Poetry Monday: “Like the Molave”

Excerpt from Like the Molave

by Rafael Zulueta y da Costa (1915 – 1990)

Note: The molave is a Philippine hardwood, resistant to fire, used frequently in the construction of Philippine churches and dwellings, now extinct in the Islands.


VI

My American friend says:

show me one great Filipino speech to make your people
listen through the centuries;
show me one great Filipino song rich with the soul of your
seven thousand isles;
show me one great Filipino dream, forever sword and
shield —
speech eloquent and simple as our My Country ‘Tis of Thee;
dream age-enduring, sacred as our American democracy!

Friend, our silences are long but we also have our speeches.

Father, with my whole heart, I forgive all.
Believe me, your reverence.

 

Throwback Thursday: THE FORBIDDEN STITCH, An Asian American Women’s Anthology (Calyx Books)

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The kind of activism that made Calyx great is here:

Excerpt From Children Are Color-Blind

by Genny Lim

I never painted myself yellow
The way I colored the sun when I was five.
The way I colored whitefolks with the “flesh” crayola.
Yellow pages adults thumbed through for restaurants,
taxis, airlines, plumbers . . .
The color of summer squash, corn, eggyolk, innocence and tapioca.

My children knew before they were taught.
They envisioned rainbows emblazoned over alleyways;
Clouds floating over hilltops like a freedom shroud.

The Capitalism of My Father: Story # 7 in Bulosan’s THE LAUGHTER OF MY FATHER

There is such a streak of fatalism that runs through the Filipino character. Was that a legacy of the Spanish? Or was that always present, even before?

Carlos Bulosan was from Pangasinan. So presumably this was how life was in that province, pre-World War II.

  • The farmers sold their bales and went to the market. They bought the things that were most needed in their homes and walked around in the plaza counting their money. Some of them were lured by the gamblers at the cockpit, and they went home without their money.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Book Greed”: James P. Blaylock in POETS & WRITERS July/August 2019

  • A writer’s library is more than just a collection of books. It is also a piecemeal biography of that writer’s life, and measurably so, as most have writers have spent countless hours reading the books that they now own or have borrowed, hours that add up to years, perhaps decades, given a long enough life.

— James P. Blaylock, My Life in Books

Love this essay, which echoes so many of self’s feelings about her own library. Just recently, self decided to start reading some of her collection. Books she’s picked up from author’s readings, and then stashed away on a shelf, in the fond hope she’d get to them “someday.”

Someday is here!

Two of the books she’s owned for years but never got around to reading:

  • Carlos Bulosan’s story collection, The Laughter of My Father
  • Kelly Link’s short story collection, Get In Trouble (She read a couple of stories, not the whole collection)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Currently Reading: Classic Opera

The Making of the Representative for Planet 8, An Opera in Three Acts

by Philip Glass and Doris Lessing

Act I, Scene 2

Doeg, you have been with me on other planets.
Life is different on them all.
You know what winter is.
You know how life can freeze.
You know how worlds can turn from green to white.

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Self took this picture while riding Caltrain to San Francisco: 20 February 2017

Poetry Tuesday: Mary Ruefle

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You’ve wasted another evening
sitting with imaginary friends,
discussing the simplest possible
arrangement of an iris.

— excerpt from “Replica”

 

Now Reading: 2nd Tuesday of July 2019

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Rosario Ferré: Her Island

Self is reading the last piece in Ferré’s book, On Destiny, Language, and Translation. As self has explained elsewhere, she decided to start this re-read with the last piece and work her way front. Nothing can match the genius of the title story, The Youngest Doll, which begins the collection, and self would rather work her way up to the good stuff.

She must have forgotten (honestly, it’s been at least two decades since she’s read Rosario Ferré) or mebbe it didn’t strike her as significant at the time, but Ferré is from Puerto Rico, and her primary subject is the class divisions between landowners and share workers, on an island where the main crop is sugar.

Self knows quite a bit about sugar, because that is her family’s crop, too. Maybe that is why she found Ferré. Yes, she found her.

It’s not as if Ferré is the easiest Latin American writer to read. Before getting to Ferré, self read Clarice Lispector, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Rosario Castellanos, Octavio Paz, Jorge Amado. But when she found Ferré, there was instant engagement.

To read is to engage, but when self found Ferré, she didn’t just engage, she engaged fiercely.

On to Ferré’s essay. She unpacks the process of translating her own novel, Maldito Amor, from Spanish to English.

The title of the novel “is also the title of a very famous danza written by Juan Morelli Campos, Puerto Rico’s most gifted composer in the nineteenth century, which describes in its verses the paradisiacal existence of the island’s bourgeoisie of the time . . . I decided to change the title altogether in my translation of the novel, substituting the much more specific Sweet Diamond Dust. The new title refers to the sugar produced by the De Lavalle family, but it also touches on the dangers of a sugar which, like diamond dust, poisons those who sweeten their lives with it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Poetry Thursday: Luis Palés Matos

Antille, steaming pasture
of freshly crushed cane syrup.
Constant activity of the sugar mill
Molasses Turkish bath.
White-linened aristocracy
skimming over life’s waves
on milk-curdled phrases
and mellifluous metaphors.
Stylized coast drafted
by languid palm trees.

— translated by Rosario Ferré

Luis Palés Matos was born on March 20, 1898, in Guayama, Puerto Rico, a small village with a predominantly black population.

Stay tuned.

Reading on the Fourth of July, 2019

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HOME: 4 July 2019

Today self finished Stephen Westaby’s Open Heart and began a re-read of the Rosario Ferré collection The Youngest Doll (University of Nebraska Press, 1991). Some pieces are memoir, some are nonfiction, some are magical realist.

  • Being a writer . . . one has to learn to live by letting go, by renouncing the reaching of this or that shore, to let oneself become the meeting place of both . . . In a way, all writing is a translation, a struggle to interpret the meaning of life, and in this sense the translator can be said to be a shaman, a person said to be deciphering conflicting human texts, searching for the final unity of meaning in speech.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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