Work Update: Summer Sessions with the Aswang

Cristina Victor, an artist friend of mine, drew this incredible aswang a year or two ago, in response to one of poems.

*The Aswang Manuscript

The aswang manuscript is undergoing some radical revision.

The manuscript is organized by the different creatures the aswang embodies:

1.) Weredog

2.) Vampira

3.) Viscera Sucker

4.) Witch

5.) Manananggal

I’ve revisited a number of poems to play with form.  I want the form to reflect the changing, elusive creatures of the aswang, which means working with the fragment and the image even more.  For a long while, I felt tied to the linear narrative of the aswang and her mother, even when it wasn’t working.  I’ve cut a bunch of lines and poems, which was liberating.  I am also letting go or saving some of the world’s fair poems I’ve written.  They just don’t fit right now.

When I sent my manuscript to friends and other poets, the question of my body came up.  Where was it?

I’m interweaving the difficult poems I wrote in Chris Abani’s workshop last spring with the aswang poems I already had.  Poems of trauma, colonization, violence among families and women, violence committed against the body, the Filipina brown body.  Poems of girlhood, motherhood and daughterhood.  Some in persona, a few not.  For a while, I’ve kept these separate, but it’s fascinating to see them in dialogue.  I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere with organizing the manuscript.

During VONA, I spoke with Elmaz Abinader about her thoughts on this project.  She suggested playing with the performance of it, which speaks to the persona nature of the project.

This fall, I plan to stage a section of the aswang poems  in conjunction with UC Riverside’s Golden Mean Theater Group this fall.  If you all know of any Pinay actors, let me know!

*Writings on Filipino Mythology

TAYO founder and fellow VONA attendee, Melissa Sipin and I have been in dialogue about editing an anthology of literature inspired by Filipino mythology.

We found this call for submissions on the PAWA blog, but we want to open it up to other genres, besides fiction, and we want Filipino writers from all over the diaspora to submit.  We’re inspired by the work of Barbara Jane Reyes, Aimee Nezuhukumatahil, Ninotchka Rosca, Noel Mariano, Oliver de la Paz, Maina Minahal, Aimee Suzara and more…

We want seasoned and emerging Filipino writers represented in the anthology (which we want in both print and online venues).

Is there something like this out there already?  Who are other Filipina/o writers who could fit into this project?


Filed under aswang, writing process

4 responses to “Work Update: Summer Sessions with the Aswang

  1. hey rachelle

    so your projects both sound very, very good! so glad to see your ms shaping itself the way it is. sounds like vona was helpful! re: anthology project, yes! thanks as well for the mention. i think mythology is one thing we’ve all kept with us, the earliest stories we hear, and so maybe some of the first texts that inform our own?

    i’ve found an essay, ‘new tales for old’ by cristina pantoja hidalgo, about the existence of the mythical and ‘folk’ in contemporary filipino narratives. will have to find it for you. i think it’s also what is considered the ‘magical realism’ of third world literatures (however correct or incorrect, however problematic the term). myth in contemporary lit is also popularized via ‘speculative fiction.’

    anyway, other filipino who handle myth in their work: rebecca mabanglo-mayor, dean francis alfar (amazing collection, the kite of stars), nikki alfar. the alfars are based in the PI. there are a LOT in the PI. not sure about other parts of the world.

  2. racruzzo

    Hi Barbara,

    Thanks for the input!

    Yes, I remember Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor’s essay on Doveglion; I’d love to get in touch with her about possibly submitting to the anthology. Will do some research on the Alfars.

    Melissa and I will be meeting again next week to finalize call for submissions. We’re still trying to figure out the process of submitting the anthology to publishers. Would love to hear your thoughts on logistics as well!

  3. Melissa

    I loved reading about the process of your manuscript, Rachelle! Definitely gives me insight on what I want to work on and how I want to play with form (especially in a linear narrative way with short story components).

    By the way, I found some old photographs at work about Filipinos in the world fair at St. Louis. Let me know if you ever want to take a look at them and their captions– though they’re just snippets of history, I feel like they can be inspirational, sort of like how you did that MOCA reading where you and other PEN artists were inspired by different pieces of art. I’m still mulling over how to translate “real-life” moments into works of fiction, but I thought maybe the old photographs could help inform your poems at the world fair.

    Thanks so much for the input Barbra! Also, thanks for letting us know some more authors who have mythical components in their work. I wanted to ask about your experience with CreateSpace too. Do you think the print-on-demand model over at CS was worth the costs?


  4. racruzzo

    Hey Melissa,

    Thanks! I’m glad that it helps. I’m reading your work now, and I’m excited to talk to you more about process and what you’re thinking for your ms.

    And yes, I’d love to see the photographs! I’ve written a number of poems on the 1904 World’s Fair and looked to Luisa Igloria’s JUAN LUNA’S REVOLVER (which has some poems on the World’s Fair) for inspiration. It’s really difficult to negotiate voice, “authenticity” and “ownership,” since many (if not all) of the Filipinos at the Fair weren’t able to express their own experiences. I need to rewatch BONTOC EULOGY, which deals with these exact issues. Barbara’s work in GRAVITIES WITH CENTER draws from the Marlon Fuentes film, fucks with the science of anthropology and contextualizes the Fair in broader American and Filipino histories. I am still figuring out how MY body (brown, female, privileged) factors in with this history, the act of rewriting it.

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