Friends & Neighbors: Doveglion Press Launched

We just received word last week that Issue 1 Contributor Barbara Jane Reyes and her husband, poet Oscar Bermeo, have launched Doveglion Press.

Screenshot of Doveglion Press's Site

From Doveglion’s first blog entry:

“Doveglion Press is an independent publisher of political literature and orature. We are committed to publishing aesthetically diverse and challenging works of strong artistic merit.

Doveglion, the pen name which Jose Garcia Villa crafted from the dove, eagle, and lion, is a fantastic and hybrid creature, signifying the writer’s ability to embody multitudes, and from splintered selves, to reinvent, and to reconstruct him/herself anew.

Future projects include a semi-annual print journal, interactive blog with rotating guest writers, and an audio/video gallery.”

Please do head on over to check out the rest of their blog entries.  Personally, I’m loving their beautiful, spare site design, the force of Barbara & Oscar’s vision, and the operation’s small, focused feel (delightfully indie, immensely professional).

Congratulations, Barbara and Oscar!  We can’t wait to read Issue One, and look forward to following Doveglion as it grows.

Barbara Jane Reyes’ pieces “13. Black Jesus” and “10. For Al Robles” can be found in Issue One of Lantern Review.

Summer Reads: Issue 1 Contributors Jon Pineda & Barbara Jane Reyes

Welcome to our new Summer Reads blog series!  We recently asked our contributors from Issue 1 to share with us what they are reading  / what’s on their reading lists this summer, and we’ll be featuring their responses here throughout the months of June and July.  This first installment features reads from Jon Pineda & Barbara Jane Reyes.

Writes Jon,

“I just finished Yoko Ogawa’s beautiful novel The Housekeeper and the Professor.”

Barbara tells us,

“I am finishing up Miguel Syjuco’s debut novel Ilustrado. Otherwise, I’m supporting some of my favorite indie publishers —

Albert Saijo, Outspeaks: A Rhapsody (Bamboo Ridge Press)
Michelle Cruz Skinner, In the Company of Strangers (Bamboo Ridge Press)
Gizelle Gajelonia, Thirteen Ways of Looking at The Bus (Tinfish Press)
Elizabeth Soto, Eulogies (Tinfish Press)
Craig Santos Perez, from unincorporated territory [saina] (Omnidawn Press)
Lily Hoang, Changing (Fairy Tale Review Press)
Reginald Dwayne Betts, Shahid Reads His Own Palm (Alice James Books)
Olga García Echeverría, Falling Angels: Cuentos y Poemas (Calaca Press)
Eduardo Galeano, Soccer in Sun and Shadow (Verso Books)

I am also reading Evie Shockley’s manuscript of her forthcoming second poetry collection, the new black.”

Check out Jon’s poem, “[we left the camera]” and Barbara ‘s pieces, “13. Black Jesus” and “10. For Al Robles” in Lantern Review, Issue 1.  For more information on the poets themselves, visit them online at jonpineda.com and barbarajanereyes.com, respectively.

A Conversation with Barbara Jane Reyes

Barbara Jane Reyes
Barbara Jane Reyes

Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her B.A. in Ethnic Studies at U.C. Berkeley and her M.F.A. at San Francisco State University. She is the author of 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. Her third book, entitled Diwata, is forthcoming from BOA Editions, Ltd. in 2010.

Her chapbooks, Easter Sunday (2008), Cherry (2008), and West Oakland Sutra for the AK-47 Shooter at 3:00 AM and other Oakland poems (2008) are published by Ypolita Press, Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, and Deep Oakland Editions, respectively. Her poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in Latino Poetry Review, New American Writing, North American Review, Notre Dame Review, XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics, among others.

She has taught Creative Writing at Mills College, and Philippine Studies at University of San Francisco. She lives with her husband, poet Oscar Bermeo, in Oakland.

***

LR: I wanted to start by talking about history, which is something that figures strongly in your poetry—for example in Poeta en San Francisco we see historical references mixed in with local references to San Francisco (SF) and the Beat Movement. Can you start by talking about how both history and geography are incorporated into your work?

BJR: I grew up on the periphery of SF, meaning that I lived in the East Bay for most of my life in this country. The more I came to see other parts of the country, I realized that there’s something interesting about SF and its history of people coming from so many different places and colliding with one another. I know this happens in every major American city, but for me SF has this unique place on the cusp of the Pacific Rim […] When the westward movement got to the Pacific Ocean, it just kept going into the Pacific. Just think about major American wars in Asia in the 20th century, and SF being a very important strategic point, and then Honolulu, and then Manila. What that means for all those people that get cast aside and spit out of that system is that they all end up with this baggage that they’re aiming at one another. That’s SF for me.

LR: And in your own personal history when did this dawn come?

BJR: It really did happen in college, as an undergrad at UC Berkeley. I remember reading Frederick Jackson Turner’s “The Frontier Thesis,” where he talks about the American identity—and here he really means the masculine identity created as these men are forging West and dealing with the landscape—that makes the American man different from the English colonial subject. What my professor argued was that the wars in the Pacific, starting with the Spanish American War and the Filipino American War, were an extension of that creation of the masculine American, because there wasn’t anywhere else to go but the ocean. The Philippines were seen in the Filipino American War as the starting point for America to get into China and start its own empire.

When I was hearing these things lectured to me and as I was reading about them, what I was seeing in SF started to really make sense—what I was witnessing and experiencing as a Filipino girl growing up in the Bay Area, not being able to find any evidence of long time Filipino settlement there, even though now I know that there is a much longer history. I always kind of felt like that there had to be some reason why so many of us just kind of got plopped in the city. And a lot of it had really to do with that movement into the Pacific once the frontier ended.  Continue reading “A Conversation with Barbara Jane Reyes”

Poetry In History: Writing About the I-Hotel

Scene from the 1977 I-Hotel Eviction (Credit: SF Chronicle)

In celebration of APIA Heritage Month, we’ll be running a special Poetry in History series once a week in lieu of our Friday prompts.  For each post in the series, we’ll highlight an important period in Asian American history and  conclude with an idea that we hope will provoke you to respond. Today’s post is about the fraught history of the International Hotel in San Francisco’s Manilatown.

In 1977, San Francisco’s Manilatown community suffered a huge blow with the final eviction of the mostly Filipino American residents from the International Hotel (or I-Hotel).  This followed  almost a decade’s worth of protest and community struggle in the hopes that the building, which had housed many Filipino immigrants throughout the years, would not become yet another victim of the city’s gentrification projects.   For years after the final residents were removed, the building — and later, the site — stood empty, the hole a yawning reminder of what had been lost.  One of the major voices speaking out against the fall of Hotel belonged to the poet, musician, and activist Al Robles. The I-Hotel was a recurring theme that wove throughout his work and took on breath, shape, and life through his poetry.  Robles’ nephew wrote the following on the recent anniversary of his death:

“In the I-Hotel he [Robles] traveled up the stairs and the doors opened to those small rooms; the smell of rice and adobo and fish was there; the face of the manong was there—he knew the face—it was the face of his father and mother and ninong and ninang. He sat across from the manongs and in their faces he saw the motherland, in their hearts and minds he journeyed and tasted what he described the “thick adobo tales of their lives”. Those elderly men were alive and in Uncle Al’s poetry they became young again.” (Tony Robles, “Still Hanging onto the Carabao’s Tail”)

The I-Hotel was eventually rebuilt into a community center.  The new building, opened in 2005, houses the Manilatown Heritage Foundation and is a hub for political and arts events.  Al Robles passed away in 2009, but his legacy continues to be celebrated.  Other poets have since followed in Robles’ footsteps, writing about their relationship to the city of San Francisco, and to the “ground zero” that was the I-Hotel site.  One such poet is Barbara Jane Reyes, whose poem dedicated to Robles is forthcoming in the first issue of Lantern Review. In her book Poeta en San Francisco, Reyes touches on the shape of this wound, invoking the evicted bodies whose physical rootlessness signifies a history fraught with forced erasures and displacements.  In her poem “calle de sección ocho, casas de abuelos y de abuelas,” her speaker invites us to enter the hole in the ground where the hotel once stood

“the unused hole in the ground located at the corner of kearney and
jackson across from celluloid god’s patina café may one day contain
supportive tenant services and artifacts of blue men’s billy clubs in the
meantime just gawk at it and take polaroids don’t hold your breath
few descend into the hole it’s been 30 years”

Manilatown itself becomes a ghost with a cavity in place of the organ that was the I-Hotel, which by the end of the poem is revealed to be a type of inverted sanctuary, inhabited by “ghosts and discarded things,” made remarkable for its absence — its existence etched out in the negativity of its space, the way that it tunnels into the earth rather than rises up from it.

Continue reading “Poetry In History: Writing About the I-Hotel”

Friends & Neighbors: Kartika Review #7, Cha in South China Morning Post

Here’s some news from the literary sphere: congratulations to our friends at Kartika Review, who put up their 7th issue earlier this month, and to the editors at Cha, whose work was recently featured in this beautifully laid-out article in the South China Morning Post (that’s the prominent English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, for those who aren’t familiar with it).

I know it’s a little late in coming, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to do a brief rundown of the poetry goodness inside both Kartika Issue 7 (which features a special section devoted to Asian American writers’ reflections on the theme of “home,” and the work of a new poetry editor, Kenji Liu), and Cha‘s February 2010 Issue (which features not just great poetry, but some of the most beautiful cover art I’ve seen from them yet). I’d encourage you to read both of these issues in their entirety, of course, but here are a few thoughts about what I particularly enjoyed in each:

KARTIKA REVIEW Issue 7

Kartika Review #7 is, in my opinion, the magazine’s best issue yet.  I’ve really enjoyed the past two issues – but this issue really impressed with me by how quickly the publication has been getting bigger and better.  The work contained in this issue’s poetry section is, in my opinion, of a more even quality than in some of the earlier issues, and new poetry editor Kenji Liu’s four choices work well as a set: each successive poem speaks to the previous one, taking up its thread in some manner or contrasting it in a thought-provoking way.  The first three poems have to do with fathers and mothers and questions of inheritance, and the last – Aimee Suzara’s “We, too, made America” – expands this question to a broader “we,” claiming not just individual family histories, but a space in the  broader American narrative (harkening back to Langston Hughes’ “I, Too, Sing America”).  I enjoyed the compelling portrait of a man presented in Vuong Quoc Vu’s “My Father Sleeps” and the tension created between the interrogator and the respondent in Barbara Jane Reyes’ “One Question, Several Answers,” but Eugenia Leigh’s “Between Heaven and the Bedroom” was really a standout with its use of some truly knockout imagery to juxtapose the airily mythological with the small and domestic.  Its opening strikes me speechless: “Somewhere in the city with her slip-proof / shoes and apron, our mom locates an angel /tall as miles.”

I also really enjoyed the special “Meditations on Home” section at the end of this issue, and appreciate that the editors thought to package it as a .PDF packet for use by educators.  Oral histories like the ones contained in this issue are extremely valuable and important to preserve, and I like the idea of a classroom text that has been freshly generated and is available online at no cost to students.  Several of the respondents chose to tell their stories in poems rather than in prose, and it’s definitely worth checking these responses out — especially the striking contributions by David Mura and Kelly Zen Yie Tsai.

CHA Issue 10

As I mentioned earlier, the cover art on the current issue of Cha is absolutely gorgeous – I love the deep purple blooms around the woman’s face and how they seem to melt into the text of the issue itself.  As usual, though, I made a beeline straight for the poetry section.  One of the things I appreciate about Cha is that despite being a multi-genre journal it publishes an extensive amount of poetry in each issue.  This, I’m sure, has a lot to do with co-editor Tammy Ho Lai-Ming’s being a poet herself, and it shows: the work they showcase is usually of a very consistent quality, and because there’s a relatively decent amount of room for poetry in the journal, they’re able to create a broader sense of continuity between work by both very established poets and people who are just emerging.  Some of my favorites moments from this issue included the frank, unflinching language of Papa Osmubal’s “A Bum’s Demise,” and the satisfyingly mouth-thick, incantational sonics of the two poems that were contributed by Angela Eun Ji Koh: “Our Malady” and “The Harvest Shaman.” I also thought it interesting that both the current issues of Kartika and Cha featured poems involving angels (Rocco di Giacomo’s “Angels” appears in Cha, Eugenia Leigh’s “Between Heaven and Earth” appears in Kartika).  Having gone back to reread Cha just before I read this issue of Kartika, it was fascinating to think of these two poems in conversation.

Many congratulations to the editors at both Kartika Review and Cha for their successful spring issues – and for the well-deserved amount of attention they’ve received for them.  Please do click over to check out their respective sites.  And while you’re at it – don’t forget that we at LR are building towards our own first issue; our submissions deadline is this Thursday, April 29th, and we’d love to see your work!

LR News: LR on Harriet

If you’ve been following us on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve seen that we’ve had some great news recently:  Lantern Review has been featured not once, but twice, on Harriet (the Poetry Foundation’s blog) this week!

Screenshot of Craig Santos Perez's Q&A with Iris

On Sunday, Barbara Jane Reyes posted a roundup of Asian American literary magazines, which featured LR alongside our friends at Kartika Review (who just put up a stunning new issue with a poetry section edited by Kenji Liu), and The Asian American Literary Review (whose first issue we talked about in a post last week).

Then, on Monday, Craig Santos Perez posted an Editor Spotlight Q&A, in which he gave me  [Iris] the opportunity to share a little more in depth about the genesis and mission of LR.

Needless to say, we are both thrilled by, and very grateful for, this honor.  A gigantic thanks to Barbara and to Craig for helping us to get the word out about LR in such a big way, and many thanks to you – our readers – for your continued support as we build toward Issue 1.   (P.S. Don’t forget that we are still taking submissions until April 29th – last chance to get your work in before we start wrapping up our editorial decision process!)