It's April, National Poetry Month, and I thought I'd dedicate my next posts to reviewing a couple Asian-American writers and other poets whose works I've discovered this past 2018 AWWP (Association of Writers & Writers Program).
It was my first time ever attending the event and because this time for once, it actually convened in my area, therefore, had no excuse but to attend at least one day. I was overwhelmed, swirling, like a kid in a candy store for I was surrounded by books and my artsy fartsy tribe!
At the Sundress Publications table (where I was one of the first contributors when they launched in the late 90s), I ran upon the work of Jim Warner, entitled "Actual Miles" published by Sundress Publications. He's a Filipino-American poet. How do I know? Well, when I was thumbing through the pages, his Poem "subic bay" jumped out at me.
Jim Warner's "Actual Miles"
open crucifex arms.
just plastic couch covers--shag carpets. Avocado
horizon swallows sound.
a swirling panic spirals, twistr'd Olongapo
streets hold one hand over the slum alley'd, thumb
over full cisterns.
Unlearning the story of rotting mangoes,
multo is the word for ghost; not forget.
From the fire escape, shoulders lengthen against
oxidized steel--stretched and confessed like creeper
vines browning in droughted heat.
No crowns, just crows. No kings,
just King James in Tagalog.
Unravel neighborhood fabric
suturing through native tongues;
these gentrified orphans leave scars.
This is a poem, a poem I can relate to and Jim Warner, a poet I can identify with. I did not meet him or know him, but from what I gather he may have been a military child, of mixed race: Filipino/American, like me. I have been to Subic Bay, the U.S. naval base, and my dad was stationed at Clark Air Force Base by Angeles City where both, outside their gates, were lined with drunk G.I.s and brothels. Therefore, Filipino slums outside U.S. military bases were pretty much the same all over the Philippines. I wrote a similar poem about Angeles City and of my mixed race origin in my poem "Mango Man".
There were other poems in this collection such as "rice farmer"...although my mother's family were fishermen, going anywhere in rural Philippines echoes these images he conjures up so well:
"poor drink and poor forget.
Hands harden when bolo-less
soften with Cheap Boozy grace.
Poor drink and poor forget
troubles and empty pockets
soften with cheap boozy grace..."
A similar theme about my mother's fishermen family, of poverty-stricken drunken uncles and fragile aunts, in my poem "At Low Tide".
Tim Warner's "Actual Miles" is like a coming home for me. We share the Philippines and the U.S. as we morph from one culture to the next with poetry and writing as our vehicle for expression to connect the worlds. It is lyrical, heavy, and tugs at you to go many directions like the narrow alleyways of Olongapo.