I'M DOING THIS WORK WITH PEOPLE IN MIND
With Manahil Bandukwala
In this interview, Canthius editorial board member Manahil Bandukwala talks to poet Isabella Wang about her chapbook, On Forgetting a Language (Baseline Press, 2019), her community involvements and organizing, and her current project on writing and translating ghazals.
"Each of these objects have story behind them, as found objects, or objects given to me by very special people. I would lay them out and ask the teens to choose an object that speaks to them in some way, write about it, then introduce themselves through the object that they’ve chosen. So now, when I look at the objects, it’s not just my own story anymore. In this way, teaching has exposed me to different ways of seeing, the same way that meaning is made by a community of readers, and a book grows richer the more people read it. When I see these objects, I am reminded of my own story, but also the layers of meaning, added richness in these everyday objects that other people have been able to weave through their own different interpretations of them, their own stories."
ONline publications w/ original photography
The decade’s interlude leaves us in suspense
before the final act falls.
Spring goes on without us. The caterpillars,
ripe out of their cocoons,
are eating our misery in weight
and growing too thin for the pendulum of the wind
carried with their wings by flight.
From behind private apartment walls, basement suites,
the cadence of children’s footsteps
pass for May, June, July . . .
© Canadian Literature 2021
 chopsticks an expression of the heart and determination
arrives in pairs
[筷] semantic 忄 heart
phonetic 夬 determination
radical 𥫗 bamboo
the heart hurries to light incense
prays for another’s week of rain / year of harvest /gentle flood
every morsel motivated by determination and pleasure in one’s daily work
we collected rain in a pot
served each day fresh on a bed of steamed plain noodles / sesame oil
© Room Magazine 2021
© The /tEmz/ Review 2020
You wake me up in the night
to ask how strawberry the moon is
when the earth
is in decline.
Outside the country,
are turning fences
into an acrylic pouring
of the US-Mexican border.
ON FORGETTING A LANGUAGE
© The /tEmz/ Review 2018
I started choreographing
in my head again,
though it’s been two years since I’ve danced,
and the calluses between my toes
have grown tender.
My feet have widened from lack of restraint,
my body no longer responds under command to
chaîné, détourné, développé/
© The /tEmz/ Review 2020
And I remember Poetry
as both an immigration policy
and the destination
that was a city
I remember Road as metaphor
for river and its significance to me.
IT'S BEEN WEEKS OF FOREST FIRES
© Plenitude 2018
The hue of the moon
turned bright red as the blood
you coughed from chugging liters
of sour kombucha that doesn’t suppress
but stings like vodka.
Past the seawall, there are geese
riding waves under skies
that have turned the colour of the sea to muck
Ghazal for Phyllis WEbb
© Minola Review
Phyllis, do you feel the world transforming?
This era of digital uniformity, pig-human hybridity.
In some parts of the world,
they are breeding monkeys with two heads.
One kitten whisker in a vault somewhere.
I have forgotten the combination.
How else to respond but to write as Webb?
I open a new deck of index cards.
Blue, pink, yellow.
Phyllis, did you write them on the front side
© Room 2018
Everything’s late this year.
Nothing’s dissolved since my last visit to Waterloo--
an evening at the park staring at geese
and we took turns
pushing each other on swings,
pretending we were children.
I walked him to his dorm,
orange button a dim glow in the elevator
as we waved goodbye,
steel door sliding shut in between us.
© Watch Your Head
A plastic bag pirouettes on the road. Watch how it heaves and falls in the air, clear as diatoms, like jellyfish in the water formation driven by the motor of vehicles pumping 250 mph, the wind blowing east and no one picks it up. 25 plastic cups, a nylon sack and two flip flops are not enough for conservation researchers to determine the cause of death, the sperm whale was too well decayed. A carcass washed ashore Southeast Sulawesi provincial park: a signal,
as villagers read. An innuendo seemingly to invite the words, come, butcher me. So they do.
© The /tEmz/ Review 2018
1. A tanka
As other families sit
to feast at this year’s table,
on the spring rolls and nian gao
wafting out of their windows.
2. Year of the dog
My mother made dumplings for the dog today.
Flour and water embraced to dough/
Eleven Stops Until I'm half way home
© carte blanche 2018
The first time I opened my mouth and spoke, he was taken aback. He was not expecting it.
“So how come you speak English so well?” he asked me.
It was my first week of university and the two of us were crowded by the back doorway of the 95 B-line.
I took a deep breath in and a deep breath out, before replying, “Uh, school? I guess?”
It wasn’t difficult to mask my differences in the beginning. I wasn’t aware of my speech impediment, how I spoke with both a stutter and a heavy accent, or the fact that I looked different from the other children in my class. But then a boy asked me how I could possibly see through those tiny slits of mine and I threw a hole puncher at him.
I said, “I just do.”
Shortcomings of a JUVENILE
© The New Quarterly 2018
My first science lab started out as my mother’s birthday present. Hoping to make perfume out of rose petals and water, I inadvertently discovered decomposition. In an attempt to study the phenomenon further, I left a carrot stick in my room for months. To my surprise,
I then witnessed crenation.
© The New Quarterly 2020
It is raining. A woodpecker, seemingly lost, is pecking away at our house, at the cement layers between bricks. While sitting in the car, my mother shows me how to print my name using the condensation: 清, which in Mandarin means clear; water; a bruise. I won’t be needing this name much longer.
When one dream fails
© SFU English Department Blog
Five years seemed like a long time when I first entered high school. I thought I would have forever to figure my life out, and that by the time I stepped out of those doors, I would have procured a contract with The American Ballet Theatre. That was to become my dream— a prima ballerina dancing Don Quixote on the world-renowned, Mariinsky Theatre stage.
A Certain Light
© LWE blog: Life in CanLit 2018
My parents sacrificed time and their sense of belonging to bring me to Canada because the land offered more chances, and more possibilities for me to grow into someone more rich, prominent, and successful than themselves. In the end, I always knew that my parents would never allow me to pursue the arts.
Still, I persisted.