Friday, January 11, 2008
BARBARA JANE REYES and OSCAR BERMEO at SPC on Jan. 7, 2008
For those who were wondering what it must have been like to have their power go out during Friday the fourth’s massive storm, they might have entered into the frozen lair of the SPC where they might have seen Barbara Jane Reyes and Oscar Bermeo both sporting the latest in scarf chic, not so much out of a sense of fashion as a matter of guarding against the cold.
As the audience waited for several of its members to arrive fashionably late, it was treated to an open mic warm-up with Rebecca Morrison, who previewed a few pieces at the reading in tribute to Scottish poet Robert Burns at The Book Collector on Friday January 25th. She read “I’m Not Going to Bring Them Calmly”followed by a poem of her own that ticked off a litany of one-line desires entitled “What I Want for Christmas.”
Jim Michael, introduced as a “codeswitching extraordinaire,” read a piece that employed rapid fire Spanish alongside of deep forays into English.
Art Mantecon then introduced Barbara Jane Reyes through one of his signature introductory poems, and Reyes took her place in front of stand. She started off reading the opening piece from her recent book Poeta in San Francisco from Tinfish Press entitled “State of Emergency.”
The next piece that she read was the opening piece from the [orient] section of the book, which has as its epigram “El Camino Real ends here.” from Alejandro Murguia’s “16th and Valencia.” It starts out: “Consider this procession:”
She skipped ahead in the [orient] section of the book to read “[objet d’art: exhibition of beauty in art loft victorian claw tub]”
Reyes reflected on why the United States had found The Philippines so useful during Vietnam in “[why choose pilipinas]” and then again in “[why choose pilipinas, remix]” which employed rhetoric from a mail-order bride website advertising women from the Philippines.
Back to “San Francisco,” she read “[palabras y notas para el viajero]” then ”plasa del burguesía americano/iglesia de los immigrantes pobres” [1:00]
The next trip was to j-town” on bus 38. Then to “c-town.” Then to “m-town.”
Shortly thereafter we arrived at “calle de comidas exóticas”up to “calle del consejo prático”over to “calle dos morenos” finally back to “calle de oscuridad.” [1:47]
She ended her sampling of Poeta in San Francisco with
she laid down
on the tracks.
brown girl – maybe
shoelaces, all that
was left, girlfriend
wasn’t doin no drugs.
just gave up is all.
the morning paper
reported a suicide —
filipina crack whore,
nothing to live for.
Reyes ended the night with a few pieces from her upcoming manuscript entitled Diwata which is the Tagalog term for “muse.”
The first piece was “ “The Bamboo’s Insomnia” [0:21] and afterwards “The Genesis of We, Cleaved”, inspired by Filipino creation stories and the persistence of an “Eve” figure who kept creeping into her consciousness.
Finally, there was “ “Polyglot Incantation.” [1:02]
Oscar Bermeo started reading from his chapbook Anywhere Avenue after confessing that he had only started writing poetry when he turned 31. He said he was working up to a full-length manuscript by completing a small project like the chapbook. He announced that the poems he would be reading would essentially be from his follow-up to Anywhere Avenue perhaps Anywhere Avenue 2 he added half-jokingly; then he started off by reading a poem of the great Octavio Paz.
His first poem was entitled “Political Theory” and “The God of the Near Miss”; then “Unsolved Crimes Perpetrated by Invisible Men as Reported by an Unreliable Witness” and “ “Restoration No.6.” [1:12]
He then read, “Everywhere I See My Pop’s Face” and “This Wednesday” [1:01] and ended with “Ode to a White Boy.”
The husband and wife team of Oscar and Barbara stayed to chat and sign books afterwards, cheerfully passing on their observations about the world before they left and went out to their car to get warm.