I have been posting calls for submissions like mad, over at the new and improved PAWA blog, and have been a little surprised at the non-response to them. I know; just because I’m not hearing any feedback does not mean folks are being unresponsive. It’s just that I have been trying to gauge community interest in submitting work for publication.
Here is what befuddles me: There’s so much dialogue over our invisibility and non-presence on bookstore shelves and on course syllabi, coupled with reticence to put work out there in a major way. As well, there’s so much interest in self-promotion, in being recognized, so much desire to be given props and praise for being poets and writers, coupled with reticence to put work out there in a major way.
What gives, with the contradictions? I am interested in untangling that, and giving substance to the picture of “poets and writers,” and the necessary work to make it so.
As my friend and fellow author Sunny Vergara has recently blogged, it’s loaded, “self-promotion,” and the term, “shameless self-promotion.” Submitting work is part of the work of self-promotion. With every cover letter we write to accompany every submissions packet we send out, we engage in self-promotion. We’re submitting to the possibility that our work is good and/or interesting enough to warrant publication in a potentially competitive field. He’s listed some truths, which I believe are important to arrive at on our own schedules, after going through our own processes:
- You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be discovered.
- You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be invited to speak.
- You cannot sit on your ass and hope to be published.
I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about my many thoughts on the state of “Poetry.”
So let me start by shouting out Margaret Rhee, poet and scholar, and future Tinfish author. She is teaching Poeta en San Francisco to her Reading and Comp class at UC Berkeley in Asian American Studies this summer session. (Sometimes I regret not taking those AAS Reading and Comp classes, though, of course there is a lot of literature I would not have read were it not for English 1A and 1B.)
Well, my point here is that my years-old book is being read and discussed for the first time by a new generation of API college students, and taught by a poet and scholar who also was assigned my book a few years back, when she was at the beginning of her graduate education, when Truong Tran taught it in a SFSU Creative Writing course in February 2007.
I hadn’t read from Poeta en SF for a long time, until the Lyrics and Dirges series at Pegasus Books. And really I did in on a whim, because the book store had ordered copies of it specifically for the reading (which I hadn’t expected). [ETA: I didn't even have my own beaten up reading copy with me; I used a copy from the used books section, and then Sharon Coleman bought it at the end of the evening.]
But you know, it felt hella good to perform those poems again. Their energy, that ferocity, was something I previously thought I’d outgrown and no longer suited me, and I was wrong. Fit like my favorite pair of old blue jeans.
First, we must always practice generosity. Few things piss me off more than folks who take, who always want stuff from you, who are always, “Look at me! Look at me! Me! Me! Me!” and who offer nothing in return. There are many of these folks crowding my inbox, and I can’t tell you enough what kind of off-putting, bad etiquette this is.
So that is my Golden Rule: Practice Generosity. In fact, considering the impending Rapture (see Gustav Doré’s beautiful “Four Horsemen” above), isn’t it even more imperative that we practice Hesukristo’s Golden Rule (minus the piss off part):
And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise (Luke 6:31).
[I know; these pics are like sickening happy family portraits. LEFT: With Patrick Rosal, Jon Pineda, and Oliver de la Paz at AWP Chicago 2004. RIGHT: With Leny Mendoza Strobel, Irene Faye Duller, Merlinda Bobis, Eileen Tabios, and Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales at SFPL 2002.]
This blog post’s title is in reference to the last two sentences of my previous blog post: Dare I say it’s a great time to be a Filipino American author. Yes, I think it is.
Holla crazy National Poetry Month! Bob Glück’s Writers on Writing class had to be rescheduled due to a power outage in the Humanities building, so I will be on the SFSU campus next week. Tomorrow is Lyrics & Dirges at Pegasus Books in Downtown Berkeley.
Also, my 7th post went up yesterday at the Poetry Foundation blog. Once again, I am talking diversity in publishing. I am seeing more and more in poet e-spaces the ugly neuroses around publishing and prizes. And as it now appears to be awarding season, the neuroses are especially heightened.
I’ve come belatedly to this! Here’s a bit from the Rumpus:
You know what I do when I feel jealous? I tell myself to not feel jealous. I shut down thewhy not me? voice and replace it with one that says don’t be silly instead. It really is that easy. You actually do stop being an awful jealous person by stopping being an awful jealous person. When you feel like crap because someone has gotten something you want you force yourself to remember how very much you have been given. You remember that there is plenty for all of us. You remember that someone else’s success has absolutely no bearing on your own. You remember that a wonderful thing has happened to one of your literary peers and maybe, if you keep working and if you get lucky, something wonderful may also someday happen to you.
And if you can’t muster that, you just stop. You truly do. You do not let yourself think about it. There isn’t a thing to eat down there in the rabbit hole of your bitterness except your own desperate heart. If you let it, your jealousy will devour you.
Yes! Read more here.
I want to say some things too, will do so later.
[November 9, 1948: Gotham Book Mart, NY.]
Can you find the Filipino in this picture? Look harder. He’s not quite blended into the background, back against the back wall. That’s our kababayan, Jose Garcia Villa, the Doveglion, model minority among the literati/culturati, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Marianne Moore, WH Auden, et al.
Not to be denigrating, of course, but rather, empathetic, compassionate. I am a big fan of the Doveglion, or of the poet who comes from Doveglion, the “strange country with no boundaries,” the country “that moves to follow fire.” I don’t know what he thought of being Dame Edith Sitwell’s exotic “magic iguana.” Then again, I also don’t know what it’s like to be published by James Laughlin on New Directions.
Thank you all for reading along as I have been thinking out loud about my presentation for next week’s AWP panel on diversity and inclusiveness in publishing.
Some final (for now) thoughts: I know now more clearly, I am interested in reexamining the radical roots of publication in our respective, marginalized communities. This is why I always return to Kearny Street Workshop, and also to Juan Felipe Herrera’s performance/lecture (video), “A Natural History of Chicano Literature,” for enumerating upon various chapbooks, pancartas, various DIY publishing projects from which many emerging writers did indeed over time, come into full-blown authorhood.
My friend Sunny, ehem, Filipino American author Benito M. Vergara tweeted last night from the Filipino American Book Festival at the Philippine Consulate is SF (which I did not make it to):
I believe that the best weapon against [Filipino] invisibility is our literature. — Oscar Penaranda
I am grateful to Manong Oscar for this reminder, though I would like to elaborate on this invisibility.
All this talk about diversity, segregation and integration; folks in the comment section of my previous post are saying great things about tokenization. Francisco Aragon reminds me of the plain and simple fact that our literature should be considered American Literature. Sheryl Luna tells us that her many years in the university system having earned her doctorate in contemporary literature, how many Chicano/a was she ever assigned to read? It’s dire — ZERO Chicano/a authors! How can this be? So my questions, again, revolve around how our work may become considered American Literature, versus little subsets of ethnic literatures. If this means whitewashing, tempering, defanging the work in order to gain acceptance/admittance, then I don’t abide.
Anthem Salgado tweeted yesterday,
I wonder if we shd change the word diversity to integration bcuz the issue we face seems to be a kind of segregation in the arts.
This makes sense to me. The other day, the Poetry Foundation linked to my previous Diversity/”White Bourgeois Values” blog post, and they wrote this:
For some academics and activists, the goal is diversity, but for others, including Reyes, the goal is to create a means of publication and dissemination independent of the dominant industry.
I think integration/segregation are more correct terms, because diversity is simply a fact, whether gender, ethnic, political, ideological, linguistic, geographical, aesthetic, there are communities of writers and artists in this country who come from and write from various places, working and thriving, and garnering readerships and communities in those places. Whether the “po-biz,” Poetic Industrial Complex recognizes them or not is another matter altogether. Oscar has tweeted in response to Anthem,
The word I prefer is “recognition” It’s not a lack of “diversity” we suffer from but recognizin folks who r doin da hard hustle.”