I write this in the spirit of transparency and honesty, and I write this to help dispel or unpack any mythologies about writing and publishing. I write this because I reject notions of entitlement and perfection.
2003: My first book. Eileen Tabios edited Gravities of Center, published by Arkipelago Books, and her work was very much needed, as that was my first effort at compiling a full length collection; most of my work here was intuitive and common sense, and those things will take you a long way. Eileen gave me the best common sense advice, which was to start strong and end strong (filling in the in between is some kind of journey). We had a kill your darlings moment about a poem I’d written for a good friend — the poem wasn’t so strong, and I cut it. And yes, that is something I keep with me today.
2005: My second book. Poeta en San Francisco came to Susan Schultz at Tinfish Press quite polished, as it was my MFA thesis, which I worked thoroughly for years with Stacy Doris, my thesis advisor. The only thing I changed between thesis and book was adding the section breaks and titling them, “orient,” “dis*orient,” “re*orient.” Asian American readers love that shit. I did this in lieu of a scholarly intro and glossary. It went on the win the James Laughlin Award.
2010: My third book. Peter Conners with BOA Editions was very hands on with Diwata. His detailed, page by page, line by line commentary was incisive, and this is how I knew he read the work with so much respect, surely for my cultural and historical concerns, and for my use(s) of language(s), and the significance of these usages. We went back and forth on one of the “Duyong” poems, as he was trying to understand all of the involved parties and the speaker, and everyone’s position in relation to one another. We didn’t know exactly what to do, though we knew we didn’t want to over-explain the thing. I came back to him at the end of the day, with two changed pronouns, and he emailed back, “Oh my God, you did it!”
2015: My fourth book. Edwin Lozada at PAWA and I let To Love as Aswang be, though I did omit one or two poems. Then we said, “Bahala na,” and into the world it went.
2017: My fifth book. Invocation to Daughters came to Garrett Caples at City Lights Publishing, as done as done could be. I added three poems, including “The Day,” as he’d gently suggested we had some time and wiggle room. And “The Day” really gave Invocation to Daughters its anchor and another dimension I hadn’t originally anticipated. My publisher said, Garrett’s usually very hands on, so have confidence that you can really polish a manuscript on your own.
2020: My sixth book. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Letters to a Young Brown Girl. I’m excite to be working with BOA Editions again. We shall see. Something unexpected may rise to the surface.