Saturday, October 30, 2004
Gads. So much rancor in blogland nowadays. What eeeeees that about?
Like, so, as regards moi last two posts, how can someone else challenge what Moi said when Moi was talking simply about moi process and no one else's? I mean, whether or not I was able to explain it clearly, said process -- including its fumbling-ness (& spec. due to its fumbles) -- is working for me to the extent I say it is coz when it comes to poetics, no one knows the subject here better than I do, given how the subject here (as it usually is here) is MOI MOI MOI.
This seems basic to me -- that one may appreciate or not a resulting poem, but why peeps would question a process AUTObiographically described? Well. (But then, if this practice of third-party chiding didn't exist, where would blogland's arbiters of style be?)
Oh, but wait: but of course this must be why I published PINOY POETICS which was deliberately structured to be autobiographical poetics essays due in part to the sometimes arrogant reactions from third-party crits (snuck in yet another promo in there and dang if Moi ain't apologetic about it!)!
Anyway. So let Moi eyes look elsewhere then for illumination -- thanks to Gura for posting this latest shot of the light in moi eyes: Achilles, guarding the front door to prevent my departure except that, sniffle, I did have to depart. But worry not! Moi, like another M, SHALL RETURN!
And youse in blogland looking for less rancor, go on as Moi said. Go on over to Gura's and pet moi dawg!
Friday, October 29, 2004
This is really a postscript to my prior post ... about attempting to *write* light ... and how said light may be the "absence of words."
This issue, it occurs to me, relates to why Moi so admires certain bloggers for posts involving what I think of as visual poetry, e.g. Jukka Pekka-Kervinen and Allen Bramhall, among others. Have you seen the lovely images of their paintings/watercolors and whatever one calls Jukka's blissful meltdowns? If I had these gentlemen's technical expertise in creating their images, I know I'd be trying moi hand at similar efforts.
Instead, because moi grubby wingtips have sheathed my hands and eliminated any dexterity I might have at creating my own images, I am relegated to searching for light by using my eyes -- by looking at others' works.
Either way succeeds for me. Because it's all a back-and-forth. I go back and forth to words after doing what I need to do to recuperate from consistent revelations of how I find it impossible to articulate the poem. I go towards light -- for me, the visual art I so love -- and then return to the text. And I then try yet again for a new poem that might depict light through words.
So, though light may mean the absence of words, I'm not talking here about silence (the silencing of one's self -- or anyone -- is darkness, not light).
There are downsides to moi approach. Like, and I often discover this in attempting to talk Poetry: the problem with light is that it also can blind. Hence, the frequency of moi "blather."
Anyway, the French with whom we've interacted, like the rest of Europe (or European TV), are riveted on the upcoming elections. So much that the hubby, at one point, told a French Peep: Believe me, everyone in Boston would rather have the Red Sox instead of Kerry win. Hyperbole perhaps, but youse get the drift of the sentiment ...
P.P.S. Thanks for the photos of Achilles, Gura. They have provided much pleasure to my eyes which also so misses moi puppy, another version of ye olde light of my eyes.
Unexpectedly, Moi had access to a computer that allowed me to blog! So, a postcard:
Just saw and recommend to Moi new French peeps the "Turner Whistler Monet" show at the Grand Palais ... which, briefly, explores the relationships between the three artists, a topic not previously addressed via an exhibition. Because Moi ain't fluent in French, I couldn't read any of the posted notes and so just looked at the paintings. And what happened is that Moi noticed how the artists over time evolved to paint, not images, but light.
So I was thinking, what would be the equivalent of "light" in poetry as a poet develops? Would it be that the trajectory could show that the poems become less stories (since story can be captured by prose) and become, say, song ... or wisdom? (I mention the latter as Jose Garcia Villa comes to mind as I write this entry -- specifically how this poet, known for his lyrical bursts of fiery song, said towards the end of his life (something like) "I used to think a poem should sing; now I think it should think.") I think Mei-mei Berssenbrugge's work would offer some neat examples of this trajectory (and if I was posting at home surrounded by poetry books I might post examples ... but just go compare her early work to her later work if you're interested in this point...).
Not, of course, that the answer comes down to these two choices alone, or that there's even a binary since a song can be epiphanic (is that a word) and epiphany certainly often sings...And, in fact, I don't know why Moi mentions these two examples specifically when, as I think about my own development since everything Moi says is of course about me, I don't think that song or epiphany is where I'm going. I think it is indeed light. But what is light, via text if not the absence of words? (Is that right? Moi must think more ... she slaps a wingtip! Less chocolate, more thought, you Toi!)
Then, whilst visiting Paris' galleries, I walked into one and looked at all of the paintings in the room. I pointed at my favorite. The dealer said the price is 3 million Euros (about $1.20 to $1 Euro nowadays?). Oops. So I subtly hid moi gulp and asked if they had something "similar" (tho that was the wrong way to put it, I know, I was just trying to chat insouciantly) but at a lower price. (Lower price -- moi laughs now at my audacity). The dealer asked, "Do you have a preference in period, style or content?"
Having sufficiently caught my breath by then, I managed to say something reasonable and replied, "No preference -- I'm just looking for that intangible that creates a strong connection."
The dealer smiled for the first time since I entered the room.
Moi forgot to mention that at the "Turner Whistler Monet" show, there was a group of works related to Whistler's relationship -- affinity, I suppose -- with Mallarme. Well, as a painter turns towards light, I think it makes absolute sense that there be a correspondence with ... Poetry.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
And after I come back November 1 from blathering at the French, here's where I will be blathe..., I mean, reading poems or panel-ing for the rest of the year:
November 4, 9-11 p.m.
"Listen & Heard"
9-11 p.m. (Open mic first)
301 Nebraska St.
November 9, 7 p.m.
Panel on "Getting A First Book Published"
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco CA 94132
November 12, 5 to 7 p.m.
Poetry Reading with Barbara Jane Reyes
Cypress Auditorium (CISX)
Center for Integrated Systems
Refreshments will be served.
November 19, 7:30 p.m.
Reading with Geoff Dyer
Small Press Traffic
@ CCAC on the corner of 8th and Irwin streets (at Wisconsin).
San Francisco, CA
December 1, 8. p.m.
Reading with TBA
St. Marks Poetry Project
St. Mark's Church
131 E. 10th St.
New York, NY 10003
December 12, 2004, 1-4 p.m.
PINOY POETICS LAUNCH (PP)
with various PP contributors including Catalina Cariaga, Jean Vengua, Oscar Penaranda, Joel Tan, Barbara Jane Reyes and more TBA
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission St @ 3rd
San Francisco, CA 94103-3138
[Note to Pinoy Poetics fans: there may be a December panel/reading in New York; details forthcoming if event is confirmed.]
I felt guilty
it is there in the photo
Black Mountain is closing
and I hadn't gone to jail
Charles had spent an evening
talking me out of it
he also talked me out of
going back to New York City
"Don't go back you
know too much
you know nothing
if you go
you'll wake up
between silk sheets
and you'll be
in the south of France
and you won't know
who she is
or how you got there
and when you are ready
--from "MIRAGE" by Basil King
Heart's gratitude to Thomas Fink whose painting, inspired by Port Jefferson's ban of flyers over my poetry reading, arrived in today's snailmail. Thanks Tom! It's now officially in Galatea's Art Collection. Hope you like the brief art crit (laugh) on it:
"What's interesting, past the humor of the painting, is how Tom adeptly manages to convey the notion of the Port Jefferson ban through an abstract work. That is, the small scale of the work bespeaks the nature of poetry, which is intimacy. The surface comes off as multi-layered, with lavender-red and turquoise blue seeming to be the primary colors. If color is a narrative, these two colors reflect Eileen's poetry via passion and the color of both sea and sky. In deep background are gold ellipses or circles. Gold is the Buddhist color of enlightenment and the circle/ellipse has been significant in Eileen's poetry as archetypal but non-stagnant images. Last but not least, in the immediate foreground is an overlay of white -- as in "whitewash", which is what censorship would be via the ban."
I adore poet-painters, or painter-poets. In part, it's due to my love for ekphrasis. But as I note in my recently-finished review of four books by poet-painter Basil King, I think it's also because I often find that those poets who experience widely come up with more interesting poems. In Baz's case, his painting background clearly enervates his poetry in ways that may not be possible by a poet trained solely through the literary. Specifically, his latest book MIRAGE is structured to alternate between prose and verse with very thin columns formed by lines of one or very few words (there's an example on the MIRAGE link). The form reflects Baz's painting background and can be considered an "assemblage" that reflects a painter's -- versus writer's -- experience in handling material that is tangible as well as imaginary (more physical than text).
Anyway, I'll deal with the logistics of placing this review (3,729 words finished as my last "work" before having to deal with packing for the trip) when I return Nov. 1 from France. Meanwhile, here's an hors d'ouevre for my review of Basil King's
MIRAGE: a poem in 22 sections (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003)
Warp Spasm (Spuyten Duyvil, 2001)
The Complete Miniatures (Stop Press, 1997)
Devotions (Stop Press, 1997)
... in art-making, one may paint (or write) violently but there is no destruction even as one destroys, that there ultimately will be, and it is will-ed, creation.
As Baz says in Warp Spasm (WS), Gwen John said, 'Religion and art are my life…You are free when you have left everything behind. Leave everyone and let yourself be left. Only then will you be without fear'."
Equally telling, Baz shares the story of Karla Faye Tucker who, at age 23, along with a companion Danny Garrett "put over forty pick-axe holes in a man and a woman. Later Karla Faye Tucker was to tell a friend, 'I came with every stroke'."
From that horror, Baz surfaces with this conclusion: "It's Karla Faye Tucker's passion that interests me. Passion. 'I came with every stroke.' It's not that common in the theater or in the pools of the Olympics, or on the walls of museums that someone can say, 'I came with every stroke.'"
But what is the commitment for? For what or who does the artist struggle? For Baz, I sense the answer is to share joy -- joy in the sense that it is inevitably the result of his paintings or words when they please their audience. To accomplish this, it seems to me that Baz practices the Buddhist concept of interconnectedness; in WS, he says, "It is my habit to bring disparate things together. If I can see them, if I can feel them, how far away can they be? […m]y paintings have no final solution. They initiate my hand. I put my hand inside you and squeeze your heart. I want you to feel what I feel. I want you to feel what you feel."
Interonnectedness is relevant since Baz also notes how "Rilke said Rodin made an alliance with art so he could question everything."
Relatedly, one can get a sense of the wide scope of Baz's eyes, including the recognition of the necessity of commitment (despite an absent republic) from his poetry, not just in MIRAGE but also in these excerpts from The Complete Miniatures:
Hieronymus Bosch strikes a match for the pleasure of it is he hears the voice of the candle. He hears St. Anthony and they speak to each other.
To argue the sky's the limit, Hieronymus the painter and St. Anthony the hermit-saint sit by a river. They do not look at the screaming face in the water. They look out at what they cannot see. Memory rents and acquires from the palm the sky's ease. Once creatures clustered around St. Anthony, not for his company but to mock him and tempt him, to do, to do what? Those mordant creatures that invaded St. Anthony's life are now separated from his body. Greenish yellow sort-of sand. An unopened umbrella. A sort-of building. Each stroke of paint delivers an elbow, then a knee, then a tongue. Modesty roots, rises, and then there is blue. A sort-of contemplation erodes St. Anthony's disposition. And the dream becomes Hieronymus Bosch's last painting.
Or, also this excerpt which, among other things, reminds me of that saying "We are all born poets and it's the living that leaches the poetry from us." I recall this saying because this excerpt calls us to emancipate our art by, say, thinking of it as food -- food we make as well as of which we partake:
Food. Do you use too much salt? Do you ask stars for their autographs? Duchamp said everyone can participate.
Touch it. Hold it and it dissolves. Speak of it. Speak to it. Strike a match for the pleasure of it is--the object is benign. There are no superstitions. No unknown creatures. No bottomless pits. The night is for sleeping. The day is for working. Art defines the object's space. And space is a calling.
Deborah Arger (by way of Victoria) is writing about will in Poetry. So, specifically, they are talking about the will to become published. Sure, I believe you can will yourself into being published....because when it comes to will, I've seen even more happen in poetry (or my Poetry since everyone's Poetry is different, eh?).
That is, I've written poems as foretellings, often without knowing they were foretellings. Really. Seriously. There are things I'm writing in a poem and, later, they become true.
I remember when I first mentioned this notion in public. I was a newbie poet (though, on one level, I'll always be a newbie poet). Because of being a said newbie, I hadn't yet learned how to comport moiself in various settings. So there I was doing a reading at the Japanese Museum of Art in Los Angeles (not sure I got that museum's name right). During the Q&A, I blathered on about poems as foretellings ... and obviously said it quite naively as the big-name poet I was reading with then replied, "Can you foretell the Lotto number for me" (or words to that effect).
I don't actually think this is as flakey as it sounds. Before putting the first word on paper when I write poems, I presumably would have done what I feel is my job as a poet by trying to learn as much as possible about the world. And when you approach things that way, I think you inevitably discern patterns that lead to certain results. And when you write in those results in a poem, and later it becomes true, you -- or I -- didn't foretell something so much as simply extrapolated the correct effect from available information.
But back to willing one's self into publishing. I think that as regards publishing, numbers count. If willing yourself into publication means doing all the necessary tasks related thereof like many submissions, you'll get published. I know because, in my first year as a poet when I didn't know anything of this *poetry industry,* I basically swamped the continent with submissions -- without having read any of the journals. I just thought that since I was writing poems, I should be trying to get them published and so just looked up poetry journals in Poets' Market and the back of Poets & Teachers.
From that first year of submitting work, I had an about 30% acceptance rate (fresh from banking, I had a spreadsheet of tracking submissions and so remember the statistic). Since these were my baby poems -- which is to say, perhaps many were not as, cough, fully realized as they could be -- that statistic, to me, is amazing. The journals ranged from highly-respected journals to a pink stapled xerox put out by a 16-year-old editor somewhere in the Midwest. But I think that if there were objective standards in poetry, that 30% should have been much lower.
Incidentally, some of the more respected journals who published my baby poems back then would not be interested in what I am writing nowadays, though I'd consider it more mature work. A different sort of implications come from that, eh? I would explicitly explicate said implications but that'd be negative energy, not allowed through this blog's Iron Gate.
Anyway, that'sa moi dos centavos in an attempt to feed the maw of moi peeps as much as I can before I log off blogland tomorrow.
But before then, more to come! I adore moi Peeps.
P.S. Needless to say, which is why Moi says it, If there is a will in Poetry, seems to me one can attempt to will other things in addition to publication....
Moithinks Michelle will be posting some lovely photos of my birthday boy whilst Moi is out wreaking havoc among the French. Look forward to seeing those when I return to the mountain and online on November 1. Though...not to worry, dear Peeps, I'll post some more before I leave to address the concern that Michael raises below in his letter. I'ts a letter he wrote apparently inspired by my last post on the birthday boy and how I plan to hack off his balls next month. Hah! I mean Hack!
Anyway, thanks for writing, poetically, Michael. E-mails like yours make up for my lack of a Comment Box (frankly, with the blather Moi puts on, I fear putting a Comment Box onto my blog ... I can just imagine ...). Anyway, here's Michael:
Your blog piece on Achilles cracked me up.
This past year, when I sent my puppy off to be neutered I wrote the following poem (untitled) in his voice....
I left this morning
With a deep bark,
Two rock in a bag
My only viaticum.
It was your fiat
That I return home
I don't know how your 10,000,0017 peeps are going to make it with your blog silent between now and the first of November, but I suppose it is only proper that we share your wit and wisdom with the French.
Have a safe trip!
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Vote to see something simply.
To perceive the irreparability of the
world. To witness the world and
the outside world. To be lost in
things, bumping around, exposed.
To meet angels in every thing.
--from "My Vote Counts" by Dale Smith
I'm not going to post all the titles of books I've read recently -- just the ones I enjoyed (I read all sorts of poetry. If a poetry book doesn't interest me, I still read it. It's part of what I consider I should do as a poet ... in the same way models and actors exercise a lot if they feel looking good is part of what they need to do in their profession. Okay -- now we know why Moi sucks at her exercise regimen....). If you've sent me stuff and don't see it listed below, don't assume I didn't enjoy it; I may not have gotten around to it yet. Anyway, I recently enjoyed these poetry chaps or books:
Macular Hole by Catherine Wagner
Untitled (Belladonna chap #49) by Veronica Corpuz
JFK (Texture Chapbook #10) by Thomas Lowe Taylor
MANDALA: The One, the Same and the Other by Thomas Lowe Taylor
Riot in the Charm Factory: New and Selected Work by Todd Colby
The Raving Fortune by Noelle Kocot
Metaplasmic by Anne Eyre
My Vote Counts by Dale Smith
Portraits and Parables by Stephen Mitchell
Castle, Diamond, Swan (Belladonna chap #41) by Elaine Equi (A Preen Point: I'm the first blog ever read by Elaine Equi!)
And of course some as regards Moi buddy Art:
IN RELATION TO THE WHOLE: THREE ESSAYS FROM THREE DECADES 1973, 1981, 1996 by Rackstraw Downes whose most recent exhibit is garnering quite mucho attention -- and deservedly so (I enjoyed it whilst last in New York; I forgot to mention it in my earlier post on gallery wrap-up from that visit)
PRESENCES: A TEXT FOR MARISOL by Robert Creeley and Marisol (this hardback New Directions book can be had for $3 and change under a 50% special for New Directions and Black Sparrow books now ongoing at SPD -- fabulous deal!)
SEPARATE PARTS (from Avec's Pivotal Prose Series) by Martha King
And some literary journals:
Effing Magazine #2, ed. Scott Pierce
Conundrum, ed. Kerri Sonnenberg -- and not just coz Moi is in it. Fab work by P. Inman, Lissa Wolsak, Rodrigo Toscano Geoffrey Gatza, Jesse Seldess, Sheila E. Murphy, Spencer Selby, Bill Freind, kari edwards, Sarah Anne Cox, Anni Vestergaard-Holm, Brena Iijima, Kristin Prevellet, Rod Smith, Lisa Lubasch, Devin Johnston, Chuck Stebelton, Meredith Quartermain, Nicholas Ravnikar, Drew Kunz, Arielle Greenberg, Dawn Michelle Baude, Ryan PHilip Kulefsky
And last but not least, four books by Basil King (I'd previously blathered, 1/4/04, about Mirage shortly after reading it):
Mirage: a poem in 22 parts (Marsh Hawk Press)
Warp Spasm (Spuyten Duyvil)
The Complete Miniatures (Stop Press)
Devotions (Stop Press)
I've not met "Baz," though we've since communicated by email. I was so blown by his last book, Mirage -- one of my top three favorite reads from 2003-published poetry books -- that I followed up to get his prior books. Check out Basil King -- he may not just provide pleasure but also move you with his language of ... Devotion.
Monday, October 18, 2004
RECENT HARVESTS FROM GALATEA (AUTOBIOGRAPHY #2)
Galatea is ever fruitful. This weekend, the mountain released eight full shopping bags filled with pine cones to visitors Michelle and Rhett. They plan to gild them gold for part of the decorations at their wedding next year.
Galatea is ever fruitful. Time to reprint below Barbara's poem, "Your Absence in St. Helena," inspired by Galatea's mountain, recently featured on Barbara's blog and part of the beauties in her first book, Gravities of Center (Arkipelago Books).
This poem, Peeps, refers to Moi CHARGE, whose keys Moi shall never release ... even as they weigh me down, a posture ever-staining the Chatelaine's hems with whatever she trods:
YOUR ABSENCE IN SAINT HELENA
By Barbara Jane Reyes
I am ascending this mountain at sunset, hearing rhythms of footfalls upon gravel paths and smoothed pebbles, dodging fallen pine cones, crunching dried grass, imagining the wholesomeness of wheat fields. Behind a hill of coniferous trees emerges the glassy surface of a once-hidden lake; different perspectives on the same valley of vineyards and haze from faraway forest fires. Long ago, lost lovers exchanged letters here, deposited with care in this decrepit tin box affixed to this gnarled oak with a single rusty nail. Above, swallows dive and soar through the stillest air, a sun-colored solitary hummingbird remains suspended, motionless except for wings effortlessly beating a million times per second. I am swirling the rain soaked earth and rose petals of a zinfandel in an immense wine goblet, instinctively reaching beside me, half expecting to find your belly and waistline warm against the flat of my palm, the bones of your slender wrist, a dragon tattoo’s sharp edge in the hollow of your left elbow. Tonight I understand how the sun can be infernal and blissful, how the fragrance of this valley can be dangerously deceptive.
WHY MOI DON'T HAVE A COMMENT BOX
GADS....so I hadda leave the mountain yesterday for San Francisco to prepare for my upcoming trip to France (but of course the French -- whose finer cultural legacies include the word "moi" -- deserve Moi blather, too, about the finer details of wine and architecture) ... which, by the way, is also to say -- I will be offline from Thursday morning to November 1. So for those of you Peeps needing to catch me for various projects-in-progress, email me before Wednesday night or wait until Moi returns. Anyway. So I was in the city preparing for the trip and so I missed yet another MAJOR MILESTONE in moi baby Achilles' life.
Dangit! It's as major as a baby's -- uh, human baby's -- first step. To wit:
Oh...but before I wit, let me set up this tale. Remember that I had to defer hacking off Achilles' balls, i.e. neutering him, to give time for his swelled head to recede. (That is, his head swelled from some bug bite to which he got an allergic reaction). Anyway, to wit: I missed this milestone:
Achilles' first erection.
Now, the thing is, the house and pet-sitter at the moment is Marylou, a kindly grandmother of sorts to us. So Marylou left phone messages about Achilles' first full-pledged erection (versus the inch-long attempts I occasionally noticed in recent months amidst his fur): "it got VEEEERY HARD ... and caused him so much pain he limped off into his cage and whimpered there for five minutes."
Apparently, the hubby had to call Marylou from whichever state he's in at the moment on business to, uh, quiet her down: "Really, he will survive this erection."
I'm with Marylou, though, with Moi maternal instinct up at Defcon. I mean, I imagine, it must be very confusing -- perhaps frightening -- to experience an erection for the first time? Gents? Comments? (No, not really -- save your comments.)
Anyway, Moi was sad not to be there to cosset moi puppy. But perhaps it's just as well. Isn't Mama the last thing youse boys want when you get erect? Particularly a coooing Mama saying ineffectually, "There, there ... " followed by a pet anywhere but, uh, there...?
No, really. These questions are metaphorical, Gents. Do save those comments.
I just mailed in my voter registration. Dufus Moi to wait until the last minute. Literally the last minute as, Peeps, TODAY is the postmark deadline for voter registration. If you're like me who woke up this morning with that "Oh Shit" feeling, you can register with the help online at
This gives a very simple form for you to fill out and print out. But then you gotta go mail it TODAY to get today's postmarked deadline.
And a Good Morning to you.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Here's a review of PINOY POETICS (which you can order for a special discounted price through the end of October! See "Babaylan Speaks" for details):
The poetics of being Pinoy
By Juaniyo Arcellana
The Philippine STAR
A collection of autobiographical and critical essays on Filipino and Filipino-American poetics
Edited by Nick Carbo
Meritage Press 2004
There’s some kind of map being drawn in the largely diasporic world of Filipino poetry in English in the book Pinoy Poetics edited by Fil-Am Nick Carbo, which gathers essays by Filipino poets and writers based in the homeland as well as in the United States, among other points in between.
It is on the whole an ambitious volume filled with possibilities both profound and mundane, and its very existence stakes its own ground in the highly competitive publishing circles of North America, where about half of the Filipino writers represented here are based.
Carbo and partner in crime Eileen Tabios through this book have done much to fix demarcation lines on where exactly Filipino poetry in English in this our 21st century is and where it may be headed. Judging by the essays that appear in Pinoy Poetics, there is no other way to situate our work except in a wholly global (read: western) context. That our poetry has survived and even thrived through the decades despite stacked up odds having to do with race, gender, not to mention second language handicap, is enough testament to the perseverance and tough mindedness of the Pinoy writer in time.
Perhaps the most significant of the essays here are those written by Filipinos who reached maturity as writers in a foreign land, with added spice being if the writer had visited the home country to further sharpen the perspective, almost like Alice stepping back out of the looking glass. Because in poetry there is much romance and vagabond recklessness, the Filipino as poet cannot but feel at home in this medium, and in which a still place could be found for the crafting of verse.
Many years removed from Manila and his old Sampaloc district haunts, Eric Gamalinda comes up with an essay that is exhaustive in its scholarliness, complete with footnotes and properly attributed references. "Language, Light and the Language of Light" shows more than enough signs that he has grown well enough alone through the years, and has taken to heart the advice of a former teacher, Franz Arcellana, that if one is to mature as a writer, one has to get as far away from home as possible.
Gamalinda’s colleague at the Philippine Literary Arts Council and fellow expatriate Luisa Igloria, uses a recent poem as a centerpiece for discussion of the creative process, in particular varied sources and a shifting point of view. Her poem "The Incredible Tale of the Ice Cream Cone Dog" spans the centuries by leaps and bounds, harking back to the World’s Fair at the turn of the century and fast-forwards in a modern conundrum that is the soda parlor juxtaposed with warm memories of azucena.
Another poet who spent most of his formative years in the home country only to migrate in adulthood is Mike Maniquiz, a natural in the language. Maniquiz recalls growing up in the middle class projects of Quezon City, and unearthing a book of Jose Garcia Villa at a public library while waiting to pass the time. He tells of a Caucasian woman who sits beside him on a plane, and who is driven to tears when he lets her read from his book of poems. But is that the real reason why she weeps, or is it her sensing here yet was another poet far from home?
Corollarily of interest are the essays by the those who migrated while they were young, and returned to the homeland only when they were well into maturity.
Eugene Gloria, now since relocated in an Indiana suburb, spent some years here in graduate school at the University of the Philippines, which becomes the gist of his remembrance of a childhood in Avenida, Sta. Cruz. Of course the Sta. Cruz of his memory is a mere shadow of the Rizal Avenue circa early 1990s, time of his visit, underneath the clatter of the LRT and winding through the dark alleyways preceding the good mayor’s buhayin ang Maynila program. But this is not simple nostalgia, rather a method of staying connected with his Filipino-ness, indeed no mean feat in a world of perpetual deconstruction. His Drivers at the Short-time Motel remains a book of poems we’ve long wanted to read, and in the poem that ends his essay here we get to know the meaning of the word "scree."
Oscar Peñaranda did time in the grape farms of California and canning factories of Alaska, and so is familiar with the experiences of the first wave of Filipino migrants, one of whom became the benchmark of the Filipino American writer in the brave new western world, Carlos Bulosan. Peñaranda posits correctly that the Filipino writer in America faces tremendous odds in a society where power is centered on the basically white, male and Protestant. Yet he knows whereof he writes and keeps faith in the root of the matter, those shifting concerns of a largely amorphous race.
The girl with the thorn on her side, Tabios in her essay gives a few hints on why she is writing not only as if her life depended on it but also as if there were no tomorrow. Lines between the genres and forms blur with Tabios, who uses performance and the visual arts as spark plugs for her poetry. For her poetry is the only way to live, and she intends to suck the marrow and everything else out of it.
There too are the poets who chose to remain close to home for the most part –- Gemino Abad, Ricardo de Ungria, Ruey de Vera, Krip Yuson et al. –- but on the whole we can glean that traveling and being Filipino or even staying put is a state of mind, in itself already a kind of elusive ars poetica.
Open-ended poems, for me, teach something about the difference between charity and empowerment. And I think it worth noting because the line between the two seems so thin at times (just look at the many examples of failed development policies in Third to Fifth World countries).
When I write a poem that ends "open"-ly, I think of it as inviting the reader to engage...and engage proactively, rather than merely be a recipient, e.g. to receive a message from a poem. As any good conversationalist will tell you, part of being a good conversationalist is not talking at the other, but also allowing space for the other to share him/her/hir views. Though such is not what happens on this blog (Moi is here to talk atcha), I am interested in poems as good conversations (which is not to say, that's the only kind of poem that interests me).
As regards charity, there are so many problems out there that can warrant our charity. But, at times, one can be most charitable by witholding charity and instead simply giving a nudge towards the right direction for people to help themselves.
In the housing project example I note in my prior post, there are rules that families must follow to be eligible for the housing development. There are the usual housing-related rules like maintaining cleanliness in appearance (including a very explicit "You can't piss on the front yard"), that you can't rent out the house, that you can't use the house as a brothel, and so on. But there is also this rule:
All school age children must be attending school.
That's right. Because families using children as laborers is not unusual in impoverished areas -- even though that practice often continues the cycle of poverty. One has faith that education at least will give some children a chance to break that cycle -- for themselves, for their families, for their communities.
In my poetry, I consider (whether or not the reader would agree) that it's the reader who completes my ("open-ended") poems. For instance, I have a poem that Tom Beckett considered sufficiently sexy to reprint (thanks Tom) which contains the lines "&&&&&&&&&&" -- or "and, and, and, and ..." To me, what happens next after "and" -- reactively -- is up to the reader's imagination, or not.
As regards charity, in my prior post, I may have helped someone, but my contribution does not mean that person's life will improve long-term. That particular result is not up to me, just as it's up to the reader to create significance from the words I'd concocted as a poem. (One may be playing God through the creative act, but only a fool believes one is actually God.)
I often write "Poetry As A Way of Life" when I am asked to sign my books. People read that and I know some think I'm just sloganeering, or maybe alluding to something higher or abstract....
Actually, I'm alluding to something very very mundane to me: technique. My poetix guide not just how I write poems, but how I (desire to) live.
I don't always succeed in living the way I would like to, but I do recognize some of the ways in which I would like to live, and those goals are inseparable from what I wish to achieve as a poet.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
--for Helen Toribio
Jean once called me a "trickster" (after I wrote this poem). Well, that explains further why Moi ain't "Asian American"--thanks for the input, Leny.
So, on to breaking boundaries. This time, national boundaries.
I'm helping two families build new homes in a South American country. Each house will be about 450 square feet, and be located in a development of seven acres donated by someone else. There only will be 50 houses on this development, so supply far exceeds demand. Consequently, for now, the 50 houses will be made available to families which are earning a minimum level of income -- 50 houses is just ... 50 houses, so they've been targeted for use by those who are working hard at jobs, no matter how poor-paying, rather than those not working at all.
This country is very poor, so it may seem as if targetting people who already have some sort of job is giving priority to those who -- in that context -- are already doing better than many of their peers. But I like this approach because nearly everyone there is poor and this perspective (hopefully) nudges upward those who are most capable of forming the "middle class" -- from which, long term, can perhaps come the more permanent solutions to national poverty.
The first ten of the 50 houses has been built. Seven of the houses will be homes for families headed by single women parents (some of the women cook things that they and their children resell at busstops -- such comprise their jobs). Some of the families previously lived in make-shift shacks, with such material as cardboard, and seasonally demolished by muddy streams from the rains.
My involvement is very modest; to participate in activities like these is always to realize that one isn't doing enough. But when national politicians fail to deliver on the promise of socio-economic development, it becomes even more critical for individual peeps to participate, no matter how seemingly small the contribution ... and regardless of nationality.
I don't write poems about activities like these. I don't do these activities to feel good about myself (in fact, I don't feel good about myself because I do this -- I'd feel better if I bought a new pair of shoes). Indeed, insofar as I can recall, I believe this is the first time here that I'm talking about this facet of my life. But when you "critics" in the past and in the future read any of my poems and call me apolitical, let me say: Not only are you making the basic error of presuming authorial persona from a poem (akin to believing I am Moi), but you show the limits of your conceptions of Poetry by believing it bound to the page.
This post is dedicated to Helen Toribio -- may you continue your light beyond. You lived a life of the Poetry to which I aspire.
Friday, October 15, 2004
For me, to be a poet is also to understand when the dictionary has it wrong. There is a difference between experience and the imagining of that experience. Mysticism -- or, perhaps more accurately, perceptions of mysticism -- has/ve been affected (& attacked) because of the failure to recognize that difference.
Mysticism is not that different from other matters in seeing its share of hucksters ... or just the deluded. But this doesn't negate the fact that, ultimately, mysticism is a lived/felt experience -- not something imagined.
Flakey? Well, no. Not if you've ever read or written a poem and felt your body shiver.
And it's the lucky poet who, while making the poem, also feels -- even if for only a moment -- that floating within a pulse (in other manifestations, a scarf silvered by stars streaming through the universe, a gauzy scarf of light threading through time and history) larger than us all but also all of us. The poems from that space are usually what are called "keepers."
Scarf of stars, of light ... Um. Well. Which is also all to say: I'm delighted to share that my latest collaborator (love that pun) is a yarn artist based in Southern California. Sandra Paige will be making scarves out of my poems....
It's not important who wins poetry awards, just that no one taking risks as a poet does (unless he's past 70, like Jackson Mac Low was).
How synchronistic that Bob Grumman's email (to the Suny Listserve) just landed on moi desk this morning. Those who know me know I read mucho contemporary poetry and if there ever was a negative book review I'd write on someone's poetry collection, it's this book which won a prize competition judged by Louise Gluck. It's, in fact, the only book I've identified as a collection sufficiently short (so to speak) that compelled me to write a negative book review; I actually wrote it, then decided that negativity ain't what Moi wants to be about....so it'll just stay in my files to become worth billions of dollars someday as Moi's Token Bad Book Review when Moi is famous and peeps will be bidding for moi papers...
Yes, anyway...so I began writing this morning post whilst doing moi morning blog jog and stumbled across the refreshing Victoria Chang...who apparently has triggered much of my recent posts. Congratulations, Victoria! That's major mojo cultural capital you just acquired!!! Kidding, of course ... Anyway, I hope you much success -- I mean that, sincerely -- in your poetry and I look forward to reading your forthcoming book.
I was just about to move on to another blog -- gotta spread that cultural capital about, you know, cause Moi is so hot -- when I paused. Pause. Moi paused because I just remembered to be sensitive about Victoria's notion of "old and gray and wise." Correct me if I'm wrong but...Victoria, didn't you once contact me years back about participating in your Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation anthology, and I of course was so delighted to be asked (since Moi relishes attention)....only to be shut out because, at age 40 back then, I was shut out of being new and emerging (this, notwithstanding that I'd been writing poems for far less than probably the bulk of your contributors)?
That above paragraph, of course, doesn't bespeak bitterness at the experience ... just a nudge for me to say that, personally, when I'm "old and gray," I plan to be a HOT MAMA rather than wise. I already suspect what I'll be thinking on my death bed, AFTER my hundreds of 1,000-page books and garnering all of the world's literary awards: That, Dear Muse, I never did master that Poem but ... thank you anyway for the experience.
I look forward to that.
Okay. Jog, jog. Ah....Barbara Jane wrote a new poem whilst drunk. Nice line -- "let this tongue be a dagger." Barbara, dear, if you wish my duwa centavos which Moi assumes you do since you shouted out, I think it's time for you to write love poems to peeps of other than the male sex. I firmly believe, Sweetie, the True Poet is not monosexual. (Hate rules on poetry, but to have no rule is to have a rule, youse know?)
Speaking of refreshing bloggers, congratulations to Ivy Alvarez for being this month's Featured Poet at "Babaylan Speaks." If you scroll through the Meritage Press Archives of "Babaylan Speaks," you inevitably will meet some of the fabulous contemporary Filipino poets writing today, including bloggers Oliver de la Paz, Aimeee Nezhukumatathil, Patrick Rosal, Bino Realuyo, Nick Carbo, Michelle Bautista, Jean Vengua -- it's a column I began in 2001 just as a means of introducing Filipino English-language poets to the world....Moi is blissful the message is getting out...
Next. I so appreciate Jonathan Mayhew's comment on teaching: "Teaching the seminar is pure joy." Ah yes -- I've met poets who teach for a living but don't enjoy it. They don't seem to understand how their misconception that a poet must teach in order to pay the rent is doing a disservice to students. I think I'll post more on this topic in a lengthier post...
I must interrupt this morning's blog reading now; have to go bring a batch of Pinoy Poetics to SPD; apparently, the first order quickly ran out. YaY! If you haven't seen this anthology, check it out! (There's a special on it over at "Babaylan Speaks".)
But, for now, last tho definitely not least, Tom Sweetie -- you can stop falling now...
Thursday, October 14, 2004
So I haven't written a new poem since Sept. 15. Those who know me know that such *silence* is very unusual for this Wine-Tipping Blathering One. Sip. Tonight, a 2003 Bennett Lane chardonnay.
Anyway, I knew this would happen. My Poetry Muse is very jealous (and she pauses from typing into her blog to shake her velvet sleeves at the Muse's guardian angels hovering beneath her ceiling: Youse irritate Moi, you hear me! They flick the Joker card down at her, sniff, then continue their poker game). If I don't give poems my all, said Irritatingly Jealous Muse will hit me with poem-constipation.
Well, I'm duly constipated because I've not been giving my all to poems. You see, I'm trying to write a novel. In fact, just yesterday I passed on an anthology's call because I have to plug away at this novel. I had to laugh when the very understanding anthology editor said he admired moi novel attempt as he himself had a better shot of "building a particle accelerator" than writing a novel. Anyway, I'm on Chapter 14. Yadda.
But the thing is, I showed Chapters 1-13 to another novelist. Now, before continuing this very interesting tale -- and if you don't find this interesting, go ahead: stop reading now (hah!) -- I should note that, apparently, poetry-writing has influenced my novel-writing in terms of what we poets call those "open-ended"...uh, endings. That is, so far, my novel's style may be narrative but it's not very, um, explicatory (hmmm: sort of like many of my blog posts: models of clear inarticulation...). That is, chapters don't end on some definitive point and the flow from one chapter to another can seem to be random juxtapositions.
Anyway, I shared Chapters 1-13 to a novelist-friend and he replied, "I keep wanting to read more."
That's good, right? But then said novelist-friend explained that he wanted more because, as he put it:
"You write like a cock-teaser."
I do have misgivings about that, um, assessment....but ... I am still determined to preen. So, and she presses wingtip into jasmine-scented cheek to form a mischievous dimple.
Twinkle, twinkle. Then: Pree...
I just commented on Michael Wells' Blog as regards his follow-up on my posts about the Poetry Industry. I was dissatisfied with my comment. Then I read Gura's Blog which also referenced my posts. Gura sez, in part:
I've heard people call the ability to write poetry a gift, something that comes to them. A poem that is lost, will return again one day. So what your parents told you when you were two about sharing your toys is still true. To give our gifts away, because the gift is not the thing, the poem, the technique, the real gift is being able to do it at all, the gift is really living.
And this is why I see so much similarity between (my) Poetry and kali (a Filipino martial arts), as taught to me by Gura Michelle. It's the giving away, Peeps....when much poetix -- and the structure of the Po-Biz infrastructure -- seem to come from what Poetry can do for us.
Anyway, here's an excerpt from my essay "MAGANDA: Thoughts on Poetic Form (A Hermetic Perspective)" which appeared in MELUS, as relates to "kali poetics":
"The relationship between breath and poetic line has been addressed by many poets and theorists, with ideas ranging over the thought that line breaks should mirror pauses to American poet Charles Olson's theory of "projective verse" whereby the poem is energetically thrown forward from the poet. Though I empathize with Olson's burst-of-energy approach, I am equally interested in the internal alchemy that occurs within the poet prior to the surfacing of the poem. (Olson does address the importance of an "interior listening process," as [Jean Vengua] puts it, but also seems to "valorize the projective, exteriorizing act.")
"I see the intake of breath to be related to the alchemical and transformative process of creation, followed by the projected out-breath... As a student of Kali, I was taught the significance of "soft" breath by poet and Kali instructor Michelle Bautista. Kali is a Filipino martial arts form that I study because I consider it a metaphor for (how I consider) Poetry. This relationship is evident in my poem "Kali." The poem's last stanza explicitly states the importance of perfect pitch, including for me, not privileging (as Olson's emphasis does) the outtake to the intake (which Bautista also relates to female energies) of breath.
To live poetry
instead of just marking
words on a page
is to live like a poem--
none of it is too much
or too little
It is only what it is
and all of it is
"From Kali and yoga, I have been learning how to breathe more healthily--to inhale and exhale more deeply. In the process, I noticed that I exhale longer than I inhale. I am troubled by the lack of balance and what it represents for my poetry. I need to "inhale" more, which is to say, educate myself more about the world in order to bring as much of the universe into my poems. That the exhalation--which relates to the projecting out of the poem--is a longer process implies, to me, that I am still too ego-based in how I create poems.
"As a practitioner of yoga, I also recall poet Leza Lowitz's statement in her breath-taking (pun intended) collection Yoga Poems. After noting how the "magic of going inward also took me away from myself," Lowitz continued on to say, "Breath was the bridge to greater self-understanding, which led to a deeper concern for others." This relates to how I envision my transcending autobiography not to eliminate myself so much as incorporate other selves into the poem's "I." I note this because any poetics discussion of transcending ego may evoke the contemporary poetic development of poets trying to move beyond the personal experience to focus on the materiality of language. While I wish my poems' "I" not to be synonymous with myself, I don't consider my approach an obviation of my "I." In order to facilitate my version of poetic alchemy, as related to proactive lucidity, I mean only to incorporate as much of the universe into the alchemical stew that, when it froths over, it bubbles over with fully-embodied poems. I wish to move out of the Poem's way by making the universe be the Poem's protagonist--but the universe does include the smaller individual me."
Perhaps that elucidates? Perhaps not? Either way -- all of it -- is okay, Grasshopper...
(WELL, OF COURSE I AM ... BUT)
And I also say "You're welcome" to Shin Yu Pai as regards my project finance-post on the "po biz." This reminds me to say that Shin Yu's recent post on the Chinese Poetry Conference in Boston struck a poignant note for me, particularly this excerpt:
"I had framed my reading of poems as a sort of translation between visual and textual languages and worlds -- I don't think this came across to the majority of the audience who racked my reading up to "she must have worked in an art gallery or museum because she knows a lot about art". This was frustrating because one comes to feel that the "ideal listener", (zhi yin), is not out there and that one IS limited by the confines of textual language- I had never really presented my work to an Asian/Asian-American audience and had wondered about how it would be understood and now I know."
One of my early mentors -- a poet, art critic, Asian American, avant garde (I'll stop with labels now as said labels are beginning to break down) -- told me early on whilst I was in the heyday of my involvement in Asian American literature (as a writer and editor with the Asian American Writers Workshop in NY) that I should not be surprised if many of my poems will not be accepted by Asian American literary arbiters.
That is, the majority of my poems which are ekphrasis-driven.
Why? Because poems inspired by other art forms like paintings do not fit the paradigms set forth on what "Asian American poetry" is supposed to be, at least by that time of our conversation (briefly, these paradigms relate to how AA poems are supposed to be those dealing overtly -- and non-"experimentally" -- with ethnicity, history, food, etc.)
I found it hard to believe my work would not be considered "Asian American", given how I'd been so active as an editor of something called ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN JOURNAL and how I'd (co-)edited a number of anthologies related to Asian American literature.
But it's true....and this has been replicated in the area of Filipino American-related studies. An example can be how my own poetry collections are rarely taught in Asian American or Filipino American courses, even though many of the anthologies I've edited are. (There are some exceptions -- and thank you to those exceptions -- but most courses that have used my poetry books as texts are more general creative writing/poetry courses....)
I'm not complaining. And I understand anecdotally from some sources that the fact that they don't teach my work may have less to do with the whole Asian American thing but just that (some of) my work is supposedly difficult (yawn: read "lazy" reader). I'ma just saying: Shin Yu -- you aren't alone. And take it from me: this matter, ultimately, is not important. It's as you say in your more recent post:
In the end if it is about the work and the process that's all there is. The sooner I put this belief into practice, the better.
Michael Wells writes:
EILEEN ON POETRY: THE PROJECT FINANCE PERSPECTIVE
I have to take my hat off the Eileen for a most enjoyable and thought provoking post. She has brought a unique view of the "poetry world" today into focus in this blog post. If you missed it, go check it out. // The remarks on cultural capital sparked my interest. I would like for her to have been more specific.
Thanks Michael. I'da Commented on your blog, but had Blogger problems doing so. Anyway, here's the flake: I couldn't be more specific as I have to be careful on how I address things that create negative energy for (my) poetry. The Iron Gate prevents such from entering Galatea.
A long-lashed wink for you....
But don't become green, Sweetie. It's not good for your liver...
Oh, okay. I'ma feeling full of Compassion this morning. I will relent and give a hint on how to get your poetry book published (or one way to do so). Ready?
Don't pitch your poems. Pitch others' poems.
Poetry -- it's way bigger than capital, financial or cultural...
And, notwithstanding moi preening over moi lovely self making moi lovely poems, take it from me: you gotta love Poetry enough to obsess on others' works and not just yours. It / worked / for / me.
And I'ma not talking about back-scratching, either. I'ma talking, Baby: POETRY KARMA.
that is, Allen Bramhall. You are pretty clear-headed yourself.
And not just as regards my brain -- preen -- but the report on last night's debate. Yes, it was mostly about confirmation. Sadly, I thought of it as a tie and a tie usually favors the incumbent.
And ... funny how ... confirmation, also, plays such a large (too-large) role in the Poetry World. All these "best of poetry" type projects, for instance, when, what: don't poets know that's an aesthetically-bankrupt approach to Poetry? Sometimes, as Moi cogitates here whilst hacking spit over the deer fence at the coyotes, Moi wonders how poets have so little respect for ... Poetry.
But what am Moi naively thinking here? Since when does respect go swinging hand in hand with those competing for imprimatur, which is to say, power in a powerless world ...
... because, poetically, "power" here is subjective....
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Huh. That prior post elicited some significant -- and heart-felt -- backchannels from various poets. Sure is much frustration at what I call the infrastructure of the poetry industry. But, backchannel these comments shall remain ... though said responses do keep the banking memories fresh a tad more in moi memory. To wit: from back in my banking days, we had a phrase for the presentations made by peeps seeking to impress lenders, investors and others who may be valuable to them. We called those shindigs "Dog and Pony Shows."
So, speaking of said animal shows, we had the third Presidential Debate this evening. But before Moi addresses that, we got an e-mail from Achilles' trainer in North Carolina. The trainer said that one of Achilles' brothers, Xoltan, was ranked Fourth Best in the last Best of German Shepherds show. The judge apparently said that had Xoltan shown "better deportment," he would have moved him up in the ranking. Well, Achilles and Xoltan come from championship stock but I'm glad Xoltan wasn't top-ranked; I keep imagining that good deportment would have required Xoltan to hide his true nature...and I'd rather the Dawg didn't compromise his nature.
Well, the third Debate shows how useful deportment is, too, in running for President. But that don't mean a good demeanor is synonymous with good content -- I learned that from those Dog and Pony Shows which shared much deportment-related behavior with tonight's Debate.
Anyway. Though I personally dug that brief Namaste Kerry made towards the crowd at the end of the debate, will someone please tell him that gesture is not likely to win him points in most of the ten pivotal states? Deportment, you know.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
When I was a banker from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, I was a project finance banker. "Project finance" meant that I put together or analyzed financial deals where the only source for repaying a bank loan was the "project" to which the bank made the loan. So, for example, if a company like a utility got a "project finance loan" to build a new project like, say, a new power plant, the bank's only source of repayment would be the revenues from that power plant. If that power plant failed to work properly (to create electricity that it could sell), the bank would have no other sources to tap for having its loan repaid, even if the sponsoring utility might have money in its savings account.
As a project finance banker, my specialty was the *form* (so to speak) of creating project finance structures -- as opposed to my specialty being a particular industry. This meant that I moved from one loan to the next across a variety of industries. I could be analyzing a power plant financing one month, a coal or gold mining project the next month, an oil pipeline in another month, a private jail facility another month, a fertilizer factory in another month, and so on. The analyses I undertook were not just based on economics but also on political, social and cultural elements.
The point is that my job was to swiftly become an expert in a variety of industries in which I'd previously had zero experience. The typical deals I worked in ran in the hundreds of millions of dollars, in some cases billions. So I really had to be able to understand each new industry as they popped up in my In-Box.
Well, when at age 35, I began writing poems, I took a look at what I privately considered then to be "the poetry industry" (what we now call "poetry world") to see what this particular arena was about. So, certain things became obvious to me. There was the very amusing (to me) factor of how this poetry industry could never stand up to insider trading regulations (judging by how networking can be made via teacher-student relationships, sleeping relationships, et al).
But more critically, it quickly became obvious in my "industry analysis" that this poetry industry is one where (i) little money can be made; (ii) money can be made as a result of cultural (not financial) capital); and (iii) even if no money is made, value is realized if cultural capital is amassed.
The significant role of cultural capital poses certain implications about how one might successfuly navigate one's way through the poetry industry. Said implications are even more interesting given the accessibility to information made possible by the internet (including poetry blogs); much cultural capital, after all, is based on information dissemination.
Said implications also suggest that, really folks, we need not rely on poetry contests for publication -- or, rather, that even when poets understand the alternatives to poetry contests (e.g. via collectives and other possibilities put out by print-on-demand technology) poets may opt for contests for their cultural capital value. (Well, poets may opt for contests, too, for lack of imagination and time to explore alternatives but I'm trying to look at this from beyond those easy factors, though they possibly may be the most widespread factors among young poets relying on the contest infrastructure.)
Anyway, it seems to me that there are ways, given 21st century technology, to change how we not just publish but market poems. Don't get me wrong -- I am not comfortable using these business terms as regards Poetry, but let's get real. This is what we poets are talking about when we go beyond the more transcendent (so to speak) space of creating the poems to making them somehow available to a larger public.
Unfortunately, there are also infrastructure problems in this poetry industry. Too many players and institutions and "arbiters of style" (as Shin Yu puts it) have a lot invested in the current infrastructure of how things are done (how poems are published, how poetry is taught in schools, etc). This is hardly specific to poetry, but is a problem in many other industries (hence, they're often called "stagnant" by analysts).
I don't happen to think that publishing is even close to what's most important about Poetry -- at least to me. But since 1995 (or nine years ago) when I became a poet in this lifetime, I've released seven poetry collections, three e-poetry collections, a poetry CD, a short story collection with poems, and an art essay collection with poems, as well as participated in five exhibits of visual poetry. I've actually had better luck with book publications than in getting individual works published in magazines/journals (though this partly reflects my lackadaisical submissions process to journals).
Now, I do firmly believe that without my project finance training in assessing new industries, I would not have figured out ways to get these various projects published (or, enacted).
So, what would be some of my suggestions on poetry publishing? Well, I'll be sharing some at this panel I've just been invited to speak at by Amick Boone (part of the 14 Hills Literary Magazine course she's teaching at SFState):
"Getting A First Book Published"
November 9, 2004
Free and Open to Public
The Poetry Center, SFState
Still. I know what I know about the poetry world, but I am not sure what I want to say in public. You see, notwithstanding my involvement in publishing, I just don't think publishing is that important in Poetry. Poetry -- it's such a slippery Paradox....
....but the Chatelaine will figger out sumthing. She usually does when it comes to ... blather.
There's an interesting discussion on how manuscripts get titled over at Ivy's, including what might happen if a collection has the same title as one of the poems. As Malcolm puts it:
"People will try to evaluate the whole thing by that one poem. 'Why did she think X was the pivotal poem, the pivotal line, in all these poems? Hmm. Maybe I'll read it 700 times to try to figure it out.' A line from a poem will make a lot of people linger over that poem looking for some kind of key. Even if the key isn't there, even if there is no key, people won't know until they look, so the poem will have to be able to stand up to closer scrutiny than the rest of the poems will get."
My first working title for my 2005 book was I DO, after one of the poems in the collection. I opted for I TAKE THEE, ENGLISH, FOR MY BELOVED because I thought it was more on point as regards the overall collection. Still, the poem "I Do" does address much of the issues in the book.
One of the issues is how, due to my physical looks (o, ye body!) -- I am frequently "other-ed" against my will. The concept of "I Do" partly relates to how, when I travel across the U.S., leaving behind the continent's coastal areas, I am sometimes asked by strangers for no reason at all, "Do you speak English?" (You can imagine how Moi must always bite moi tongue from saying, "Better than you do. I'm a poet.") I suspect these incidents don't happen as much on the East/West Coasts because their population may be more diverse. And, there are also other instances where I'm forced to stand in for the many categories that Filipinas have been put in by people's preconceptions: Imelda's shoe fetish, the maid, the mail order bride, and so on.
The notion of English -- knowing English -- also bears a particular resonance for someone born in a country colonized partly through the introduction of this language. Anyway, it's all a complicated issue (for more on it, just get my book next year -- wink) but, for now, here's the poem "I Do" (first published in North American Review) that would have been my title poem but which, ultimately, I rejected as a title for being too temporal on something that is timeless: Poetry.
“I do not know English”
—from “I Do Not” by Michael Palmer
“Marunong akong Mag-Ingles” (I do know English)
—any 21st-century Filipino poet
I do know English.
I do know English for I have something to say about this latest peace stirring between a crack that’s split a sidewalk traversing a dusty border melting at noon beneath an impassive sun.
I do know English and, therefore, when hungry, can ask for more than minimum wage, pointing repeatedly at my mouth and yours.
Such a gesture can only mean what it means: I do not want to remain hungry and I am looking at your mouth.
I do know English and still will not ask permission.
I shall call you “Master” with a lack of irony; lift my cotton blouse; cup my breasts to offer them to your eyes, your lips, your tongue; keen at the moon hiding at 11 a.m. to surface left tendon on my neck. For your teeth. And so on.
No need to decipher your response--and if you wish, go ahead: spank me.
I do know English. Therefore I can explain this painting of a fractured grid as the persistent flux of our “selves” as time unfolds.
There is a way to speak of our past or hopes for the future, the hot-air balloon woven from a rainbow’s fragments now floating over St. Helena; your glasses I nearly broke when, afterwards, you flung me to the floor as violence is extreme and we demand the extreme from each other; your three moans in a San Francisco hallway after I fell to my knees; your silence in New York as I knocked on your door. There is a way to articulate your silence--a limousine running over a child on the streets of Manila and Shanghai.
There is a way to joke about full-haired actors running for President and the birth of a new American portrait: “Tight as a Florida election.”
I do know English and so cannot comprehend why you write me no letters even as you unfailingly read mine.
Those where I write of the existence of a parallel universe to create a haven when your silence persists in this world I was forced to inherit.
Which does not mean I cannot differentiate between a reflection and a shadow, a threnody and a hiccup, the untrimmed bougainvillea bush mimicking a fire and the lawn lit by a burning cross.
I can prove Love exists by measuring increased blood flow to the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex, the middle insula, the putamen and the caudate nucleus.
Nor is “putamen” a pasta unless I confirm to you that my weak eyesight misread “puttanesca” as the crimson moon began to rise, paling as it ascends for fate often exacts a price.
I can see an almond eye peer behind the fracture on a screen and know it is not you from the wafting scent of crushed encomiums.
I can remind you of the rose petals I mailed to you after releasing them from the padded cell between my thighs.
I slipped the petals inside a cream envelope embossed in gold with the seal of a midtown Manhattan hotel whose facade resembles a seven-layered wedding cake. Which we shall share only through the happiness of others. Which does not cancel Hope.
I can recite all of your poems as I memorized them through concept as well as sound.
I speak of a country disappearing and the impossibility of its replacement except within the tobacco-scented clench of your embrace.
I can tell you I am weary of games, though they continue. Manila’s streets are suffused with protesters clamoring for an adulterer’s impeachment. Their t-shirts are white to symbolize their demand for “purity.” Space contains all forms, which means it lacks geometry. My lucid tongue has tasted the dust from monuments crumbling simply because seasons change.
Because I do know English, I have been variously called Miss Slanted Vagina, The Mail Order Bride, The One With The Shoe Fetish, The Squat Brunette Who Wears A Plaid Blazer Over A Polka-Dot Blouse, The Maid.
When I hear someone declare war while observing a yacht race in San Diego, I understand how “currency” becomes “debased.”
They have named it The Tension Between The Popular Vote And The Electoral College.
I do know English.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, DEAR!
Michelle is writing about weddings....and, in her and Rhett's case, this Catholic requirement for pre-wedding counseling. I was married in a Methodist Church in Southern California, but both the hubby and I were living in NY at the time. So my minister encapsulated what would otherwise be, I'm sure, a very rigorous pre-wedding counseling process into a meeting before the wedding.
Which is to say, said Minister was forced to briefly summarize how a marriage will live long and prosper. He did it with Tom by fixing his eagle eye (albeit a tad cataracted) on him to counsel against taking each other for granted. Well, except, he did it by proclaiming, "Never forget to take her to McDonalds every so often...."
So every so often, usually when Tom notices the latest check I've cut to cover costs on my poetry publishing endeavors, Tom threatens me with the possibility of a Big Mac al fresco. His problem, of course, is that when it comes to food, the Chatelaine ain't a Cheap Date. But, still, we did just celebrate out 18th Wedding Anniversary.
And here we are 18 years ago, memorialized on my book cover for next year's release from Marsh Hawk Press (thank you Marsh Hawk!), per below. And why is Moi image on the book? Because I am also a love poet and for me to say "I love you" means I first must say, "I":
Monday, October 11, 2004
WHAT A PEEP, I MEAN, PUP WILL DO TO KEEP HIS BALLS
So, last night was a horror show. We got back from dinner at about 10 p.m. and are met at the door by our beloved Achilles. Achilles' beauteous and normally perfectly-symmetrical mug (see above) was swollen all on its left side with lids starting to close over his left eye. The hubby promptly reached for the phone to call EMERGENCY over at the vet's.
We rushed Achilles on over to the vet...who anesthetized him, shot him up with antibiotics, shaved the left side of his head to reveal severe skin rashes and treated such. Poor puppy -- he just whined so piteously. Worst of all, we had to leave him overnight on a cold concrete floor at the vet's. He had some sort of severe skin rash that bespeaks an allergic reaction, possibly to some bug bite....but we can't really know the source since we live where nature runs wild with tons of possible dangers...
Anyway, Moi picked up the puppy this morning. For the next few weeks, he has to go about with a plastic cone over his head so that he doesn't scratch his left cheek as he heals. But, as a result of all this, the doctor had to postpone his Wednesday appointment for ... hacking off his balls.
So, I asked Achilles just now while handfeeding him a hardboiled egg, "Was this a plot for you to keep your furry testes?"
Achilles looked at me, all innocent-like as he licked my fingers.
"You realize," Moi said, "that you nearly gave me a heart attack from worrying last night?"
More licking of my fingers.
Fuhgeddabout it, Dawg. The day of reckoning may be deferred, but it will still come: I'ma still gonna hack off your Alpha Male balls.
Saturday, October 09, 2004
THE FIRST AUTOBIOGRAPHY
FYI: while the word "chatelaine" can mean mistress of a chateaux, it also means ... "keeper of keys."
And, suddenly, her 10,000,017 Peeps realize that the sound they often assumed were bells when they read her posts might well be the jangling of a thick bunch of iron keys.
One asks: So what are the secrets?
The Chatelaine replies: You gotta fall to know...
Friday, October 08, 2004
So, one of my poems was taken by a major lit journal, perfect bound and all that stuff. Except, their Acceptance Letter referred to my poem as "Untitled." Silly Moi -- I have several "Untitled" poems and couldn't remember which I'd sent over to this prestigious journal. So I asked them for the first line. They replied, and I can't find the poem with that first line. Silly Moi -- I sometimes write these brilliant things and then don't bother to file them safely...
...which reminds me to digress: One of my favorite stories concerning the writing life had to do with this poet who had her house burn down. All her manuscripts and works-in-progress were in said house. So she's standing there watching the firemen try to put out the fire. A neighbor walks up and asks about her house. The writer said, Yah -- that's my house and all my poems were in it.
Neighbor: How awful! That's really horrible!
Poet: Eh. Don't worry about it. If I'm a real poet, the poems will keep coming...
Anyway, now Moi don't know what to do about this MAJOR acceptance. I'ma thinking of just keeping silent on it, hoping they'll just typeset the poem rather than asking me to e-mail them the text for convenience. That'd be the ideal solution...which also would then remind me of this poem I wrote (haha).
And, if not, if moi lousy files prevent me from publishing a poem in this journal I've not just respected but loved, well then: Eh. It's not like...Poetry is words, eh?
It's a living thing, that Poetry....and it's not constrained by words.
This approach, of course, is very inconvenient for certain ... critics. I'm in a mood of bashing critics this morning, if only because one said critic recently reminded me again how talking/writing Beauty presumably ain't political. And I was gonna respond...but, geez, it's such an effin' old story to me at this point....
And by the way: what's more important politically? That a poet writes an overtly (narratively) *political poem* or that that poet votes, signs petitions, marches in protests, etcetera? (Particularly when said types of poems are not that poet's forte?)
It seems to me that so many critics miss their noses. It IS possible, you know, to write critically and well WITHOUT telling artists how to make their art. But to those who miss that very basic point -- do you not think we don't see through your attempts to, what, feel better about your powerless position in the universe by making that the artist's problem? (Hint to the shadow-painters in caves: when it comes to Poetry, you are powerless because you care about power.)
If a critic thinks poems should ("should" -- how arrogant, eh) do a certain thing, then that critic should write those poems attempting those shoulds rather than de facto hector others into writing a certain way...
Rant over. Rant being yet another reason why Moi shall never have a "poetry career." A career, after all, is unlikely to be possible in Poetry without critical support.
Yawn: fortunately, I don't aspire to Poetry as a career. I aspire to crafting a fabulously fine wine as a career. Some recent research:
1990 Marcenasco Renato Ratti Annata Barolo
1992 Ravenswood Pickberry
1990 Rennina Brunello di Montalcino
1985 Giacomo Conterno Barolo
I sporadically post what's in moi goblet for a certain group amongst moi Peeps who donate to poetry projects. Thank you, Peeps. You put critics' blather to shame by putting your actions where your sipping mouths are.
Well, I have in hand a very gracious letter from Philippine Ambassador Alberto del Rosario thanking me for being part of this event (described below). Very gracious. But I unfortunately won't be at the event (due to scheduling constraints). Still, I will have a poem floating over the proceedings via a "Poetry Mobile" displayed during the Book Fair at George Washington University. Pinoy Poetics also will be launched in Washington at the National Press Club as well as at GWU. So, Eastern Seaboard Peeps, do try to go; here's the press release:
PHILIPPINE EMBASSY HOSTS HERITAGE II: FIL-AM AUTHORS' BOOK FAIR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
Pride in Filipino-American published works is the theme of this year's Heritage program of the Philippine Embassy. The program is on its second run this year after a successful launch in 2003 as the main vehicle for celebrating Filipino American History month observed in October.
To promote greater awareness of Filipino American contributions to American
literature, the Embassy, with the assistance of Our Own Voice (a literary magazine on the internet/ www.oovrag.com) and the Philippine Cultural Society of GWU, is hosting a book fair on October 16, 2004 at the Media & Public Affairs Building of George Washington University (GWU) located at 805 21st St. NW, Washington, D.C. In a show of solidarity from the writers' community, a mix of about thirty (30) established and emerging Filipino and Filipino-American authors from all over the United States are traveling to the nation's capital to participate in an afternoon series of events (from 1 to 4:30 pm) ranging from book readings, book exhibits, and panel discussions. Filipino children's literature will also be highlighted at the fair. Fair-goers will get the chance to meet the authors personally and get their books signed. Small Press publishers, local book clubs, university heads of department of literature and local librarians have expressed interest in attending the Book Fair. The event is free to the public.
The stories and poems to be featured talk about a range of themes, from a Juan Tamad story with a contemporary twist, the mesmerizing effect on a Filipina whose eyes catch sight of a pair of shoes, the harana's (Filipino serenade) musical power over rock and roll, a hilarious poem on ballroom dancing, to the misadventures of two young soap vendors during the Japanese occupation. The authors are also as
diverse: from Fulbright scholars, Palanca awardees, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) recipients, editors, school teachers, a pilgrim-traveler, a lawyer & composer, playwrights, paralegal, a homebound caretaker, housewives & mothers, visual artists, and MFA graduates.
On October 15, the Philippine Embassy will launch three new titles that impact the Filipino-American literary horizon. These are Pinoy Poetics, Nick Carbo, editor, published by Meritage Press (St. Helena & San Francisco), Cadena de Amor & Other Short Stories by Wilfrido D. Nolledo, a posthumous anthology from the University of Sto. Tomas Publishing House (Manila), and Our Own Voice Literary Arts Journal, Reme-Antonia Grefalda, Nadine Sarreal, Geejay Arriola, editors, published by Firsfruits Book Design and Publishing and Philippine Women's University (PWU). The occasion will also be a formal presentation of several titles of anthologies and works published in 2003-2004.
Bino A. Realuyo, author of the award winning novel, The Umbrella Country is the keynote speaker and will discuss the issue of bringing Filipino American authors into the American literary mainstream. Special guest Mamerta de los Reyes Block, an intelligence courier during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines for the Philippine guerrilla forces, and a former journalist now in her early 90s will present her book The Price of Freedom (2003) to Ambassador Alberto del Rosaro.
Among the authors who will coordinate select panels are: Luisa Igloria on diasporic writings; Jon Pineda, Paolo Javier, Reme Grefalda, and Luisa Igloria in a Pinoy Poetics panel headed by editor Nick Carbo, Also present will be Melissa Nolledo Christoffels, daughter of the late Wilfrido D. Nolledo, who will make a power point presentation of the life of one of the Philippine's foremost writers; other members of the literati are: Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier, poet & novelist, award winning children's book author, Almira Astudillo Gilles (Willie Wins), NY poet Paolo Javier, novelists Gina Apostol and Lara Stapleton, Yolanda Palis, poet, short story writer Rod Garcia, Linda Ty Casper, novelist. Yvonne Hortillo (AIA), Glenn Sevilla Mas, 2004 Palanca playwright awardee,.
Through the Heritage program, the Embassy hopes to recognize the role of the Filipino writers' community in the U.S. in promoting and disseminating Philippine heritage and culture. According to the Embassy's Cultural Section headed by Consul Joy Quintana, the book fair is seen to be the most effective way of bringing to mainstream publishers and readers alike the writings in Philippine and Filipino-American contemporary literature that is growing by leaps and bounds. Philippine Expressions Bookshop of Los Angeles will offer relevant books during the event
Apart from the book fair, a Philippine martial arts presentation entitled "Prinsesa Urduja: the Warrior Princess" and songs from Hacienda the Musical will be performed in between the panel discussions. A full-length cultural show entitled Jeepney Love Tour by the Philippine Cultural Society of GWU and Filipino World Bank-IMF Staff Association is also part of the Heritage program and will be performed int the same venue at 6:30 pm.
The other activities planned for the participating authors are a pre-arranged tour of the Philippine Collections at the Library of Congress, coordinated by the Library's Asian Division, and a press conference at the National Press Club.
For more details about the program, please contact the Embassy Cultural Section at firstname.lastname@example.org or Reme Grefalda at email@example.com.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
And while the hubby and I were unpacking from our latest move into a new apartment in San Francisco (I live primarily on the mountain here in Napa Valley, but we have to maintain an apartment in SF coz the commute would otherwise be too long for the hubby who works in downtown SF), we unpacked some of my drawings that had been wrapped and in long-term storage. I'd done these drawings as part of the "Poems Form/From The Six Directions."
Imagine my surprise (so surprised Moi forgot to preen) when the hubby said, "You know, some of those drawings are actually pretty good. You should frame some and we can hang them up in the apartment."
!!!! I exclaim said exclamation points because Tom's got the finest set of critical eyes I've ever met as regards the visual arts. It may have begun when, as a toddler, he erased a drawing made for him by Claes Oldenburg with a childish "I don't like it!" (Uh, okay -- that was a bad example; if he hadn't erased that drawing, maybe he'd be retired today.)
Anyway, I have no visual arts training and so remember quite well the mixture of audacity and ridiculousness that I felt back in 2001 when I was attempting to draw. And though some of the drawings were later exhibited in some of the Six Directions exhibit, I never really had a view they were any good. My excuse for putting them on public display was that the drawings were part of an overall *conceptual* process for creating the Six Directions project.
So I naturally was pleased at Tom's response (after I did a quick check through my memory to make sure he hadn't done some recent husbandly mistake for which he hadda kiss moi fine ass for forgiveness). And my pleasure was quickly followed by a quick "Thank you" mentally sent out through the air to Philip Lamantia. Yep: the incredible poet and artist Philip Lamantia. You see, I had the occasion to meet him shortly after I moved from New York to the Bay Area and, later, while doing the drawings, I had told Philip, "I don't know why I'm attempting these drawings. I can't draw a straight line to save my life."
Philip replied, "Then draw a curved line."
And, thus was borne the Six Directions drawings ... which came to integrate the circle and ellipse as key visual imagery. I've learned much from Philip -- from seeing how his mind works.
Anyway, I once thought Six Directions would be a one-time thing, a couple of exhibits destined to die in obscurity. How silly of me. Six Directions is a Poetry project ... which is to say: its fate is not dependent on the poet and it's timeless. The latest proof? I had a call last night from Steve Dickison, poet and executive director over at SFSU's Poetry Center. Steve is also the curator for what looks to be an incredible four-month exhibition sponsored by the Poetry Center and the California Historical Society; its title is self-explanatory:
POETRY AND ITS ARTS: BAY AREA INTERACTIONS, 1954 - 2004
And, hello Michelle!!!!, Steve wants to include elements from Six Directions into this exhibit! I need to shout out to Michelle as one of the elements will be my bridal outfit's train, pinned with poems sent from all over the world to participate in Six Directions. (Gura, dear, Moi shall undoubtedly need your help with installation). Also to be featured shall be never-before exhibited paintings by Venancio "V.C." Igarta, the foremost artist from the Manong generation, including his very first ever painting of color fields which V.C. always claimed supplanted Josef Albers' color explorations.
Anyway, more details shall follow but this looks to be an exciting project. It will include an installation (accompanied by a book) by Norma Cole. Based on moi phone chat with Steve, it also will include a painting by Carlos Villa inspired by the pantoum, a Malaysian poetic form introduced to him by Bill Berkson.
For sure: put this date on your calendar for the Artists' Reception: December 16, 2004 at the California Historical Society, 678 Mission, San Francisco. Moi shall see you there with a widely-beaming SMILE!!!