Is it just me, or do other writers and artists get this giddy and anxious feeling about starting a project. What I have in mind is barely fleshed out, but a few contributing factors to this thing I want to/have to write are these:
(1) Thomas Merton on silence, on a poet’s living in silence, on living a life of poetry rather than “ridiculous” editorialism. This is something I really need to take to heart, in the deepest way possible.
(2) Grace Nono‘s recent Bay Area visit, performance, and conversation. To read: her book The Shared Voice: Chanted and Spoken Narratives from the Philippines. And again, as she told us during her recent visit, she’s only scratched the surface of Philippine oral traditions after 15 years of finding her way in and immersing herself in it. I have noticed (it’s hard not to notice) how much tighter and focused, how cohesive as a project or cycle each subsequent CD is. Imagine what Nono’s work will be like in another five years, in another ten years. Just phenomenal.
(3) Some recent readings, some from earlier last year: Linda Hogan’s Dwellings, which was so much more illuminating than Katrin de Guia’s Kapwa, which I stopped reading after it became unpalatable. Karen An-Hwei Lee’s Ardor which is an unabashedly luscious voice of the feminine, as well as a long poem/extended meditation. Merlinda Bobis’s Banana Heart Summer which reminded me to reread her Cantata of the Warrior Woman, Daragang Magayon which I first read in or around 1993, and which is a feminist retelling of a well-known Philippine mythological story. Anne Waldman’s Fast Speaking Woman, which tells me I ought to be reading María Sabina. Dean Francis Alfar’s The Kite of Stars, which gives me permission to reimagine my Hinirang. Gary Young’s Pleasure, which is the opposite of the abstract or surreal in prose poetry.
(4) My Philippines trip. I notice every time I go back (I was going to say “home”), something happens to me, in my head, in my writing mind, and it takes a long time for me to figure out how to articulate it. I was afraid that Papa’s death would give me less reason to ever go back again, but this isn’t the case at all. At the SPT MLA offsite reading, Oscar and I read/performed my poem, “In Paradise,” from Gravities of Center, and which I wrote probably in 2000, and which was about my 1993 trip to Mindanao. Well, being in Mindanao in 2008, I found that poem still had very pressing relevance, which I didn’t realize until about halfway through our performance of it. Speaking the words to the poem, I thought of my cousins in Davao telling me and my mother that the road from Davao to Zamboanga (from Lolo Alfredo’s to Lolo Pedro’s, Papa’s two surviving elder brothers) is seven hours if you take the road through the mountains, which is full of guerrilla fighters, and fourteen hours if you take the safe road.
(5) DJ Spooky’s Bay Area visit/talk at City Lights Books. I think this guy is a genius, and I think he articulates so much of my “transnational” poetics and dissemination/what I believe about getting poetry into the world, in his discussions of remix, and on gift economy.
(6) This is silly, I know, but it kinda kicked me in the ass: yesterday I looked at the BOA Editions, Ltd. website and found that Sean Thomas Dougherty, whose Broken Hallelujahs was released by BOA in 2007, now has another book forthcoming from BOA in 2010. Or maybe it’s not so silly, that seeing this news of Dougherty is kicking my ass in gear to write another book, as my next poetry manuscript will also be considered by BOA. Which means I need to have a next poetry manuscript. And right now, I don’t have a next poetry manuscript. Oh wow, that smarts.
(7) Current reading: Eduardo Galeano’s Voices of Time: A Life in Stories. A meta-narrative, no? Whose life, if not the world’s life, which happens profoundly in vignettes, seemingly small occurrences, bits of illumination.
* * *
So this is where I am right now. Brand new Moleskine cracked open. I am remembering what I said in conversation with Grace Nono: after writing Diwata, I could always write more, and more — on my stories, my Mama’s and Papa’s stories, these meta-stories. There is so much more to their voices and what they have witnessed, what they knew, how this all has become mine. And as the majority of the elders who were always the source of story for me have passed away, I have to look really, very deep.