiced down the slope.
The word “monsoon” originates from the Arabic موسم mawsim which meant “seasonal things,” such as winds, a voyage, a festival, a pilgrimage. The Portuguese and the Dutch sailors picked up the word in the 1580s during the age of maritime empires, that is the age of wretched colonialisms, and it became known in their languages as monçao and monssoen. And the word travels to us into my American English here in New York. It now signifies a season marked by the appearance of torrential rains.
Along the Pacific Rim, we experience monsoons viscerally. Our literature is a humid literature. We know what it feels like to hold pages of newspapers or paperbacks softened and limp with from the heat of an afternoon. And to watch destruction brought about by flooding. This Monsoon Notebook gathers poetry, photography, short stories – original and translated – from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea, and Burma (Myanmar) and will publish in installments. For these writers, the word “monsoon” recalls jungles, romance, ghosts, floods, rivers, interruption, relief, rain, and drinking water.
Due to the climate crisis, these rains are arriving later and leaving sooner. The ecology and economy of the region is under threat. This Transpacific Literary Project folio, Monsoon Notebook is for these essential, vanishing, and unruly waters.
Perhaps it is now the other way around, / and I have become an almost-perfect lover, / caring little that the Gods love poets less.