[Addendum: Some of the impetus for these thoughts on local grassroots literary movement -- my recent reading of Arlene Biala's Continental Drift, and my current reading of Juan Felipe Herrera's 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971 - 2007, where in his intro, he pays tribute/makes mention of the fervor of the Chicano/Xicano/Latino grassroots community movements which self-produced many publications, newspapers, newsletters, journals, anthologies, and chapbooks.]
I've been thinking about the importance of the local, or the importance of locale for poetry scene. I've also been thinking about big world, small world, insular world, which is deemed superior, why the "local" is devalued for its perceived limited spheres of influence.
I have also been thinking about production value, and target reader, and whether writing for a local, specific audience, such as "San Francisco Bay Area Filipino Americans," limits our sphere of influence. Speaking from my own experience, I think back on the formation and the writing of Poeta en San Francisco, which I never anticipated would be read as widely as it apparently gets read. It's a blessing, sometimes I think, to have so many readers of poetry who hadn't previously been on my radar, reading and discussing the work. This experience of "discovering" "new" readers has caused me to turn "outward," with the hopes that I could still maintain a focus on "San Francisco Bay Area Filipino American." This latter part has been a challenge.
On production value then. Locally, we have strategically gone grassroots, DIY, with movements forming and growing as communities take it upon ourselves to produce bodies of art, and to push our product outward.
I am thinking of Kearny Street Workshop, who in the 80's and early 90's, published many of my local Flip mentors'/role models' first (and only) volumes of poetry -- Jaime Jacinto's Heaven is Just Another Country, Jeff Tagami's October Light, Virginia Cerenio's Trespassing Innocence. The anthology Without Names.
I am thinking also of UC Berkeley based Maganda Magazine, which propelled many of us Flip Youngbloods to pursue the arts. I am thinking of Liwanag, which came out of SFSU's Flip community in 1975. The second volume, which was published in 1993, is the first place outside of Maganda in which I was ever published.
I am thinking of San Francisco based Arkipelago Books and T'boli Publishing. The former, as some of you may know, published my first book, and it published MC Canlas' Soma Pilipinas, which is a very important and influential work on Filipino American urban community formation amidst gentrification. The latter has published local Filipino American authors Oscar Peñaranda, Vangie Canonizado Buell, and Leny Mendoza Strobel.
But back to "outward." Push outward to whom, I am wondering; to other Filipino American artists, Asian American artists, artists of color, all with local, grassroots, progressive political leanings. And is this really so outward, and is it a bad thing if this isn't really so outward?
I am coming to understand that the community values and respects those projects which remain so grounded in community in its production, in its distribution, and in its critical response. There are exceptions to this, of course. Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn, I believe, will always be regarded as "The One," one of our homegrown local own who made it "Out There," nationally regarded, and still, always "Ours."
I have always wanted to be like Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn.
This has come up in the past, when discussing "nationally recognized poet," and teaching Filipino American literature, so I won't rehash that here, except to say that "nationally recognized poet," takes on different meanings in contemporary times in which the internet is making word of mouth a rapid and major means of publicity and promotion.
What I am interested in is what I perceive (and experience) as a rift, between the homegrown grassroots, and the nationally recognized. What I am interested in is how our local Flip writers can be recognized on something of a national scale, and still be recognized and received as one of "Ours," with work that speaks to us and about us, and having that us focus not diminish it in the world of American letters.
Right, and I also want world peace.
Seriously, I want that to be possible. I want to work towards making that possible. Now whether or not it is, I suppose we shall see.