Poem: Riffin’

Inspired by or riffing off Patrick Rosal’s recent self-interview at The Nervous Breakdown,  as well as the ongoing Pinay narratives project I’m slowly plugging away at, here’s this quick draft:

What is the song of your home?

Leron leron sinta, citrus trees, pink jasmine.
O sole mio, chopping boards and cleavers.

What are your ritual objects?

Archangel Saint Michael, tobacco, stones.
Distilled coconut spirits. Leaves and words.
Jasmine oil. Inkstone. Sage and hot peppers.
Whiskey. Tiger orchid. Cool black soil.

And your city?

Quarry. Corner store. Organic veggies.
Oxidized metal. Viewed from the window.

And your voice?

Grease popping on the griddle.
Splintered flute. Scrape.
Steel and concrete, beads and string.

What is the sky?

Lamp lit room, a woman laid to rest –
Red velvet gown, matching satin gloves,
rosary of garnet beads woven into hands.
Rice powder face, cheekbones rouged,
eyebrows penciled into tidy arches.
She may open her eyes at any moment.
They kiss her forehead. No one weeps.

And her voice?

Operatic. Imeldific. Brass prayer bowl.
Aroma of wildfire, pine kindle snapping.

And your voice?

Crystallized honey. Raptor birds. Shears.
Salt ponds and summer. Fluttering paper.

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“Astounding Tongue-Fuckery”

[Currently on the iPod: Africa Bambaataa, "Renegades of Funk." This blog post should be read accompanied by this song.]

Yeah, so the other day I’d written this beautiful blog post about reading my students’ last journal entries and final projects in Filipino American Arts. I was struck by how thoughtful, critical, and insightful their writing and art pieces were. So much revelation was happening, so much stretching outside of their apparent social, linguistic, artistic comfort zones into illuminating work. Lots of risk taking, and voicing enjoyment for the material covered, the in class discussions, the kinds of hard questions we have asked, voicing gratitude for what they were able to accomplish this semester. I am being deliberately over-general because I don’t want to break any confidences, but suffice it to say, I’m so pleased with the depths of their excavations.

Anyway, I didn’t post that blog entry, because then I got caught up in some reading. I’ve finished John Murillo’s Up Jump the Boogie, and have just started Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado. I wanted to say that Murillo could be the poet child of Patrick Rosal, but I didn’t want that to sound belittling in any way. I also wanted to say that Murillo takes what Rosal does in Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive, and builds on it, even improves upon it, a Hip-hop poetics firmly based in literary tradition. But I didn’t want this to sound derogatory in any way. So I’ll just say that Murillo’s book, while not perfect, is very clean, tight with language, and as a reader and poet, I am wholly satisfied with it.

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More Poetry Thoughts for the Day

Patrick Rosal has a wonderful post on joy and poetry, specifically the joy which poets bring to audiences at readings and/or performances, and the joy which poets feel to connect with audiences, that this connection is most apparent in an audience’s visceral responses to a poet’s words or combination of words, to interesting, unexpected lines or images.

I tend to think it’s a very fortunate thing I did not come up in the poetry world in an institution whose constituents are bled of their joy as they are trained to exhibit a “cool” pretentious intellectual distance as a poet from an audience, or as an audience member from the poet sharing her words with a room full of interested or even just curious audience members.

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