Something Susan Schultz wrote in her response to my indie publishing questions has me thinking.
My frustration at the moment comes of the fact that no publisher can demand her customers read the press as well as its authors. So the conversations we mean to get going are sometimes overlooked when people buy only work by Pacific writers, or Buddhist writers, or Asian American writers or Bay Area writers (for example). But the publisher may have died (Roland Barthes style) with her authors.
Outside of this world of authors promoting other authors, and authors wanting to insert themselves into communities or even legacies that independent publishers (actively) create (how many times have we as authors said “I want to be published by the same press that published so-and-so,” or my thing: “I want some things that Li-Young Lee has”), I think book buyers and educators buy books because of who’s authored them, and/or because of the communities the authors are perceived as representing. I think book buyers take for granted the kinds of conversations in formation to which Susan refers, and I think educators already have their pre-set or preexisting beliefs or ideas about literary conversations, and I think educators uphold or reinforce or justify these pre-set or preexisting beliefs.
I am wondering then if it’s the independent publishers, or if it’s the authors, or if it’s both together somehow, who are responsible for confronting and challenging these conventions. Certainly, this is something I am finding my indie publisher respondents saying: certain things in the literary establishment (and academic literature departments, and other departments which use literature in their studies of culture and history are included here) need to change.
I am thinking about my syllabus for next semester’s Filipino American Arts course at USF. I am trying to figure out how to integrate new literature into this course. In Filipino American Literature, there are always the old standbys. Manong literature, post-1965 and “postmodern” literature. There is a bias against text that is not based in conventional narrative, unless you are teaching the requisite one postmodern text. Experimental poetry is objectified if it is tolerated at all. Recent Filipino American literary criticism is at least a decade old, written about work that is older than at least a decade old. New work is ignored or dismissed until literary criticism is written about it, but no one steps up to write this new literary criticism.
I have been invited to contribute an essay to the inaugural issue of the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics. I don’t know how to narrow down what I mean to say about any current trends in Filipino American poetry, particularly the poetry that’s subversive and political, unabashedly and on multiple levels that defy subtlety. Maybe because I am overwhelmed with work and other literary commitments, but I can’t see straight right now. I wish I could find more of this kind of poetry published. I wish more poets in our community would take the risk, not just to write books and seek publication for these, but to risk not writing for the establishment in the establishment’s voice/to meet its expectations.
Finally, this morning, I am missing my Pinoy mentors, the ones most poetically and politically snarky, bombastic, and slick. I miss them in a big way.