National Poetry Month: Filipina Lives and Voices

Hi all, so I am blogging again at the Poetry Foundation for National Poetry Month, and have decided to blog about teaching Pinay Lit, as this is the first semester I am teaching this course, and what’s happening there is pretty amazing and revelatory. By blogging about it, I certainly hope to make more writers, readers, students, and educators aware of and interested in Pinay literature, its aesthetic, linguistic, historical, sociopolitical diversity. I also hope to just make Pinay literature more public. So that people know about it, that such a thing exists. So that people know meaningful, critical things about it. So that dialogue about these works can have a proper public space. One semester is not nearly enough time or space to teach an all Pinay lit class. Items are falling off my syllabus, given time constraints, and this is difficult.

Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature is the official class title, and you can check out my blog posts here:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/author/bjreyes/

Quick excerpts from my two posts so far:

Among other places, I’ve been teaching Philippine and Filipino American Literature in the Philippine Studies Program at University of San Francisco. One day, I’d casually asked our program chair whether he was interested in an all Filipina/Pinay (Filipino women) literature course, and he said, yes, draft a syllabus, and we’ll get it approved by the curriculum committee. It was approved. It was quickly filled. This is the first semester I am teaching the course, and I’m still in disbelief. All Pinay Literature. I always think, wow, where was this class when I was young, and when I needed it most. It seems a lot of people have been asking this question too, as I have been asked by more people than I can count, for my syllabus and reading lists.

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In the process of ethnic canon formation, we have to ask whose voices get pushed aside, for what reason, and at what expense. 

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And so while I know I am not talking about poetry here, I believe it’s very important to mention that Filipino American women were writing and storytelling in this country in the early twentieth century. I believe it’s even more important to note that there were very real barriers against their being able to write freely, much less get published. And indeed, whenever I bring this generation of women’s words and stories to my students, they are struck by the invisibility of an entire generation. It’s really an emotional experience, because many of them connect this invisibility to the undeserved lack of recognition many of their grandmothers experienced, for holding the families together, for working multiple jobs and still keeping the home, cooking, cleaning, childbearing.

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That’s all I got for now. Sorry for my prolonged absences here.

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Barbara Jane Reyes

Author of Gravities of Center, Poeta en San Francisco, and Diwata. Adjunct professor in Philippine Studies at University of San Francisco.

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