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Asian & Pacific Islander

Heritage

Contest 2024

The theme for this contest is

“Translating the Untranslatable: The Languages of Asia and the Pacific.”

There will be one winner and two finalists. For more details on the contest prize, see below! 

Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage

Contest 2024

 

In celebration of Asian / Pacific Heritage Month, Polyphony Lit is hosting a special contest for submitters with Asian or Pacific Islander background. The theme for the contest is Translating the Untranslatable: The Languages of Asia and the Pacific. For more details on the prize, see below!

 

Chinese-American bestselling author R. F. Kuang writes in Babel: Or, an Arcane History that “the act of translation is nothing more than a betrayal.” At the same time, the word “polyphony” is originally a musical term that literally means “the simultaneous combination of two or more tones or melodic lines.” With this in mind, this year’s API Contest will center around the combination of Asian/Pacific languages with English—in other words, to attempt to identify and define what remains untranslatable, without “betraying” the original language. This month, we’re asking you to blend languages in an effort to preserve the history and identity that remains at the heart of the culture you identify with.

 

Asian and Pacific cultures have deeply nuanced and complex languages that accompany cultural values, geographic characteristics, and definitions of identity in response to one’s surroundings. For API Month, we intend to honor these words and phrases specific to Asian and Pacific cultures that cannot be readily translated, in order to celebrate the unique language that endeavors to connect different peoples to a shared, universal experience.

 

You may write a poem centering around your relation to a single word specific to your culture, or a short story dissecting a definition that has been molded by a complicated history or a peaceful society. You may try your hand at writing a creative nonfiction piece on a phrase that has been passed down through generations, or even craft your own definition of a word that you haven’t heard used very much beyond your culture or location. Or, for the writers who identify with more than just one culture, you may explore the reconciliation of linguistic divisions, or the intersection between unique words that unify completely different experiences. The boundaries of the dictionary are broken; it’s all up to you!

 

You may draw inspiration from words based in any region of Asia or the Pacific Islands, from India to China to New Zealand to Micronesia… Maybe you want to explore the Korean idea of 정 and how it binds a society together, or the Vietnamese word thương and its balance between affection and selflessness. You might explore the CHamoru concept of restoring order through inafa’ maolek, or apply a deeper, more personal meaning to the forgetfulness described in the Hawaiian word akihi. You may even find translations in pop cultural references; for instance, a story set in an オン飲み, or on that toys with the tricky nuances of 你说得对 (nǐ shuō dé duì). We encourage you to take a deep dive into the language you are so familiar with and twist it into something that will not betray the original but will weave into English to form a melody of interconnection. Don’t be afraid to be creative and bold—this is your opportunity to redefine the limits of language!

We will accept pieces written in English, Mandarin, Japanese, and Hindi. If your piece is written primarily in one of these languages, but also features brief words or phrases written in another language, then we will certainly consider multilingual pieces like this, but please keep in mind that our contest readers will only be able to provide English translations for the languages listed above. For multilingual words and phrases, you are welcome to provide English translations of your own as footnotes or as part of the context in the piece.

Looking for examples that Polyphony Lit has published already? Then check out On Love, On Psychedelics by Tina Zeng and iceberg / beautiful by Yun-Fei Wang.

Interested in honing your poetry-writing skills for the contest? Then try taking our poetry workshop, Around the World of Poetry in 80 Days. This workshop will help you to brainstorm, draft, and revise poems of your own!

 

Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Contest Guidelines

  • Submissions will open on May 1st and will remain open until May 31st or until we reach our submission cap of 200 submissions.

  • Please note that this is a separate submission category from Polyphony Lit Volume 20.​ Submissions to Polyphony Lit Volume 20 will receive feedback from the editors, but for the seasonal contests, only the winning submissions will receive feedback from the judge.

  • If you have already submitted your work to the Volume 20 category, then please do not send the same submission to the Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Contest category.

  • If you submit to the Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Contest category first and your work is declined, then you may submit it to the Volume 20 category after the Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Contest is finished.

Writer Qualifications

  • High school students from anywhere in the world are eligible to submit.

  • We do not accept submissions from any editors who currently serve on the staff of Polyphony Lit.

  • Works may be written in English, Mandarin, Japanese, or Hindi. If your piece is written primarily in one of these languages, but also features brief words or phrases written in another language, then we will certainly consider multilingual pieces like this, but please keep in mind that our contest readers will only be able to provide English translations for the languages listed above. For multilingual words and phrases, you are welcome to provide English translations of your own as footnotes or as part of the context in the piece.

  • Submit a maximum of three pieces.

  • If submitting multiple pieces, please upload as separate submissions. Multiple pieces submitted in a single document will be withdrawn, and you will be asked to resubmit your pieces separately.

  • We accept simultaneous submissions and work that has been published elsewhere. If submitting previously published work, please send a message in Submittable noting where and when your work has been published, and if it is eligible for republication. If it is accepted for publication elsewhere after submitting to Polyphony Lit, please notify us immediately but do not withdraw your submission if you are still interested in publication at Polyphony Lit. If we accept a previously published submission for publication, we will acknowledge the place of the original publication.

  • Previously published pieces are not eligible for the Claudia Ann Seaman Awards

Length

  • Poetry must be 80 lines or less.

  • Fiction and creative nonfiction must be 1,800 words or less.

Formatting

  • Do not put your name on the piece, as all work is blind juried.

  • Submissions longer than one page should have the page number inserted at the top (right or left side) of every page, as it would help our Judge specify the location for their commentary.

  • We accept submission in .doc, .docx or .rtf formats.

  • We prefer common conventions:

    • Color: Black & white

    • Font Size: 12 pt throughout, including titles

    • Font Type: Times or Times New Roman

    • Margins: 1-inch at the top and bottom, and 1.25 inch at the left and right. One space after periods. There should be no extra returns after paragraphs unless you have a meaningful reason for the extra space.

Using Submittable

  • Please upload submissions through Submittable. We do not accept email submissions or hard copies via mail.

  • Upload only one piece per submission file; to submit more than one piece, make more than one submission file.

  • Submissions for this contest are free.

  • There is a submission cap of 200 submissions, so we may close submissions for the Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage Contest before the deadline if we receive 200 submissions. We recommend submitting early, to ensure that you do not miss the deadline.

Prize

There will be one winner and two finalists. The winners/finalists will receive:

  • Publication in Polyphony Lit Volume 20

  • Eligibility for the Claudia Ann Seaman Awards

  • Editorial feedback from the Contest Judge

  • Social media posts announcing the winners

  • An honorary emblem next to the published work on the website

  • A full scholarship for Polyphony Lit’s "How to be a Literary Editor" course. Upon completion of the course, students will be eligible to join the editorial staff of Polyphony Lit!

  • Please note that only the three winners will receive feedback from the Judge.

Additional Guidelines for Creative Nonfiction​

  • At Polyphony Lit, we look for creative nonfiction pieces that are written in the style of short personal memoirs. We are looking for pieces that are informal, flexible in form, and most importantly, personal. Personal discovery is the keystone of a personal essay. Self-revelation, human experiences, humor, and flexibility of form are all aspects that we look for in pieces we publish as creative non-fiction.

  • We do not look for op-ed pieces, critical analyses, research papers, or academic essays.

  • We would advise reading some samples of our work, in order to understand the material that we publish. Here are some samples of creative nonfiction that we have published:

  • Memories of the Boy I Didn't Know

  • responses to love

  • Holiday in a Burning City

Submission Calendar
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Meet 

the Judge

Rina Olsen | Contest Judge / Japanese Translator

Rina Olsen is a rising high school junior from Guam. She is the author of Third Moon Passing (Atmosphere Press, June 2023) and a number of publications in various literary magazines, including Jellyfish Review, Okay Donkey, The Hopper, and elsewhere. Aside from Polyphony Lit, she also edits for Cathartic Youth Literary Magazine and Blue Flame Review. When she’s not writing, Rina can be found playing the piano, looking up obscure history, or with her nose in a good book. Visit her at her website: http://rinaolsen.com/

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Seasonal Contests Page Art by Alex Riccobon.

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