Finally, a new post at Doveglion. Oscar has interviewed Roger Bonair-Agard about his poem, “contradiction: A Ghazal for L’il Wayne.” I am still getting my thoughts together on this poem, which I should do soon, because it’s on my syllabus for next week. I am glad to read Roger’s thoughts on specific word choice, on poetic form, and tradition.
We are still figuring out what to do with the Doveglion space. I have approached one poet about submitting a full length book manuscript. There are a few poets we have lined up to post here. It’ll happen really slowly. I am good with this. There is only so much time and energy I have. Again, I have been thinking about literary activism, about practicing generosity. That’s generally how I am thinking of the Doveglion space.
I’ve just read Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor’s chapbook, Pause Mid-Flight (Surrounding Sky Studio, 2010). I am currently listening to the accompanying CD, which is Rebecca performing the poems to musical accompaniment by various artists including Eth-Noh-Tec‘s Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo. I am really impressed with this production. It’s clean, uncluttered, typeset in Gentium font which is attractive and very readable. Her poems are so visual, tactile, and textured with the kinds of details you just want to move between your thumb and forefinger and meditate upon their subtleties; this is an excerpt from “The Sea Has Wings,” lines of imperative sentences, switched up at the end:
Walk beneath gray rain soaked skies
Find a generous leaf from the giant maple
Nestle the leaf’s heart in your palm
Reach deep into the dense bramble
Gather clustered dew and salmon berries
Lick misty rain from your lips
Listen to the redwing blackbirds complain
Leave enough for them to feast
Step soft on green moss pathways
Ease past skunkcabbage and swordfern
Shelter beneath thick cedar branches
Curl your tongue around tart berry juice
Crush seeds between your teeth
Sniff wildrose and dogwood petals
Pick the curled tops of fiddleheads
Spicy, sizzling in butter and cream
I’m inspired, or touched, or feeling warm fuzzies in general about Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor’s and Veronica Montes’s recent blog posts. With Growing Up Filipino II, Bec is now experiencing her first publication in an anthology (as she notes, an actual book), feeling “less a could-be writer and more a in-fact writer.” Inspired by Bec’s post, Veronica, who is reading for the PAWA-sponsored San Francisco book launch, is remembering her own first anthology publication. In both of their cases, Cecilia Brainard was the editor responsible for selecting their work for publication.
I am moved to think back on my own first anthology publication, which was Babaylan (Aunt Lute, 2000), edited by Nick Carbó and Eileen Tabios. Years later, as Eileen came to speak on her work as a poet and editor at SFSU for Justin Chin’s class, I remember her saying that there were some newbie or emerging poets who’d submitted work, and whom she chose to include in the anthology because she believed publication would encourage or propel these poets to continue with their poetic work. Sitting in the lecture hall audience, I thought to myself, “She must mean (poets like) me.”
[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.”
Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor has a good post regarding the actual creative writing that occurs on the blog, as well as the substantive conversations that occur in blog and as a result of blog. I have only seen Bec in person once, when she flew into San Francisco to read for Achiote Press a couple of years back, for the chapbook issue featuring me, her, and Rich Villar. I do have to say that despite having only once spent face to face time, she and I have had some very good discussions about poetics, storytelling, and indigeneity. It was via her blog that I learned about her Tao Po! workshop, hence rounding out my Diwata manuscript’s final revisions.
Anyway, on to my point. I’m also glad to have been blogging my poem drafts here, gradually refining these, and talking out the different series I have been writing. It’s always comforting to know I am being productive. I hate the feeling of not being able to write a poem, and/or I hate suspecting that I am not writing enough poetry, even though, as Pat Rosal said in his recent Culturebot interview, “Poetry and all its affiliated efforts are my work.” This is reassuring, knowing that I do indeed engage in these “affiliated efforts” of reading, performing, hearing and seeing other authors read and perform. Still, I need to be writing poems.
(By the way, I ultimately take down many of these poems when I start submitting them to journals.)
“We, Spoken Here,” which Nate Mackey discussed at his de Young Museum performance in 09/2007: his discomfort with the poetic I, his tendency to write the poetic we, and his deep understanding of that historically, culturally, and politically determined we.
“Me … We,” Muhammad Ali says. In the Forbes magazine article he wrote in 1999, he discussed “convergence,” his individual accomplishments earning the title of the heavyweight champion of the world, and what these accomplishments meant for the African and African American people of the world, what he could do, given his accomplishments, for the people. Coming off watching When We Were Kings (1996) yesterday evening, digging through the theatrics of his bravado, this point is so clear, his membership with the Nation of Islam, his Black Nationalism, his unapologetic anti-war stance: ”I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong … They never called me [N--].”
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.
Hey I’m excited. I will be taking an online writing workshop with Washington based writer, Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor. Here is an excerpt of her course description:
Using the babaylan concepts of kapwa, loob, and Tao Po! this workshop will focus on creatively expressing our stories through the written word to help us find and create meaning in our experiences. We will reflect on small and big events, tease out the stories that have been given to us, and share our writing with each other. Our stories exist in the details of our lives and sharing requires a belief that our stories matter to not just ourselves but to others.
By writing down and sharing our experiences, we pass on the gift of our lives to others. Even if we are not physically with the reader, our writing can provide a new perspective and new information they would not otherwise know. Bringing our experiences to the page, even if they are cloaked with metaphors or changed slightly to protect the innocent and the guilty, a kernel of truth can be revealed. Isolation divides, but community can heal if approached with honesty and integrity. That’s the beauty and wonder of writing.