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‘Where are you
from? What’s your accent?’ ask these poems in their two-strand voice, English
and Malay woven together into a tapestry of the long- and recent-dead. The
unquiet will not stay away, but press whispering at the boundaries of our
world. Often, again and again, they burst through that tensile barrier,
catching at us: ‘My dress is red shantung; / its last occupant is / heartbroken
and tugging / on my hem.’ Ghost after ghost visits, bringing the scents and
voices of their waking lives.

Here, each word
has a twin – the learned and the mother tongue are one, and language is layered
like sediment containing the bones of our ancestors. Unsurprisingly, the bonds
of family are elemental, the ‘brothersistercousins’, unborn longed-for
children, the ‘parents on expedition upriver’, ‘Father in a sarong and t-shirt
/ walking the five-foot way / calling on shopkeepers / in his mouthful of

These are
dispatches from the porous borderland of this world, humming with its traffic
of ghosts and visitors, and told through subtle, complex poems in which ‘The
hitch slips . . . Yokes transmit tension’ but, ultimately, ‘the harness holds’.

‘These beautifully crafted poems explore the liminal
spaces between continents, cultures, and most keenly, between languages. L.
Kiew’s writing is simultaneously compressed and bristling with detail, in poems
alive to the slips and possibilities inherent in the transcultural experience.’
– Hannah Lowe