Tagged & Tagging on the Virtual Blog Tour

(Jaipur Literary Festival, 2014, Panel session on the Global Novel with Jhumpa Lahiri, Jonathan Franzen, Jim Crace, Maaza Mengiste, Xioaolu Guo moderated by Chandrahas Chaudhry. Presented by British Council).

Returning home after a three-week trip, presenting at academic conferences and checking out the sights and sounds of Oxford, UK, Lisbon, Portugal, and its environs, yours truly came back to a warm welcome from writer Barbara Jane Reyes, inviting yours truly on a Virtual Blog Tour (see her original post on the virtual blog tour here), which is defined by Vince Gotera below (borrowed from BJR’s post):

The “virtual blog tour” is an excellent, friendly way for writers, artists, and other creative folks to bring attention to their own work as well as that of others. It begins with an invitation from another artist or writer. Then in your blog you acknowledge the person who invited you, answer four given questions about your work and your process, and then invite three other people to participate. These people then do the same thing, referring their blog readers to the blogs of three more people, and so on. It’s a wonderful sort of “pyramid scheme” that’s beneficial for everyone: the artists and writers as well as the readers of their blogs. We can follow links from blog to blog and then we can all learn about different kinds of creative process and also find new writers and artists we may not have known about before.


In case you didn’t know, Barbara was and still is to this day my Virgil to the Bay Area. When I became a NorCal transplant from the City of Angels, it was Barbara who plugged me into the writing community, Barbara who introduced me to PAWA Inc, which if you haven’t checked out, you really should, and Barbara who continues to blaze the trail that I’m panting to keep up with. So hats off to BJR, who continues to inspire and provoke imagination, intellect, and engagement. Barbara’s work is fierce both on the page and as a leader in the literary/arts community. She pushes the boundaries of word and meaning while drawing the reader into urgent intimacy. See for yourself.

From Poetry Foundation

To Be Walang Hiya

By Barbara Jane Reyes

Bubblegum lip gloss kissed,                Our lifelines, our mirrors,

I was never a singkil princess            These are Luminous Mysteries

Knuckle cracking, polished toes,        Our notebooks, our language,

I was never a Santacruzan queen      To witness, to make way,

Black eyeliner, push up bra                  Our thirst and our wedding bands —

I was never a curtsying debutante    To fill stone jars with water, to wed,

Loud, gum-smacking babygirl             Our glamour and our armor.

I was never a tiaraed Miss Fil Am     To transfigure, dazzling as the sun.

Source: Poetry (May 2014).

I love how she plays with form in the poem above, and the contrast in imagery that bumps up against one another like tectonic plates, shaking our world as we know it. Her work is simultaneously both present, in and of the moment, anchored to a particular time and region, and also timeless, stretching across centuries and continents. Please do yourself a favor and read more of Barbara Jane Reyes’ brilliant work.

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). Her work is published or forthcoming in Arroyo Literary Review, Asian Pacific American Journal, Boxcar Poetry Review, Chain, Eleven Eleven, Fairy Tale Review, Fourteen Hills, Hambone, Kartika Review, Lantern Review, New American Writing, North American Review, Notre Dame Review, Poetry, TAYO, Unpublished Narratives, xcp: Cross Cultural Poetics, among others. 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.


As for the Q&A part of the Virtual Blog Tour:

1. What are you currently working on?

  • A manuskript about Filipino Overseas Workers also known as OFWs or what I’m calling our 21st century troubadours.
  • Recently presented two papers on the craft of writing the global novel/fiction (see video above) or inciting a global imagination, which I’d like to pursue further, exploring how writers tackle through craft transnationalism, identity, and politics on a global scale.
  • Researching Portuguese & Spanish explorers for another projekt.
  • Hoping soon to do more research on transculturation during Elizabethan times.


2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

See above.

I’m very much interested in this idea of the global novel or world literature (again, see above video), which I riffed on at this summer’s conferences. From the papers I presented, one of which is titled “Then the World Widened: Daring Creative Writing Students to be Cartographers of the Global Imagination” below is an excerpt, which to my own surprise pretty much sums up what I’m fixing to do with my literary pursuits:

The global novel shuttles across language borders, geographical and political boundaries, and historical epochs. Writers who take on the task of using the globe as setting and world history as backdrop are today’s cosmographers, aiming to chart where we have come from as a global society and where we may be heading. In the quest to map the core and periphery or the Global North and the Global South, these writers reveal where and how ethnic, economic, gender, political, spiritual and other divisions intersect, contradict, or complement one another. Global novelists incite what Viktor Shklovsky calls “a world-awareness”1.
…For Shklovsky, art aims to reorganize or re-envision the world, and this world awareness reaches beyond sensation; more than seeing or feeling, it requires active participation, agency, and a deliberate problematizing of awareness. Art, in this sense, is purely experiential, it is the inciting of awareness or inciting a global imagination for the reader to construct meaning and participate in the storying process.


3. Why do you write/create what you do?

Its the best and only way I know how to live.


4. How does your writing/creating process work?

I try to read, watch, and eavesdrop as widely and attentively as possible and am inspired by labour and geography. For some reason, I can’t tear myself away from the idea that how we make a living, how we pay our rent/mortgage, feed our loved ones, and spend most of our waking hours is intrinsic to how we find meaning and place. Of course this can be devastatingly limiting and deterministic, but more often than not, I find that exploring how vocation & occupation shapes a person and therefore a world is completely astonishing.

And now onto my favorite part of the Virtual Blog Tour, introducing four–though its supposed to be three, but I’m following Barbara’s lead because these writers are the bees knees–four brilliant literary artists. Please peep out their work!

Raina J. León, Cave Canem graduate fellow (2006) and member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, has been published in numerous journals as a writer of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Her first collection of poetry, Canticle of Idols, was a finalist for both the Cave Canem First Book Poetry Prize (2005) and the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize (2006). Her second book, Boogeyman Dawn (2013, Salmon Poetry), was a finalist for the Naomi Long Madgett Prize (2010). She has received fellowships and residencies with Cave Canem, CantoMundo, Montana Artists Refuge, the Macdowell Colony, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Annamaghkerrig, Ireland and Ragdale. She also is a founding editor of The Acentos Review, an online quarterly, international journal devoted to the promotion and publication of Latino and Latina arts. She is an assistant professor of education at Saint Mary’s College of California. http://rainaleon.blogspot.com/


Emily Breunig, from childhood onward, has lived and worked in all sorts of places, from California’s Central Valley to Texas to New England, China to Sweden to Southern California. She is fascinated with dislocation and the way that it impacts life in nearly every corner of our world–along with the tales people tell to make sense of it all. In her writing, she aspires to explore what this all means for individuals and their relationships with others as they struggle to find a community. She holds a BA from Yale University and an MFA from St. Mary’s College of California. Her first novel is represented by Levine Greenberg and short fiction is forthcoming in Pasiphae, from Valeveil Press. She lives in Silicon Valley. http://emilybreunig.squarespace.com/


Marianne Villanueva is a fiction writer who writes everything from opera librettos to short stories to novellas. Her work has been published in The Threepenny Review, ZYZZYVA, The Chattahoochee Review, J Journal, Juked, PANK, Word Riot, The Crab Orchard Review, and many other places. She is currently working on a collection of linked stories. Her blog is Kanlaon: http://anthropologist.wordpress.com/


Gregory Leadbetter’s pamphlet The Body in the Well was published by HappenStance in 2007. His book on Coleridge’s poetry, the transnatural and the dilemmas of creativity, Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) won the CCUE Book Prize 2012. He has written radio drama for the BBC, and was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2013. He is Reader in Literature and Creative Writing at Birmingham City University, where he leads the MA in Writing and the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing. www.gregoryleadbetter.blogspot.co.uk

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