I’ve been reading poems from Diwata for a long time now, and just very recently from the actual physical book. I don’t know why it’s surprising, how breathless I get in the reading. The poems are dense; many are prose poems, many with quite long sentences, and many which, despite the potential amble of the form, are rather abrupt.
I realize I am now in a process of getting to know Diwata, the speakers/personae I thought I knew so well, well, I find there is still a lot to learn about them, their (back) stories, the particulars of their voices. Perhaps this is all complicated by my teaching, especially as we problematize or complicate the poetic I, and hear other poets’ takes on an I that is really a we, and that we being historical, connected to a landscape as this landscape shifts, or a we in movement, necessarily shifting between locales, national and ethnic identities and allegiances, or an I that is a we that focuses and refocuses (or telescopes) her lenses, and so on. These were the discussions we had yesterday evening regarding Matthew Shenoda and Suheir Hammad.
Indeed, Shenoda says in The Blood-Jet Writing Hour interview that he rarely ever writes in an individual/personal autobiographical I; it’s not his interest, and it’s not his project. Then in a writerly way, he tells us that writing outside of ourselves is more of a challenge (and as writers, shouldn’t we be up for this challenge). One reason is because then we have to stretch our use of language; we have to imagine how others use language. So I very much appreciate that, and I appreciate this complicated I/we, because it’s also realistic, our many conflicting ideas and alliances. These discussions mess me up talking about my own work. Still, I think, this can only be a good thing. Besides, as per Ron Takaki: “How do you know you know what you know,” anyway?
So I am getting to know Diwata (again), as if she/it and I have been apart from each other for a while, and we need to be reacquainted. It’s a trip. Today, I will be Skype-ing with two of Oliver de la Paz’s classes, one of which sounds like it’s enormous. I am looking forward to discussing the book in an academic setting, which I think is a more appropriate setting (than at, say, bookstore readings) to be working out how I experience the complicated I/we, and the particulars of their world. Talk about challenge; I am reading students’ questions, and am overwhelmed with the world that I wrote in Diwata. Is it possible that book talks and interviews just get harder and harder? I always thought it’d be the opposite.
Anyway, again a big thank you to Oliver for taking on the book, especially because it’s so new, and there is no existing critical writing. I am also very interested in Skype-ing as a viable way of connecting with educators and students who are reading my books. I guess we’ll see in a bit how it approximates the classroom visit. If it goes well (and I don’t see why it wouldn’t), then I will offer to make myself available via Skype to educators who adopt Poeta en San Francisco and Diwata for their courses.