Recent semi-public criticism about the work we’ve been doing with/for PAWA had gotten me a little bit insecure. Were we doing enough to forward arts other than the literary, for the Filipino American artist community? This is one thing we discussed at yesterday’s PAWA board meeting, and I’m glad to have had the space to do this. I asked whether we ought to be more actively involving artists is other various disciplines, to come into PAWA and curate events in visual arts, film, et al.
For myself, I don’t think that’s something I could take on, given my lack of expertise in those areas; curating film series and visual arts exhibits should be respected and not be half-assed. Similarly, curating literary events should also be respected and not half-assed. I’ve always known that the best work I did and currently do for PAWA and the arts community is literary. Whether in arts practice, or as an organizer or curator, lit is what I be, and what I do. Even when working in collaboration with Eth-Noh-Tec, the artists I’ve brought in, folks working in film, theater, visual/conceptual art, stand up comedy — for me, it had always been about the writing, the work with language. This was confirmed for me at yesterday’s meeting by Allan Manalo. Song writing, playwriting, screenwriting, crafting monologues for comedy routines — these all involve the craft of writing. I am reminded of his visit to my Fil Am Arts class a couple of semesters ago at USF, the things he told my students about his practice, his notebooks full of observations, how to craft successful jokes, set-ups that build to punch lines, tags and hooks.
This is what makes PAWA unique; who else works specifically to promote Filipino American writing? Indeed, I’ve seen other orgs try to take on producing literary events, only to find themselves disappointed at the outcome. I’ve seen other orgs move farther and farther away from literature, because it can be un-sexy (books? gasp!) without all the bells, whistles, spectacle, props, fashion show, slam hands, dancers, musical instruments, lots and lots of people crowding a stage.
Without delving into the specific orgs, I’ll just say that foremost, the writing, the artists’ attention to language, their love for the word and the narrative must be honored. I believe in the most simple set-up possible; a platform from which to speak to an audience. A writer needs little else. This is how much she believes in her use of language. She can do all the things a staged armada aspire to do, using only her own singular voice.
So, much salamats to our working PAWA board members for such frank, affirming conversation and concrete planning. Stay tuned for more.