Monthly Archives: August 2011

Brunching with Poetry

Yesterday morning, I ate bacon, lime-spiced papaya, fresh scones, and lox on a jalapeño and cheddar bagel at LADWP (Los Angeles Department of Writing and Power)’s first Poetry Brunch, hosted by the wonderful Alanna Lin.

I underestimate the power of fun at times.

Participants and readers (myself included) gorged themselves on a delicious, home-cooked meal an hour or two before “getting down to business.” Which didn’t feel like business. Poetry isn’t business! But it feels this way, before I do a reading sometimes — why?

Jamie Asaye Fitzgerald and I were the featured readers. Prior to our readings, everyone at the event, around 20 people, shared five-line poems at the mic. I dig this kind of community building in a reading format; everyone eating, drinking coffee and sharing their work. By the time I got up to the mic, the reading was among friends, haiku-writers, and brunch-lovers unbuttoning the top button of their pants.

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I am teaching Introduction to Poetry this coming year. I am trying to remember any “formal” introduction I’ve experienced. In the sixth grade for the poetry unit, I had to interview my best friend as Gwendolyn Brooks who dressed like her (knit cap, large glasses). Does this count?

My first workshop in college wasn’t pleasant. There were little to no poets-of-color on the reading list. I didn’t speak Workshop Language yet. I was skeptical and grouchy, the newness of first winter in New York wearing off.

How were you introduced to poetry? How did poetry introduce itself to you?

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Filed under influences, los angeles, summer, writing process

“Thou shalt not be an egotistical asshole.”

“The 10 Commandments of Collaboration”

by Maureen Seaton and Denise Duhamel

1. Thou shalt trust thy collaborator’s art with thy whole heart.
2. Thou shalt trust thy collaborator’s judgment with thy whole mind.
3. Thou shalt trust thy collaborator’s integrity with thy whole spirit.
4. Honor thy own voice.
5. Honor thy collaborator’s spouse.
6. Thou shalt not be an egotistical asshole.
7. Thou shalt not covet all the glory.
8. Thou shalt love the same foods as your collaborator.
9. Thou shalt eat and tire at the same time.
10. Above all, honor the muse.

From “Poetry and Collaboration: Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton”

Today, I’m thinking about poetry and collaboration.  Why collaborate?

“The most delightful part about our collaborating is the shared creative burden. Even when we think we are stumping one another, providing lines that seem almost impossible to finish, the other can usually think of something to follow right away. We are open to mess and mayhem. We have found what we believe to be a third voice, a voice that is neither Maureen’s nor mine, but rather some poetic hybrid.” – Denise Duhamel

I find myself in three collaborative projects this summer, and I’m realizing that the “shared creative burden” is not only “delightful” but also less lonely.  There’s a larger vision at stake.

“I’ll post the generative questions or prompt that surface from the previous day’s writing and ask participants to write in response to them. You can answer in whichever way you are moved to — off-the-cuff, improvisationally, in deep meditation, whichever feels right to you. I’ll ask you within your writing response to braid the words of either another participant or writer/artist (other than yourself) in your writing in some way, to honor the collaborative intent of the project, and to credit that other writer/artist by name at the end of your writing (unless that person would rather remain anonymous).” – Ching-In Chen’s call for Collaborative Manifesto Remix

Over at Ching-In’s blog, it’s an incredible process to participate and witness the recycling of words and images in new, unexpected ways.  No matter the repetition, each writer cuts through from a different angle of light and shadow.  The “third voice” which Duhamel speaks of is complicated here; it’s many voices underneath voices and also what isn’t being said.

Fellow Kundiman poet Dan Lau and I begin the day with a collaborative ekphrasis poem on Gmail Chat.  We alternate lines, limiting ourselves to 20 minutes of writing time. It feels more like a sleepover as we play the flashlight game.  A thin beam of light on the bookshelf, on the window, at the crack in the floor, on the creepy clown doll.  We are asking ourselves, what else is here?

“diluvial: of, relating to, or brought about by a flood
I’ve pissed the bed again.

  The stench of new magnolias
weeping in the sea of sheets
collecting into deposits of sweat
  I fold myself into the bathroom
the condensation of wet dreams
the melange of urea and powdered flowers”

I’m loosening my language, opening up to “mess and mayhem,” engaging in dialogue and community (living and dead), facing the darkness underneath the bed with a good friend — these are my reasons for collaboration.

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Filed under Community, influences

Circles of Influence: Thoughts on Community

Rashaan Alexis Meneses posted this today on Facebook and posed this question: “How you might draw a diagram of your own circle of influence? Who would be in yours?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Maria Popov who collaborated with Michelle Legro and Wendy MacNaughton on this diagram for Longshot Magazine, Circles of Influences is “a visualization of literary, scientific and artistic influences. It’s designed to illustrate the enormous creative indebtedness that permeates humanity’s proudest intellectual output, while also demonstrating the cross-pollination of disciplines across science, art, literature, film and music.”

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Below is my Circle of Influence (thank you, Paint!).  Instead of renowned white male literary figureheads dominating my circle, there are writing communities such as Kundiman and the PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship, which have shaken up my world, splashed a bucket of icewater on my head, and said, YOU!  These communities have expanded my worldview, poetics, process, life.  There are teachers, mentors, fellow “emerging” writers (who are the heart/soul of these communities), the first Pinay writers I read, the first writers who I loved first.  There isn’t enough space for all of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve linked the different writers and artists in my circle by community: where I was when I first met/read them, who influenced/influences their work, other communities in which they belong and overlap.

I forgot to mention The Blood-Jet Writing Hour, a place where I try to link all of these communities and influences.

Pearl Buck, author of The Good Earth, is here.  She was the one of the first writers who pissed me off when I encountered her in high school.  Her stereotypes of Asian folks, her limited scope, her access to a world and a community that didn’t belong to her.

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Last night, I met with the former 2009 Emerging Voices Fellows (now MMIX Writers Los Angeles) at Sylvia and Bonnie’s house for our not-so-regular potluck and sharing of work.  We ate our usual Trader Joe’s pizza and drank sangria. We sat on Sylvia’s brilliant red couch to read last chapters of novels and memoirs, fresh poems, a new collection of photographs.  Projects we began at the PEN Fellowship are being revised and close to finished.

I shared poems inspired by Sylvia’s photography collection, “I forget myself (I forget you).”  A true mix.  Many of us have/are attending conferences and residencies frequently, or signing up for the MFA, or getting promoted at work.  This was the first community where I truly found home, and I’m grateful to come back and shake my head and laugh at how fast time flies.

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Filed under Community, emerging voices, influences, Kundiman, los angeles, MFA, MMIX, the blood-jet, UC Riverside, writing process