You would think straight up English would be the answer to widening my reach, but this project, any or most of my poetic projects cannot be monolingual. That is a fact of my poetics. Monolingual English is not a fact for my imagined bloc of girls and women of color, those who populate my poetry. Monolingual English is not a global reality. Monolingual English also comes with the assumption of standard English, versus various other Englishes.
What I am doing now, as I prepare to send my revisions back to my editor, is handwritten annotations. I am circling cognates in pencil:
For “nagrereklamo,” I am circling “reklamo,” which looks and sounds like “reclamar,” with Tagalog conjugation. For “siguradong umaandar,” which are related to and similar sounding enough to “seguro” and “andar.”
So then, does a reader have enough to go on? There’s the question again — what reader, who is this reader.
We wanted to make a Thing. Some kind of Event, involving writers in Live (or living) space. Some background. I am a writer, and I am a cheerleader of publishing and publication. I believe in that as evidence, as document. I love the book. I don’t have real specific bookmaking vocabulary, but I love the book as a thing I write, that finds itself into the world. The smell of the pages, the weight of the cover stock. The perfect bind. Lovely cover design. Typography.
I get a lot of questions from aspiring authors who just don’t want to go through the whole manuscript submissions process. They have different reasons. Sometimes it’s about timeliness; they don’t want to wait for their turn on an editorial calendar. Sometimes it’s political; they don’t want to submit themselves to what they have come to believe is a capitalist process in which we writers and the fruits of our labor are treated as someone else’s commodities. Most of the time, it’s about fear and lack of knowledge of what the process entails and how it works. They don’t know they have to find presses that would be open to their aesthetics and themes. They don’t know about open reading periods or cover letters. They fear rejection. They are already discouraged by how much work it is before they have even begun. They already believe that all editors are white, and would not understand and appreciate where we writers of color are coming from.
At the most recent Filipino American International Book Festival, an older man who I’d never met before, who self-published his tome, demanded I tell him whether he made a mistake self-publishing, then before I had an opportunity to say anything in response, proceeded to explain to me why he decided to go the route he did, and what he believed the benefits were. Most of which were monetary; every cent earned goes back to him. He didn’t mention design, though from what I saw, he could have benefited from having a designer. He didn’t mention editing, though with a tome, I generally believe some paring down can only strengthen a written work. He didn’t mention distribution, book reviews, libraries. He didn’t mention course adoption. Not to say all books succeed only with course adoption. But books do need to move from our brains into readers’ hands.
I am at a loss trying to instill a love of books in my students. As an author, I love the book. This is a no brainer for me. I love the feel of book, textures of pages, weight of cover stock, book smell, the feel of the perfect bound spine, the look of a beautiful body font. When your name’s on the cover, that’s another thing altogether. Some of my best memories involve being immersed in a book, loving the narrative or the language or the characters so much, I feel legit sadness when I am through reading. As an old person, I prefer the book to the e-book. I wear the hell out of the books I study. My notes and underlines etc. are all in 0.7 mechanical pencil. I dog ear. I have sticky notes everywhere. I love analog interface. I love the thoughtfulness that the book enables, encourages, makes possible. It isn’t just data or information easily retrievable on the internet. Is this generational chauvanism I’m enacting here.