Many thanks to Rachelle Cruz, who hosts the radio show, The Blood-Jet Writing Hour for this forthcoming interview.
We will be streaming live on Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 10 am PST at:
Rashaan Alexis Meneses has a great post today over at her blog, Ruelle Electrique, regarding writing exercises and exercising our writing muscles. First thing: she makes a great point about writing exercises that sound more like self-help guides, or like therapy. I don’t remember who said that writing is oftentimes or can be therapeutic, though it is not therapy. Whoever said this, I agree with him/her. I think about this when I see/hear/read of others referring to heartfelt “stream of consciousness” freewriting as “poetry,” because said pieces of writing are so “honest,” so “moving,” and so “powerful.”
This actually has started to irritate me more and more, in part because I wonder how responsible it is for a teacher who is not a trained and licensed mental health professional to push and push a writer to excavate her emotional pain, to unpeel layers of herself, to display and perform her deepest traumas for the gratification of others. It’s exploitative.
After Rachelle Cruz and Vince Gotera
I am the dark-hued bitch; see how wide my maw, my bloodmoon eyes,
And in daylight, see the tangles and knots of my riverine hair.
I am the bad daughter, the freedom fighter, the shaper of death masks.
I am the snake, I am the crone; I am caretaker of these ancient trees.
I am the winged tik-tik, tik-tik, tik-tik, tik-tik; I am close,
And from under the floorboards, the grunting black pig,
Cool in the dirt, mushrooms between my toes, I wait.
I am the encroaching wilderness, the bowels of these mountains;
I am the opposite of your blessed womb. I am your inverted mirror;
Guard your unborn children, burn me with your seed and salt,
Upend me, bend my body, cleave me beyond function. Blame me.
* * *
she dark as the dirt
she dirty brown girl
she run in the sun
she rolling down hills
she dig in the mud
she cool underground
she friend of earthworms
she nobody see
she laughing river
she black haired aswang
she darkling engkanto
she daughter of loam
she where she belong
she moonless night song
* * *
Once again I am stretching the parameters of my assignment. I have been writing in persona for a white now, stretching the “I,” which modulates into a “she,” and “we,” and this is because I really don’t believe my personal suburban upbringing is terribly remarkable, the stuff of poetry (or Poetry).
As for this above 14-line poem with a volta at line eight, and with a convenient rhyme at the end couplet (but this isn’t really a sonnet), I envision this piece undergoing remix with lines I’ve already written or have yet to write for my larger Pinay narrative, and sampling with lines I am filching and borrowing from others. I am also interested in maintaining the music of these terse/punchy little lines. I keep thinking of Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool,” how deep and not simple the narrative really is, despite how brief and terse the poem.
And as for the appearance of the aswang, I gotta shout out fellow Fil Am poets Vince Gotera and Rachelle Cruz, and local filmmaker Matthew Abaya for keeping the aswang fresh in my consciousness. It’s a nice stretch for my outcast little dark girl.
So I had this great and very thoughtful blog post that WordPress just murdered. Let me try to construct it anew.
(1) I wanted to say a few things about this past weekend, which started with the PAWA meeting on Saturday morning at SFPL. I am very much enjoying planning/organizing, primarily with Edwin Lozada and Oscar, compiling our wishlists of Filipino American writers/authors, at various stages in their writing careers and from different parts of the country, trying to time this with newly released and soon to be released books, and pairing them up for a series of literary events which we’ll be launching before the end of the year. Keep your eyes on our blog for official announcements.
(2) Litcrawl. I am glad to have attended the KSW reading at the Casanova Lounge, an event we would have attended anyway, in support of KSW. Still, the reason why I am happy about the KSW reading is because I am so glad to have heard Rachelle Cruz read. I’d never heard of her before. Her bio tells us she has just returned to the Bay Area after a few years of studying in New York. I am thinking now, I wonder if this is the same Rachelle Cruz whom Tara Betts mentioned in a comment to Rigoberto González’s post on the Poetry Foundation blog back in December 2007 about the All Girl Poetry Slam sponsored by Girlstory. Tara mentions in her comment other poets’ names — Elana Bell and Rachelle Cruz, recent Sarah Lawrence graduates.
Anyway, I believe Cruz’s work was the strongest of all the KSW poetic work at Litquake, for its very clean and rigorous uses of poetic form and line, concrete words and images, and specificity of objects and place. She told us she has an obsession with the aswang, the Philippine mythological creature who splits her body in two. She is female, typically beautiful. Her top half flies off into the night, and with her long tongue, she sucks the unborn babies out of mothers’ wombs. Fascinating, scary stuff, and for poets and artists, the figurative female cleaving in two is too rich to pass up. Cruz wonders what would happen to the aswang if she were to come to America. We’ve seen one vision in Matt Abaya’s Bampinay. And with Cruz, whose well structured litany is rife with very precise pronoun usage (they, we, you), the relationships drawn here are so interesting. You can have a listen here; Oscar took video, and while the venue is dark, the sound quality is quite good.
As well, Cruz handles modern urban myth in the form of the neighborhood fire hydrant, and her poetic speaker’s expectations as a new New York resident. I can’t emphasize enough her use of located, specific, and concrete, such that we see both the myth actualized, and that we see the poetic speaker as astute witness become a part of this scene/world. I noticed Cruz was reading from a chapbook. Afterward, I did buy one. It’s entitled Honey May Soon Run Out, and I see it is a book of odes, Neruda-esque, odes to things often taken for granted. Odes to times and events and phenomena we take for granted. This is a poet I really hope to see more from, and as well, this is a poet I hope to include in my future publishing projects and reading series planning. I hope I wasn’t too aggressive with flipping my business card in her direction, but I do think it’s important for me to connect with younger poets, particularly, Filipino American poets, Pinay poets, and to concretely do what I can to help forward their careers.