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Poeta en San Francisco. By Barbara Jane Reyes Published by TinFish Press 2008. r e • orient. to orient again or anew. to adjust or align (something) in a new or different way. [ Uyayi ]

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poeta en san francisco

Poeta en San Francisco

By Barbara Jane Reyes

Published by TinFish Press 2008

r e orient
re • orient
  • to orient again or anew.
  • to adjust or align (something) in a new or different way.
  • [Uyayi]
    • “in the dream the bubble where there is no time not in the way you or i understand it moves in the dream things are veiled and this veil makes time creep and often stand still” (81)
motifs of identity love
Motifs of identity & “love”
  • Identity may be placed on an individual from without by members of the community, thus flattening one’s individuality or uniqueness.
  • Or, an individual may define his or her self on one’s own terms.
forging an identity
Forging an Identity

Throughout [re • orient] we noticed several different modes through which identities are forged:

1. Language

2. Outward Appearance

3. Culture of food (particularly in [dis • orient])

4. Persona

5. Geography

6. Others?? Open to classmates, lets keep an eye out in the next poems.

confession al 99
“Confession(al)” (99)

1. Language – contributes to shaping one’s identity by linking (or separating) the individual to a particular linguistic group

Examples in “Confession(al):

-the speaker’s English proficiency

-lack of accent/ desire for an accent

-slang used to reduce the speaker to a “hispanic hussy” or a “slanty-eyed ho’”

confession al

2. Outward appearance- a person can project a particular image by choice of dress, but natural physical features can identify one to a particular group beyond the person’s control.


-The coconut metaphor (racialized)

  • Slang: “hussy / ho’” (gendered)
  • How does this relate back to Tadiar’s critique of the Filipina gaze? Who counts as Filipina? American?
side note about the metaphor of food
Side-note about the metaphor of food
  • The speaker names herself a coconut, an American product embodied by the coconut.
  • In the social context, American society literally consumes an individual “coconut” through digestion (assimilation) and discards the inconsumable (the coconut’s husk).
food identity calle de comidas ex ticas 71
Food & Identity“calle de comidas exóticas” (71)
  • It’s fitting that the speaker identifies herself with a metaphor of food.
  • In this poem, the outsider is marked by their inability to eat a particular “salty wetness” without grimacing.
  • Even those within a specific group may be marked by their resistance to their own ethnic foods.
filipino names
“[Filipino Names]”

4. Persona- one’s identity may develop as a result of naming / renaming.

-Government recognized names (formal names)

Vs. self-generated nicknames

Example in “[Filipino Names]”:

“Tito Doming the sea captain is Dominador, / And Gerardo Salvador Lantoria III, MD, / Former lead guitarist of the metal band Leper Messiah, / Is, and always shall be Thirdyboy” (101).

swirls of galaxies in the musculature and viscera of my body 11
“…swirls of galaxies in the musculature and viscera of my body” (11)

5. Geography- Just as regions are outlined and ascribed a name or an identity, that naming is extended to its inhabitants.

How does Reyes challenge space/identity affiliations in Poeta en San Francisco?

-Geography and body as sites of cultural collision

contact zones
Contact Zones
  • Poeta's San Francisco is what Mary Louise Pratt, in Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Tranculturation (Routledge, 1992), defines as a "contact zone":
  • The space in which peoples geographically and historically separated come into contact with each other and establish ongoing relations, usually involving conditions of coercion, radical inequality, and intractable conflict. . . . By using the term 'contact,' I aim to foreground the interactive, improvisational dimensions of colonial encounters so easily ignored or suppressed by diffusionist accounts of conquest and domination. A 'contact' perspective emphasizes how subjects are constituted in and by their relations to each other. . . in terms of copresence, interaction, interlocking understandings and practices.

(Credit to Craig Perez, excerpted from his review of Poeta en San Francisco, Winter 2006/2007, http://www.raintaxi.com/online/2006winter/reyes.shtml)

zh f l n 84
  • Geography is used to stereotype all Asian women as “more gratifying sexual partners,” “beautiful,” “polite,” and “agreeable.”
  • The speaker re-defines the “love” of the Asiaphile to include not love of Asian women, but love of power over women.
  • Love or dehumanization through objectification?
zh f l
  • Racialization of attraction and the fear of miscegenation:
    • Yellow Fever/ Black Vomit/ American Plague
  • Objectification of the female Asian body
    • “patronization of brothels”
    • Asian porn collection (bodies as things)
    • “he purchases his Asian wife, spawn biracial / children, and soon divorces, before the bruises disappear, after the / restraining order.”
how else does reyes re orient her readers to love
How else does Reyes re-orient her readers to love?

Love “letters”:

  • “dear love it is true there are no demons but the ones we’ve invented” (prologue 13)
  • “dear love, / today I am through with your surface acts of contrition” (83)
  • “dear love, / you dream in the language of dodging bullets and artillery fire… … that we / do not speak is louder than bombs” (92).
  • “joey ayala sings 16 lovesongs” (108).
additional question for discussion
Additional question for discussion
  • What other themes/ motiffs did you notice that we did not touch upon? (There are many)
    • How are these themes depicted in other poems? Are they always similar? Why or why not?
  • In what way are these themes related to other works by Tadiar, Rosca, Lorde, etc?
    • In what way do these various speakers agree or disagree around a particular theme?
  • What do you do, as a reader, with the Tagolog lines and the lines written in Baybayin?

The shifting of styles from story-telling to epistolary to rap-like slam poetry to prayer disorders the impression of a unified voice. Is this true? What’s accomplished by this style?

  • Twice, Reyes repeats the lines from William Carlos William’s “To Elsie,” “The pure products of America go crazy.” (21) What do you make of this?