Is it just me, or has spam really become more poetic all of a sudden?

“subjugato,” by Rosangela Rubino

(seems to know anything about. The more I discover about it — the more it)

station twelve in two minutes. We are now in parking orbit.

One minute heavy stakes
into the ground with sledgehammers,
backed by the thud of I had no idea.

What do we want to do? As I said —
   it’s time for a decision. Do we all

In a moment, I equivocated — and stopped dead.
For I had suddenly rolling up my face.
   Collecting there. Dropping

The double image flickered and became one.

blow, then away again.

(apparently all of the same individual from what I could see as we strict policy of noncommunication. However it was photographed when)



My copy of Geraldine Kim’s Povel sits invitingly on the table. The reason for this said interpellation is the very fact that its cover has been gently caressed into a come-hither curl, the said curl aided by the lucky confluence of two forces: one, by the manual endeavors of human hands, i.e., mine, and two, by supernatural agency, i.e., the heat and humidity of the Philippine tropics, though the latter is more appropriately “natural,” but as E.E. Evans-Pritchard reminds us in his writings on the Azande which has graced many an introductory anthropology reading textbook, like the one I’ve been using for a few semesters now, the divide between natural and supernatural varies greatly from culture to culture. But allow me at least to discuss the reasons behind the curl in turn: my hands, first, which have only really opened the book to the very first page, that is, the first page of the “povel” proper, occasionally flipping to the back to consult the footnotes, and lingering on the mug shot of Nick Nolte, and reading Geraldine Kim’s biography, convinced, after repeated readings, that her past tenure as Governor of Texas was indeed within the realm of possibility, though not probability, but it is also likely that I am fudging the semantic / mathematical difference between the two words, that is, “possibility” and “probability,” since the lowest grade I ever received in college, as a Communication Arts major from my agricultural school at the foothills of a Philippine mountain, which by the way, is “bundok” in Tagalog, and is, if one remembers correctly, the only word of Philippine origin to insert itself into English without any specific Philippine denotation, that is, “boondocks,” was a crushing 2.5, which is the equivalent of a B-minus in American terms, for what was in fact the only mathematics-related class I took after high school, which was History of Mathematics, though I have no doubt that Geraldine Kim’s grades when she was at Yale were much lower, since it is common knowledge that she received a so-called “Gentleman’s C” average during her tenure at New Haven. In fact it took me two evenings alone to read the title of her book, staring at it glazed through jetlagged eyes, to which I gave the benefit of the doubt by actually reading it twice, since it was, after all, printed twice, and I am enjoying the book immensely, between bouts of grading and headache and the overall frenzied caloric consumption that characterizes the middle-class Philippine holiday season, though I am somewhat unsure what it is about, that is, the book, not the holiday season, even after closely reading Lyn Hejinian’s, or shall I say, “Lyn Hejinian’s,” explanatory introduction to her book, and I am in fact rather puzzled that Microsoft Word has gone and rudely placed a red squiggly line underneath “Povel” and “Azande” and “bundok” and “Hejinian,” especially since one wonders, shouldn’t “Hejinian” be a household name by now, up there with “Longoria” and “Aguilera,” neither of whom get squiggly lines? Let me discuss the second force behind the curl, that is, the supernatural force, shortly, but right now I am feeling dehydrated and should get up and drink a glass of water. I’ll be right back.

Pinoy poetry

"Languages of Whiskered Ghosts."

So a bunch of us in blogland have been keeping quiet about the Poeta’s big secret for maybe over a month now — but now the secret’s finally out (scroll to the bottom).

What the Poeta didn’t link to on her blog entry, however, was the list of former James Laughlin Award winners — the only proper response for which is “daaaaaaaaaang.” Have come, am here indeed.

And so I thought I’d pull out my old comments from almost a year ago on a slightly different version of the now-award-winning Poeta en San Francisco; I’ve boiled them down from a rambling six-page, Lorca-ignorant, Ezra Pound-foolish letter that rather lamely begins with:

Hello Barb,

I must confess I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing on your committee… I don’t think I’m equipped at all to examine line breaks, or to be able to see how your work draws from specific literary traditions (or doesn’t). All I can do is read it as if I were “analyzing” it, so take what I say with a grain of salt…

and my puzzlement continues from there.

But I think I’m equipped to recognize a crucial, essential work of art when I see one (one you can bet my students will be reading once it comes out), even if I completely failed to identify the Clash lyrics she quotes. As you can tell, I loved the poem, which by the end achieves a kind of dirty, ragged transcendence. The poem is an obviously contemporary one, though with an odd timeless quality, as if it dealt with some ancient humid corruption.

So here goes:

What makes your poem important in my eyes is its direct, poetic confrontation with colonialisms. In that respect, the poem functions — even on a purely linguistic level — as a critique of conquest. But it’s an epic, catholic one, encompassing different places and times, Vietnam and some stand-in jungle in the Philippines, the churches of Rome and Hollywood. It’s a deeply (dare I say quintessentially?) Filipino American poem, one that interrogates (not just in the lit-crit sense of the word, but in the fist-shaking, confrontational, bare-bulb-hanging-from-the-ceiling sense), on multiple levels of the colonial. And the title is excellent. (I was actually thinking of something of a return to San Francisco at the end — a reminder that the procession at the beginning continues.)

I love it. It’s head and shoulders over your previous work (which is already really saying something), and I think it’s great that the reader is, in a way, under no obligation to love it.

It’s a terrific, hallucinatory, corrosive read. Its tension / descent is almost unrelieved, and there lies both its virtue and “problem.” (I put “problem” in quotation marks because it’s not really one.) Tonally it reads like, say, a Diamanda Galas album, a long, keening shriek in the jungles of the colonized. But it’s also the reason why listening to a Galas album all the way through is difficult, enervating and sometimes even painful, but pierced with many moments of beauty. Like Poeta. It’s unapologetically hard work, and in a way it’s hard for the reader to take pleasure (in the ordinary sense of the word) in reading it, and as I wrote earlier, she or he isn’t under any obligation to “like” it.

The pleasures of language, however, are another matter; there is an awful lot to like.

There are various excerpts scattered around her blog, but you folks might as well wait for it once it comes out from Tinfish Press.

And once again, Poeta: congratulations.

Pinoy poetry

A Tangle of Books.

Damn. It’s hot & humid & sweaty & sticky & I’m sitting here in Los Banos all alone & I’m reading Angelo Suarez’s Else It Was Purely Girls & I swear to god every other poem in his collection is about cunnilingus. Curse you Angelo Suarez!

And curse you too for

& your sweaty palms, slightly bent nose, / shoulders & armpits worthy of psalms — / your sex songful / with salt & sin.

(Sorry, I couldn’t get the PRE tags to work, so I can’t reproduce the funky layout of “Back-to-Back Showbiz Love Cycle.”)

Or these especially lovely lines, from “To a Girl Sitting on the Table:”

…how distant
the sky! how pluvial the night to reach

for hiding stars! tonight your cheek from there
is the moon for my broken rocket of hand.

Speaking of poetry, though, I am now the happy owner of an actual copy of Paolo Manalo’s Jolography — finally went to the source (UP Press — I was interviewing someone in Teacher’s Village, so malapit lang), to which I should have gone in the first place (got author’s discount too!) and found a whole stack. Bought an (older) anthology of essays by Roland Tolentino, who is just about the most prolific UP professor this side of Neil Garcia. Also caught up on the Cornell-Kyoto mafia: Carol Hau’s hard-to-find On the Subject of the Nation, and Jojo Abinales’ fourth? fifth? book in five years?

Anyway, back to work: interviews to transcribe and all.


Two Possible Poem Epigraphs.

From E.E. Evans-Pritchard’s Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937):

Thus when six or seven of the sons of Prince Rikita were entrapped in a ring of fire and burnt to death when hunting cane-rats their death was undoubtedly due to witchcraft.

And from Ron Silliman:

“Turk Street News” was the name [of] a porn theater where I once watched Kathy Acker on the big screen having sex with several men, one of whom was flogging her with a head of iceberg lettuce.

Speaking of poetry, we “blew” most of my Thursday class spending almost an hour discussing just two of Eileen Tabios‘s poems “After 2 A.M” and “The Wire Sculpture” — and identity and colonialism and resonance (not meaning) and what made poems “difficult.” (Eileen: “difficult” in quotation marks, mind you — please don’t hurt me! At least… don’t flog me with iceberg lettuce.)