A BURNING QUESTION FOR THE WORLD AND THE POETRY FOUNDATION TOO

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So here’s a really big one, Barbara Jane Reyes. Isn’t the looseness in the creative souls of your Filipino poets, the flexibility, the disorder even in their language, isn’t that actually an advantage? And don’t they get that freedom precisely by being part of a marginalized, deracinated culture? Isn’t that their big reward as artists?

When you’re shut out, can’t you also feel liberated by not having to make sense in the eyes of the establishment? Can’t you even survive better by realizing you’re your own Cirque Soleil, and the sky is your tent and anything you say way up on a very high, and very shaky, high high wire?

Like Cockney humor when London was such a God-awful place to be a worker, or Puerto Rican street talk when so-called ‘Latinos’ were just a Westside Story? Or Gypsies anywhere in Europe, even now, or the really great Yiddish in the Ghetto. None of those people wanted to be understood, their language was their hidden treasure!

And isn’t the creative nonsense-genius you get in English from Latinos, Cockneys and Filipinos just the opposite of Flarf, for example, or Stephen Burt’s  ‘New Thing,’ both of which are so studiously the product of too much money, too much leisure, too much education, too much self-regard, and cultural cabin fever?

I hope you’ve had a chance to read Thomas Brady’s two essays on the Not A Radical Treatise thread (click here, and here). Isn’t the role of what he calls “Limits” applicable to all ‘overly-racinated’ cultures, not just mainstream American poetry — bound feet in China, for example, what a heart-breaking limit that was? And if you begin to feel too privileged with Franchisement, might you not begin to affect Disenfranchisement today, pretend to be a Revolutionary, and start another very self-conscious, very rarefied, very hard to understand and therefore very deep New Movement? (I almost said “fake” there, but the tragedy, of course, is self-delusion. Yes, it’s “new” alright,  but so what? The question is, is it genuine? Does it have any genuine human value?)

And the real thing, the diamond, Desmond Swords, isn’t he just the opposite of a Stephen Burt? I hope you’ve read Desmond too — he writes about his struggle as a working class Irish poet to get accepted by the British blog establishment (click here). He also reflects specifically on his experiences on Blog:Harriet  (click here)  and goes international on the Guardian Blog — quite a read, including the flabbergasted responses!

So what do you think it did to Desmond’s voice when he found out it was just being read as “blather,” Or getting booted off The Poetry Foundation’s site for that matter? How much pleasure did that give him do you think? How high did that make him fly?

Or even in a tiny little way, the three of us here on Scarriet, Tom, Des and myself, uprooted from Harriet and cast adrift by The Poetry Foundation of America? Aren’t we sort of lucky?

Christopher Woodman

COMMUNICATIONS AND MISCOMMUNICATIONS

Barabara Jane Reyes

Click here to read the rest of this Harriet article by Barbara Jane Reyes.

Dear Barbara Jane Reyes,

Thank you for this rich and well-written article. I have lived in South East Asia for 15 years, and have travelled widely in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia, my immediate neighbors — but never in Burma. (Aung San Su Kyi has asked me not to support the junta with my tourist dollars, and I’d do anything for her!) I haven’t managed Vietnam yet either, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I will find there one of the most vibrant, life-affirming cultures in the world. I also have no doubt that Vietnam will soon be the leader in continental SE Asia, and I don’t mean just economically either. I mean intellectually, artistically, and above all in the quality of life.

Having said all that, I have a strange confession to make: I’ve never been there but I still like the Philippines the best — just based on the people I’ve met from there all over the world, in America, in Asia, on ferries, in diners, students, bar girls, nannies, doctors, NGOs, roustabouts, one Shakespearean actor and even one Blue Grass guitarist! And yes, I’ve found a beauty, vibrancy, and sense of personal freedom in people of Philippino origin that’s quite unique. And the extraordiary thing is that the qualities I so admire seem to be in each and every one of them without exception regardless of their citizenship, education, or station in life.

And I love especially their wonderful kitsch, their glamor and mixing up of media, metaphors, metatarsals, moxies, munchies and feathers. I was brought up in New England and was taught there was such a thing as ‘Good Taste’ that ‘Everybody’ knew — well, that’s completely gone in me now, washed away with my Puritan birthright, thank God. Now I want fairy lights with everything, jingle bells on my hairpiece and funny little pandas on my desk and all over my altar. Indeed, what fills me with wonder is the genius of Filipinos wherever they live to make everything that glitters pure gold — and here’s your article and I can say, yes, including what I was also brought up to call ‘our’ English language. And now I just say PPPLEASE!

This is a wonderful poet, R. Zamora Linmark — how I wish Tom, Desmond and myself were there on Harriet to join you in the discussion.  And the whole topic of “communications and miscommunications” — truly wonderful.

But don’t worry, even though we’re not there we’re still following on Scarriet. So stay tuned here too!

Christopher Woodman