I’m inspired, or touched, or feeling warm fuzzies in general about Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor’s and Veronica Montes’s recent blog posts. With Growing Up Filipino II, Bec is now experiencing her first publication in an anthology (as she notes, an actual book), feeling “less a could-be writer and more a in-fact writer.” Inspired by Bec’s post, Veronica, who is reading for the PAWA-sponsored San Francisco book launch, is remembering her own first anthology publication. In both of their cases, Cecilia Brainard was the editor responsible for selecting their work for publication.
I am moved to think back on my own first anthology publication, which was Babaylan (Aunt Lute, 2000), edited by Nick Carbó and Eileen Tabios. Years later, as Eileen came to speak on her work as a poet and editor at SFSU for Justin Chin’s class, I remember her saying that there were some newbie or emerging poets who’d submitted work, and whom she chose to include in the anthology because she believed publication would encourage or propel these poets to continue with their poetic work. Sitting in the lecture hall audience, I thought to myself, “She must mean (poets like) me.”
Certainly, when I met Nick a few years previous (late 1990′s), and when he asked me to submit poems for consideration in Babaylan, I gave him everything I had. And when he read these and asked to read 10 more poems, I panicked because I didn’t have 10 more poems. I’ve written about this before, that I did not step up and meet the challenge, and my poetic career could have been over before it even had a chance to begin. I met Nick around the time I was thinking of finally finishing my undergrad degree, so MFA’ing was nowhere on my radar.
My previous publication history included Maganda and Liwanag II, in which my work was critiqued by my local Filipino American artist/activist peers. My self-perceived stint as the “it-girl” there was waning, as my peers were all graduated and moved on to non-arts, more practical careers and/or professional degrees. And there I was, a college drop-out in my mid-20′s, and inarticulate about what made a poem a good (even great) poem.
So by the time Babaylan launched in 2000, I’d just finished up at UC Berkeley (I graduated in Fall 1999, at the age of 28. I walked in Spring 2000.), and was enrolled in a Creative Writing course at Vista College (now Berkeley City College), my first creative writing class ever. We were doing Babaylan events all over the Bay Area, and this was exhilarating. This was Spring 2001.
The combined productivity of the creative writing class taught by Elizabeth Treadwell, and the affirmation of Babaylan, as well as the KSW class (seminar/workshop) with Brian Komei Dempster on writing programs and submitting work for publication, and my first participation in KSW’s APAture, is how I classify the beginning of the decade (and the beginning of the century!) for me, as I was admitted to the MFA program for Fall 2001.
With all of the publication, work, and recognition that’s ensued, it’s appropriate, at least in my mind, that I end this very busy decade with Poeta en San Francisco on the SPD decade bestsellers list. And yes, this is very important to me; I’m a Pinay author in the USA, writing “political poetry” in multiple languages including baybayin, and not providing translation.
It’s also appropriate that I begin this next decade with Diwata, which took its own sweet time to be written and to find publication. I do wish I worked faster than this, but I am also pleased things turned out the way they did. Eileen was right then; my first anthology publication really did propel me onward and upward.
In some ways, I envy Bec for that place that she’s currently inhabiting — first anthology publication, and in the thick of her MFA program. Such an exciting place to be, the feeling of being “less a could-be writer and more a in-fact writer.” Remember that? I do, how every poem, every performance was an enthusiastic step in the direction I wanted to keep heading.