Safe Space: In Response to Rachelle Cruz 2

Picking up where I left off on yesterday’s post and comments.

Rachelle asks about the notion of “safe space,” and how it is proliferated in creative writing workshop. She asks how I conduct workshop, whether I use the term, which I do not. I do use the term, “professionalism,” in which criticism is not leveled as personal attack, or with mean-spirited intentions, regardless of differing belief systems, life experience, political values, and aesthetic preferences. When I say “professionalism,” on the first day of workshop, I see a lot of assenting nods, nods of recognition. Yes, in practicing becoming professional writers, we acknowledge there are proper codes of conduct.

Out of curiosity, I googled “safe space,” and the results are as follows — shelters for survivors of abuse, or community organizations serving and advocating for LGBT youth, especially those who have suffered and endured bullying. I absolutely agree that these safe spaces, social services, political and public health advocacy are necessary for survival. I understand the value of encouraging writing here, its importance in empowering communities so silenced, folks who must tell their own stories so that they do not disappear, cease to exist, continue to be buried, bullied, ravaged.

It’s true. Everybody can write. Everybody has a voice.

But I am talking about professional writers, and those who aspire to become professional writers — this is a different community, where certainly there are overlaps in its population and value systems. The difference is that in professional writers’ communities, pushing and hard criticism are necessary in order to complete and polish the work in preparation for publication. I believe pushing and asking hard questions do not equal personal attack or mean-spirited negativity.

Of course, personal attack and mean-spirited negativity have always been rampant in e-world. When so many more of us used to blog regularly, “Anonymous,” and other people not using their real names/identities would drop the meanest, most hate-filled, even violent comments in our comment sections. “Anonymous” was really brave, and would fill up our e-spaces with rant, most of which was unfocused nonsense. On my own blog, I deleted these comments. There was no good reason to keep them. This is not censorship. This is my space; no one is preventing anyone from ranting in their own spaces.

But the violence, racism, and misogyny in those comments were truly so alarming that a lot of bloggers retreated, blogged only about benign non-issues, became reticent to state any of their own opinions, changed their settings to “private,” or stopped blogging altogether. Bloggers migrated to Facebook and posted personal content for friends only. Safe space. Any of us who continued being outspoken were policed, not by “Anonymous,” but by our own. Safe space.

The hate-mongering, violence-mongering, racist, misogynist “Anonymous” won.

I think it’s fair to ask, what do we do about this? What is important here?

For me, it’s not to give in to external and internal intimidation and bullying.

My writing would be compromised.

My soul would hate it and hate me.

And it would be a total disrespect to all of our literary forefathers and foremothers (see Audre Lorde, above) who really, truly suffered and fought so that we could go to school, write our own stories and see them published, read, and taught to the next generations, to have a voice.


Pinay Writers Report Back on VONA and Kundiman

[Some edits below.]

Really, my motivations in soliciting these write-up’s for the PAWA blog from various emerging Pin@y writers are to provide them the opportunity to publicly discuss their ongoing education, and also in the hopes that other emerging Pin@y writers will prioritize their writing and writing education; seriously consider applying to writing workshops; come to know their process, their sentence and line; incorporate the political, personal, cultural, historical into their work;  edit, revise, tighten, polish, confidently submit work for publication; read/perform their work in public spaces. In other words, I hope to encourage fellow Pin@y writers to grow their work and to take risks.

Additionally, I am interested in how they discuss easing themselves into articulating their complex ideas about literature, politics, and community in public spaces, getting more comfortable as writers in public spaces. For me, authordom goes hand in hand with being able to stay professional with public attention and scrutiny of the work, as publication is, well, public. By now, you all know I’m violently against Pin@y and especially gendered female reticence. I’m anti-colonial mentality hiya, in which I define/translate hiya as the social expectation of modesty that is really self-effacement and shame, in which Pin@ys, but more so Pinays, shrink from public acknowledgment, are discouraged from voicing opinion, being brilliant, publicly excelling, being successful.

I’m interested in reading/hearing well articulated Pin@y artistic statements and ars poeticae! I’d love to see Pin@y writers’ manifestos! And in my ideal world, literary Pin@ys would also be activists; all drama and personal grudges would be cast aside as trivial in the bigger picture, folks who are stingy and/or parasitic will be called out for being uncool, and folks would concretely support, encourage, and challenge one another to be better artists and arts activists. A lot of truth telling would have to happen.

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Pinay Poets: Shouts Out in All Kinds of Spaces

I am winding down on my Poetry Foundation blog posts for National Poetry Month. That space always makes me cautious, and defensive. My first time around, the comment sections were heinous and even obscene with commenters who I really believe ought to get their own blog or work on getting their poetry into the world rather than stew then explode over not being noticed. It’s so toxic and harmful to folks who love poetry, who still have wonder for poetry, even when steeped in the necessary hustle.

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Poetry Manuscript: When Do You Know It's Done

I would be remiss if I did not address Rachelle Cruz’s most recent blog post here. She asks, when do you know a book of poems is ready to submit for publication. I’ve addressed it before on this here blog, for example here and here. I think this is a good question, and I think that even as authors with more than one book, we don’t always come to this  answer so easily.

I’d previously mentioned how early on (i.e. in Diwata‘s previous incarnation), I queried a few publishers, and sent Diwata out to a few publishers during open reading periods. I even submitted to maybe three contests. I’d decided to send it out because at that point, I felt like I couldn’t write Diwata anymore. In my mind, I’d exhausted the theme and what I felt capable of writing on the theme that would fit the body of work that was the manuscript. It was as complete-feeling from beginning to end as I was capable of thinking about it. Ultimately, I was exhausted, and I wanted to move on.

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Selvedge and Synthesis: My Current Threads

[Some edits below]

My current threads:

I’ve just submitted my selections to Didi Menendez for the Best of MiPOesias 2000 to 2010 anthology, from OCHO #16. Debbie Yee’s “Cinderella’s Last Will and Testament,” included in this issue, is already included in the anthology as it’s been selected for Best American Poetry 2009. That said, my selections for Best of MiPOesias are Dillon Westbrook’s long poem excerpt from “long life,” and Jaime Jacinto’s “World’s Fair.” I’d already previously nominated Jaime’s poem, “Manong’s Gift” for a Pushcart Prize; biased as I am, I believe very much that he is an exceptional poet.

Eileen Tabios has written on her blog this morning something I find myself really very much agreeing with: “…if you believe poetry is marginalized in today’s (U.S.) culture and want to know why poetry is marginalized, it’s NOT BECAUSE POETS ARE WRITING IRRELEVANTLY. It’s not because poets aren’t writing about what’s ‘important’ to write about like politics (what’s ‘important’ is subjective, yah?). It’s not because poets are writing ‘elliptically.’ It’s not because poets are writing ‘narcissistically.’ It’s not because poets are ‘writing to each other.’ It’s not because poets are flarf-in’. It’s not because they’re too ‘quiet’ or too ‘avant.’ It’s not because too many poets write ‘academically’ or got their MFAs. It’s not because poets aren’t doing their job — anyone who feels they can define a poet’s ‘job’ is generally just arrogant or looking for a way to grab attention for himself (yes, it’s usually a him). // If you believe poetry is marginalized (and that is an ‘if’), then poetry is marginalized today in large part because K-12 (Kindergarten to 12th grade) education has, in too many cases, eliminated the relevance of the arts….including any notion that a particular art form can be expanded beyond what is inherited by an artist.”

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Work: Blogging About Blogging Again

Elsewhere in e-world, folks are ranting about how blog is killing poetry.

Let’s be totally straight about this:

Blogs are not killing poetry. Poets writing bad poetry are killing poetry.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said this, and I agree with him. I would like to add this: Blogging is not a substitute for writing poetry and reading poetry. Blogging is not a substitute for developing effective social and marketing skills as a poet in the literary industry.

Rather than get negative about “bad poetry,” I will qualify what I believe is great poetry, the kind of poetry I find meaningful and enjoyable, which continues to be written by poets, and even blogging poets:

The poetry that tries its best to understand our place and condition in the world, spiritually, historically, culturally, politically. Poetry that seeks to connect with readers and audience, and in doing so, growing community. Poetry that grows larger than the individual I, taking on the beauty and the problem of we. Poetry that seeks to do all these things with a keen sense of music and a deep love of language.

(I copied and pasted this from my previous post on poetic greatness here.)

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The Blood-Jet Writing Hour with Rachelle Cruz today at 10 am

Hi all, I am gearing up for this morning’s blog talk radio interview on the Blood-Jet Writing Hour with Rachelle Cruz. We are on at 10 AM PST. Not sure really how to prepare for this except to have poems ready to read, so we shall see how it goes. I will write more soon.

Addendum: Wow, that was fun. Thank you to Rachelle for this interview, which if you missed it live, I believe you can or will be able to play or download from the website.

Rachelle asked some great and engaging questions about process, and particularly my process of writing political poetry, audience or for whom I write, in-betweenness, the Poetic Industrial Complex, and blogging as a tool for controlling our own poetic careers.

I got to read one poem by Al Robles, “Mary Tall Mountain,” from his Rappin With Ten Thousand Carabaos in the Dark, and  Jaime Jacinto’s poem, “Just Before Waking,” which he wrote for Manong Al. As for my poems, all new stuff: the Tao Po! poems, the For the City that Nearly Broke Me poems, “The Night Manny Pacquiao KO’ed Oscar De La Hoya,” and one West Oakland poem.

You can listen here.