In Honor of Filipino American History Month an essay for #allpinayeverything

 

Honored and grateful to share this essay resurrected from three years ago when I was a inhabiting a different body and anticipating two new lives for myself and my soon-to-be-son. Wishing I had more time and energy to write, revise, and polish pieces like this one. A writer-mother-teacher can dream. Thankful to Barbara Jane Reyes and #allpinayeverything for giving this little meditation a home and allowing these words to see the light of day.  Here’s to more writing & reading for #FAHM and for every day of the year.

Excerpt from “Waters I’ve Known”

We sip from the stars. This blue marble fed by interstellar ice. Before the sun had ever formed, from a cold, molecular cloud come our seas, lakes, and rivers that once were ions and ices fused in frigid chemistry. Our water sprang from the void, was launched from one stellar system to another, and then packed as frozen, cometary time capsules composed of gas, dust, and ice. Born of an interstellar heritage, our oceans travelled first as comets, asteroids, and hybrid space voyagers known as centaurs.

Read the entire essay here.

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New Prep for Fall 2018: Questions of Citizenship

Fall 2018 has been breathing down my neck really since the start of this year, knowing I’d have a brand-spanking new prep to teach that’ll be off and running no sooner than next week when the semester kicks off. The Common Good Seminar: Questions of Citizenship dives into a powerhouse reading list, which I’ve adopted thanks to Professor Kathleen Tierney, who previously taught the course. (May the teaching saints help me do justice to her syllabus). In the next fifteen weeks we’re tackling:

Kwame Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (W. W. Norton, 978-0393061550)

Aristotle, Politics
Translated by Ernest Barker, Revised by RF Stalley (Oxford University Press, 9780199538737)

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 9780679744726)

Ta Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
(Random House Publishing Group, 9780812993547)

Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Death Scene from Phaedo Edition 3 Translated by GMA Grube, Revised by John M. Cooper (Hackett Publishing Co., 9780872205543)

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Marx-Engels Reader
Robert C. Tucker, editor (Norton, WW & Company, Inc., 9780393090406)

Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 9781555976903)

Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality

(Dover, 9780486434148)

Hopefully, we’ll not only be practicing Socratic Dialogues, where students should be taking responsibility for the “health and well-being” of our Seminar class and discussion, but the conversations we share should circle around and center on citizenship and, definitely in this climate, non-citizenship.

The course description reads pretty hefty:

The Common Good Seminar: Questions of Citizenship

The liberal arts were originally understood in part as the arts proper to a life of political freedom; one aim of a liberal education was to prepare students to be citizens of a free state. This course is meant to support that aim by engaging students in questions of citizenship and the common good. Where did the institution of citizenship come from? How has it evolved? Who has been included or excluded by evolving definitions of citizenship? What does it mean to be a good citizen? How can citizens best contribute to the common good? How best to understand the common good itself? How do different visions of the good entail different views of human nature? How do views of human nature underlie ideas of the most just social order? How can citizens best work for a more just society? Does the concept of citizenship imply allegiance to a particular state, or can one be a cosmopolitan “citizen of the world”? Can one balance the claims of patriotism and cosmopolitanism? How should we understand the meaning of citizenship today?

The course presents a series of texts in conversation with one another around these questions of citizenship and the common good. Through critical engagement with the readings, students will engage in these conversations on human nature, the common good, and a just social order. The current reading list examines competing claims in the Western tradition about the nature of human beings and the conditions of human existence, and explores the implications of these claims for our understanding of social justice and the ends of civic and human life. As students gain a deeper understanding of these debates, they will learn to uncover and to critically the assumptions about who we are that underlie claims about how we should live together. Moving deeper into issues of social justice, the course will look at how evolving definitions of citizenship have enfranchised and disenfranchised people in America, and how this evolution has been driven by movements of politically engaged citizens and non-citizens. The last part of the course challenges students to analyze current political issues from local and global perspectives, and to think about how citizens can best act together for social justice.

In the model of Collegiate Seminar, students will engage in the process of shared inquiry through close reading and discussion. Students will practice the skills of civil discourse necessary for politically engaged citizenship. The seminar setting itself models a type social order where students are members of a learning community with roles, rights and responsibilities to oneself and to the group. The pedagogical model of the course generates a experiential learning environment, where students wrestle with the difficult issues raised by the readings in an effort to reach a common good for the seminar.

Stay tuned and Happy Fall!

SMC MFA Reading Series Video with Shanthi Sekaran Now Online

This past April 4, 2018, yours truly had the honor to introduce and chat with the poetic storyteller Shanthi Sekaran about her new novel Lucky Boy. Sekaran is currently the 2018 Distinguished Visiting Writer in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College, and her work includesThe Prayer Room. Lucky Boy is the tale of two women who’s lives are forever linked by love and loss.

The video of her reading and our Q&A is now up as part of SMC MFA Creative Reading Series, so you can see for yourself the brilliance of Sekaran. Please treat yourself and share with other lovers of word and story.

Magkwento: The Philippine Anglophone Literature List

Thanks to the amazing vision and dedicated work of Alden Sajor Wood, a PhD candidate in English and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Irvine where he is completing a dissertation on Filipino and Filipino diasporic literatures, I’m honored and thrilled to be included in Magkwento: The Philippine Anglophone Literature List.

This invaluable resource is a comprehensive and inspiring directory to a growing list of literary luminaries. Please treat yourself and share the love with students, colleagues, and your favorite readers & writers.

“Recall work day mornings with your parents or guardians and write a description of their morning ritual before leaving for work”: Creative Prompt #3 for JanTerm043 “The Art of Race”

Image result for junot diaz drownStudents in yours truly Jan Term course “The Art of Race: (Re) Imagining Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Literature, Art, & Pop Culture” are working hard on their final project, which is a creative writing assignment to write poetry, short fiction, or a personal essay inspired by the artists, writers, musicians, and theorists we’ve studied on how race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality inspire and shape creative work and how the different forms of art can redefine and interrogate notions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. We’re ending the term by looking at Junot Diaz’s Drown and his MFA vs. POC written originally for Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing for VONA workshops and later published by The New Yorker.

The students have really responded to and ran with the prompts we’ve been working with and requested a third and final prompt, which I’ve included below for you to have a go if you so choose.

Poetry:

Create a list of fifteen items, including objects, images, songs, movies, TV shows, magazines, albums, clothing, jewelry, toys, household items, etc. that remind you of your childhood. Don’t edit or over-think but try to list as many items that represent your childhood and adolescence then chose two or three and write about them in as full description as you can. What do they look like? What colors? What do they smell like? What do they sound like? What are the textures? Where are they soft? Scratchy? Smooth? Bumpy? What did it feel like to hold them? What kind of feelings surfaced when you engaged with them?  Where did they come from? Who gave them to you? Do you remember when you first received them or noticed them? What kind of memories are they attached to? What kind of wonder do they spark? Examine each carefully as if it were a precious stone or a sacred relic. How would you describe them to someone who couldn’t see and who didn’t know what your childhood meant to you?

Non-fiction:

Taking a cue from both Junot Diaz and Barbara Jane Reyes, recall work day mornings with your parents or guardians and write a description of their morning ritual before leaving for work. What did s/he wear for work (tie, heels, uniform, cuff-links)? How did s/he prepare in the morning? What kind of ritual did s/he practice? Hurried? Slow paced? Make breakfast? Rush out the door before you were awake? What kind of expression did s/he usually have? Worried? Tired? Excited? What did s/he take with him to work (briefcase, purse, coffee mug, water bottle, packed lunch)? Did you have time to talk with your parent or guardian before you both left for school or work? What did you usually talk about? Was there a specific memorable morning you shared together, and if so, what made it memorable? Conversely, recall the evenings or afternoons when your parent/guardian returned from work? What hour? Was s/he tired? Did s/he need time alone to decompress? Did s/he start cooking dinner immediately? What was the ritual returning from work?

Fiction:

Inspired by Junot Diaz, pick a memorable moment with a significant other or close friend and recreate the details of that moment. What time of day? Where were you? What where you both wearing? What was the weather like? What time of year? Who else was there? What were they saying? What were they doing? What was the dialogue between you and your significant other? What kind of tension were you facing together? What kind of tension were you both facing individually? What were your fears at the time? What were your hopes? What were your significant other’s fears and hopes? How did his/her fears and hopes conflict with yours? How did they coincide? Now twist the moment. How would it have gone differently if you said something opposite to what you actually said or did something opposite to what you actually did? Would you still be together as friends or partners? How would you have fractured or mended the relationship? How would you have complicated or simplified the moment?

More to come on “The Art of Race”…

What historical event, book, movie, TV show, physical landmark, specific place anchors your sense of self?: Creative Prompt #2 for JanTerm043 “The Art of Race”

Second creative writing prompt generated for the class yours truly is teaching, SMC Jan Term 043: “The Art of Race: (Re) Imagining Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Literature, Art, & Pop Culture.” We’ve been exploring how race, ethnicity, identity, gender, and sexuality inspire and shape creative work, such as music, film & TV, literature, and art, and how the forms and elements of creative work can help redefine, reconstruct, interrogate, and re-imagine notions on race, gender, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. So far we’ve read poets Carlos Soto Román, Barbara Jane Reyes, Harryette Mullen, and listened to musicians such as Beyoncé and Gingee. Viewed art by Kara Walker, and watched shows such as black-ish, Orange is the New Black, Jane the Virgin, and Atlanta. We’re currently reading Diane Glancy’s, In-between Places  (University of Arizona Press, 2005), where she writes in her introduction:

Written language seems to me a landscape. Land bound in words. I pick up stones or rocks in travel as texts I can read.

There is a map you open like a book. There are books you open like a map.

There is a map you decide to call a book? A book of the territories you’ve traveled. A book of the in-between places you’ve lived. A map is a meaning you hold against the unknowing. The places you speak in many directions.

Image result for diane glancy in-between places

 

The below prompts are inspired by Glancy, Reyes, and Soto Roman. Have a try for yourself!

“The Art of Race” Creative Prompt #2

 for Different Literary Genres

 

Poetry:

What song/lyric/commercial/dialogue from TV or movie is stuck in your head? Look it up, so you can accurately quote, if you need to. How is this found text related to what you are feeling right now? How does it give insight or confuse or challenge your emotions or your thoughts? How is it related to something your mother/grandfather/brother/partner/friend/roommate once said or always says? Take one of the words and create a new line, phrase, or dialogue to spin it your own way.

 

Non-fiction:

What historical event, book, movie, TV show, physical landmark, specific place anchors your sense of self? Do some research on this anchor. What is its history? How did it come about? How does its story of evolution give insight into your (d)evolution? How did you first learn about this anchor? Who introduced it to you? When? Why? How do you feel about this anchor now? Does it root you or shackle you? How do you claim it as your own or how does it claim you?

 

Short Fiction:

Make a list of your fears and superstitions. Then add fears and superstitions that you know of from close friends or family. Close your eyes. Circle one of them. Whichever one you circled, have your main character confront that fear or superstition. Where are they? What are they feeling? What are they thinking? What physical sensations are they experiencing? Are they alone? Is anyone else there? If so, what are they doing? How are they helping or hindering? What do they say that worsens the situation? How does your main character fight back? How does fighting back make matters worse?

More to come on “The Art of Race”…

“What Keeps You Up at Night? What Gets You Out of Bed?”: Creative Prompts for SMC Jan Term “The Art of Race”

Week #3 of SMC Jan Term “The Art of Race” and yours truly believes the best way to describe the experience of teaching this course is through this image:

By the end of the term, I like to believe I will be ground down to an essence in which I could be sprinkled into a tasty mole.

We are moving into the final project for the course where students will choose a creative writing genre (poetry, short fiction, or the creative personal essay) to write their own story of race, identity, ethnicity, multiculturalism, difference, prejudice, and/or discrimination.

In addition to the basic principles of their chosen literary form, they are expected to incorporate ideas and creative analyses based on the authors we’ve read in class to creatively interrogate notions on how issues of race, identity, multiculturalism, difference, and prejudice intersect with imagination, literary style, and aesthetics.

Some prompts to get their creative engines revved:

Poetry:

Image result for invocation to daughtersTaking a cue from Barbara Jane Reyes poem “The Day” in Invocation to Daughters (City Lights, 2017) write about this specific moment. Note the time, the date, the location, and describe details of this particular moment for each of the seven senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, scent, balance). Note your surroundings. Where and how are you physically? How does that contrast or coincide with where and how you are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, artistically.

 

Non-fiction:

Taking a cue from Kevin Young The Gray Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, What keeps you up at night? What gets Image result for on the blackness of blacknessyou out of bed? Who is your imaginary “American”? Where does s/he come from? Describe the land? Use your senses, touch, smell, taste, see, hear, balance? What does s/he wear? Eat? How does s/he walk? Talk? How does s/he roll? What does s/he rock to or listen to? How does that music make him/her feel? What is his/her American dream?

 

Short Fiction:

Create a scene where a character first discovers s/he is different from others. Where does this scene take place? Who else is there? What are they doing? Wearing? How are they acting? How do the other characters create or take away space from your main character? How do the other characters create a mirror for the main character to see him or herself reflected? How does s/he react to his/her own self image reflected back? What kind of conflict and tension is created? Is there an exchange through words or action? How does the exchange or non-exchange heighten the interiority of tension your main character is feeling? What differences does s/he notice between her/him and the other characters? How does that affect the six senses s/he is feeling at the moment (sight, sound, taste, touch, scent, balance, and time)? What questions are raised for your main character?

More prompts to come…

 

New Releases from Brilliant Artists who are Guest Speaking for Jan Term Course “The Art of Race”

Image result for invocation to a daughter

Yours truly is  thrilled to have just confirmed three brilliant artists as guest speakers to visit my Saint Mary’s College of California’s Jan Term 043-01 course “The Art of Race: (Re) Imagining Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Literature, Art, & Pop Culture.

Each of these artists have recently released new work, which I have no doubt will engage and inspire my students.

I met our first guest speaker during my residency at MacDowell Arts Colony. Carlos Soto Román will be video conferencing from Santiago, Chile to discuss his new chapbook Bluff (Commune Editions), which you can download here.  He’ll discuss with the class his poetics and process of erasure or redacted poetry and the use of found text. As with my students, I invite you to challenge your pleasures by having a go at his work with the selections below: 

Image result for carlos soto Roman
 A Bad Penny Review:

 

Image result for barbara jane reyesOur second guest speaker is long time friend and deeply inspiring poet, professor, and community advocate (I owe so much to her!), Barbara Jane Reyes, who will be visiting our class on campus to discuss her new book just released from City Lights, Invocation to Daughters. Have a taste of her words here, courtesy of Poetry Foundation.

 

Our third guest speaker, who will round at our term is long time fellow Angelena, who I met lifetimes ago at the L.A. based Wide Eyed Workshops,  musician and artist Marjorie Light. Video conferencing from the City of Angels, Light just released her latest album Bundok. Give your self an aural treat of her latest tracks here and find out more about her work with KCET’s feature article.

Image result for marjorie light

I also need to give a shout out to all the crew of SMC’s ITS who have been working with me to get all the tech ready for the video conferencing to Santiago, Chile, and Los Angeles, CA. Fingers crossed that all the equipment and connections sync for the big dates!

I’m in awe of all these artists and am truly grateful to each of them for taking the time to share their work and inspire my students. More to come about “The Art of Race” and our guest speaker visits, so stay tuned…

Have to share this fabulous cover art for Bundok by Gingee

New Year, New Course to Teach: Jan Term 043-01: “The Art of Race: (Re)-Imagining Ethnicity and Identity in Literature, Art & Pop Culture”

 

After years and years and years of research, writing papers, presenting at conferences, not to mention living and breathing these topics in my every day life, for this January term 2018,  I will be teaching for twenty-six undergrads at Saint Mary’s College of California:

The Art of Race: (Re)-Imagining Ethnicity and Identity

in Literature, Art & Pop Culture

COURSE DESCRIPTION

How do writers and artists such as Junot Diaz, Louise Erdrich, Beyoncé, John Coltrane, Kara Walker, comedians like Key & Peele, and the creators of the show Broad City, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, subvert, de-center, and make new notions of race, identity, gender, and sexual orientation? How do they challenge cultural otherness to incite as writer Pankaj Mishra calls “a bolder cartography of the imagination”? In this class we will explore how writers, musicians, artists, and comedians make stylistic choices of form and content to challenge dominant narratives and put center stage traditionally marginalized voices, neglected histories, and sub-histories. The aim of this course is to discover how art can complicate and challenge some of our greatest public narratives: race and gender; and how these narratives serve as writer Kaitlyn Greenridge says as a “collective and imagined space that exists only as a metaphor, rhetorical argument, figurative language, in short, as a fiction, though that does not mean that [they are] not real.”

Reading from diverse authors and viewing other artistic forms, we will consider the many different ways art and pop culture help us understand and challenge identity and politics, and conversely how we can interrogate notions of identity and politics to create art that incites a world awareness.

REQUIRED TEXTS

  • Barbara Jane Reyes, Invocation to a Daughter
  • Junot Diaz, Drown 

READING LIST

  • Media Selections from Beyonce’s Lemonade and Key & Peele 
  • Art Selections from Kara Walker, Ramiro Gomez and Jennifer Wofford

Poetry and Essay Selections:

  • Carlos Soto Roman, selections
  • Harryette Mullen, The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be, “Imagining the Unimagined Reader: Writing to the Unborn and Including the Excluded”, “Kinky Quatrains: The Making of Muse & Drudge”, “Optic White: Blackness and the Production of Whiteness”
  • Kevin Young, The Gray Album: On the Blackness of Blackness, “The Shadow Book”, “How Not to Be a Slave: On the Black Art of Escape”
  • Dorothy Wang, Thinking Its Presence: Form, Race, Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry 
  • John Yau, “Please Wait By the Coatroom”
  • Diane Glancy,In-between Places, “July: She has some potholders”
  • Zadie Smith, “Brother from Another Mother”, The New Yorker, 2015.

We will be kicking off the semester with pre-assignments that include reading Robin DiAngelo and Özlem Sensoy, “Leaning In: A Student’s Guide to Engaging Constructively with Social Justice Content”, Radical Pedagogy, (2014) , Syreeta MacFadden’s  “Beyonce’s Formation reclaims America’s black America’s narrative from the margins” The Guardian, (February 8. 2016) and watching Beyonce’s “Formation” from Lemonade. Even more exciting is a class visit with poet and professor Barbara Jane Reyes to discuss her latest book from City Lights, Invocation to a Daughter. With luck, I’ll be able to confirm more guest speakers.

Some of the questions I have to start, with hopefully many more to come, so the research, the writing, the living, and breathing can grow:

  1. How does art, literature, and pop culture help student understand their own positionality?
  2. How does art, literature, and pop culture help students understand the collective and individual racial imaginary? Male/Female imaginary? Class imaginary?
  3. How do students navigate, transform, challenge collective (public) and private (individual) narratives?

I’m of two hearts and minds about the course, since I probably won’t get much writing done myself, but instead will be discussing topics that fuel me and drive me with purpose and heighten meaning, hopefully not just for myself but for the willing students. Let’s see what this new adventure holds. Ready. Steady. Go!

Upcoming Reading: Saturday 4 November, 8pm “Lone Glen: Writers who Parent/Parents who Write @ Temescal Art Center, Oakland

Organized by poet and educator Alexandra Mattraw Rosenboom , we invite you to join us at Lone Glen: “Writers who Parent/ Parents who Write” on Saturday, November 4th at 8 pm at Temescal Art Center in Oakland  (511 48th Street) to hear work from Megan Breiseth, Lauren Levin, Rashaan Alexis Meneses, Sara Mumolo, and Amos White. In our community, what role does parenting play in the creative process, and what role does the imagination play in the journey of raising a child? How does the act of parenting serve as a constraint, or not, as we express ourselves in writing and in other art forms? Come out to hear what these parent writers are thinking about in their work and about their process. A brief Q and A will follow their readings.

Here are the authors:

Megan Breiseth is the author of the chapbook Zia (Mrs. Maybe Press), co-author of the chapbook the longer you stay here (Aggregate Space Gallery) and two manuscripts-in-progress. She works as an educator and lives in Alameda, CA with her wife, son, and cats.

Lauren Levin is the author of THE BRAID (Krupskaya, 2016) and the forthcoming JUSTICE PIECE/TRANSMISSION (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2018) as well as several chapbooks, including The Lens (Little Red Leaves, 2014) and Working (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2012). From 2011-2014, she co–edited the Poetic Labor Project. She grew up in New Orleans and lives in Richmond, CA with her family.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, The International Retreat for Writers at Hawthornden Castle, UK, and the Jacob K. Javits Program. Her fiction and non-fiction has been featured in various journals and anthologies, including Kartika Review, Puerto Del Sol, New Letters, BorderSenses, Kurungabaa, The Coachella Review, Pembroke Magazine, Doveglion Press, and the anthology Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s hiking trails along the coast of California. You can find her at https://rashaanalexismeneses.com/

Sara Mumolo is the author of Mortar (Omnidawn, 2013) and the Associate Director for the MFA in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College of CA. She created and curated the Studio One Reading Series in Oakland, CA from 2007-2012, and Cannibal Books published her chapbook, March, in 2011. She has received residencies to Vermont Studio Center, Caldera Center for the Arts, and has served as a curatorial resident at Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland, CA. Her next book Day Counter is forthcoming in 2018 from Omnidawn.

Amos White is an awarded American haiku poet and author, producer/director and activist, recognized for his vivid literary imagery and breathless poetic interpretations. Amos is published in several national and international reviews and anthologies. He is Founder and Host of the Heart of the Muse creative’s salon, Executive Producer and Host of Beyond Words: Jazz+Poetry show; Producer the Oakland Haiku and Poetry Festival, and serves on several literary and arts nonprofit boards.​ http://www.about.me/amoswhite http://www.facebook.com/amoswhitehaiku