Continuing on with what is now looking like a series of blog posts on submissions and publishing, I want to reiterate that I’m writing all of this to think out loud about my presentation for the PAWA 07/30/2011 workshop. I am anticipating a relatively specific community of writers, most likely emerging local writers of color who participate in local and grassroots arts orgs, and who have limited publishing experience.
As well, and again, back to author and friend Sunny Vergara’s blog post on self-promotion, as well as thinking back on so much of the writing I do here, as well as thinking about my recent conversations with Anthem Salgado including the Art of Hustle podcast interview, I believe there are cultural and even political reasons for the reticence I see in this community.
A friend of mine, a fellow writer, recently held a women writers submissions party somewhere in the Bay Area. I did not attend, but it was interesting to see the comments thread on Facebook. There really was a lot of articulated and admitted fear. I don’t know anymore what this fear is about; it’s no longer my experience. Maybe it once was. But the very reason why I am offering this workshop is because of those kinds of articulated and admitted fears.
“It should be emphasized … that the balagtasan also served a higher social and political function. More than mere entertainment, it enhanced the tradition role of the poet as purveyor of truth for the people.” — Virgilio S. Almario, “Art and Politics in the Balagtasan” (2003).
I understand that real balagtaseros are expected to be in attendance in this coming Filipino American International Book Festival. I am looking for evidence of English balagtasan (and tanaga, while I’m at it) — poems, recordings, scholarly writings, that I could add to my Philippine/Filipino American Literature syllabus. I don’t like that limiting the course to English language literature must necessarily exclude balagtasan! I also think that in teaching contemporary Philippine/Filipino American spoken word, i.e. oral poetics, today’s slam and the MC (emcee), I must first talk about oral tradition and the history of performance/performative poetry as pertains to Filipinos. To be consistent, I include modern day storytelling, selections from Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor’s Pause Mid-Flight chapbook and CD, so we can also talk about modern indigeneity/Filipino American linkages to Native American stories.
Yesterday evening, I spoke with mostly Filipino American students at UC Berkeley at a Maganda magazine sponsored event. Adrien Salazar moderated, which was my suggestion, just so I wouldn’t ramble, and so that I could actually discuss issues relevant to young Filipino American college students, and aspiring writers and artists. He asked me a lot of really good questions, as did the students.
I want to first go back to Susan Schultz’s question on reading, and why I’ve been preferring more dialogues than straight reciting and performing from the text: “What purposes are served beyond poetry itself?” Yesterday’s conversation was really more about figuring out, as young artists, as students, as Filipino Americans, where poetry is figured in our personal and community lives and memories, and political movements; how do we make connections with other communities via our words and art; how do we discover our “I,” in all of its complexities, and grow it such that we are making connections with other human beings, other communities, other movements. As young folks of color, as young writers of color, how do we learn to survive, sustain ourselves, and thrive in an industry, economy, and culture that has historically robbed us, that continues to rob us of our diversity, substance, free will, humanity.
“We will be written off if we don’t write books. We cannot just rely on being spoken word artists and performers.” — jessica Care moore
Ms. moore actually wrote this in the comment section of her article, “Literary Apartheid.” I have been thinking about what she says in the above quote for a long time now, and am glad to read her articulation of it. I have been wondering if I’ve previously been unfair in prioritizing publication over performance (though I believe in performance to promote the published product), whether I’ve been alienating a healthy chunk of my community by being so pushy towards publication, and not just publication, but well-distributed publication.
Marianne Villanueva is asking a huge question today:
What is the future of Filipino American Literature?
I want to respond, and I want to do so substantially. I know that “the future” of Filipino American literature is something I and so many of us have been working at for many, many years now.
We can look at API organizations and publications such as Kundiman, Maganda, Kearny Street Workshop as their mission statements emphasize the creation of new work, the development of the emerging artist. By extension, let’s also include such organizations as VONA, and Poetry for the People, which foster writers of color. What’s important here is that there are organizations invested in mentoring emerging writers, focusing on artistic development. At least this is my interpretation of these organizations. I’m going to add PAWA into the mix, because the organization has typically included aspiring and emerging writers in the anthologies. Our future plans will include much more concrete programming directed at teaching and mentoring emerging writers. So there’s a vision of “future” here, in the role of the community based workshop in mentoring the emerging Filipino American writer, and in carving out venues for readings, performance, writing workshops, spaces such as Manilatown, AAWA (NY), KSW, partnerships with libraries and educational institutions.
OK, so I’ve just articulated that community based orgs are forward looking or future looking, though I haven’t articulated what that future is to be. The future of Filipino American Literature includes building up an extensive bibliography. That is, many, many more titles authored by Filipino Americans. I envision a multidisciplinary literature embodying a diversity of aesthetics, a diversity of subject matter, and diverse handling of subject matter. I want there to be many geographic centers and originary points. There will be no one singular mold in which to fit it.