Salamat y gracias to Camille Dungy for including Poeta en San Francisco in her Poetry Foundation blog discussion of multilingualism and Englishes in American poetry (link is here). She discusses Keith Cartwright, M. NourbeSe Philip, Cathy Park Hong, and myself. An excerpt:
Though [Cathy Park Hong's] Dance Dance Revolution contains no glossary, the Historian serves as a sort of translator for some of the book’s more difficult passages. On the contrary, though parts or all of Barbara Jane Reyes’s Poeta en San Francisco are written in languages including Spanish, English, Tagalog, and Baybayin, the book includes no translation guides. We come to understand the script in the book in three ways: as image, as sound, and as signifier. For fluent readers of English these three modes of understanding usually align in a manner that sometimes causes over simplified readings. When we are forced out of our comfort zones, the three modes of understanding separate and the results can be particularly exciting and informative. I can’t read the Ancient Filipino script Baybayin, but I sure do love how it looks on the page. In the context of Reyes’s book, I have to question what my de-contextualized objectification of the script reveals. I don’t understand Tagalog, but I love to hear people speaking it. In the context of a book that directly investigates the fetishization of Asian people and lands, a response like, “That sounds so pretty and nice,” adds a layer to what we come to understand about the book and its subject matter.