With Janice Mirikatani, also a former San Francisco poet laureate, she performed a very moving, two-voice poem, "Talking Tagalog," in which Chacon has dug a little deeper into the API writing convention of food and memory. In this excerpt, we can see her emphasis on the body and the physical page. It's the cutting and wide open space which reveal an absence of memory:
the language we make with our palms
of our lips
|(I don't know how to ask) |
lasting. lost. loneliness. How
to form |
right word, press the tongue
|I've forgotten. |
behind the gums, teeth to--tsh, tsshhhhhhh--
like a cricket would, sounding
his cries into the night:
And I am cold as an insect, my hands dark
with juices cutting tomatoes, ox tail
and I have grown
used to this
kind of cutting--
|words in the stomach|
heavy as blood, sh, shh, sshh,
slipping the open mouth.
In her long poem, the intense "Blood, Sister
," Chacon writes of consuming Filipina bodies, kinship, and dislocation. Read aloud this excerpt's lines, and hear its song:
This is the memory I am making up of you, little sister
from your photograph which uncurls like a plucked flower
on my refrigerator door, your face like an apostrophe, such an open
and tightened mark all at once--hesitating
to unwind, just on the brink
of telling me a secret. Do I not know you? Do we not bleed
walking along Bataan with our American soldiers,
holding poisoned rice before the thrust of a Japanese bayonet,
do we not
from the skin with fermented shrimp paste
for the honeycombs of a soup of tripe?
Do we not
of last names like an open mouth,
pressing clamshells behind the teeth?
Chacon's first book of poetry, Insides She Swallowed
, will be published by West End Press
, who carry excellent, politically and socially conscious work by multicultural authors such as the late Paula Gunn Allen, Cherríe Moraga, Naomi Quiñonez, and Luis Alberto Urrea, as well as the API authors Arlene Biala, Russell Leong and Nellie Wong. Chacon is in great company.
West End Press has an awesome vision statement:
We believe that literature contains powerful symbols capable of transforming reality. We see promise in the fusion of old and new cultures, recognizing social, political, and personal change as essential to rescue us from worldwide exploitation and alienation. We believe not only that the personal is political, but the political is personal -- that progressive art must be brought to individual awareness. We believe that all people should be able to develop their own cultures in freedom, with tolerance for others and consideration of the natural world around them.
Our API writing community is not lacking in talented practitioners of progressive work, blending political and personal, craft and substance. This is the best of our writing tradition. I am pleased to see new voices such as Chacon emerging, and honoring this tradition.
Be on the lookout for Insides She Swallowed
, which is forthcoming in October 2009.