OK, I’m done with being bothered with all of last week’s annoying e-discussion. I think I get caught up in other people’s issues because I don’t have a lot to complain about, because things actually go pretty well over on this end of the poetry world, on both a national and local level, and I mean “pretty well” in ways that are a result of concrete work (imagine that!).
This is my year in review:
Poeta en San Francisco went into its second printing in 2008, which is not bad at all, especially considering that the book actually started to sell in the beginning of 2006. So, “Word!” to Tinfish Press, and “Word!” on selling out an entire print run, and for continuing to be a course-adoptable and relevant text.
While I was rather disappointed that I did not bag a book contract for my third book Diwata in 2007, it all turned out just fine, given that my second of two Philippines trips in 2007 facilitated a manuscript overhaul, another mild flurry of manuscript submissions in 2008, and ultimately, a book contract with BOA Editions, Ltd. as a part of their American Poets Continuum series. I realize that I need to stop trippin’ on being called an “American Poet” by orgs and bodies that represent American literary institutions. The conversations I’ve had with the editors so far have been energetic, respectful, and positive, and even when they told me that revisions and edits were going to happen, I’ve become assured that we would indeed learn to work together.
I had two print chapbooks and one e-chapbook published in 2008. Brenda Iijima of the Brooklyn-based Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs took on Cherry, the beginnings of my truncated, spammy porn/war project. Carrie Hunter of the SF-based Ypolita Press took Easter Sunday, which were the poems I rejected from my own manuscripts, and which still, in their loveliness or specific experimentation, needed a home, and ended up being pretty cohesive as a body of work. Stephanie Young and David Horton of Deep Oakland proposed an e-chapbook after following the poem drafts on this here blog. The e-chapbook became West Oakland Sutra for the AK-47 Shooter at 3:00 AM and other Oakland poems, which is a series of litanies based off poems by Juan Felipe Herrera, Bob Kaufman, Anne Waldman, and others.
Speaking of Juan Felipe Herrera, we (a bunch of us) nominated him for the position of California Poet Laureate, and that was great, having so many folks’ input for the write-up, help with logistical stuff, and all. And while he didn’t get the position, he was one of four finalists, which made me happy that we could even accomplish this much. At any rate, 2008 was quite a year for him, with two PEN awards and a NY Times notable book.
I was invited to become a board member for the SF-based Small Press Traffic, which I accepted, and so far, this has been an interesting experience. I’ve gotten to co-host readings for Sesshu Foster and R. Zamora Linmark, and Edwin Torres. One thing: I do wish that these readings were attended by more outwardly enthusiastic poetry enthusiasts. I mean, even for Aaron Shurin’s and Anne Waldman’s reading, the general mood in the place felt restrained and a little formal. This criticism of course comes from my own experience of poetry reading attendees hootin and hollerin when they feel it, voicing affirmation precisely because they are feeling it. I’ve heard this kind of rowdy behavior is looked down upon by some as base; I’ve heard of people I’ve never heard of talk shit about me because when I attend readings, I tend to respond to what the poets are saying if it speaks to me. I continue to be a proponent of voicing affirmation at poetry readings, of loving poetry, and of living and being in praise of poetry.
Oscar and I started attending the PAWA, Inc. meetings, and have been actively involved in event proposal and planning. I started the PAWA blog, which their members and many others appreciate very much. We also proposed and started the quarterly literary reading series, which involves the SFPL Main Library, Arkipelago Books, and Poets and Writers, Inc. We were fortunate to have the first reading be a celebration of Luisa Igloria’s latest book, Juan Luna’s Revolver, and to have Joi Barrios of UC Berkeley’s Southeast Asian Studies Department read with us. Karen Llagas brought PAWA, Inc. into SF’s Litquake, and with the release of the Field of Mirrors anthology, 2008 was filled with readings at various public libraries and local bookstores. These readings will continue on into 2009, starting with the UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Library in March.
So unless something radical happens in the next few days, I’d say 2008 was a pretty good year of work and rewards for my work. There are some plans germinating for 2009, and these I will talk about soon. For now, we continue to work.