I am winding down on my Poetry Foundation blog posts for National Poetry Month. That space always makes me cautious, and defensive. My first time around, the comment sections were heinous and even obscene with commenters who I really believe ought to get their own blog or work on getting their poetry into the world rather than stew then explode over not being noticed. It’s so toxic and harmful to folks who love poetry, who still have wonder for poetry, even when steeped in the necessary hustle.
This time around, the comments have been closed, and this should have made me feel more at ease. Still, I come to realize again and again that my spirit of inclusion always invariably means I have excluded someone else, and this is always called to my attention in belittling and ungracious ways. Straight up ugly ass shit. Alas, this negative aspect to having access to a public space or platform, and I have to maintain some air of graciousness about it. And sometimes it’s difficult. And this is an understatement.
But here are some of the many pluses to accessing this public platform, and certainly, the pluses far outweigh the niggling minuses:
In addition to wondering whether I do effective or even just good enough community arts work, I also always ask myself whether I do enough as a mentor, in fostering the work of emerging artists, in being concretely encouraging and supportive. Also, what does it mean to be concretely supportive?
A question I frequently hear is this: who are the young or emerging or interesting Filipino/a American poets doing exciting or promising work? I am valuing more fully the need to look in places other than MFA programs (of course, there are many Filipino American writers incubating in MFA programs, so I do not mean to exclude these or assume their motives for being there; certainly I hated being judged as a student in a whiting program when I was incubating in my MFA program) I understand that approaches to poetry vary; how each of us enters poetry varies. How each of us handles, views, experiences poetry varies.
The “we poetics” I often discuss on this blog, I think can be read as bayanihan and reciprocity. So then, let’s say it this way: I try my best in my work to cultivate bayanihan (though I won’t beat my head against a brick wall when others aren’t having my bayanihan), through concretely supporting and encouraging other Filipino American poets, whether through my editorial and curatorial capacities, as an educator and as a blogger (of all things). Poets and community workers work with a similar sense of community, building and maintaining it — this is who interest me.
Specific to Pinays, a couple of recent examples:
Regarding my most recent Poetry Foundation blog post, one thing I am thinking in response to Irene Faye Duller‘s discussion on her guest curating Galería de la Raza’s Lunada literary lounge is this: how is bayanihan or collectivity or collective consciousness and practice, or “we poetics” apparent not just in the artistic/poetic work, but also in the creative process, and also in the production and/or venue. I am also interested in what she calls real time needs assessment, communities or art collectives formed out of current need, and dissolving not because of neglect but because that need has been fulfilled, and the confidence that other new collectives will be built, and will thrive for as long as it has to.
I’ve also featured Rachelle Cruz on the Poetry Foundation blog. As many of you know, Rachelle is the host of podcast/radio show The Blood-Jet Writing Hour, in which she interviews poets from diverse backgrounds about poetics, process, and community. Ultimately, I see her providing this service to a larger poetry community (i.e. larger than but definitely including local communities), in terms of giving people the opportunity to access poets they may otherwise not have thought of, and giving poets the opportunity to articulate their poetics. On top of this, she is furthering her own poetic education in the process.
My next (or next-next) post will feature Eileen Tabios, who has edited a feature on poet/editors; this is scheduled for release on May Day at Mark Young’s Otoliths website (I won’t provide the link yet, just so Mark can finish posting and formatting it). But here is a new link for Eileen: her Babaylan Poetics blog (so many blogs!) which interests me very much. Here, my “we poetics” and bayanihan, Eileen calls kapwa poetics and/or babaylan poetics. In addition to the practice of collectivity, our interconnectedness based upon shared experience and shared humanity.
One thing I appreciate about Eileen’s exploration of this babaylan and kapwa poetics is this delineation of indigeneity and tribalism. My questions: whether there can be an indigenous consciousness or world view which does not translate into appropriation of tribal gear/artifacts/titles, judging and disparaging others from an elevated or “transcendent” position because they choose to exist outside of our social and experiential contexts. Can we live our westernized, urban, professional lives with indigeneity as one lens through which we view the world and interact with one another.
Can we do this without falling into our own oversimplified binaries of indigenous as superior, unflawed, untainted versus non-indigenous which translates as colonized and hence depraved, selfish, profit driven, destructive, and spiritually bankrupt. Again, I think of Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, of mestizaje as embodying the contradictions of multiple layers of culture, cosmology, language; I think of jazz, and I think of remix. I think of growing our “we” this way.
[In the meantime, in the spirit of growing our "we," my next-next (or next) post on the Poetry Foundation will feature Urayoán Noel and Pierre Joris, who are faculty advisors for a very interesting sounding new inter/transnational and multilingual focused, online journal called Barzakh (again, link omitted so that they can finish formatting their inaugural issue).]