Poetas y Diwatas
Guest Editor: Barbara Jane Reyes
Before I ever had a name for it, I was already engaged in the work of centering Pinay narratives and voices. For the past two decades, I have thought of my poetry as doing just that; I am a Pinay poet and my speakers and/or personae are Pinays thinking about their own lives, telling their own stories. I always thought it was that simple.
But I am frequently asked whether writing about Pinay-ness has limited me.
Being Pinay is a fact of who I am. I was birthed by a Pinay, and raised by Pinays. Pinays have given me my value system. My Pinay-ness is the filter through which the world views and handles me, cross references me against what they (think they) know about people in the world who look like me.
Third world baby making machines. Blue passport seekers. American soldier lovers. Pleasers of white men. Nurses. Maids. Nannies. Prostitutes. Mail Order Brides. “Comfort Women.” Victims of atrocity. Bodies in commerce.
Ignoring this fact, making believe it isn’t so won’t stop it from being so.
Ignoring this fact, making believe it isn’t so would limit me.
I write about what is most important to me, what is most pressing to me, and in writing the specifics of these, have found that what most resonates with readers is the struggle for personhood, the insistence upon humanity of my speakers and personae, above and beyond ethnicity.
I write, “before I had a name for it,” because as I have been engaged in my decades-long Pinay-centric poetic projects, Professor Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales has been working too, at giving name, substance, and depth, at creating a discipline that is the necessarily Pinay-centric work of carving out and centering Pinay spaces for dialogue, cultural production, and community work. This is Pinayism.
In these spaces, such as this one here, in our work as writers, artists, educators, mentors, leaders and members of community, we have the opportunity to tease out the layers and contradictions of history, identity, and experience, to interrogate the filters through which the world views us, and in doing so, create and proliferate our own narratives.
-Barbara Jane Reyes
Poetas y Diwatas:
Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of Diwata (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010), winner of the Global Filipino Literary Award for Poetry and 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 (Arkipelago Books, 2003) and Poeta en San Francisco(Tinfish Press, 2005), which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. She is also the author of the chapbooks Easter Sunday (Ypolita Press, 2008) Cherry(Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2008), and For the City that Nearly Broke Me (Aztlan Libre Press, 2012).
An Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, she received her B.A. in Ethnic Studies at U.C. Berkeley and her M.F.A. at San Francisco State University. She is an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco’s Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program, where she teaches Filipino/a Literature in Diaspora, and Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature. She has also taught Filipino American Literature at San Francisco State University, and graduate poetry workshop at Mills College, and currently serves on the board of Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA). She lives with her husband, poet Oscar Bermeo, in Oakland, where she is co-editor of Doveglion Press.
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