Monthly Archives: July 2009

Writing Landscape

highline

“Keeping your fingers crossed makes it difficult to hold a pen, but I must say, it’s worth it.”

-Lorrie Moore

I finished Lorrie Moore’s collection of short stories Self-Help recently, which I purchased at The Strand the other week while visiting NYC.

I appreciate Moore’s sense of form, the different lenses she uses to write about memory, and her wit.  I really like how she weaves in photography as a way to flashback then return to the present.  Using the photograph as a captured, still scene to describe, comment on the current moment.  And even though much of her content is serious, she finds a way of using humor successfully in her stories to further complicate her characters, the plot.  I also love how she uses NYC as a character. The city is sometimes the character’s co-conspirator, or enemy, depending on the situation, but it is always used as a way to help tell the truth.

I’ve always loved reading books in the cities, countries they’re set.  Finishing Michael Datcher’s memoir Raising Fences, which takes place in Los Angeles, makes me feel closer to this city somehow.  Like I know it intimately through another life, character.

As I write  poems for my Aswang project, I think about landscape.  About the cities and provinces in the Philippines I visited once.  Maybe not often enough to write about?  St. Louis, where the 1904 World’s Fair took place (I’m stealing some of the imagery, politics, etc. to create my own twisted Fair.)  A city I’ve never visited.

How to make these cities real and intimate for the reader?  And for me, the writer?  This goes back to the question of creating a world and manipulating it as a character who will have a leading role.

On another note, but related to landscape, during my NYC visit, I encountered the Highline, which is a public park that stretches from 14th St. to 20th St. along 10th Avenue.  The story goes, that the old 10th Avenue subway system killed many people on its elevated track, thus earning the title of “Death Avenue.”  It closed sometime in the 1970s, and was vacant for a long time.  For years, private funders and the City of NY have been working on revitalizing the track into a public park.

In the park, on 17th St., there is an ampitheater looking out onto the street.  I have an idea to write a play with this specific ampitheater in mind, using the natural landscape, time of day, as the setting.  Hmm.

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Revisioning

As I begin to order the poems I’ve written for my tenatively titled project “Ascela at the World’s Greatest Fair,” I grow more excited about the larger form these poems will take.

For the past few months of the fellowship, I’ve been trying to “write organically,”  without an agenda for any sort of product.  Many of the poems have failed.  Most of them didn’t make sense at the time of the writing, since I wasn’t writing them chronologically, but I’ve tried to trust the character, the Aswang, and let her go where she wants, even if that meant jumping in time, country, emotional space.

As I blog right now as a writing break from the project, I’m satisfied to see where the poems will go in their sections, where the gaps are, and the poems I still need to write to finish.

Yay, it’s been a while since I’ve been enthused about this project, so I must get back to work!

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The Business Card

As the EV program winds down and I begin to write and reflect on my experience (in part by blog invitation by Barbara Jane Reyes), I am reminded tonight by how far our cohort has come.

After our rehearsal at a fellow’s apartment for our final reading at the Hammer Museum (btw, Weds. July 22nd at 7 pm), about half of us mentioned/pulled out our NEW business cards, printed for the sake of handing them out at readings, writing networking events, etc.  What a moment of OWNERSHIP.

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Where does your mother live?

New Aswang poem:

after Barbara Jane Reyes who stole it from someone else, as well

Where does your mother live?

Between the night’s studded eyelids,

her fist-irises.

Where does your mother live?

In the sage’s unwritten book,

the witch’s catalogue, the crooked finger.

Where does your mother live?

In the libation of

the womb’s steady hand.

Beneath the star,

the tongue, flicking words

against the bearing of crosses.

Where does your mother live?

Behind the shadows of tubes,

the woman’s groan,

the razors across the forehead.

Among the cherubs with formless hands,

mash of nostrils and skin.

Their wings torn and gorgeous.

In the red heaven she greets them.

Where does your mother live?

On the top shelf, above the dining table,

even she cannot resist to cloak

Santo Nino’s with his scarlet gown,

crown him with rubied light.

Where does your mother live?

In my father’s hallucination,

she is the ocean

she calls him crazy, from here.

Where does your mother live?

Along the ocean’s path,

the footfalls of duwende,

her name carved on his front tooth.

Where does your mother live?

In another country,

she sits on the shell of my ear,

translates the monsoon in my mouth.

There is no land to release from fallow.

***

I’m interested in the questioning, the cross-examining of the Aswang.  I think I can create a series of poems surrounding questions, like the one above, and I wonder what the poems might look like without the question inserted in the actual text.  Perhaps the questions will serve as scaffolding for poems, but maybe they won’t?

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