I’ve been doing events at a more manageable pace these last couple of weeks. Last weekend, I read at Eastwind Books of Berkeley with Maiana Minahal and Veronica Montes. Veronica’s write up is here. I think that was a good event; as she says, there was some nice thematic overlap between the three of us, presenting different takes on our own respective Filipina mythic women figures. In Legend Sondayo, Maiana has queered the narrative of Sondayo, and pulled the stories into a contemporary setting. In Angelica’s Daughters, Veronica moves back and forth between present day and the historical time of foremother Angelica. I am interested in the process of writing dugtungan, how each of five co-authors approaches and treats one another’s text. How to add and elaborate on someone else’s story or developing character. And can you even afford to be of the mindset that a particular story or character is yours (singular) or “someone else’s”? As for myself, I talked a bit about simply making stuff up in these poem-stories, as storytellers do, tell what they’ve been told with some degree of faithfulness, and then straight up invent stuff. After the reading, fellow writer Claire Light, who was in attendance, told me she started to think about Diwata as “speculative poetry,” which is something I hadn’t previously considered.
The other day, I Skyped with two of Oliver de la Paz’s classes, an Asian American Studies undergraduate course, and an Avant-Garde Poetry graduate course; it was something, having two substantial and completely different conversations about the same one book. With the first class, as they’d just read Maxine Hong Kingston’s Woman Warrior, there were a good number of questions comparing the narratives of girls and their societal value. As well, there were some very good questions regarding the natural world, and my poetic speaker’s interactions and place within it. As for avant-garde poetry, whether or not we can even read Diwata in this context is an interesting conversation already. If, as one student said, avant-garde poetry says something new, then what can be considered “new” in/about the oral traditions and, as Oscar reminds me, aural traditions which inspire the book? So that’s another thing I hadn’t previously thought about in great detail; that there are traditions of telling, and there are traditions of hearing.
This week I have two readings, 10/26 Tuesday with Camille Dungy at City Lights Books, and 10/28 Thursday with Javier O. Huerta at Moe’s in Berkeley. Please do come out; I think I’m finally (albeit slowly) finding my groove for taking about this book. I’m still a bit overwhelmed with the world I’ve written in Diwata. I feel like I hit the ground running with Poeta en San Francisco, that I knew how to talk about it in public immediately. Indeed, having workshopped it in progress for three or so semesters in grad school, and then as my thesis, definitely made it feel easier to “pin down” a discussion of it.
All this said, I came to this point recently where I wondered if I was doing enough to “hustle” Diwata. How do I know whether I am doing enough? And why don’t I already know how to answer this question?