I love an incisive introduction, particularly one which gets to the critical heart of the work without "giving away" everything (as well, I love that she links my blogging to my poetic body politic projects). That said, below is from Brenda Iijima, who, with Evelyn Reilly, co-curated the Fall/Winter 2007 Segue Series at the Bowery Poetry Club.
This reading is one I’ve greatly anticipated. Before I introduce Barbara Jane Reyes I’d like to say how vital it is to have Bhanu Kapil reading here today. Her forthcoming book Humanimal is greatly anticipated. Her work along with Barbara’s smashes the demagoguery of imperialism’s staunch and brutal claims with brilliance and generative impulse. Thanks for journeying out here for this reading Bhanu!
In Chapter 1 of Edward Said’s book, Culture and Imperialism, Said begins with an epigraph by Toni Morrison from her book Playing in the Dark.
Here’s Morrison, “Silence from and about the subject was the order of the day. Some of the silences were broken, and some were maintained by authors who lived with and within the policing strategies. What I am interested in are the strategies for breaking it.”
This last line of this quote expresses with grace the modality of Barbara Jane Reyes’ work—how she engages the crux of the problem—that of othering others.
Barbara’s work is a resounding force—compelling in its lyrical beauty, critical identity, hybridized cultural holism, political activism and intellectual acumen. She writes a blog that is a feisty example of social criticism meeting up with lingual smarts—this is a space she’s created that undauntlingly accesses and opens up poetry’s ramifications of the body politic. She is the author of two full-length collections of poems, Gravities of Center and Poeta in San Francisco, which won the James Laughlin award.
Speaking about Poeta in San Francisco in an interview with Eileen Tabios Barbara states, “Using Alejandro Murguía’s poem, “16th & Valencia,” as my jumping off point, I decided to reexamine San Francisco, for I was raised and educated in the SF Bay Area, the child of Philippine immigrants. I soon discovered my being in this city, my family’s transplanting here, had everything to do with its geographic hence historical position in relation to the Pacific Islands and Asia, where Manifest Destiny continued in the forms of wars of conquest.”
Juliana Spahr notes, “This book looks at what wars in the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq have done to the home front, to the city streets. It is a multilingual litany that forcefully articulates what it means to be living as a woman in a nation of veterans, virgins, and dark angels.”
And Collin Kelly has said about the book, “Poeta is punctuated with pop culture, profanity, and foreign languages. It’s a political statement that indicts the current administration and those who came before, as well as a polemic against the ongoing xenophobia that runs rampant in America. The opening gambit—called state of emergency—is a declaration that niceties, prosaic metaphors, and strict adherence to form will not be tolerated.”
With great strength Barbara’s work is poised as active resistance and insistence –wrestling volatile issues that link up space, time and being in an unfolding gorgeousness.