Blog

Summer ’17 in N.Y.C.

It escapes me not that I haven’t blogged in a while. The first six months of this year have been, to say the very least, busy. I’ve spent a lot of the year reflecting alone, or in therapy, or with close, close friends about so many things: the blues of being a first-time author, the blues of becoming a second-time author, writing, the business of writing, teaching, the rationing of energy that thins and renews itself with teaching, creating and building my future one moment at a time, and learning how, as a woman committed to my own growth, to stand up for myself every single day.

This shit is hard, y’all. But maybe you knew that already.

It’s a process, yes, but process, for me, necessitates action.

Anyway.

This past week, I spent a week in New York City for my sixth time. I have a lot and nothing to say at the same time. I’m thankful to have spent a lot of time with students and colleagues in a city that felt unlike home every time I visited.

Here are some snapshots of the trip – one I’ll be thinking about for a very, very long time.
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 11.02.14 PMwith the crew at the Big L mural

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with the crew at the Biggie, King of NY mural

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And I just love your flashy ways.

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with my student, Webster

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with my student, Kyle (he’s transferring to CalArts this year!)

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with my sister in CIPHER, Kim.

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with my small group, the Mad Transit Artists (MTA).

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at the 9/11 Memorial

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from the 9/11 Museum

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performing at the Nuyorican Poets Café Open Mic w/ Kim & our students

Days 1-3 #WeComeFromEverything #PoetryCoalition

I’m participating in a project that is the first public offering of the newly formed Poetry Coalition—twenty-two organizations dedicated to working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and communities, as well as the important contributions poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.

Here are my three poems that I’ve sent out as postcards to fellow Kundiman writers:

 

After looking at a glittery postcard of Waikiki

But what we don’t see

Are the workers

One of my best friends

Organizes.

 

She makes aunties

Out of housekeepers

And uncles out of

Bellhops.

 

The colors

Of early morning

Make visible

Tourists’ distraction

 

But we know

 

The workers are there.

Their jobs, they’re told,

Are to make it look like

They’re not


On a Postcard is A View From The Sears Tower in Chicago

From up here

we can’t see

105 miles away

My Auntie Luz’s farm

 

pictures of her deceased in-laws

And the watchful porcelain dolls

Swaying rocking chairs

In empty salons

 

Kept me out of the ghost stories I’d created

Kept her from the Philippines.

Kept Ma and I spooning like I was six again

Kept a well-kept house

My auntie refused

To be a kept woman

After her husband called her crazy,

Then Divorced.

 

She kept the house,

The farm,

Her garden,

Her sanity.


What You See on This Postcard of the Aloha State

These buildings

Mimic Diamond Head

Wishing they could

Kiss the land

Cradle the sun

high-five the sky

 

Instead they are

Eyesores Penetrating

Making fingernails

Out of the shoreline

 

Instead they are

White families

Bland barricades

With selective sight

 

What do you see

And not see

At the same time?

 

My Post-#AWP17 Thoughts

reading from "microchips for millions"
reading from “microchips for millions”

I think I’ve got the AWP blues. I was nervous about attending without any of the folks I usually attend with, and I was really anxious about being alone most of the time. The universe has a way of reminding me who I am, where I’m from, and where I’m going. And I’m going to keep pushing. My fears dissipated as I saw how folks made time and space for me. As I made time and space for them. As I set boundaries for myself, and accomplished goals, and did a lot of work, even during the conference.

Here are the writing projects that I’m working on at the moment.

  1. I have a chapbook coming out from Mondo Bummer. It should be out by late Spring. More on that later on.
  2. My second book Like a Solid to a Shadow will be coming out from Timeless, Infinite Light by Fall 2017.
  3. I’m sending around and submitting my non-fiction manuscript, which is a collection of essays I’ve published in the past couple of years in various online spaces. It’s called Let Me See You See Me Back, and it’s been rejected maybe three times already? Hoping for more rejections and an eventual home soon.
  4. I’ll be working on my fiction manuscript, which was my graduate school thesis and now shelved novel, Where Did You Get All Those English From? It hella needs to be revised. I’ll also be looking up and researching agents and their wish lists and whatever that looks like. I don’t know the fiction game, but I’m ’bout to find out.
  5. I am also working on a new poetry manuscript, but I’m taking my time with it. It doesn’t have or require the same political urgency that microchips for millions or Like a Solid to a Shadow did. This book, I’m hoping, will be titled Powerhouse. It’s about skin and the ways in which women of color learn about the world. That’s all I’ll say for now.

We all got work to do. Here goes.

janice.

 

I stopped updating here on purpose, and I’m trying to come back.

"Open Air Prison" by Christeen Francis
“Open Air Prison” by Christeen Francis

In fragments:

  1. I don’t think I’m avoiding anything anymore.
  2. I think I’m too grown to let my anger get the most of me. I don’t think my anger makes me productive in the moment, but I know it exists within me. I’ve become better at measure cupping my rage.
  3. I can’t act like the current presidency is not a sham, is not fascist, is nothing short of white supremacy.
  4. Today, in class, a student brought up the idea of home as a force. As in, it’s where we are pulled when we have nowhere else to go, it’s where we are safe. Home as  a life force. But also, home as in, being forced to be there. We talked about the experiences of immigrants, refugees, and others who make home on the move.
  5. We can’t want more for other people. They have to want it for themselves.
  6. I’m narrowly focused on setting up my future self. I assume she is there.
  7. She said, “Home is where the heart is, right?”
  8. What if home is where the body is?
  9. A student taught me that all of our notes and words might be annotations. What if everything we write is an annotation, is from the margin, is the piece from the rhyme book?
  10. Our homes could be forced right out of us.
  11. I don’t cry out of nowhere. I usually know why.
  12. I too often tell myself that I’m not producing the work I should be writing. That it doesn’t sound like me. That it doesn’t hit the way I need it to.
  13. My second book is coming out this year.
  14. I spend a lot of time listening. It’s good work, but it’s draining. There’s no easy  pulling away, plugging up, or closing of my limbs in hearing sounds and voices. Hearing is the kind of sense where, like, you are made to feel like you have to gather all of you to get away from something.
  15. Force is violating. The fibers of our homes get forced apart by policy. By people. By presidents.
  16. I just really think the world finds slick, covert ways to tell me that it doesn’t give a fuck about Filipina girls. Tell me I’m wrong.
  17. We are forced out of our homes.
  18. Too often I wake up with balloons inside my chest. With cranes in my sky. These metal clouds.
  19. A student told me that she came back to my class because she needed to follow her dreams. I let her in. She left.
  20. When my first book came out, I felt like I was giving birth alone.
  21. I wonder where she is right now.

 

janice.