6/23/2009

Seventeen

My blog got spammed about a week ago and I got hit with over 200 "Nice Blog" comments complete with links to a site in China. Still haven't figured out how the bot got past the word verification feature.

I was annoyed, to say the least, dreaded dredging through the entire blog just to delete all the spam. 200 posts! But it was a matter of pride /not/ to have the posts there even if they were relatively harmless. So, I started from the beginning of my blog and deleted them one at a time. Oddly, as time went on, I got to glance over thoughts I had four years ago, got to remember what it was like to be a new blogger transplanted from Livejournal, looking for a new place to think and connect. The Anonymous Spammer sent me back in time and I discovered poetry I'd written but never got past those first postings. This got me curious, so I started copying them into a separate document.

My published and 'unpublished' poems total 17. 32 pages. I'm amazed. I started my blog to connect with FilAm poets primarily, and I'll be darned if they didn't rub off on me.

I also discovered that I've had quite a few really cool conversations with FilAm artist/visionaries over the years. Online chats with folks trying to figure out this whole biculturality, heritage, spirituality, history, art thing that occupies my brain most of the time. These 'talks' are a bit harder to capture than the poems. They're sort of not-quite-essays, commentaries on current-at-the-time events, historic in the sense that they contribute to /my/ history and development over the past four years.

I noticed that many of the conversations dropped off just about the time folks started transitioning to Facebook and Twitter. These related but different social media spaces have a sense of immediacy which is cool, but lack the sort of reflective nature of blogs. Realizing that helps me feel a sense of focus for my blog for the future.

In the meantime, I've got 32 pages of poetry on my hands and I haven't even gone 'into the files' for other poems that might fit nicely with these. I know of at least one other poem that was published in 1998 that ought to be accounted for. Then I'll need to print them out and look at them, see if they play well together in the same space. I hope so. I think it would be cool to have them all together in a collection/chap of some sort.

After which, I'll have to go back and see about those conversations, figure out a way to put them altogether somehow.

About a month ago I got the wild idea to take all my old journals and start archiving them by entry date, so all the January 15th entries would be on the same page. See if I could sense some trends or something. The project got too unwieldy and I abandoned it, but obviously the notion of it stayed in my brain pan. After reviewing 4 years of posts, I'm seeing the themes that mean the most to me and even better, how I approach them.

All good things as I slowly approach my second attempt at an MFA program.

6/16/2009

Filipina Writers Part 2 Broadcast

PoetsWest on The Road Home from Everett, WA will broadcast tomorrow, Wednesday, June 17 at 4:30 p.m., PoetsWest #133 featuring Filipina Writers Part 2.

If you are out of range for this station, the broadcast is available worldwide via streaming by going to KSER and following the Listen Live links.

PoetsWest #133
Filipina WritersPart II (29.09 minutes)

How to Let the Dead Go — Toni Bajado
Phone Call from War Zone — Toni Bajado
Karaoke Diva — Angela Martinez-Dy
Philippine Experience — Angela Martinez-Dy
Mom’s Stuff — Nancy Calos-Nakano
Women Cradled — Melissa Nolledo
Migration — Melissa Nolledo
Take Flight — Melissa Nolledo
The Gift — Melissa Nolledo

The broadcast is archived at the AudioPort website under SERIES, but only to pacifica affiliate stations. Contact your local public radio station to encourage them to pick up the feed. PoetsWest will have the broadcasts available on their site at some time in the future, but only for a two week stretch.

Last year, I was priviledged to read with a group of incredible pinay writers at the Pagdiriwang 2009: Words Expressed event. Writers Workshop Co-chairs Maria Batayola, Robert Francis Flor and Dale Tiffany have put together a terrific program, and promoted it incredibly well. The event was recorded for future broadcast.

PoetsWest #132 Program:

Excerpt from When the Elephants Dance (novel) — Tess Uriza Holthe
Mail Order Bride (poem) —Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor
Excerpt from Yellow is for Luck (short story) —Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor
Manyan Child (poem) —Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor
First Visit (poem) —Toni Bajado
Neighbor Child 17 (poem) —Toni Bajado

6/10/2009

Filipina Writers Part 1 Broadcast

Last year, I was priviledged to read with a group of incredible pinay writers at the Pagdiriwang 2009: Words Expressed event. Writers Workshop Co-chairs Maria Batayola, Robert Francis Flor and Dale Tiffany have put together a terrific program, and promoted it incredibly well. The event was recorded for future broadcast.

PoetsWest on The Road Home from Everett, WA will broadcast today, Wednesday, June 10 at 4:30 p.m., PoetsWest #132 featuring Filipina WritersPart I.

If you are out of range for this station, the broadcast is available worldwide via streaming by going to KSER and following the Listen Live links.

PoetsWest #132 Program:

Excerpt from When the Elephants Dance (novel) — Tess Uriza Holthe
Mail Order Bride (poem) —Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor
Excerpt from Yellow is for Luck (short story) —Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor
Manyan Child (poem) —Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor
First Visit (poem) —Toni Bajado
Neighbor Child 17 (poem) —Toni Bajado

The broadcast may be archived at the AudioPort website under SERIES in the future. I'm unable to confirm. Edit - yes, it's available now, but only to pacifica affiliate stations.

Next week, the second part of the program will be broadcast.

PoetsWest #133
Filipina WritersPart II (29.09 minutes)

How to Let the Dead Go — Toni Bajado
Phone Call from War Zone — Toni Bajado
Karaoke Diva — Angela Martinez-Dy
Philippine Experience — Angela Martinez-Dy
Mom’s Stuff — Nancy Calos-Nakano
Women Cradled — Melissa Nolledo
Migration — Melissa Nolledo
Take Flight — Melissa Nolledo
The Gift — Melissa Nolledo

6/02/2009

Re-Visioning

You must always be intoxicated. It is the key to all: the one question. In order not to feel the horrible burden of Time breaking your breaking your back, and bending you to the earth, you must become drunk, without truce.

But on What? On wine, poetry, or virtue, as you wish.
- Charles Baudelaire

I'm deep in the throes of revising a pair of essays.

By "deep in the throes" I mean to be dramatic. Really dramatic. As dramatic as a child with a tiny splinter in her finger watching her mother take her by the hand and bring a set of metal tweezers to the wound. Dramatic as the certainty that child has that it will hurt worse to have those metal tweezers burn her flesh (as she is certain they will) than to worry at the sliver with her teeth. As dramatic as a mother steeling herself against her child's pain and denial, sweating and cursing silently, and wishing it were over before it is even done. That level of drama.

Yah. I hate revising.

Maybe it's the storyteller in me - you never get a chance to go back and rewrite your words once their out your mouth and through the air. What's done is done and you just do your best as you perform, to give the clearest metaphors, the most dramatic plots, and complex, but relate-able characters possible. If you fail, well, there's next performance.

But you never get to do that same performance over again.

Not so with writing. In writing, you speak your mind, use the tidiest metaphors, develop those characters and plots over time. Then you look at it again. Or you have someone else look at it again. And you try to find the gaps in the story, look for the missing links to theme, correct for the upteenth time that pesky word that the spell checker always helpfully reverts to something completely unintended. Then you do the process again. And again. And again.

And the idea is that you're saving your manuscript, allowing it to grow and become better than it was before. Tighter, cleaner, leaner, and by extension, more brilliant and wonderful.

The trouble is, there was a rhythm set up to the words in the first draft and to enter that rhythm again is, in many ways as impossible as entering the same stream twice, as philosphers say. It's not the same stream. Those waters have moved on. The rhythm has moved on.

So there I stand on a rock in the middle of a revision stream, looking down-a-ways at the rapids tearing the stream apart and making a muddle of flotsam. There's a flat rock close by, a promise of a new way of looking at the essay, a promise that the vantage from this new rock will be a better one. Problem is that rock is not right next to where I'm standing.

I have to stretch to reach that new place of seeing, and anyone who knows me, knows I don't like getting wet. At all. Other than the purposes of hygeine, water is best watched from a distance in the form of the sea or drunk ice cold while sea-gazing. Perhaps it's about risk or perfectionism or failure, but it ultimately about uncertainty.

What if my current rock, my current vantage point is the best one? What if that other rock, that other way of looking at things isn't all that wonderful? What if I end up dropping the piece into the water where it flows downstream churns against the rocks never to come together again?

Here's the thing - I know revision is critical to writing. I get that I can't just hope that my talent and current skills can bring the essays alive. I've gotta keep letting my art teach me my art or my art will never grow.

So, here's to water of revision. May my drunkeness deliver me to a new way of seeing things and not drown in me in a stream of fearful 'what if's.'

What is art for?

Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for? - Alice Walker

My parents are one of a hundred thousand, thousand other parents who have ever lived to see their child turn from a perfectly good life as a socially acceptable citizen into **shudder** an artist. Or worse, an apparently struggling artist. For my folks, coming to America was a way they could ensure that their children wouldn't suffer the hardships of war, poverty, and limited education. My brother and I were to be shining examples of success in America. Only trouble was we both believed in freedom so much, neither of us chose to become one of, as one FilAm put it, the Holy Trinity of Occupations: Engineer, Lawyer, Physician.

We've both struggled with the question of "what is art" and "how do we make a living in art." Sometimes we've gotten lucky and found venues for our work. Most of the time, we keep doing our best to give expression to what's inside aching to be something. Anything - a story, a song, a sketch, a performance. And along the way, it's easy to look back and wonder - did I make a bad decision to not try for that Ace-in-the-Hole job? Does this choice make me a bad person?

I guess that's why I keep looking for people who are creatives, ones who take what's inside themselves and make something truly unique, artful, heart-filled.

Steve Martin was one of those guys I wanted to be like as a kid. Funny, irreverent, fantastic juggler, comic with perfect timing, and oh yah, he was killer on the banjo. I'd never heard a banjo before hearing him on the record my cousin brought over to play on my folks console player. The banjo didn't sound like a guitar, didn't sound like much of anything I'd heard before, except maybe the bailalaika from the Dr. Zhivago soundtrack. Part strum, part twang, I was mesmerized by the intricate sound. You just don't get that from playing scales on a piano, let me tell you.

So somewhere after the release of King Tut, Martin turned from stage sensation to actor and along with leaving the stage, I thought the banjo music had ended. I was delighted to read recently that in fact, Martin had kept up his banjo playing and recently released his first CD of original songs.



He's been called a renaissance man for doing so many varied things with his career. He notes "Well, in a strange way, I don't have a job, so I have a lot of time on my hands. When I do work, it might be very concentrated, and it might be months where you're not really doing anything except maybe playing the banjo or writing something. You know, there's a lot of time in the day if you're not working 9 to 5."

The life of the artist isn't plotted out carefully, predictably, at least at the pace we associate with other occupations. It wends and winds and wanders, and as along as we keep letting the art teach us what to do, then we'll keep on making art and connections with people who feel the same way.

Time and Money

Today a coworker of mine gathered a bunch of us together to talk about a new blog she'd been asked to create for a special group of constituents. We batted around ideas, tried to figure out what the special group needed, and attempted to set some goals. It's not an easy project - blogs are wonderful, open-ended things which means she could do almost anything, but the terrible, difficult thing about blogs is that they are open-ended things which can quickly lose focus.

At one point, I took over the driving of the web-browser, showing what I had done on this blog and Babaylan Files blog, then a little bit on how I used the Center's Facebook group to promote the content on the blog. We wrapped the meeting with a few suggestions for her to try out and she thanked me, saying something to the effect of "If I had the time and money, I would so do what you're doing, Rebecca." To which I blinked bemusedly. Time? Money? I just sort of do what needs to be done, and I've learned a bunch in the last few months through trial and error. Time and money didn't seem to be part of the organic nature of my approach.

But as I got to thinking about it, I could see why a person would think it took time and money to blog. Sure the platforms are free and sometimes the content is just aggregations of other content freely available, but it does take time to use the applications and keep the codes from falling apart. If I were to pay myself a wage for what I did as a professional web management specialist, then I could be making a bunch more than I do at my bread job. "If's" are not "nows" though and I realized that she was quantifying the work I'm doing right now in terms I hadn't before. It was something that for her would take away from the things she already enjoys doing - it would take time and money away from her lifestyle to create what I just sort of do on my own.

Like I hinted at in an earlier post, I blog for very practical reasons - to connect with other people and bring together information I'm interested in. The folks I follow on Facebook are pretty much literary writers and art-activists, but there are also a few entrepreneurs. My Twitter feed (@wordbinder) is heavier on the entrepreneurial types, because they are all so incredibly energetic about staying positive, finding ways to connect, and keeping hope in the wildest dreams. They've actually taught me the most about social networking, how to set up hashtags, how to retweet good content, how to keep in contact with their larger audience who don't necessarily reply to every tweet or post they create.

Keeping in contact through content became the lesson of the entrepreneurs. I want to not only connect with writers and activists, I want to offer something relevant to the communities. About six weeks ago I started hashtagging tweets I sent out on a thematic basis. Each workday, I have a focus point and a promise to myself that I would tweet something on the daily topic:

#MondayMuse - A simple writing prompt, something that could jump start a blog entry, essay, or poem.

#TechniqueTues - A simple revision strategy, some new way of looking at old work that might revitalize a sagging project.

#WiseWeds - A quote from an author, preferably a woman, about the craft of writing. Why just women writer's quotes? Because I don't know as many women writers as I do male writers. This gave me an excuse to look up famous women's writers and touch their work.

#ThoughtfulThurs - A new piece of technology that impacts publishing. I thought about renaming this #TechThurs but thought that name would conflict with the Tuesday tweets.

#FridayFind - A blog entry, new book release, cool video, anything that reflects a sense of creativity, possibility, and hopefully community.

I caught the hashtagging fever soon after creating this list and expanded to joining the #writers twibe , then creating the #memoirists twibe and the #babaylan twibe.

Hashtagging has kept me focused on mindcasting vs simple lifecasting, and Twitter/Facebook has given me practice on staying relevant to my goals.

The tricky part has been figuring out those goals - they have to do with writing, storytelling, community, but they're also about growing up FilAm, Philippine Scouts, indigenous/land-based spirituality, motherhood, and being Catholic. There's a touch of living in the 70's-80's in there too. This is the stuff I want to write about, the worlds all bound up in my experience.

Making the time and money to do just that is the journey for me, to create the space to do what only I can do - tell the stories in my heart.

All links appearing were accessed this same date.