Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Ocean in December (and during the grueling MFA application process)

I’m a little cross-eyed from writing the first draft of my Statement of Purpose.  I’m quite skilled at procrastination (who isn’t), and I’ve seemed to have updated all forms of social networking today before even opening Word. But at least I’ve got a first draft.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Statement of Purpose (and the Personal History Statement.  Two very different things, I’ve learned) without actually writing, which simply overwhelmed me.  It’s the too-much- thinking part that blocks me from writing.  After work today, I decided on a whim to take the bus to the Santa Monica Beach, where I was able to sit for an hour and take it all in.  I love the beach in the winter.  There are typically less people, and the breeze is a lot sharper, and it smells stronger.  I recently downloaded this app on my I-Touch that allows me to listen to ocean sounds, and of course it’s not the same.  The beach is about overwhelming all the senses in a way to clear everything, all thought, out. This was a good way to start writing.

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Is the desire to write in a structured space where community and imagination are cultivated enough?


Okay, there’s my statement of purpose…

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“Questions without Answers” on Lantern Review Blog

Let me begin by saying I’m a huge fan of the Lantern Review Blog and the folks running it.  They list events, write reviews and feature poets and writers in Asian American and people of color literary communities across the country.  They also post “weekly prompts” as exercises for writers.

The other week, they posted this one, on “questions without answers,” which reminds me of Neruda’s Book of Questions.

This exercise is designed not so much to produce polished verse, but to move you into a mind space in which no question is ‘unaskable.’  A single question such as “What secrets did you parents keep from you as a child?” can give rise to a thousand others, which may guide you into totally new poetic territory.  As you might imagine, the result can be both wonderful and terrifying.

Here was my response, which I posted on their blog:

Who still remembers the island of witches,
the faith healers who spill rooster’s blood
on a honeyied hill?

Along my body’s horizon, where does the darkest
planet rise and set?

Does a kiss on my mashed mask, snarl of teeth

Who feels the temblors, crashing waves of coral,
their red crumbs at the ends of my feet?

Is it me who is beautiful
or the magic that chanced me here?

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It’s a little after 10 pm on Monday night.  I’ve just gotten off the phone with one of my best friends who is still at work (she strives to succeed in the media arts/film), claiming that a lack of sleep will get things done.

“Jay-Z doesn’t sleep,” she says.

Last week, prior to talking with J. Bradley on The Blood-Jet Writing Hour, we talked a bit over email.  He mentioned that he works (a little more than) full-time, is married and travels for the day job.  He says he doesn’t  sleep.

I admire artists who can dig late into the night.   I used to be able to do that.  In high school and college, I loved staying up late after everyone else, sounds falling into the dark quiet.  Nowadays, I’m learning how to enjoy the mornings — doing yoga, writing a few lines or pages, checking emails, drinking coffee.  Learning is the word.  I still slam the snooze button even after more than 9 hours of sleep.

I’m always curious about writers’ schedules and rituals.  During the PEN EV days, Michael Datcher said, “you must have a ritual.”  His being 5 am walks to the beach.

I think rituals are important.  A place to reflect, to return to and be constant, which is important not only for writing.  I think balance is equally important, as I LOVE both sleep, the quiet night and paced morning.

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My First Poetry Teacher

As I work on my MFA autobiographical sketch, I’m remembering all my early poetry influences.

Lauryn Hill was my first poetry teacher.

In 8th grade, Mr. Lewis asked us to bring in our favorite poems for our short 4-week poetry unit. I remember listening to “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” on repeat in order to meticulously record the lyrics. My older cousins and I would drive around Hayward aimlessly, listening to this album. These were the first “poems” I connected to, and I remember loving the way Lauryn linked history, politics and her own experience in one verse. Even though I didn’t understand all the references she made, I also loved how she rhymed, the way she was a powerful force on the mic. She was unapologetic, witty, contemplative and just plain COOL.

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Kweli Journal

The premiere issue launched today!

The poetry of Thomas Sayers Ellis, Tara Betts, Reginald Harris, Patricia Spears Jones, and more (including me) are featured.  Check out the contributors notes section after reading the poems, too.  I love reading the origins of poems.

Check out

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I write this post instead of my autobiographical sketch for UC Irvine’s MFA program.  🙂

Today I really felt the weight of the grind, so after my first job in Westwood (I have about half an hour between jobs) I escaped to the Hammer Museum.  Their cafe area is outdoors, yet closed-in because it’s surrounded by their exhibits.

On one side, people eat their fancy Wolfgang Puck lunches, and on the other side, folks like me sneak in to be near the towering bamboo and palm trees, the rocks, the close-to-stillness in the city.

I usually write in the mornings, on the bus, at the cafe, and I forget how nice it is to switch it up.

I’ve been working on the Aswang in L.A. stuff, which I’m quite excited about.

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December First!

I can hardly believe it.

A short post for now, amidst the MFA applications, the grind, and the quickly approaching end-of-the-year stuff.

For now, a poem of mine, “Mouth of Justice,” is getting published in a new online literary journal called Kweli Journal.  I believe the issue will be launched in a few days.  Here’s the link.

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