We Spoken Here: Poetry Community and Work Redux

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Community, as I write about a lot, is a tricky animal, with all the hurt feelings and ego clashing and emotional damage. I have to return to the things that make the most sense, which is concrete work -- production, product, performance, publication. What do we have to show for all of our intentions and planning. Not how well we spin our own hype or collect followers or gang up on one another and shit talk. In the most cliche terms, I'm hella tired of the coulda woulda shouldas in my world, and the people who express entitlements for our efforts, people who think it's OK to siphon us dry and never give back. Always say they mean to, and never do. That's not community.

The Writer Is Also a Citizen

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[Photo credits: Center for Art + Thought]

With Noël Alumit, Rachelle Cruz, Giovanni Ortega, and Chris Santiago, I just participated in a wonderful literary community event down in Los Angeles yesterday afternoon: The Writer Is Also a Citizen was the closing event for the exhibit, I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story, at the Japanese American National Museum.

From the JANM website:

I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story was created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and curated by Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Initiative Coordinator Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis. The exhibition is supported by a generous grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and is a collaborative initiative with Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).

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Questions About Spectacle, Entertainment, and Readers

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Is it really possible to “get” the Filipino American community out to a book event without the event itself becoming a full-blown spectacle?

I ask this, obviously because the Filipino American International Book Festival has just passed. I dropped out of the planning, both because I wanted to dedicate my time and effort towards my own work of teaching prep and finishing up my manuscript.

There are questions I have had for a very long time, about the community and about readers in the community.

Now, I know that people do not go out of their way to spend their precious weekends being “lectured” by academics, in an academese that may not be their preferred language. I also believe that people do not want to spend their precious free time being cajoled and condescended, emotionally or sentimentally manipulated or otherwise guilted.

So those are two extremes. We are always somewhere in between.

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Fil Am Fiction: Reading and Rereading Hagedorn et al

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I did say once or twice that teaching Filipino Lit class would start to get repetitive in terms of what I’m reading, though I have to say I have been enjoying all of this reading and rereading. There is something about returning to a text 20 or so years later, and reading it not necessarily with new eyes, but with more emotional and intellectual maturity. Knowing or understanding more, not just about the field of Filipino and Fil Am Lit, but about the world.

Last semester I revisited Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters, and happily found that “postmodern” texts were no longer an immovable block, which students would resist or be unable to access. I thought about and experienced how young readers have become much more sophisticated in their readings of non-linear, multi-vocal, multilingual texts, that popular culture — in part, through science fiction, graphic novels, and comics — have opened up young readers to these non-linear and even quarreling/self-contradicting narratives. Also, these students have had much more access to multicultural literature that I ever did when I was their age. Also, teaching in Bay Area urban centers’ universities brings me into diverse classrooms full of students who are open or willing to be opened. I have also rediscovered that discussing the morally questionable (or morally compromised, or morally challenged) is great! Without judging, trying to avoid imposing our sets of values on different characters, we try our best to understand why they do what they do to themselves and to one another.

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