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49 words I wish I could write in my family's language


reading coming up
@hugo house
October 27th, 6-8pm

proof of vaccination &
masks required

a work-in-progress presentation

[RSVP link]

49 words I wish I could write in my family's language


“Look at your words in a mirror. Translate, translate! Did you? Do it again, do it!” - Don Mee Choi, DMZ Colony


We have written and translated pieces into a chosen language. For each of us, language and translation means something different. Specific, dangerous, beautiful, hopeful, or de/constructive. In the crossing, we hope to find something. A multilingual reading leaning into the things we wish we could say.

49 words is a collaborative poetry project inspired by my circumstances of knowing how to speak my family’s native language (Cantonese) but not knowing how to write.


It has grown into a project inspired by

  • what is a border? and is translation the literary version of a crossing/migration?

  • this is the best I can do with the language and mouth I have right now

  • how can translation address a gap we feel due to language?

This project co-sponsored by the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and was supported, in part, by a grant from 4Culture.


The artists and their respective languages they have chosen to work in are Naa Akua (Ga) [joining us via video!], Jordan Alam (Bengali), Anis (Tagalog), Jéhan Òsanyìn (Spanish & Jamaican Patwa), Bel-Quiaoit Quarless (Tagalog), and Arianne True (Chickashanompa'). Our relationships to language differ based on history and contexts.

Naa Akua, is a New York born poet, actor, educator, and sound-word practitioner who is Ghanaian/Bajan and queer. Akua uses the vibratory energy of sound and the intent of word as a vehicle towards healing. Akua, former 2019 Citizen University Poet-in-Residence is a Writers in the Schools (Seattle Arts & Lectures) Writer-in-Residence at Franklin High School, Hugo House teacher, and Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) youth facilitator.

Jordan Alam Headshot.jpg

Jordan Alam is a queer Bangladeshi American writer, performer, therapist, and former doula (forever #birthnerd). Their short stories and articles have been published in The Atlantic, SeattleMet, Autostraddle, CultureStrike Magazine, Entropy, and The Rumpus among others. They have performed on stage and facilitated workshops on embodied writing nationwide, most recently at Kundiman, Hugo House, and Town Hall Seattle. They are currently working on a debut novel about family secrets told from the points of view of four Bangladeshi American women in the aftermath of their mother's unexpected death. You can follow them on Instagram at @jordan_alam or find out more about their work at

Anis headshot.jpg

Anis is your hot gay dad. According to their titas, they are and always have been masyadong suplada, masungit, walang hiya. They write about surviving sexual violence, which is to say, they write about returning to trust. They are disliked, disbelieved, and less and less afraid. Follow their instagram attempts @artista_anisgisele.

Jéhan headshot.jpeg

Jéhan Òsanyìn (they/them) is a somatic abolitionist and futurist facilitator who is also an Equity actor and Gregory Award nominated playwright. They studied theatre in Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, India, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Brazil and Venezuela. Jéhan produces their art through their experimental experiential art studio, earthseed, where studio research and performance explores the stories our bodies tell with and without our consent. Earthseed offers individual coaching, workshops, and lots of opportunities to investigate racialized identity development through experiential education and liberation.

bel headshot.jpg

Bel-Quiaoit Quarless is inclined to break through western ideals of art and transform it into its beginning form: art for human’s sake. Peddling poems and novellas from underneath a secret burrow, their sublimity concerns the dark corners of human existence, in an erotic, dismal, pathetic rain-mundane way. They invite you to break apart their work and toss a follow to their instagram @kaocountry.

Arianne summer 2022.jpg

Arianne True (Choctaw, Chickasaw) is a queer poet and folk artist from Seattle. She teaches and mentors young poets around Puget Sound and moonlights as a copyeditor. Arianne has received fellowships from Jack Straw, the Hugo House, and Artist Trust, and is a proud alum of Hedgebrook and of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She was recently the Seattle Repertory Theater’s first Native Artist-in-Residence.

acknowledgements + sources of inspiration

in the interest of acknowledging that this play-thing would not be here without these works, individuals, and support:

  • poster created by Reb Zhou

  • Customs by Solmaz Sharif

  • Decolonising the Mind by Ngūgi wa’ Thiong’o

  • If Not, Winter by Sappho tr. Anne Carson

  • The America Plays (and other writing) by Suzan-Lori Parks

  • DMZ Colony by Don Mee Choi

  • Whereas by Layli Long Soldier

  • 4Culture & Seattle Office of Arts and Culture

  • and of course, we all inspire each other!

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