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.