OK, this here is a brain dump. I just received a comment on one of my recent Filipino American community posts, and to be clear, the commenter is also a Filipino American. This person tells me (I paraphrase) she would hate to see me limited, pigeonholed in my art because of my ethnic identification. If I identify as a Filipino American poet, as opposed to a poet (or Poet), then I am cutting off all kinds of folks from finding and reading my work.

I am terribly refreshed by this comment today.

I do think of myself as occupying or inhabiting multiple poet worlds, not just in self-naming and principle, but certainly in my everyday practice. Sometimes I think I give myself unneeded grief by working in multiple worlds; in the first place, multitasking can drive people bananas. Having people constantly asking and demanding stuff from me also starts to drive me bananas. A couple of poets tell me what a privilege, to be in that position to be recognized as having something to give. Well, I give a lot, and now I am tired. And let me just say, I get it when Poets just want to Poet, just want to be left alone to Poet.

I think I would like to press on with my two manuscripts eternally in progress. One of my grad students had recently asked me what I was working on, and I admitted that the 90 pages of poems I’d recently printed out weren’t coalescing into a book. I do need to do something about this.

Oscar has told me, one of his poet friends has asked — given all the work you have, how many 30-minute sets (minimum banter, time killer, space filler, prop, distraction, smoke and mirrors, shuck and jive, dog and pony shows) can you rock without repeating a single poem? Well, for me, I could rock a lot of 30-minute sets, and this should satisfy me, but it wouldn’t hurt to be more prolific, even in a directed way.

At the same time, I know that promoting my existing books is still very important. I love that as recently as this past summer, I was still doing a Poeta en San Francisco book talk, and will most likely be doing more. I love that that book’s got legs, that it’s still being taught, that there’s continued interest and enthusiasm about it. I keep meeting grad students whose professors are recommending or assigning my books, and I have to think this means I am doing something right.

I am also preparing for two Skype sessions for Diwata in the next couple of months. As I am also preparing for next semester, teaching Filipina Lit at USF, and Filipino American Lit at SFSU, I have decided to teach  Diwata and Poeta respectively. I’d been encouraged by a friend and professor to do so; she’d argued the students would really benefit from their access to my work and to me. The point is — more book talks, managing two books in my brain, and that I love doing this.

So, where do my eternally in progress manuscripts fit in? I don’t want to be in a mad rush to churn out product from the poetry machine, for sake of churning out more product (perhaps that is where McPoem comes from). I want to stop rushing around in head, and to relish being an author whose books are taught, studied, discussed, critically engaged, and enjoyed by readers.

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One thought on “Poet

  • October 19, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I also tend to envy poets who are “in demand,” and at the same time I understand the pull in many directions. I don’t teach for a living, and the “day job” I have has fixed regular hours, which has real advantages. Though even with the majority of my time being “my own,” I have to struggle sometimes to get all of the poetry stuff done that I want to get done.

    I have a moderately long list of books of poems, and poets, that I want to write about in my blog, and I also have my own writing — four or five manuscripts that are more or less done, and four or five more that are in progress, and I generally have a half dozen poems in progress in my notebook — and although I tend to hop from one to the other frequently, ultimately I can only work on one poem/book/manuscript at any given moment.

    In no way am I complaining about any of the above. I’ve been extremely fortunate with publishing and with the connections I’ve made with other poets. But I do sometimes with for another hundred or so hours in the week.


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