Now Available: Pause Mid-Flight Chapbook/CD Set

Pause Mid-Flight
Poetry Chapbook and CD set

Surrounding Sky Studio
44 pages; 35 minutes
$15 plus shipping

In her first chapbook, Pause Mid-Flight, Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor gathers together poetry inspired by the communities in which she has lived. Drawing upon images as diverse as the Palouse Hills and the rice terraces of Northern Luzon, Mabanglo-Mayor weaves themes of struggle and celebration with issues of identity, gender, and heritage.

The included CD features musicians who perform as the author recites, creating a unique community experience that resonates with the social intimacy woven into the fabric of her verse.

Excerpt from "Pause Mid-Flight"

The kite-eagle was really the wind
tired of moving between sky and sea.
Sie was the one who started the argument,
who made the sky hail stones upon the sea,
and the sea to throw forth mountains
toward the sky. Sie did not know jealousy
could be so strong even in those First Times.

Excerpt from "Market Song"

Isn't it strange
to hear your father's language fall
around you, the sing-song phrases
drawing you in? You struggle not
to hear the secrets, the bargains
of other Tagalogs laughing
behind your back.

Featured performers: Gene Tagaban, Swil Kanim, Travis Jordan, Francisco Owens, Damon Dimitri Jones, Doug Banner, Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo, Lia and Kelvin Saxton.



As Pause Mid-Flight started coming together a few weeks ago and I began letting people know about its release, a few enthusiastic souls asked me for a book blurb to help promote the chapbook/CD set during events. I was stymied - even after looking at several examples online and on my shelf, I couldn't wrap my mind around creating a simple paragraph describing the chapbook.

It's a compilation, really, a gathering of my poetry from the last decade or so, some published in small journal, others not at all, and one 'published' on a t-shirt worn by someone running around Greenlake, WA. I first heard about chapbooks from my favorite urban fantasy author, Charles de Lint. In his early writing days (and perhaps still), he publishes a story as gifts to friends and family once a year. His chapbooks were special bonuses, something he created himself to share with the people he loved. That sounded like a good idea to me - bring all my best poetry together and share it.

The idea reflected what I've learned from violinist Swil Kanim - whatever it is inside you to share and give, express it. Be generous. Because what you have is a gift from God, and it's not supposed to stay hidden, even if you think it's very small. Friends and family helped encourage me too, read my poems and said they wanted to read more. So the chapbook came together. I sent it out to a couple of contests last year, but honestly, my heart wasn't in it. When I didn't win the contests, I figured the poems weren't all that anyway and I shelved the project.

Briefly. Because there it was again, that idea of self-expression. So what if I didn't get picked up for publication? I know how to put a book together. I know how to layout and choose the right fonts and such. The chapbook creation process itself became an act of self-expression. The creative energy was back with me, not in the hands of another. (Mind, I'm not saying that seeking a publisher is a bad thing, it's just a different kind of energy.)

Now, the project could have stopped there with layout and design, but then I thought, hey, I know some cool musicians and there's this place called the Urban Longhouse where my friends jam and make stuff up. I wonder if they'd let me read some of my poetry at the same time? Then the project gained a whole new community. There was the community that supported me, encouraged me to write and publish the chapbook, even when my poetry was only semi-pro in quality. Then there was the community of artists and storytellers who saw in the project an opportunity for self-expression of their own.

Most of the tracks on the chapbook CD are improv pieces or riffs off of original music unique to each musician. They'd play, I'd pick a poem, and just start reciting. We'd do that a couple or three times, then we'd eat and chat and just be together. We recorded what we could, and my husband mastered the tracks, completed the final design of the chapbook and CD label. In the end we created a 44 page chapbook and a 12 track CD.

My name is on the cover and on the labels, but really, the project was a community effort. The communities who supported me are generous and I'm very grateful to them all. Tonight I did a pre-release reading at Swil Kanim's First Friday concert (and sold 4 books!) and the skeleton of a book blurb emerged.

My chapbook is about community - the communities I've lived in, the communities I've resisted, the community of my heritage and the community of the land I live on. The poems reflect my thoughts and feelings about those communities and how they interact with other communities for better or worse. Even in the Before Times, there was a community - Sky, Sea, and Wind.

I'm very grateful for the gift of community tonight, for without community, this project would have remained a burden on my brain and heart, instead of a beautiful book and CD that I'm very proud of.



Puttered most of the evening. Played Plants vs. Zombies (if you don't know this game, for your sanity, don't get started). Ate dinner. Surfed Facebook. And listened.

Listened to the master tracks for the CD created by hanging out with cool musicians and stepping up to a microphone once or twice.

I've never done post-production audio work before and technically still haven't. The tracking, volume control, and general engineering were all in the capable hands of my DH. Still, I listened to what he'd produced over the last few weeks of tweaking and listening and recording and repeating over and over. Listened as words weaved with music, most improv, most live. It's a kind of magic I've not known before.

It started as a lark, a theory of sorts, a Wouldn't It Be Cool If...? I tested the theory at a couple of jam sessions with friends who let me recite my poems while they played whatever came to mind at the time. I watched my words flex and shift with the notes. Didn't know that would happen. Light-hearted poems took on deeper meanings, dark poems became tinged with irony. Ironic poems became light-hearted and jazzy.

I listened too for the fear, the fear I'd held for so long, the fear of being recorded. Too many years being photographed, video-taped, and generally fixed on slices of magnetic tape without consent, displayed for others to hear and judge. I allowed the recording of my poems this year because I wanted to hear what the moments of music would do to my poems and what my poems would do to music. I dropped my gaze when it happened to move past the black microphone near the ceiling. I reminded myself I had a choice, always a choice to move forward or not even after the recordings were done.

After the jam, I was hooked on the energy of the moment, and wanted more. My friends, all incredibly generous with their time and talent, hoofed it to my house to record, sent tracks via email to layer in with my recitations. I was hardest on myself during the sessions, stumbling over words and generally being annoyed that I'd put words together that were nearly impossible to pronounce. Slow down, they told me, those seasoned musicians, take your time. You sound fine. They listened and because of that, I listened.

Cross your fingers and toes, we'll have a chapbook and CD ready for release tomorrow. Pause Mid-Flight: poems by Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor, music by Swil Kanim, Gene Tagaban, A.R. Mayor, Damon Dimitri Jones, Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo, Lia Saxton, Doug Banner, Francisco Owens, Travis Jordan, and Kelvin Saxton.

Listen. Can you hear that? That's the sound of gratitude.



Created a list today of potential markets for essays I'm working on now. I didn't think I was ready for this step until I had conversations with a couple students in my program and they convinced me that it was better to try than to wait until I was totally ready.

Of the 20 journals featured in the 2009 Best American Essays, I found guidelines for 10 that indicated that I'd be eligible to submit (the others, larger, only took agented or requested submissions). I found a few more tonight and I'll be sorting through them to see who will receive my first round of submissions.

I'm used to submissions - from the other side. Being a production editor, I see the manuscripts that make the final cut after peer review. Being on the submitting side of things, I'm conscious of wanting to be a 'good author' one that doesn't badger or stoop to obsequiousness. I hope that even when I get a few publications under my belt I won't assume that I know as much or more than any editor I work for. I do, however, reserve the right to kibbitz about online submission platforms. There are some really poorly made ones out there and some really good ones. I do tend to judge markets as 'better' if they have a decent online submission system. If they take the time to make things easy on authors at that stage, then they're more likely to be careful and thoughtful all the way through.

My 'little' chapbook project is nearly complete - the books are at the printer and the CD is being mastered as I type tonight. There's a thin window, but I think we'll have books available by Friday, where I hope to at least let folks know about the books at the next Swil Kanim concert. If you're in Bellingham, come 'round the Public Market at 8pm to see the show. Bring socks for the homeless as usual.

The other thing cooking is a show on Sat to launch Damon Dimitri Jones newest CD. I'll be helping to narrate the show and it's going to be cool, I'm sure. Show starts at 6pm at Bloom, Downtown Bellingham. Great macrobiotic food there.


Gathering and Gleaning

Now that my first year at the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program is complete, I'm taking a look at what I've written and what might be interesting to send out. I was surprised to see I had gathered over 100 pages of creative work since last September, comprised of 5 new essays, a revision of an older piece, and the first 30 pages of a book-length project.

Add to that two more pieces I had workshopped last August and I have 7 pieces that could be revised and sent out into the world to find proper homes at journals. One is ready now after some revision this weekend, one I know could be ready to go after a brief revision this week. The other five will mostly be exercises in getting out of my own way, to let the stories tell themselves instead of over-explaining them.

This has been my problem all along, and no great surprise to those who know me - I tend to over-think, over-explain, and in general over-correct my pieces until they're sort of like over-worked pie crust, crumbly, hard, and generally not very tasty to consume.

In an effort to be clear and thorough, I end up sounding distant and pedantic. The last piece I wrote, though, was better, lighter in texture and I'm trying to learn from that experience, letting my imagination take me where it wants to go next without wondering much about what a reader might need to follow along. The question is still there, but answered only in the sparest way. A hint, a name, a detail, but no lengthy exposition. I'm hoping that I can meld this lightness with lyricism while not overworking the text in the process. I like descriptive passages, the feel of them, the way they create an overall feeling. But weaving that in with the lightness of simple imagined narrative will be the next thing to master.

I've been nervous to look at my work from the past year, imagining that there's very little to speak of. There's work to be done, but that's okay, because there's substance in the 100 pages laying on my cedar chest now. I didn't imagine or hope that I had 100 pages to work with. It's there. Waiting and I even have a few ideas on how to revise the pieces.

Thanks to a couple of friends in the RWW program I also have a plan for sending out submissions, a nice deliberate plan instead of the haphazard way I've been sending stuff out previously. The Plan entails detailed record-keeping and research, two things that keep my nervous mind at bay while I get things done.

In the meantime, my chapbook waits to be printed this week and the CD tracks finalized. There's a very slim but distinct possibility that I'll have a few copies available on Friday. Later this month, I'll have a chapbook release nested nicely inside a jam session with my bestest musical friends.

Oh, and there's a gig on Saturday to launch the CD of one of my bestest musical friends where I get to be a Narrator on stage and everything.

So life is good now and I'm grateful, even when I'm tired and nervous about life. I used to worry that I worry, but I'm beginning to understand, as geeks are wont to say, that's just the way I roll.