|photo by Henrietta Bogdan|
Friday, April 27, 2018
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
"the spirit of the staircase" by Tiana Nobile
When I visited the Asian American Workshop Center's table at AAWP Tampa 2018, I was greeted by a bubbly young Korean-American woman who entertained all my weird questions. I introduced myself to her and asked if she had a book for sale here and she lit up and presented me "the spirit of the staircase" as shown above which upon first blush, appeared to me like a graphic novel when I started flipping through it.
But what caught my attention (as I'm sure it did for many people) was the brazen index of poems:
I. Is it true Asian pussies are sideways?
II. Go back to China!
III. I used to work in Korea. Ya'll make really great cars.
IV. I used to watch Thai porn with my Taiwanese ex-girlfriend. Then we'd fuck.
V. Where are you really from?
VI. I've never had an Asian before.
VII. What are you?
These titles coupled with Brigid Conroy's paintings, which are light and whimsical, takes the edge off the political stance those titles evoke.
But upon deeper inspection of Nobile's poems, she seems to respond to those ridiculous questions and statements that culturally insensitive people, particularly men, have posed at some point to the "otherness" of the Asian diaspora.
They imply the notion of fetishism of the exotic, the notion that there is the ultimate sexual wherewithal and images of the uninhibited Asian women.
Tiana Nobile has addressed the misnomers and stereotypes that have plagued Asian and Asian American women for so long and is still being astoundingly perpetuated.
Interspersed between these profound poems are poems that reflect the feeling of being invisible when she wrote:
"I'm a ghost in a raincoat, faint blur
against pavement in another
country my mother is watching
t.v. in silk pajamas the color
of flowers. She rubs lotion into
her callused toes and listens
closely while grinding her teeth."
Nobile and Conroy both hail from New Orleans. Nobile is a Kundiman fellow who both collaborated to create an exquisitely profound collection. An embodiment of poignant responses to classic stereotypes. A must read. I'm glad I met her and had a chance to discover her work.
You can order her book here: https://www.tiananobile.com/the-spirit-of-the-staircase/
You can learn more about her chapbook and her artistic statement here: http://www.wwcmfa.org/interview-with-tiana-nobile/
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
It's April, National Poetry Month, and I thought I'd dedicate my next posts to reviewing a couple Asian-American writers and other poets whose works I've discovered this past 2018 AWWP (Association of Writers & Writers Program).
It was my first time ever attending the event and because this time for once, it actually convened in my area, therefore, had no excuse but to attend at least one day. I was overwhelmed, swirling, like a kid in a candy store for I was surrounded by books and my artsy fartsy tribe!
I got a chance to run into the women at the Sundress Publication's table. One of my poems have appeared in their earliest online magazine back in the late '90s. While there, I stumbled upon the work of Jim Warner, entitled "Actual Miles" published by Sundress Publications. He's a Filipino-American poet. How do I know? Well, when I was thumbing through the pages, his poem "subic bay" jumped out at me.
Jim Warner's "Actual Miles"
open crucifex arms.
just plastic couch covers--shag carpets. Avocado
horizon swallows sound.
a swirling panic spirals, twister'd Olongapo
streets hold one hand over the slum alley'd, thumb
over full cisterns.
Unlearning the story of rotting mangoes,
multo is the word for ghost; not forget.
From the fire escape, shoulders lengthen against
oxidized steel--stretched and confessed like creeper
vines browning in droughted heat.
No crowns, just crows. No kings,
just King James in Tagalog.
Unravel neighborhood fabric
suturing through native tongues;
these gentrified orphans leave scars.
This is a poem, a poem I can relate to and Jim Warner, a poet I can identify with. I did not meet him or know him, but from what I gather he may have been a military child, of mixed race: Filipino/American, like me. I have been to Subic Bay, the U.S. Naval Base, and my dad was stationed at Clark Air Force Base by Angeles City where both, outside their gates, were lined with drunk G.I.s and brothels. Therefore, Filipino slums outside U.S. military bases were pretty much the same all over the Philippines. I wrote a similar poem about Angeles City and of my mixed race origin in my poem "Mango Man".
There were other poems in this collection such as "rice farmer"...although my mother's family were fishermen, going anywhere in rural Philippines echoes these images he conjures up so well:
"poor drink and poor forget.
Hands harden when bolo-less
soften with cheap boozy grace.
Poor drink and poor forget
troubles and empty pockets
soften with cheap boozy grace,..."
A similar theme about my mother's fishermen family, of poverty-stricken drunken uncles and fragile aunts, in my poem "At Low Tide".
Tim Warner's "Actual Miles" is like a coming home for me. We share the Philippines and the U.S. as we morph from one culture to the next with poetry and writing as our vehicle for expression to connect the worlds. It is lyrical, heavy, and tugs at you to go many directions like the narrow alleyways of Olongapo.
You can order his book here: https://squareup.com/store/sundress-publications/
Sundress Publications interviews Jim Warner: https://sundresspublications.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/interview-with-jim-warner-author-of-actual-miles-sundress-publications-2017/