Tell Me, Kenyalang

Tell Me, Kenyalang by Kulleh Grasi

Translated from Malay by Pauline Fan

Publication date: October 2019

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White white billows of language,
The dry season engulfs the countryside . . .
Ah, season of idle pleasures,
Shirts trousers, all sizes big and small,
In the laundry of the universe . . .

Grasi’s poems capture the excited intimacy of exploring one’s own beloved country with depth and vision. Grasi leaps between languages, registers, and landscapes to create a multi-dimensional book, and Fan, in her translations, leaps with him into a detailed, rich English, while finding innovative ways to provide context to a place so rarely read about in English.


Mekong Review, August 15, 2023: "Ibun" appears in the August/September 2023 issue.


Kulleh Grasi has channeled “the rhythms from sebayan, / qasidahs from bunian” to bring us the “fragrance of paradise” of his native Sarawak, the place at the heart of his akui-self that springs forth from the Sea Dayak longhouse community (“leaf of the world”) like a Kalang deer and suffuses his poetry with Iban myths, sensual beauty, ancestral bonds, dreams, and the songs of trees, birds, river, and sun-rain. Pauline Fan’s finely woven pua-kumbu translation comes to us as a blessing from kenyalang’s beak.

Jeffrey Yang

The vitality of poetry hides in its secret veins, from which the unordinary — words, images, dreams — spout and sparkle.

Kulleh Grasi’s verses affirm this and Pauline’s translation gives them a poetic rebirth.

There are many instances of enchantment in this collection of poems. As I see it, in Kulleh Grasi’s pieces Malay poetry finds its “minor literature” (in the Deleuzian sense)— as they create idioms that slip away from the confine of identity (“deterritorialized”) and are linked with issues of finding a voice within a language that is both alien and familiar. The poems stammer, as it were, and disrupt the typically linear, narrative-bound verses in mainstream Malaysian poetry.

What a gift.

Goenawan Mohamad

If you need a reason to believe in the value of translation, here are thirty. Pauline Fan’s versions of Kulleh Grasi’s poems teach Malay and Iban to English. Translation changes us, into and out of languages, thankfully, because without it we might not know what it is like to be young and full of myth, music, and meaning in Malaysia. This multilingual voice sounds like it’s from right now, because it is.

Paul Legault


December 10, 2018: Publishing Poetry in Translation in Poets & Writers

Marwa Helal writes about Circumference Books in the January/February 2019 issue of Poets & Writers.

April 3, 2020: Karya anak Sarawak ini tersenarai dalam anugerah buku terjemahan terbaik Amerika in Astro Awani

(An article about the book being longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award in Malay.)

April 6, 2020: Tell Me, Kenyalang by Kulleh Grasi Longlisted for International Award in BFM

Pauline Fan is interviewed on Malaysian radio station BFM 89.9. Create an account to download or stream the audio.

April 13, 2020: Ten Questions for Ho Sok Fong and Natascha Bruce in Poets & Writers

Ho Sok Fong mentions that she's reading the book.

April 19, 2020: Poets, musicians perform online in The Star

Kulleh Grasi performs online in aid of refugee families in Malaysia affected by COVID-19.

August 31, 2020: Press On! Circumference Books in Project Plume

An interview with Jennifer Kronovet about the press.

September 7, 2020: Buku Puisi Anak Kapit Jadi Buku Malaysia Pertama Tercalon Anugerah Terjemahan NTA Amerika in

A Malay piece about the book being longlisted for the National Translation Award

September 7, 2020: ‘Tell Me, Kenyalang’, karya terjemahan anak Sarawak dapat perhatian di Amerika Syarikat in Astro Awani

A Malay piece about the book being longlisted for the National Translation Award

September 12, 2020: Tell Me Kenyalang, mara ke persada antarabangsa in Berita Harian

A Malay piece about the book being longlisted for the National Translation Award in the Kuala Lumpur Berita Harian

September 30, 2020: Buku puisi M’sia disenarai pendek untuk anugerah terjemahan di AS in MalaysiaKini

A Malay piece after the book was shortlisted for the ALTA translation award

October 4, 2020: ALTA Names Its 2020 National Translation Awards Shortlists in Publishing Perspectives

October 8, 2020: The NTA Countdown to ALTA43: Tell Me, Kenyalang in The American Literary Translators Association blog

A quick review of the book at the ALTA blog

October 17, 2020: Trending translation: the winner of the 2020 National Translation Award in Poetry in The Vibes (Kuala Lumpur)

Eddin Khoo writes about the ALTA awards, mentioning the book

October 19, 2020: Kenyalang terbang tinggi in BH Online

A Malay interview with Kulleh Grasi and Pauline Grasi about the book and its awards

November 2, 2020: 6 Malaysian writers who are making waves in the 2020 literary scene in Options (Malaysia)

Kulleh Grasi and Tell Me Kenyalang are part of a roundup of six Malaysian writers getting international attention

November 6, 2020: Dream-weaving between worlds in The Vibes (Kuala Lumpur)

Pauline Fan talks about translating the book

December 3, 2020: Men of the Year 2020: The #MadeInMalaysia Awards in August Man Malaysia

Kulleh Grasi is one of August Man Malaysia's 2020 Men of the Year; includes interview about the book

December 12, 2020: ‘Tell Me Kenyalang‘ Flies High in New Sarawak Tribune

Priscilla Tawie talks to Kulleh Grasi about his exciting year.

January 25, 2021: TuesdayTalk LIVE | Interview with Kulleh Grasi: A Sarawakian Poet in Place Borneo

An interview with Kulleh Grasi about the book and his work, with a bilingual reading of "Akui".

February 28, 2021: Eliot Weinberger: New Trade Routes of the World in Asymptote

Eliot Weinberger's keynote from the 2019 George Town Literary Festival mentions Kulleh Grasi and Pauline Fan

June 22, 2021: Faisal Tehrani: Kulleh Grasi Leka Main in Malaysia Now

A review of the book by Malaysian writer Faisal Tehrani (in Malay)

July 17, 2021: Telaiku Kenyalang: Makam Maulana buat Kulleh! (Bahagian I) in

Part 1 of a review of Tell Me Kenyalang in Malay by Zahid M. Naser

August 7, 2021: Maulana: Makam Yang Perlu Dijaga Grasi (Bahagian II) in

Part 2 of a review of Tell Me Kenyalang in Malay by Zahid M. Naser

April 11, 2022: Indigenous Sarawak music group invited to the Venice Biennale 2022 in The Star (Kuala Lumpur)

Kulleh Grasi & band are going to be in the Venice Biennale; Tell Me Kenyalang gets a mention.

April 11, 2022: Kulleh Comrades - kumpulan Orang Asal Sarawak diundang ke Venice Biennale in MalaysiaKini

A Malaysian piece about Kulleh Grasi heading to the Venice Biennale

April 11, 2022: 6 Indigenous performers from Sarawak invited to Venice Biennale 2022 in The Vibes (Kuala Lumpur)

A piece about Kulleh Grasi at the Venice Biennale with a mention of Tell Me Kenyalang

April 14, 2022: People of Poetry: Kulleh Grasi and Charissa Ong TY in Bandar Aktiviti Seni (Kuala Lumpur)

An interview with Kulleh Grasi and Charissa Ong TY


Longlisted for Best Translated Book Award, 2020.

Shortlisted for National Translation Award, 2020.