Here’s a snippet of Barbara Jane Reyes‘s TAYO interview, who is a Filipina poet to be reckoned with. Barbara is the author of Diwata, published on BOA Editions in 2010, which was recently noted as a finalist for the California Book Award. She was born in Manila, Philippines, raised in the San Francisco Bay area, and is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Gravities of Center on Arkipelago Books in 2003 and Poeta en San Francisco on Tinfish Press in 2005, which received the James Laughlin award of the Academy of American Poets. She is co-editor with her husband, poet Oscar Bermeo, of Doveglion Press and an adjunct professor in Philippine Studies at University of San Francisco and in English at Mills College.
“There is a poem I tried to write almost two decades ago, in which a mermaid encounters young revolutionaries, executed and thrown into the river. I scrapped the poem because no matter what I did with it, it just wasn’t working. I was not pleased with the speaker’s voice; it felt too forced, and her emotional range was too much like my own, a 20-something year old brown girl in America, versus that of a being older than time, which is what a mermaid would be. I was trying too hard to write something I didn’t know yet how to write. I was really disappointed at myself for not being able to make it work. Years later, the mermaid continued to make her presence known in Gravities of Center and Poeta en San Francisco. And this mermaid who encounters the executed revolutionaries made her way into Diwata in my “Duyong” poems, where I’ve written five different mermaid personae, who speak with a certain amount of emotional maturity, distance, ambivalence that she’s cultivated over her long, long life and mythical status as an observer/witness of human lives.
So then, in terms of advice to beginning writers, if the story is meant to be written, then it will be written, and it’s up to you to figure out how to get to that point that you’re ready to write it. For me, it meant years of practice, and going to school to continue my education as a writer, immersing myself in a structured, professional environment with writers and professors who would push my aesthetic and literary boundaries, and oftentimes push them hard.
It’s a matter of time and practice, trial and error, experimentation, during which you will grow as a person and as a writer, and learn exactly how to tell the story, what tools you need, and how to wield them.”
TAYO’s third issue is forthcoming in October 2011. So get excited!