This month, I shall be posting one APIA poet (or book) recommendation per day, so that all of you who are asking me what to read will know what to read.
Today’s recommendation is Al Robles. I am beyond sad that his book, rappin’ with ten thousand carabaos in the dark has been out of print. I always suspected that if not for the intervention of key people in the West Coast/CA APIA academic and publishing communities, this book might never have been. In my mind and memory, Manong Al will always be the storyteller. The improvisation, the rhythms, the deep memory of so many people’s lives and narratives entrusted to him. Yes, folks trusted him with their stories, and so they opened themselves to him.
On the national level, APIA poets, especially those academically bound, will probably not know a lick about Manong Al, and will probably not care so much about his “loose” poetic style. But it wasn’t loose. It was a lifetime of practice, reflecting street level lived experience yes, but also recall he was a jazz pianist and a practitioner of Zen Buddhism. Those disciplines and aesthetics run deep in the work.
There’s a whole lot that attentiveness, fine tuning all senses, and living fully engaged in the real world, will give you that dependence upon an academic program or an MFA will not, and never will.
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National Poetry Month APIA Poets:
04/01 Rajiv Mohabir
04/02 Amanda Ngoho Reavey
04/03 Truong Tran
04/04 Al Robles