And as I am interviewed for a F/Pilipino publication in die Niederlande, I am asked, "What are some of the struggles/challenges you face as a Pinay Poet?" To which I have responded: " The recent racist and misogynist backlash I've experienced subsequent to RS's review of Poeta en San Francisco is a very clear example of what we all as Pinay poets are up against. Those resistant to our work and what we mean to say in our work will make it personal, very dirty, and very ugly. They will descend into comments about our exotic appearances, take violent stabs at our sexuality, hurl every racial epithet they can at us, and few who represent the institutions will do a thing about it. I did not believe American readers and writers could descend to this level until we all saw it for ourselves. My/our challenge, though, is not to censor ourselves, for these reactions make it perfectly clear how important our voices and presence are in literary scenes larger than our own Filipino communities, and that we must aspire for our work to change the American literary canon. I sincerely and firmly believe this."
Since I enjoy a good flameware as well as anyone here, I looked over the comments in Ron Silliman's blog. After reading the comments several weeks ago, I have to disagree with Barbara's assessment above. This goes to show you that even though I belong to the pack of coyotes, I can disagree with Barbara's assessments.
1. I have to believe that Ron Silliman's review placed Poeta en San Francisco as a seminal work. Ron's has explained or given his side of the story as to why he does not stop purported "racist" or "misogynist" remarks on the commentary. In short, doing so would amount to censorship. I believe in parallel with Ron Silliman that people can say whatever fucked up shit they want. They just have to deal with the consequences. The comments in the blog make it clear that the people who are giving the comments are not very intelligent, precise writers. They are lucky to be able to string words together into a coherent thought.
2. I did not see a misogynist statement in the comment section. Again, this is where one person can see "misogyny" and another person sees "personal opinion". To me, misogyny would be writings that depict women as hated things. [Hell, I had to look up misogyny because it kept popping up in the writings.] Personally speaking, the comments were dumb comments by dumb people.
3. The "exotic appearance" was from a male [pretty much qualifies the remark as dumb]. As another male, I looked at the episode as one commenter trying to make a joke. Granted of course, this is a male trying to make a joke to another male. "I've never been partial to the Polynesian look" is what I believe the statement was.
4. The poem that Ron Silliman reviewed is
our lady who crushes serpents
our lady of lamentations
our lady full of grace whose weeping statues bleed,
our lady who makes the sun dance, pray for us
our lady of salt pilgrimage
our lady of building demolition
our lady of crack houses
santa maria, madre de dios, pray for us sinners
our lady of unbroken hymens
preteen vessel of god’s seed
your uterus is a blessed receptacle.
our lady of neon strip joints
our lady of blowjobs in kerouac alley
our lady of tricked out street kids, pray for us
blessed mother of cholo tattoos
you are the tightest homegirl
our lady of filas and lipliner
our lady of viernes santo procession
our lady of garbage-sifting toothless men
our lady of urban renewal’s blight
pray for us sinners ipanalangin n’yo kamin makasalanan
now and at the hour ngayon at kung
of our death kami ay mamamatay__amen
This is a very powerful poem. It juxtaposes Mary, the Virgin mother of Christ and a prayer of the Catholic Church to the current reality of life in San Francisco. Specifically, it is life in the Mission. The holy and sacred is placed in the context of the mundane, the unimportant, the forgotten and the sexual.
By its very nature, the poem has elicited a response or a reaction from the commentators. Some have shown their non-preference for Polynesians. Some have questioned the juxtaposition of the sexual with the religious. Some have questioned the necessity of the sexuality with the poetry. In one sense, the poem has succeeded in creating conversation about what "poets" believe.
I believe that this is fantastic. The poem is deep enough to elicit reactions from average normal people. The poem shows that women do have power through their sexuality. And in truth, isn't that a wonderful thing?
I forget the rules of law in Jewish society. But if an unmarried virgin was to suddenly be pregnant, I believe the prize for said virgin would be STONING.
But our hero, the Blessed Virgin Mary is not stoned because she is carrying the SON of God!!! BRILLIANT!
5. There is an old saying in the computer world, "Garbage in; Garbage out." What should also apply to this situation is "Garbage processors [human mind]; Garbage analysis".
Yes, there was one wacky person out of the whole bunch. She was crazy and not in a good way. She was clueless. She was stupid. Her arguments like her writing were delusions. But I believe that she was an exception to white America. Most Americans just are not that crazy or stupid.
6. I believe that the comments in Ron Silliman's blog was nothing more than men trying to out man each other. The comments by the crazy white-girl was made by a delusional psychologically disturbed individual. I would not blame the white hegemonic powers nor the other clueless commentators. They are just not that intelligent.
I have to say that in my life, I have met other clueless idiots on the internet. But do I have to take it upon myself to open their eyes? NO. They can go watch a movie. In fact, the movie is "Walking Each Other Home" by Lee Mun Wah.
This is my two cents for whatever it is worth. I write it because even in a pack of coyotes [description used by the crazy-white-girl], there is still dissent… there are different ways of seeing things.
I believe that Barbara has certainly created poetry which elicit reaction. It's an excellent first step. But now, the challenge shifts to how can poetry elicit inspiration in the reader so that the reader decides to change the paradigm of his existence.