Saturday, September 22, 2012

DAWAC and Other Memoir-Narratives by Beatriz Tilan Tabios

DAWAC and Other Memoir-Narratives by Beatriz Tilan Tabios
ISBN No. 978-0-9826493-5-0
Release Date: Fall-Winter 2012
Available for $12.50 through Meritage Press ( and ( 
Available for $14.50 through

Meritage Press is delighted to release a first book by a first-time author just shy of her 83rd birthday: DAWAC and Other Memoir-Narratives by Beatriz Tilan TabiosDAWAC presents Mrs. Tabios' childhood memories of Babaylans (indigenous Filipino healers) as well as surviving the Japanese invasion of the Philippines during World War II.

DAWAC describes many incidents that would be lost today without the book's existence.  They also make history come alive, as only the testimony of someone who lived through the experience (versus a historian's or academic's account) can accomplish.  An example is a section that describes how she and her family ran to the forests to hide whenever the Japanese army approached their town.  As it turned out, it was during those times of hiding when she ended up being introduced to Greek poets, because Homer's Iliad was a "little" book light enough to carry as she fled:
Someone came to the forest to let us know that the [Japanese] enemy had not yet come back from the east. The Soriano family would have gone into the forest, too. So we stayed where we were. I had my little book, the Iliad. I added it to the things in my bag. It was light anyway so it didn’t make a difference even if I had to carry it while we were walking and sometimes running up the hillsides. I started reading it as soon as we sat down in a spot surrounded by low bushes. I was engrossed in the fight between Hector and Achilles. I wanted to know who would win. I was cheering for Hector. My mother told my brothers and me that we could eat some of the brown sugar we had in our bags. My brothers did, but I saved mine in case we would stay there longer.
All of a sudden we heard gun shots, continuous gun shots. It sounded like many guns were fired at the same time. We all dove into a large hole near us. I was on top of those who reached the hole ahead of me. I heard the men whisper, “Machine guns!” We remained crouched for a long time. When the suspense overcame me, I stood up. I saw a Japanese soldier standing on a high ridge south of us. I dropped back to my crouching position. I didn’t tell the others what I saw, but I was expecting to be pierced by a bayonet any minute.

Beatriz Tilan Tabios received her B.A. with English as her major from the Silliman University in Dumaguete, Philippines. She developed her love for poetry as a sixth-grader reading Homer, William Shakespeare, John Keats, Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge while trying to survive World War II. She would further develop her appreciation for literature as a college student instructed by poet Edith Tiempo, the first woman to receive the title of National Artist for Literature in the Philippines. Critic and fictionist Dr. Edilberto Tiempo, then the head of Silliman University’s English Department, encouraged Mrs. Tabios to continue her study of English and American literature. As a result, Mrs. Tabios wrote her Master of Arts thesis, one of the earliest investigations, regarding Filipino literature, of “(The Use of) Local Color in Short Stories in English.” Later, Mrs. Tabios taught English literature at Dagupan College (now University of Pangasinan) and University of Baguio, before becoming a teacher at Brent School, a boarding school initially built for children from U.S.-American military, missionary and gold-mining families stationed in the Far East.

Advance Words on DAWAC include, from award-winning critic and writer Albert B. Casuga:

I found Beatriz Tilan Tabios’ memoir to be in the classical style of story-telling, worthy of her training under Edilberto and Edith Tiempo. I read “Dawac” and liked the characterization of Apo Kattim, particularly the use of an Igolot extract that was the colloquial dialect in the sanctuaries of Baguling, La Union, where my family evacuated and were sheltered by the bagos (Ilocano-Igolot-Pangasinense mix) during the Japanese mop-up operation before Americans and Filipino guerrillas liberated the Northern provinces and the Cordilleras. I still speak a smattering of the Igolot of Apo Kattim, which I picked up as toddler during our refuge in Baguling’s mountains. Mrs. Tabios’ use of the dialect makes for an authentic character as memorable as those mang-ngagas or herbolarios. I, too, was "cured" by an Apo Anong when I was a little boy—he brushed some leaves all over my fevered body (according to my mother) to trap the "evil spirit" inside an egg; after praying to rid the spell that "punished" me, he threw the egg into some banana grove in my grandmother's orchard (my mother swears to God the egg did not break!). The next day found me running around with my rambunctious cousins as I’d been "cured" of the malady. I learned these from mother's own memoir.
—Albert B. Casuga, author of A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems

For more information:



I read the 1st part, the title story/memoir. It was great. And I mean great. It was perfect. Oddly enough, in a way, I thought of Clarice Lispector's first novel, Near to the Wild Heart; there are scenes from her childhood in there that are wonderful. So thank you, very very much.
John Bloomberg-Rissman

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Release Date: Fall 2011
ISBN No.: 978-0-615-52120-6
Price: $40.00
Order Through Lulu:

Additional Information:

Meritage Press (San Francisco & St. Helena) is delighted to announce the release of CARLOS VILLA AND THE INTEGRITY OF SPACES, edited by Theodore S. Gonzalves. This long-overdue book takes a critical look at the life and work of one of the most celebrated Filipino American artists of our time and a leading light in the San Francisco Bay Area’s rich history of creative arts. The book includes essays and poetry by Bill Berkson, Theodore S. Gonzalves, David A.M. Goldberg, Mark Dean Johnson, Margo Machida, Moira Roth, and Carlos Villa; and features a gallery of 77 color and b&w images from Villa's career.

ADVANCE WORDS on this project include:

“For this beautiful book, cultural studies scholar Theo Gonzalves brings together the most relevant and important voices on the work of Carlos Villa, which spans more than half a century. Together with Gonzalves’ own detailed and nuanced essay, which provides a rich context for our understanding and appreciation of Villa’s art and life, they variously illuminate how the artist’s vision emerges from Filipino American history, how his work engages the work of other American visual artists, and how he thinks about and makes art. The book ends as powerfully as it begins, with Villa’s own words, both as a teacher and artist. Carlos Villa and the Integrity of Spaces is the definitive work on one of the most important American artists of our time.”
—Elaine H. Kim, author of Fresh Talk/Daring Gazes: Conversations on Asian American Art

“Here, finally, is the book that Carlos Villa so richly deserves. His fascinating art-and-life trajectory is explored by an equally stellar group of writers who weave the links (and ruptures) between Filipino/U.S. histories, art worlds, jazz, Asian American arts, San Francisco, and Villa’s gifts for friendship, teaching, and cultural activism. His art is memorable, powerful, and moving. So is this book.”
—Lucy R. Lippard, author of Mixed Blessings: New Art in a Multicultural America

“When I first moved to the Bay Area in 1990, I remember seeing a pair of feathered shoes in a glass box. The implication—that by lifting the glass the shoes might fly away—did not feel like mainstream art or party line culture. It felt like a leap both personal and tribal. Looking back, I can now see the leap that Carlos Villa took as something close to my own immigration, one having always stood for a non-ideological American multiculturalism firmly grounded in the steps of his—and our—own journey.”
—Hung Liu, Professor of Studio Art, Mills College

“Carlos Villa is a legendary figure in the arts and in the struggles of a multicultural generation. For over four decades he has created work from the soul of his ancestry, language, and ceremonial vision. His generous leadership in the movement for cultural rights has brought together the luminaries of our time. His contribution to global artistic expressions is immense and incalculable and his iconic work marks an era critical to the arts in America.”
—Amalia Mesa-Bains, artist and author of Ceremony of Spirit: Nature and Memory in Contemporary Latino Art

“A wonderfully rich and important anthology that generously offers several instances of Carlos Villa’s own words with writings by distinguished contributors. Editor Gonzalves critically coheres a lively collection of essays and a brilliant piece of pantoum poetry, from discussions of the manong legacy to an assertion of hybridity and the primacy of art. Carlos Villa and the Integrity of Spaces will ensure the artist his rightful place in art and cultural history.”
—Yong Soon Min, Professor of Studio Art, University of California at Irvine

“This remarkable book on Carlos Villa—artist, educator, curator, and author—reveals the breadth of his work worldwide. His World’s in Collision has been one of the most important texts for the education of students and artists for over two decades; and his own art extends the cultural range of visual perception.”
—Keith A. Morrison, art educator, curator, art critic, and administrator

Monday, September 17, 2012

bough breaks by Tamiko Beyer

ISBN 13: 978-0-9826493-2-9
Price: $12.50
Distributors: Meritage Press, Amazon and Lulu (

Meritage Press is pleased to announce the release of bough breaks, a first chapbook by Tamiko Beyer, a poet, writer, and educator based in Brooklyn. She is the poetry editor of Drunken Boat and leads creative writing workshop for at-risk youth and other community groups. A Kundiman Fellow, she is also a founding member of Agent 409: a queer writing collective in New York City.


The poetic sequence bough breaks sets out to interrogate queer motherhood, implications of gender, and the politics of adoption. Traveling across terrains (New York, Bangkok, Honolulu, Tokyo) and time (from the speaker’s childhood to an imagined future that holds or does not hold an adopted child) the poem teases apart the idea of conception. Queer in content and form, this fiercely feminist yet tenderly personal poem takes on the lullaby-lyric of parenthood to lay claim, surprise, and engage.


Lullabies are strange things. They console and terrify with a single melodic truth: the beauty of life is the mystery of death. Tamiko Beyer understands the uncanny spirit of the lullaby. She wields her lyric power deftly, taking words like “being,” “parent,” and “poet,” and splintering their meaning. She skillfully breaks and resets form, creating poems that are terse, tender and ultimately, enduring.
—Tisa Bryant

In a trance-driven lineage of serious thinkers which include the likes of Myung Mi Kim, Jessica Grim and Bruna Mori, Tamiko Beyer does not separate the experience of a gendered body from genres of thought. This writing lies down between poetry and theory and makes a bed there, a bed of textured experience and fabulous rhythms.
—Kazim Ali

Our poems may be our babies, as a friend said to Tamiko Beyer, but the desire for a baby can be a very complicated poem. Beyer charts her desire for a child through lenses of memory, what ifs, hormones, possible adoptions, and unsimple yearning. Where “neither gender nor sex [is] fixed,” a baby must be found rather than conceived in the standard way. Beyer's chapbook adds to a growing body of poetry about non-traditional families. It is a book about bodies, their transformations and their costs (“...more money if... // a) special needs b) forgiven c) teenager”). But it also a book about family values, real ones.
—Susan M. Schultz

Flux, Clot & Froth, Vol. 1 and 2 by John Bloomberg-Rissman

Flux, Clot & Froth, Vol. 1

Poems by John Bloomberg-Rissman
ISBN-13: 978-0-9794119-9-1
Price: $29.00
Pages: 714
Distributors: Meritage Press and (

Flux, Clot & Forth, Vol. 2
Apparatus to Poems in Vol. 1 by John Bloomberg-Rissman
ISBN-13: 978-0-9826493-0-5
Price: $21.00
Pages: 242
Distributors: Meritage Press and (

Meritage Press is pleased to release Flux, Clot & Froth by John Bloomberg-Rissman, a two-volume project comprised of poems in Volume 1 and "Apparatus" or Notes to Poems in Volume 2.

On 23 Nov 08, John Bloomberg-Rissman finished transforming his crazy stacks of later 20th- and early 21st-century Anglophone literature into organized shelves. Looking at those shelves, he decided to "unpack" them through a longish poem: "Find something from the 1st book on the 1st shelf. Follow that with something from the 1st book on the 2nd shelf. Etc etc. Intersperse whatever I like from whatever source appeals to me. Intersperse a number of Autopoetic recursions. Form: hay(na)ku. I expect this to go on for several months.” Several became many, and the result is an epic-length mixtape composed of thousands of algorithmically/intuitively-derived fully annotated oft-mangled bits of écriture/parole. Truman Capote once famously said of Jack Kerouac’s work, “This isn’t writing, it’s typing.” Had he lived he would have said of Flux, Clot & Froth, “This isn’t typing, it’s cutnpaste.” But, as Heinrich Heine (or Ferenc Molnár?) is reputed to have replied on his deathbed when asked if he wanted last rites, “Nah. Whether or not he exists, God will forgive me. It’s his job.” Volume 1 contains the poem. Volume 2 contains 2,700+ notes which source the approximately 4,000 texts Bloomberg-Rissman sampled.


“At the heart of infinity is the accumulative event. John Bloomberg-Rissman, poet of mixmastery, dis-complicates a vastness of textonality, meticulously cites each source, then honors the poundage of forebears by locating a fresh, consistently revealing work, flush with ripening seeds.Flux, Clot & Froth accomplishes with specificity a surprisingly large, clear, deeply felt ceremony of the new poem that gleams across patens that protect and honor poetic roots, both past and current. The poem earns traction by unearthing the connections among a dizzying array of source material to discover a transcendent work. Unhesitatingly brilliant, Flux, Clot & Froth speaks beyond itself as testament to a rigorous and unparalleled synthesis of attention and humility.”
—Sheila E. Murphy

“An extreme example of what I’ve elsewhere called “othering” or, borrowing the phrase from John Cage, “writing through,” Bloomberg-Rissman’s Flux, Clot & Froth is a 700+ page magnum opus constructed (almost) entirely from words or sounds appropriated from 1000 other writers. That this is done without any sacrifice of coherence or feeling or intelligence & in a voice that remains unified & “personal” throughout is a testament to the communal nature of language & thought of which our individualities are a crucial if sometimes questioned part. While Bloomberg-Rissman is not alone in the pursuit of such an outcome, his beautifully wrought & linked three-line stanzas & other groupings present what may well remain a milestone of a new communal poetics.”
—Jerome Rothenberg

Archipelago Dust by Karen Llagas

ISBN 13: 978-0-9826493-1-2
Price: $15.00
Distributors: Meritage Press, Amazon and Lulu (

Meritage Press is pleased to announce the release of Archipelago Dust, a first book by Karen Llagas and also the recipient of the second Filamore Tabios, Sr. Memorial Poetry Prize. Also a recipient of a Hedgebrook residency and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, she holds an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and a BA in Economics from Ateneo de Manila. A lecturer on Filipino language and culture and Southeast Asian literature at UC Berkeley, she also co-authors 500 Tagalog Verbs (forthcoming from Tuttle) and works as Tagalog interpreter and translator.

Advance words for Archipelago Dust include:

Nostalgia, according to Hollis Frampton, should be translated as the "wounds of returning." Llagas's book explores the wounds—but also pleasures—of returning to a rich mixture of sensation and dialect, whether in Manila or San Francisco, news or myth. At one point, her speaker moves to "praise what refuses to be translated." But then, because wounds and words are not enough, she continues: "Praise, too, the thorax/and its steady vibrations... the lover's body still/warming my bed, his sex/mercifully relentless."
—Tung-Hui Hu, Mine

Karen Llagas' poems reveal an introspective speaker, one who reflects on the adopted "America" around her with such thoughtfulness and grace. Llagas' poems also deceive in their apparent order but surprise in their leaps. These leaps represent a speaker who longs for connection to all of her lovers, whether being the past, culture, or romantic loves, but ultimately one who cannot fully connect. In the powerful poem "Canvas," the speaker lists the mundane keys with other things that can't ever be reached or neatly filed away: "Keys, sadness, childhood, where do you put them away?"
—Victoria Chang, Circle and Salvinia Molesta

In one of her poems Karen Llagas intones, “Praise what refuses to be translated,” a statement that could serve as the directive which underwrites her poetry’s fierce inquiries. Whether writing about the dissonant intimacies of family life or of romantic attachment, the vivid textures of a homeland or the problematic home that is America, Llagas gives necessary depth to things that our present culture often translates into facile verbal commodities. Llagas’s lyricism gives back a complex and sensuous measure to the world she writes about, in poems that are haunted, tender, and ardent.
—Rick Barot, The Darker Fall and Want

THE CHAINED HAY(NA)KU PROJECT Curated by Ivy Alvarez, John Bloomberg-Rissman, Ernesto Priego & Eileen Tabios

Curated by Ivy Alvarez, John Bloomberg-Rissman, Ernesto Priego & Eileen Tabios
ISBN-13: 978-951-9198-78-1
Price: $16.95
Release Date: 2010
Distributors: Meritage Press, Amazon and Lulu (

The hay(na)ku's swift popularity would not have been possible without internet-based communication. With the internet's capacity for engendering collaborations, it was inevitable that a collaborative hay(na)ku project such as THE CHAINED HAY(NA)KU would arise. It, of course, was fitting that THE CHAINED HAY(NA)KU began with an invitation from a blog. On June 24, 2007, an invitation was posted on for poets to participate in hay(na)ku collaborations. Nearly a hundred poets and artists from around the world responded, and this anthology is one result, along with friendships and much fun!

The following is an excerpt from the collaborative poem by THE CHAINED HAY(NA)KU’s curators—Ivy Alvarez, John Bloomberg-Rissman, Ernesto Priego and Eileen R. Tabios—posted on the invitational blog as an example of hay(na)ku collaboration:


where nothing

is said. Here


everything worth

hearing is offered.


arche en

ho logos, kai

ho …

the bush

suddenly ablaze, sky


in your

eyes and mine,


melting to

ink in our


then leaking

to shape gold


on correspondence

masquerading as books.


where Nothing

is said, hear


Nothing is

said, watch smoke rise


the tongue,

words like snakes.


tongue is

a golden page.

—from “Four Skin Confessions”

THE CHAINED HAY(NA)KU is also beautifully designed by Melissa Nolledo.

More information about the hay(na)ku poetic form is available at The Hay(na)ku Poetry Blog ( )

AUTOPSY TURVY: Collaborative Poems by Thomas Fink and Maya Diablo Mason

ISBN-13: 978-0-9794119-7-7
Price: $16.00
Distributors: Meritage Press and Lulu

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of AUTOPSY TURVY, a collaborative book of poems by father-daughter Thomas Fink and Maya Diablo Mason. A book of "utterly wishful miraculously wistful costumed poems" (Tan Lin), AUTOPSY TURVY gathers terse, springy, psychologically intense eleven-line lyrics and hay(na)ku-based pieces, a 15-poem series called "Bee" that spells out the tangles of family and finances, a surreal poetic play entitled "Invisible Surgeon," and much else. According to Denise Duhamel, Fink and Mason's "poetry. . . goes to the brink, peering off the cliff, before they pull one another back to safety."

Thomas Fink’s fifth book of poetry, Clarity and Other Poems, was published by Marsh Hawk Press in Spring, 2008. His chapbooks, Generic Whistle-Stop (Portable Press at YoYo Labs) and Yinglish Strophes 1-19 (Truck Books) appeared in 2009. A Different Sense of Power (Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2001) is his most recent book of criticism, and in 2007, he and Joseph Lease co-edited “Burning Interiors”: David Shapiro’s Poetry and Poetics. His work is included in The Best American Poetry 2007 (Scribner’s). Fink’s paintings hang in various collections.

Maya Diablo Mason was published in The First Hay(na)ku Anthology (Meritage, 2006) and her collaborative work has appeared in Otoliths, 21 Stars Review, BlazeVox, Of(f) Course, Long Island Sounds Anthology 2008 and 2009, Marsh Hawk Review, Pinstripe Fedora and EOAGH. A high school student in Long Island, New York, she plans to pursue a career in drama, visual art, or writing.


In AUTOPSY TURVY, Thomas Fink and Maya Diablo Mason (a father and daughter collaborative team) give us poetry that goes to the brink, peering off the cliff, before they pull one another back to safety. These poems—about death and dying, inheritance (monetarily and otherwise), and family—put the “Pan” in deadpan. AUTOPSY TURVY is as magical and mysterious as the Greek god of nature or the moon of Saturn. This poetry pair is funny, smart, and profound.
--Denise Duhamel

These utterly wishful miraculously wistful costumed poems are made up--of messages, notes, offhand remarks, smiles, half anecdotes, beautiful smirks, let-downs, put-downs, winks, disgust, jokes and riddles—that pass between child and parent, father and daughter, and everything said between a laugh a yawn a cry. “Forgot my ocean.” I cried. I laughed. I read “I have something sleepy to tell you.” And then I read “Some of those flowers could crack abstruse dance codes.” And then: “Girls get their food from tulips.”
--Tan Lin

AUTOPSY TURVY is the record of a series of remarkable poetic jam sessions between (father) Thomas Fink and (daughter) Maya Diablo Mason. Tom and Maya work together in the way that family members do: finishing one another's sentences. And they finish them to a high sheen.
--Tom Beckett

traje de boda by Aileen Ibardaloza

ISBN-13: 978-0-9794119-8-4
80 pages
Price: $16.00
Distributors: Meritage Press and Lulu

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of traje de boda, a first poetry book by Aileen Ibardaloza.

Aileen Ibardaloza is a poet and memoirist who first trained as a molecular biologist. She grew up in Manila, and studied and traveled around Asia and Europe before joining her family in the United States in 2000. She was married in 2009; she and her husband live in the San Francisco bay area with their two cats. Also the Associate Editor of Our Own Voice Literary Ezine, she has seen writings appear in various online and print media including Manorborn; 1000 Views of Girl Singing (Leafe Press, U.K. and California, 2009); A Taste of Home (Anvil, Manila, 2008); Fellowship; Moria Poetry; and Galatea Resurrects.

About this project, advance words include:
Aileen Ibardaloza’s first book is a charmer more than a disarmer of the complicated relationships between men and women, mothers and daughters, or colonized and colonizer. The intensity of her voice is not unlike the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral with llantos like these: “I say it’s all right./Yes, if I ever lose my mouth,” and “My old same hides/her face behind a fan.” traje de boda belongs on any serious bookshelf of contemporary poetry.
—Nick Carbó, author of Chinese, Japanese, What are These?

Housecat Kung Fu: Strange Poems For Wild Children by Geoffrey Gatza

Housecat Kung Fu: Strange Poems For Wild Children by Geoffrey Gatza
Release Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9794119-6-0
Price: U.S. $16.00
Distributors: Meritage Press and Small Press Distribution
For more info:

Geoffrey Gatza's poetry for children has been one of the greatest secrets in contemporary poetry. Meritage Press is delighted to share this secret by releasing Gatza's inaugural book of poetry for children (of all ages): Housecat Kung Fu.

Gatza is the author of seven other books of poetry; his Not So Fast Robespierre and Kenmore: Poem Unlimited are available from Menendez Publishing. He is also the editor and publisher of BlazeVOX [books]. Gatza lives in Kenmore, New York. More information about him is available at and

Meritage Press is pleased to share an excerpt from one of the many delightful poems in Housecat Kung Fu -- this is from "Lorikeet Landing":

Last Wednesday I overheard

a rainbow colored bird say

wouldn't you bring to me

a listening booth

and a swimming tree

a comfy ocean chair

and some sand from Waikiki

a wisdom tooth

and a cup of crystal tea

a mystical flying mare

and a large screen TV

or maybe a common pea

and a castle floating in air...


PELICAN DREAMING: POEMS 1959-2008 by Mark Young

PELICAN DREAMING: POEMS 1959-2008 by Mark Young
Selected and with an Introduction by Thomas Fink
ISBN: 978-0-9794119-5-3
412 pages
Price: $24.00
Release Date: 2008
Distributors: Meritage Press and Lulu at

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of PELICAN DREAMING: Poems 1959-2008 by Mark Young, Selected and with an Introduction by Thomas Fink.

Mark Young was born in New Zealand, but has lived for more than half his life in Australia. First published in 1959, his work has appeared in a large number of both electronic & print journals, & he has been included in many anthologies. His publications range from the first book on modern New Zealand painting through more than a dozen collections of poetry & his co-editorship with Jean Vengua of two anthologies of hay(na)ku to a speculative novella, the allegrezza ficcione. These days he spends most of his time editing the e-zine Otoliths & nurturing the steadily-increasing catalog of its print publishing arm.

About this project, Mark Young shares:

"My father died when he was 93, &, even then, his death was at least partially due to complications from an amputated leg. Which means there are longevity genes in my family. So it's somewhat ironic that the earliest poem in this selection / collection, "Lizard", written when I was seventeen — 'When one is seventeen, one isn't serious' wrote Rimbaud, in error, but he can be forgiven for he was only fifteen when he wrote the line — stems from feelings of mortality brought on by the teenage angst that beset me at the time.

"As the subtitle of this book indicates — Poems 1959-2008 — those feelings were somewhat premature. But they're still around, since my vision of a neat fifty years of poetry was taken over once again by similar feelings: I wanted the book out there in order to make sure that I was around to see it.

"There is a rough chronological order to the book, based on the order of the books from which the selections were made, but that is for convenience. I have nearly always followed the maxim 'Let the poem shape itself.' So there are streams & themes that overlap across collections, across times, in a variety of concurrent styles. As Thomas Fink writes in his Introduction:

"'If anyone these days is hanging onto a notion of consistent stylistic evolution as aesthetic merit, this volume will do its best to disorient them, as Young's 'many mansions' feature a variety of architectural modes. Could one predict the flights of Betabet from the unified narrative of 'Grafton Bridge,' much less 'Lizard'? 'George W.'s Language Primer' and 'Maxims for Tom Beckett' are both very funny poems, but their humor is achieved in extremely different ways. If someone didn't know who wrote either 'The Baggage Card' or 'The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even,' would s/he necessarily assume that the same author was responsible for both? Mark Young has the courage to be traditional, imagistically or narratively direct, discrete, serial, surreal, 'experimental,' and 'difficult' in the same season, year, or cluster of years. The reward is ours.'

"Tom's selection was done with total independence. All I did was give him the poems, in a variety of formats — e-books, chapbooks, full collections, blog postings, manuscripts — & let him have his way with me. Or, at least, my output. My gratitude for & pleasure with what he has selected & written to in his Introduction is immense. I have gained insights from his insightfulness. The reward is mine. &, I hope, yours."


A Nota Bene from Tom Beckett:

"I've had the privilege of reading this book in manuscript. It is as fantastically and variously beautiful a book of poetry as one can find. If you only read one selected poems in the coming year, read Pelican Dreaming."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Disappointed Psalms by Brian Clements

ISBN-13: 978-0-9794119-4-6
ISBN-10: 0-9794119-4-7
Price: $16.00
Release Date: Fall 2008
Distributors: Small Press Distribution, &

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of Disappointed Psalms by Brian Clements. This poetry collection is published as the recipient of the Colombian Poetry Gift sponsored by Meritage Press.

After years of working exclusively in the prose poem, Brian Clements shifts in Disappointed Psalms to short bursts, in turns raw and lyrical, that turn the languages of war and religion, so frequently aligned, against themselves. Combining short phrases from The Book of Psalms and catch phrases from the post-9/11 cultural reservoir with Clement's own lamentations on lost faith, these short poems and the litany that closes the book, like all the best political poems, attempt to wrest the ability to make meaning from the hands of spin doctors, liars, dissemblers and would-be builders of empire.

Brian Clements is the author of several collections of poetry, including And How To End It and Essays Against Ruin. He edits the small press Firewheel Editions and its Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics and coordinates the MFA in Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University.

THE HAY(NA)KU ANTHOLOGY, Vol II, Edited by Jean Vengua & Mark Young

ISBN 951-9198-73-3
ISBN 978-951-9198-73-6
Pages: 148
Price: $16.95

Poetry. Multicultural Studies. The "hay(na)ku" is a poetic form invented by Eileen Tabios, as inspired by Richard Brautigan, Jack Kerouac, and Tabios' meditations on the Filipino transcolonial and diasporic experience. The form is deceptively simple: a tercet comprised of one-, two- and three-word lines. Many poets also created variations from the basic form, attesting to its paradoxical suppleness despite its minimalist orientation.

Meritage Press (St. Helena & San Francisco) and xPress(ed) (Puhos, Finland) are delighted to announce the release of THE HAY(NA)KU ANTHOLOGY, VOL. II, edited by Mark Young and Jean Vengua.

Since The First Hay(na)ku Anthology's release in 2005, the hay(na)ku has appeared in many literary journals, anthologies and single-author poetry collections worldwide. Artists have created visual hay(na)ku. The form has been written in Spanish, English, French, Finnish, Dutch, Tagalog, and Norwegian. It has been taught in classrooms, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico/Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) features an hay(na)ku webpage in their online journal, Periódico de Poesía. Members of UNAM'S Faculty of Literature and Philosophy/Facultad de Filosofia y Letras are also preparing a full Spanish translation of The First Hay(na)ku Anthology for future release. Reflecting the hay(na)ku's continued popularity, THE HAY(NA)KU ANTHOLOGY, VOL. II is released just three years after the first hay(na)ku anthology. A third anthology is also in the works: The Chained Hay(na)ku which would present hay(na)ku collaborations among three or more writers. We hope readers enjoy this volume, and are encouraged to try writing their own hay(na)ku! For this poetic form also was created as an Invitation to Poetry.

More information about the hay(na)ku poetic form is available at The former link identifies the poet-participants, while the latter shares some poets' thoughts on the hay(na)ku's attractiveness. The hay(na)ku has been one of the most popular new poetic forms in recent times; 39 poets participated in the soon-to-be-out-of-print first anthology. In Vol. II, 51 poets from around the world (and representing a multiplicity of poetics) participate.

For more information, contact


ISBN-13: 978-0-9794119-3-9
ISBN-10: 0-9794119-3-9
Release Date: 2007
Price: $22.00
Pages: 208

Distribution: Available (1) directly from Meritage Press (Email us at; (2) from Meritage Press' Lulu Account at; and (3) from

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of a historic document: STAGE PRESENCE: CONVERSATIONS WITH FILIPINO AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTISTS, Edited by Theodore S. Gonzalves, a musician and assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

STAGE PRESENCE is a collection of essays and interviews with Filipino American performing artists. Each of the chapters features critically acclaimed and popular artists in their own right, who have also mentored hundreds of dancers, comedians, theater artists and musicians of all genres. In this rare collection, performers take time off stage to speak candidly about their creative processes, revealing personal frustrations and triumphs, while testifying to the challenges of what it could mean to be an artist of Filipino descent working and living in the United States.

Featuring: musicians Eleanor Academia, Gabe Baltazar Jr., Danongan Kalanduyan; bandleader and poet Jessica Hagedorn; choreographers and dancers Joel Jacinto, Alleluia Panis, and Pearl Ubungen; and theater artists Remé Grefalda, Allan Manalo and Ralph Peña. The book also includes a thought-provoking foreword by scholar and musician Ricardo D. Trimillos.

Some ADVANCE WORDS speak to the project's significance:

“Fusing history, culture, jazz, and art, Stage Presence is one big happening jam session featuring ten Filipino American performing artists rapping on their craft, their process, their defiance to be boxed in by the category-obsessed American market, and their hunger and struggles necessary to stay true to their vision, identity, and art.”
— R. Zamora Linmark, author of Rolling the R’s, Prime Time Apparitions and Leche

“This collection of interviews and reflections by many of the leading Filipino American cultural workers demonstrates the range and vitality of Filipino American performing arts – an inspiring and dynamic range of practices encompassing everything from kulintang to head-banging heavy metal, from college PCNs to off-Broadway New York theatre, from the Bayanihan to site-specific performance art. Stage Presence gives us a view rarely available to students, scholars, and audiences: the winding paths through history and identity that led these groundbreaking artists into the spotlight.”
— Karen Shimakawa, author of National Abjection

“When the New York Times looks at Filipinos, it sees only house maids and cooks, copycats, and mimics. But when scholar and artist Theo Gonzalves looks at and talks with his compatriots, he sees stunningly original and creative thinkers who use an eclectic range of forms and methods to make art and perform culture. This book is dizzy and alive with the Filipino soul. Read at your own risk!”
— Karin Aguilar-San Juan, editor of The State of Asian America


Professor Theodore S. Gonzalves studied at Santa Clara University (BA Political Science), San Francisco State University (MA Political Science), and at the University of California at Irvine (PhD Comparative Culture). His areas of scholarly interest include: Filipino/American cultures, histories & politics; U.S-Philippine relations; ethnic and cultural studies; cultural nationalisms and the performing arts.

Professor Gonzalves has taught college and university courses since 1991 at the following institutions: the University of California (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine & Los Angeles), the California State University (Sacramento, San Francisco & San Jose), Pomona College, and Santa Clara University. Gonzalves also lectured at the Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines, in the department of English. In addition to teaching in the American Studies department at UH Manoa, Gonzalves cross-lists courses with the Ethnic Studies Department; he is also affiliated with the Center for Philippine Studies and the International Cultural Studies Program.

In the field of performing arts, Gonzalves has served as a board member for Bindlestiff Studio, a San Francisco performing arts venue; co-founder of Jeepney Dash Records, an artist-run recording label; keyboardist for the Legendary Bobby Banduria; and musical director for "tongue in A mood" Theatre. Gonzalves' musical work has been featured at concerts such as the Asian American Jazz Festival and theater & music festivals at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He has also written, produced and performed several scores for independent film projects.

Gonzalves has received a Meet the Composer Award from the Meet the Composer Fund in New York. He was named a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome. In 2005, Gonzalves lectured and researched in the Philippines as a U.S. Fulbright Senior Scholar

PRAU by Jean Vengua

ISBN-10: 0-9794119-2-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-9794119-2-2
Price: $16.95
Release date: December 2007
Distributors: Meritage Press,
For more info:

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of Prau, the inaugural full-length poetry collection by Monterey Bay Area-based poet Jean Vengua. Prau is also the winner of The Filamore Tabios, Sr. Memorial Poetry Prize which was a global competition open to Filipino poets.

Jean Vengua's poetry has been published in many print and online journals and anthologies, including Going Home to a Landscape, Babaylan, x-stream, Interlope, Returning a Borrowed Tongue, Fugacity 05, Sidereality, Moria, and Otoliths, and in her chapbook, The Aching Vicinities (Otoliths). With Mark Young, she is editor of The First Hay(na)ku Anthology and Hay(na)ku Anthology, Volume 2. Jean's essays, articles and reviews on literature and music have been published in many journals including Jouvert, Geopolitics of the Visual (Ateneo Univ. Press), Pinoy Poetics, Our Own Voice, Seattle's International Examiner (Pacific Reader), and

ADVANCE WORDS from prominent poets attest to Prau's power and beauty:

Jean Vengua is a poet of the typo, the missed step, the happy and unhappy accident; in short, she is a poet of linguistic and global migration. Prau moves its reader from the Philippines to the Bay Area and back, "always mining past present tenses." In her aptly titled prose poem, "Momentum," Vengua links Gustav Mahler, her mother, Buffalo Soldiers, Marie Curie, Roberto Matta, and Jose Rizal in a dance of histories real and imagined. The momentum of her writing brings together what is otherwise ripped asunder: "That is to make beautiful where the dissonance begins to tear."
--Susan M. Schultz, Editor of Tinfish Press

Prau sets forth on its courageous voyage through time and spirit with a meditation on the year 1911, the date of the author's mother's birth, that sails us through the worlds of Mahler, Marie Curie, Moses Browning (who invented the M-1911 Colt 45 to kill intransigent Filipino "moros" in Mindanao), the H - Bomb, Matta, the polymath Rizal, Dapitan and the migratory routes of her father's wandering ukulele. Vengua's poems gently yet firmly navigate us towards yet to be explored spheres of psychological and lyrical revelation where "by turns and in rounds we are angry, indifferent and in love" and "without ghosts, the obscurity of night becomes real." This is page-turner, addictive poetry that never falters in its gaze at the integrity of dream and the dream of integrity.
--Nick Piombino, author of Fait Accompli

At last, this pioneer of the literary blog scene who I have followed through cyberspace since the nineties has a book of poetry that I can take home with me! Vengua's poetry delves into the very nature of culture and custom. An ordinary postage stamp triggers a multi-racial dilemma. A personal memento unlocks a sequence of historic ramifications witnessing the first ever explosion of a hydrogen bomb. This is poetry tempered by the movements of New Historicism, Postmodern irony and the culture clash of living in California. Languages abound. A typo or a footnote can become central to the themes she navigates in her agile prau, sorting through truth, folklore, dream, memory, and pure desire.
--Catalina Cariaga, author of Cultural Evidence

Complications by Garrett Caples

ISBN-13: 978-0-9794119-1-5
ISBN-10: 0-9794119-1-2
Release Date: Fall 2007

Meritage Press is pleased to publish Complications, the second full-length poetry collection by Oakland-based poet Garrett Caples. Reflecting the moral disintegration of the post-9/11 world, Complications is an even wilder, darker, funnier exploration of poetic consciousness than its predecessor, The Garrett Caples Reader. From semiotic reportage to automatic writing, oulipian constraint to straightforward elegy, Complications is an eclectic tour de force in the service of a fundamental proposition: "surreality is real."

Praise for The Garrett Caples Reader

"a wonderful book of prose and poetry."
--Philip Lamantia

"a lovely piece of work all the way through."
--Robert Creeley


Born in Lawrence, MA in 1972, Garrett Caples is a poet living in Oakland, CA. He is the author of The Garrett Caples Reader (Angle Press/Black Square Editions, 1999), er um (Meritage Press, 2002), and The Philistine's Guide to Hip Hop (Ninevolt, 2004). He has published numerous essays, articles, and reviews. He currently writes on hip hop for the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Distributors: Meritage Press,

Fragile Replacements by William Allegrezza

ISBN-10: 0-9794119-0-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-9794119-0-8
Release date: Summer 2007

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of FRAGILE REPLACEMENTS, William Allegrezza's long-awaited poetry collection. FRAGILE REPLACEMENTS explores the way we live through language, experiencing births, deaths, and rebirths through it, but the book also examines how our language is filled, controlled, and crafted by our societies. Two long poems surround and provide context for reading shorter lyrics in the middle section.

William Allegrezza teaches and writes from his base in Chicago. His poems, articles and reviews have been published in several countries including the U.S., Holland, the Czech Republic and Australia, as well as in several online journals. His chapbooks, e-books and books include Lingo, The Vicious Bunny Translations, Covering Over, Temporal Nomads, Ladders in July, Ishmael Among the Bushes, and In The Weaver's Valley. He is the editor of Moria Poetry (, a journal dedicated to experimental poetry and poetics, and the editor-in-chief of Cracked Slab Books (


Allegrezza's poetic canvas-of-choice is the lyric, and his lyrical investigations frequently appear to evolve or grow. . . from an imagination fueled by found language fragments and theory-singed excesses. This particular poet's capacity to create resonant, "deep" images is extraordinary.
--Clayton Couch

There is something about the flow in Allegrezza's poems that I quite like, the way they simply move one step at a time down the page almost intuitively. Really, it's the leaps between lines that impress; almost ghazal-like down the page, jumping from line to line to line in seeming disconnect.
--rob mclennan

Distributors: Meritage Press,

DAYS POEM by Allen Bramhall

A Two-Volume Poetry Collection by Allen Bramhall:

494 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9709-1798-0
Price: $28.00

441 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9709-1799-7
Price: $28.00

Meritage Press delighted to announce a unique and ambitious two-volume collection by Allen Bramhall: DAYS POEM. Mr. Bramhall describes his project with:

"Begun casually, the writing of DAYS POEM quickly grew into a daily necessity to write, even to plug onward. In this way, it resembles a journal or novel, tho it claims neither genre as its own. It started with an idea of writing large and embracing extent. It settled (and unsettled) itself within the compelling philosophical argument that it is what it is. The thrill of relentlessness and perseverance pushed it until, you know, it came to an end. As the writer of these pages, I wanted to play with hobos, and bears, and Tarzan & Jane, and Walden Pond, and all the words in between. I wanted a little amazement in every day."

Allen Bramhall was born by the banks of the Concord River in 1952 and has lived in Massachusetts ever since. He was educated at Franconia College and Lesley University, and in non-academic places as well.     / Simple Theory / (Potes & Poets Press) was his first book. He maintains a blog called Tributary (, and a life with Beth and Erin.

DAYS POEM is available through the publisher (email or you can order through Meritage Press' Lulu account at:




Kali's Blade by Michelle Bautista

ISBN: 978-0-9709-1797-3
Release Date: December 2006
Price: $12.00

Lulu at
Meritage Press by emailing

Meritage Press is pleased to announce Michelle Bautista's inaugural poetry collection, Kali's Blade. This unique collection is a mixture of poetry, prose, and collaborations that brings martial arts to the page, creating a tapestry that attempts to capture this elusive spirit known as Kali (a martial arts form). Kali's Blade is like walking the edge of a knife between reality and myth, strength and frailty, the physical being and the written body. As Bautista writes in, "How to Battle a Wind Goddess," the only real way to win is to inhale her, for "where she became my flesh / I became the wind goddess."

Gura Michelle Bautista is a 4th degree black belt in the Kamatuuran school of Kali under the direction of Tuhan Joseph T. Oliva Arriola. She teaches Kali in Oakland, CA. She is a SF Bay Area poet and performer, having worked with Kearney Street Workshop, Bindlestiff Studios, Asian American Theater Company, KulArts, and Teatro Ng Tanan. She has been published in Going Home To A Landscape, Babaylan, maganda magazine, Eros Pinoy, Asian Pacific American Journal, TMP Irregular and MiPoesias Magazine.

Dérive by Bruna Mori, with paintings by Matthew Kinney

ISBN-10: 0-9709179-6-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-9709179-5-9
Release date: November 2006

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of Bruna Mori's long-awaited first poetry collection, Dérive, which also presents reproductions of paintings by New York-based artist Matthew Kinney. Drawn by the New York cityscape and encounters found there, physical trajectories are mapped in words and sumi-ink. Poems that depict an ever-shifting subjectivity within the urban sphere are interspersed with paintings of architectures dis/assembling.

From Second Avenue to 242nd Street, spanning mahjongg parlors and halfway houses, "Bruna Mori creates a lyrical alchemy of the debris and mythology of New Amsterdam (Brenda Coultas)." "Mori rides the New York City subway to its terminus, and in so doing reminds us that those oft forgotten souls who inhabit urban outreaches are adamant bridges between their old world and new (Martine Bellen)."

The book honors (and strays from) the Situationist theory of the dérive, or "drift"--where one or more persons during a certain period let themselves be attracted to the terrain, détourning one's steps on noncapitalized time. Through drift, Mori "found" collaborator Matthew Kinney painting the skyline in sumi-ink on a torn-edged canvas--a carryover from his skate-punk days when he regularly made impromptu washes on cardboard kept in his backpack. Not long after, they decided to combine their work.


"Mori is not only a cogent observer of life and its environs but a magnanimous participant who shines a light on the profound beauty of no-name pizza parlors and sweaty flesh that bears green tattoos of the heart."
—Martine Bellen

"Dérive is an animated guidebook to the boroughs of my city and should be required reading for travelers and residents alike."
—Brenda Coultas

"Much to admire. In the range of experiences detailed and the ever-shifting vantage point, the city and its inhabitants emerge as vastly various and yet inextricably bound to one another."
—lê thi diem thúy

"A deft poetic journey through the fissures and ironies of city life."
—Norman M. Klein


Bruna Mori was born in Japan and has lived primarily in the United States--mostly in New York, and Louisiana and California. Tergiversation (Ahadada Books, 2006) and The Approximations (2nd Avenue Poetry, 2006) are her first chapbooks, and Dérive is her first book. A writer and editor, she teaches at Art Center College of Design and the Southern California Institute of Architecture. Her BA and MFA degrees were completed at the University of California, San Diego and Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College.

Matthew Kinney was born in Georgetown, Massachusetts. A visual artist with an emphasis on painting and sculpture, he presently has a studio space at Spire Studios in Beacon, New York; also an advocate of sustainable agriculture, he works at Windfall Farms in Montgomery. He attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Distributors: Meritage Press,

Unprotected Texts: Selected Poems (1978-2006) by Tom Beckett


ISBN: 0-970917-95-3

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of Tom Beckett's long overdue and much anticipated first poetry book. Unprotected Texts encompasses work from nearly three decades.


Zombies and Wittgenstein bracket a series of autonomous zones populated by the Book, Harry Partch, 100 Questions, shadows, holograms, the Subject, the author himself, and numerous pronouns. These Unprotected Texts flood the tones of speech wrenched from the bent notes of a life lived looking for a connection to "the conversation" which takes place among musics of meaning. Sex and text are synonymous here. "Is this speech balloon a rubber?"


There is a powerfully osmotic draw to this welcome volume of Selected Poems, spanning nearly thirty years of work and concluding with a stimulating interview of the author by Tom Fink and Crag Hill. That this book is overdue, results in a level of concentration that intensifies the experience of reading. The poetry itself, the intellect and personality that exude from it, reveal a mind and heart that bring to the fore the infinite variety of life in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. References to composer and musical theorist Harry Partch seem apt, as Beckett's Unprotected Texts reveal intervals in sound, discovering heretofore undiscovered instruments.

There is Beckett as designer who "underpaints." Beckett as builder: "Stanzas are rooms in Italian." Beckett as political and social observer: "Is the president a hologram?" "Do fingerprints have babies?" Beckett as aesthetic investigator: "At some point I turned out to be my method." "Closure affects circumference." Beckett as honest individual/ articulate creator: "It's a boy and it's a girl." "Often I am permitted to do absolutely nothing that I want to do."
--Sheila E. Murphy

For three decades now, Tom Beckett has been writing the most hard-headed, clear-eyed, unsentimental poetry in America. He has the rigor of a master & the mind of a first-rate detective. Long before the internet made it relatively easier for a poet to work from somewhere other than one of the two or three major literary centers, Beckett was writing poems from deep inside Ohio that ring as true -- and as clearly -- now as when they were first written.
--Ron Silliman

Well known for editing The Difficulties (1980-1990), a now legendary critical journal, Tom Beckett has long been associated with the Language Poets. His "The Picture Window" (included in this volume) was published in Ron Silliman's landmark anthology In the American Tree. More recently, he has become a popular figure in the world of blogs. Unprotected Texts is comprised of work taken in whole or part from broadsides, chapbooks, journals, online and other publications. It is his first, much anticipated, full-length book. He lives in Kent, Ohio.

Distributors: Meritage Press,

Not Even Dogs by Ernesto Priego

ISBN: 978-1-4116-8992-3

Meritage Press is pleased to announce the release of NOT EVEN DOGS by Mexican poet Ernesto Priego. This book is not only Priego's debut poetry collection but also the first single-author hay(na)ku poetry book.

The hay(na)ku is a "diasporic" poetic form inaugurated on June 12, 2003 by Eileen R. Tabios. The form swiftly became popular and, in 2005, THE FIRST HAY(NA)KU ANTHOLOGY was published featuring 38 poets around the world, including its coeditors Mark Young (New Zealand) and Jean Vengua (United States). That first anthology may be the swiftest anthology release following a poetic form's invention, with a second anthology in the works.

Advance Praise for NOT EVEN DOGS:

[Ernesto Priego] bares & shares himself more than any other contemporary poets I know. Cuts pieces out of himself & then examines them with us. & he has found the perfect vehicle for it, the hay(na)ku, known in Mexico as the jainakú because his use of it has made it part of the local language even though he mainly writes in English. He has grown into it, made it his own, & now it grows with him. The first thing I wrote down in my preparatory notes for this piece was "adopt, adapt, adept". // The hay(na)ku is still a young form, but with Singers such as Ernesto Priego working their magic with it, it will have people listening for a very long time.
--from the Foreword by Mark Young

The weirdly christened, pun-intended brainchild of that Thomas Alva Edison of contemporary poetry, Eileen Tabios, the jainakú (aka hay(na)ku) becomes truly global in NOT EVEN DOGS, and Ernesto Priego may rightfully claim to have elevated it to an art form.
--Eric Gamalinda, author of ZERO GRAVITY and AMIGO WARFARE


Praise For Ernesto Priego's Poems:

I find so many of Ernesto's poems breathtaking, and I've never used that phrase before but it fits. I breathe in deep for the "AH!" awe of awesome poetry when you catch it in the act-of becoming, becoming a part of this person, here, right now, you, in the reading.
--Lorna Dee Cervantes, author of DRIVE: THE FIRST QUARTET

"These are delicate, spare lyrics of love, loss, and introspection."
-K. Silem Mohammad, author of A THOUSAND DEVILS and DEER HEAD NATION

Ernesto Priego's poems magnify minutiae. When each poem closes in on dust, colour, emotions, flesh-its aches and pains, every word must tremble on the rim of falling. I observe how"miss" is loaded: abstain, avoid, fail to hit its mark, yearn....
--Ivy Álvarez, author of MORTAL

Born in Mexico City, Ernesto Priego is an essayist, teacher and translator. He is interested in everything having to do with poetry, graphic narratives and pop music.

NOT EVEN DOGS is available online through as well as from Meritage Press (contact

THE FIRST HAY(NA)KU ANTHOLOGY Edited by Jean Vengua & Mark Young

ISBN: 951-9198-72-5
Price: $14.95
Pages: 96

Poetry. Multicultural Studies. The "hay(na)ku" is a poetic form invented by Eileen Tabios, as inspired by Richard Brautigan, Jack Kerouac, and Tabios' meditations on the Filipino transcolonial and diasporic experience. The form is deceptively simple: a tercet comprised of one-, two- and three-word lines. Many poets also created variations from the basic form, attesting to its paradoxical suppleness despite its minimalist orientation. Inaugurated on June 12, 2003 (Philippine Independence Day), the form swiftly became popular and since has been used by poets all over the world -- including the anthology's 38 poets and editors Jean Vengua (U.S.) and Mark Young (Australia).

More information is also available at the Hay(na)ku Blog.


It is a beautiful glass container for holding the present moment: spare and elegant, it also has an incredible capacity for breadth. The hay(na)ku form is a wonderful and witty evolution that triggers inventiveness in those who use it.
--Ivy Alvarez

Hay(na)ku is such a seductive form that I've found myself rather obsessively viewing the world through its six-word frame. It's become a problem for me. The problem isn't the form. The problem is my obsessiveness.
--Tom Beckett

I had never before heard of the hay(na)ku form. So what first attracted me to this project was experimenting with something new. While trying to write some poems in the form, I noticed that hay(na)ku reads with a breathability that other forms lack -- including the tightly coiled haiku -- but it also has its pitfalls. How exactly do you go about codifying experience into such a strict pulse? How do you give life to a subject without short-changing it? There's a disjunction -- the form is hard to write, but easy to read, quite musical. It's a fascinating puzzle. What's left out means as much as what stays in. There are little shadows that follow the poems to their ends, scattering stones in the shallows of syntax. Reading one poem, you're hearing a second poem whispered into your ear, soft as a misremembered dream. I wonder how deep these caverns go, these poems seem to say. Better bring a light.
--Michael Chmielecki

We are pattern-seekers and form-makers: we cannot escape form. Even a depiction of chaos will be, in some fundamental way, formal. Indeed, chaos is simply the unfiltered and the uncategorized. As soon as I call this bit "this," and that bit "that," I have performed an act of creation. We cannot choose to be formal; we can only choose how heavily we lean into it. Seeking patterns and making forms is simply our minds in the work of comprehension. Cognition is a winnowing, a series of choices that constrain. But constraints do not limit us; they free us. We sit down to write a poem: where to start, and where to go from there? Instead of all the cosmos, an endless wordhoard to intimidate and overwhelm us, we merely need something that rhymes with "now", or three more syllables, or only six words.

I have been attracted to the Hay(na)ku form recently because the constraint (three lines of six words: 1-2-3 or 3-2-1) sits so lightly on the composition process. I may have half-formed ideas, or notes, or single words lying around, and no other place to put them. Thinking of five more words to go with these fugitives, or reworking a phrase to bring it down to the count, is a playful and surprisingly friendly way of working. It's almost like not working at all. And yet, like all miniaturist forms, it is challenging in a way that long, discursive works are not. As Pascal quipped, "I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn't have time."
--Nicholas Downing

Finding a new form to play with is like putting on pajamas when they are fresh out of the dryer.
--Jilly Dybka

I began writing hay(na)kus because they were the new, fun thing to do. I soon found that this form was more than a trend; it functioned to build community amongst writers who may not have previously had common ground on which to converse. I find this form accessible in terms of its simplicity, its playfulness, and because hay(na)kus are (deceptively) easy to dash off. This being said, I also find that hay(na)kus are difficult to get "right." With such limited space, the hay(na)ku forces you to value (and evaluate) every word. This form also asks you to question or observe the appearance of the poem on the page. What are the implications of beginning with a single word? What happens when you flip the form and the poem whittles itself down from three words on a line to a single word as the last line? I find the drastic differentiation of the line length to be an important component of this form. There would be something unsatisfying, for me, about writing in 2/2/2. Part of the force of the form is the (surprisingly) dramatic difference between the isolation of a single word on a line contrasted by a slightly longer arrangements of words.
--Monica Fauble

I appreciate the hay(na)ku's encouragement of compression, its subtly expansive quality, and the gentle subversiveness of its Filipina-American origins.
--Thomas Fink

i like new forms & try any i hear about. hay(na)ku is interesting both for its terseness & its being a word-count form.
--Michael Helsem

Why me? Why now?

Every word counts. That's hard to resist in The Age of Logorrhea.

The form encourages paring, discourages padding.

Lines shaped by word count rather than syllable, engendering more rhythmic variety among poems and within the poem itself.

Enjambment abound, bounds.

Poems start small, grow taller, taller, then hunkerdown, dip, curtsy, until they build toward tall at the end. I read the sea there, gentle tides. (I'm so damned land-locked right now, I read the sea just about everywhere.)

They often arrive on my tongue before I can even locate pen or paper.

And if you've had the chance to read some of the poems found above, the form's not so rigid that it breeds sameness. Mark Young's hay(na)ku do not read like Joseph Garver's.
--Crag Hill

I have written most of my hay(na)ku from scratch but have also used the form to recast older material (such as 'Wet waiting arms' published in this anthology) - it has a way of revealing. I also see it as a 'thinking' form - emotional as well as intellectual thinking. By allowing a lot of space on the page it keeps things tight and loose. Hay(na)ku creates or pushes certain syntactical structures, potentially disruptive through its arbitrariness. Forms aren't games, or just games - they are ways of paying attention. The 'sound' is also important, the way hay(na)ku can build. My preference is to write hay(na)ku sequences that build on the form. Free but firm.
--Jill Jones

The first poems I ever wrote were Haiku. Spare forms, I think, concentrate the imagination. Having only recently been introduced to the hay(na)ku form, I notice that writing these six word poems/stanzas causes me to pay close attention to speaking patterns--specifically the subtle ways word placement can alter tone.
--Kirsten Kaschock

I tried to write (a note on the hay(na)ku) but bits and pieces about Asian trans-national citizenships and Filipino maids kept invading, so I should probably keep writing my essays.
--Rachael Kendrick

It's a form that travels well.
--Karri Kokko

The hay(na)ku form forces the poet to slow down and consider each word individually, almost as a meditation. Whereas haiku restricts the number of syllables, hay(na)ku frees the poet to perceive each word as a complete unit.
--Tucker Leiberman

flexibly tempered
to American speech

received sound pearls
fit (un)tutored
--Sheila E. Murphy

Why I love the hay(na)ku: Because of the zip and pop of it. Because of the flame and spark of it. Like snapping a towel at someone you love.
--Aimee Nezhukumatathil

The diasporic nature of the hay(na)ku attracted me from the very beginning because it allowed me to express myself in English without being a native speaker. The apparently simple form is, in practice, very challenging, and allows for a series of singular possibilities. I feel the hay(na)ku is a form that grants a common space for poetic practice in different languages; a way of writing in English without completely obliterating one's "mothertongue". Instead of the conquest and influx that has defined English in relation to other "less powerful" languages, the hay(na)ku is open and flexible, an invitation to share different ways of thought and writing.
--Ernesto Priego

It's a fresh and crispy stanza pattern that lets the sky in while keeping a path. Looks good, sounds good.
--Jay Rosevear

Hay(na)ku is an open and limitless sky wherein birds of poetic imagination can wing freely to amuse sweet souls.
--Radhey Shiam

When I think about why I 'like' something, especially a poetry form, headaches start to form (that's why we have critics? for headaches, right?). 'Like,' rarely is a reason to action for me. And that goes for any form including hay(na)ku, which I've tried to come to without definition (by definition would defeat the purpose). hay(ka)nu, for me, is a wonderful example of a form where nothing can be said wonderfully or not wonderfully in six words, letters, numbers, etc. It's "vispo" to me, baby. That's/ syllable word/ line divided dividing. Or, as the pigeon at my window just said, "t/ha/t's."
--harry k. stammer

I find the word-based formal constraint of hay(na)ku (as opposed to a syllable or metrical foot based constraint) leads to poems that are in many ways more natural, and that, in particular, the 1-2-3 structure is a pattern that comes up continually in the course of the daily. Poetry lives and breathes in the daily, and hay(na)ku has the ability to capture profound and delightful pieces that might otherwise be missed.
--Dan Waber

This form represents for--someone who spent much of his life in Japan and "toying" with the haiku format--nothing less than the key to release from my preconceived notions of style and form. Many a time I have been forced to conform to some recipe, only to loose all passion and power to evoke with my words. The hay(na)ku had given me the freedom to return to the origins of poetry in play, play with the form and, by extension, with the words themselves. Finally, I find a pleasure in structure that I never knew existed before--precisely because this form allows me to move, to grow, to transform, and yes!--to transgress my own notions of structuring.
--James A Wren

The Obedient Door by Sean Tumoana Finney

Price: $14.95
ISBN 0-9709179-4-5

Meritage Press is pleased to announce Sean Tumoana Finney's debut poetry collection: The Obedient Door, with original drawings by San Francisco illustrator Ward Schumaker.

The Obedient Door is an argument for awareness, for seeing and feeling those volumes of our experience not trodden by the shortcuts of social nicety. Finney's first book is also his loneliest, where he speed dates verse in attempts to make lasting combinations. His influences include the New York School, Beckett, Lorca, and Chinese, Japanese, and Islamic poetry. The Obedient Door issues from a desire to know the past and its languages, to find alternatives, new lexicons, other people's boundaries to force words between.

Finney's collection has received the following advance praise from John Ashbery:

Sean Finney's cheerfully slipshod poems recycle urban moments that don't quite add up to a time, moods that may be part of a relationship, or not, unclassifiable afternoon afterthoughts and changes in temperature: "which song brings stone's rise and water's fall / into the bending of wrists and ankles / and broken corners for dust to change light." These are lines from his poem "What the Leopards Reject." We would be wise to reject the leopards' whims and feast on the scraps he has so eloquently assembled for us, which are in fact those of life itself.


Sean Finney is a poet, journalist and copywriter living in San Francisco. He was born farther west, in Hawaii, but he likes to claim that Rome, where he lived as a teenager, is his spiritual home. This is his first book. His website is

Ward Schumaker is a San Francisco based illustrator who has illustrated two books for the acclaimed Yolla Bolly Press: Paris France by Gertrude Stein, and Two Kitchens in Provence by M.F.K. Fisher. His website is

Available from Meritage Press.

PINOY POETICS: A Collection of Autobiographical and Critical Essays on Filipino and Filipino American Poetics, Edited by Nick Carbo

PINOY POETICS was developed by Eileen Tabios to be the first international poetics anthology of Filipino English-language poets. Poet, critic, editor and teacher Nick Carbo subsequently agreed to edit this unique and groundbreaking collection of autobiographical essays by approximately 40 Filipino poets. The poets discuss the elements inspiring and influencing their poems as well as feature sample poems that illustrate their thoughts. Aptly reflecting the diversity of this community which has not yet received much attention in the literary world, the featured Filipino poets' concerns are wide-ranging and encompass Taoism, hip-hop, Kali (a Filipino martial arts form), ekphrasis, the legacy of Jose Garcia Villa, Bay Area Pil-Am movement, poems inspired by the carabao (water buffalo), colonialism and postcolonialism, homosexuality, lesbianism, wars such as what occured or is occuring in Vietnam, the Gulf and Afghanistan, the Martial Law years in the Philippines, the relationship between poems and plays, feminism, a resonant tale over ice cream and -- of course -- poetic forms.

This project -- consciously designed to help obviate the historical silencing of voices from the Filipino community -- is scheduled for release in 2004. The book is appropriate -- and necessary -- as an educational text for various disciplines including but not limited to poetry, creative writing, multicultural studies, Filipino studies and literature, Asian American literature, humanities, the social sciences and history. A comprehensive bibliography of poetry publications by Filipino authors will be included.


2017 Profile by Abigail Licad for HYPHEN MAGAZINE.

Nick Carbo is the author of three poetry collections: SECRET ASIAN MAN (Tia Chucha Press, 2000) which received the 2001 Members' Choice Literary Award from the Asian American Writers Workshop and chosen for the Academy of American Poets Poetry Book Club; EL GRUPO MCDONALD’S (Tia Chucha Press, 1995); and RUNNING AMOK (Monday's Mango Press, 1992).

He also served as editor of the groundbreaking anthology RETURNING THE BORROWED TONGUE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF FILIPINO AND FILIPINO AMERICAN POETRY IN ENGLISH (Coffee House Press, 1996) and co-editor (with Eileen Tabios) of BABAYLAN: AN ANTHOLOGY OF FILIPINA AND FILIPINA AMERICA WRITERS (Aunt Lute Press, 2000).

His numerous awards include poetry fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts (1997) and the New York Foundation of the Arts (1999). He has received residencies from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain), and Le Chataeu de Lavigny (Switzerland). His poems have been featured in such publications as POETRY, Triquarterly, 5 AM, Asian Pacific American Journal, Barrow Street, Crab Orchard Review, DisOrient, Green Mountains Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Indiana Review, Literary Review, Luna, Membrane, Midland Review, North American Review, Pleiades, Poetry Digest, Poet Lore, Synaesthetic, Sun Dog, Urbanus, and Western Humanities Review.

His poems also have been featured in a number of anthologies: Humor Me: An Anthology of Poems by Poets of Color (University of Iowa Press, 2002); Literature Without Borders (Prentice Hall, 2001); American Diaspora: Poetry of Displacement (University of Iowa Press, 2001); American Poetry: Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2000); The Bread Loaf Anthology of New American Poets (Univ. Press of New England, 2000); New Young American Poets (Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 2000); Poetry Nation (Vehicule Press, 1998); The First Yes: Poems About Communicating (Dryad Press, 1997); American Journey: The Asian American Experience (Primary Source Media, CD-ROM, 1996); Flippin': Filipinos Writing on America (Asian American Writers Workshop, 1996); and Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (Henry Holt, 1994).

He has taught at Rutgers University, University of Pittsburgh, Hofstra University, Manhattan College, The American University (Washington D.C.), Bucknell University, University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival, among others. Currently, he serves as a visiting lecturer at the English Department of the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.

Timothy Yu's Essay for PINOY POETICS

Publisher's Note:

One of the major reasons I decided to develop the PINOY POETICS book project is to help obviate the ignorance about, as well as the narrow-minded perspectives on, the works of Filipino/a poets. The autobiographical aspect of the essays in PINOY POETICS is important because, before and/or in addition to others commenting on Filipino/a poetry, I wished the Filipino/a poets to have had a chance (if they wish to do so) to offer their own views on their own works.

Timothy Yu, a scholar in the Ph.D. program at Stanford University has offered a paper at the Modern Language Association conference (and is in the midst of expanding his thoughts) on Jose Garcia Villa's life. (More information about Timothy is available at The following is one of Timothy's papers which, by reflecting on the constraints faced by Mr. Villa (e.g. the attempts of critics "to place Villa squarely in the Anglo-American poetic tradition" and even his admirers' tendencies to exoticize him), highlights the importance of PINOY POETICS.

If the Filipino/a community long has been afflicted by the many forms of silencing (from colonialism to racism), then its poets surely should be among those aggressively speaking out.
--Eileen Tabios

[If you are unfamiliar with Jose Garcia Villa's works and wish to learn more, you are encouraged to read THE ANCHORED ANGEL (Kaya, 1999) which I edited and features essays by Jessica Hagedorn, Luis Francia, Nick Carbo, Luis Cabalquinto, Alfred Yuson, Jonathan Chua, and E. San Juan, Jr. THE ANCHORED ANGEL also includes a selection of Mr. Villa's poems and prose.]

Asian/American Modernisms: José Garcia Villa’s Transnational Poetics
By Timothy Yu, Stanford University

Throughout much of the twentieth century, José Garcia Villa has been regarded as the first and greatest English-language poet of the Philippines, a man who, as the critic E. San Juan puts it in The Philippine Temptation, “almost singlehandedly founded modern writing in English in the Philippines” (171). Villa’s 1933 short story collection Footnote to Youth was the first to be published by a Filipino in the United States, and the enthusiastic reception of his 1942 poetry collection Have Come, Am Here made him the Philippines’ most famous poet (Chua 176-7). Beginning in 1928 and continuing through the 1970s, Villa’s anthologies of Filipino short stories and poetry established him as the critical authority in Filipino literature, shaping canons of taste and making or breaking literary careers with his selections. Villa’s status as a major figure of Filipino cultural nationalism was ratified in 1972, when the Marcos government designated him as “National Artist of the Philippines.”

Yet Villa played this role largely in absentia. He left the Philippines for the United States in 1929 and returned only a few times for brief visits, declining lectureships and a government pension in favor of his small apartment in Greenwich Village. Indeed, for a period in the 1940s and 1950s, Villa was considered a major American modernist writer, a fixture in the New York literary scene and protégé of such luminaries as Edith Sitwell, Mark Van Doren, and Marianne Moore. But Villa’s prominence in the United States was short-lived. His work was falling out of favor by the late 1950s, and by the 1960s he was nearly unknown, though the decline of his American reputation seemed to have little effect on his dominance of the Filipino literary world.

In the last few years, Villa has begun to re-emerge as an Asian American writer. The first collection of Villa’s work to appear in over two decades, The Anchored Angel: Selected Writings by José Garcia Villa, was published in 1999 by Kaya Press, a publisher of Asian American literature whose other projects include Premonitions: The Kaya Anthology of New Asian North American Poetry; a back cover blurb by poet Garrett Hongo hails Villa as “one of the greatest pioneers of Asian American literature.” Villa is increasingly being paired with Carlos Bulosan as one of the founding fathers of Filipino American literature.

At some level, these three versions of Villa’s career seem irreconcilable; yet none by itself seems capable of explaining Villa’s significance. Although Villa has apparently been judged wanting in the aesthetic realm of the modernist canon, his continuing importance in the Philippines reveals how bound that canon is to the national boundaries of the United States—to what degree literary “modernism” continues to be understood as a phenomenon internal to the American nation. At the same time, Villa’s status as the Philippines’ great “national” poet must be complicated by his self-imposed exile from the nation that claimed him—and by his allegiance (though he never became a citizen) to his homeland’s colonizer. Finally, Villa’s recent rehabilitation as an “Asian American” writer, far from synthesizing these two narratives, only further problematizes them. It is Villa’s very allegiance to the universalizing aesthetic dicta of high modernism and the Anglo-American literary canon that has prevented him, up to now, from being considered under the rubric of American ethnic writing. Indeed, Villa’s admission into the Asian American literary canon may do less to stabilize Villa’s position and more to destabilize the category of Asian American literature itself; for one reason Villa has frequently been unfavorably been compared to his contemporary, Bulosan, is because Bulosan’s social engagement and activism, both inside his work and outside it, have been seen as more amenable to the political goals of Asian American studies than Villa’s detached aestheticism. To accept Villa, in short, is to alter our very notion of the “Asian American.”

Perhaps one reason for Villa’s resurgence is the emergence of other paradigms through which we might understand his significance. Though Villa, the Greenwich Village resident, might have identified with a cosmopolitan modernism, such an identification would limit our analysis to a Euro-American axis. It might not be too fanciful to think of Villa instead as a proto-transnational subject, one whose significance and literary authority was generated precisely in his movements across national boundaries. Perhaps the best argument for this approach is the disruptive and illuminating power it can have with regard to the three narratives I have outlined above.

In part my goal will be to evaluate the claims of E. San Juan, Jr.—the critic who has written most extensively and persuasively on Villa—that we can read Villa’s formal strategies symptomatically, locating a “peculiar ‘Malayan/Pacific’ habitus” (172) in his engagements with modernist form. I will suggest that, paradoxically, the cultural authority Villa lent to Filipino cultural nationalism derived from his position outside the Philippine nation and at the cosmopolitan center of its former colonizer. Finally, I will ask what a consideration of Villa’s work has to offer to Asian American culture. The resurgence of interest in Villa seems a metaphor for a paradigm crisis in Asian American literature: will a new focus on transnationalism result in an inclusive expansion of the field’s scope or in the erosion of a distinctive Asian American project? For while Villa’s innovative work suggests an expansion of Asian American literature beyond its previous, content-driven criteria and beyond the borders of the United States, Villa’s elitist aestheticism and his troubled alliances with imperialism, cultural and otherwise, make him a disturbing figurehead for a new transnational Asian American studies.

Ironically enough, the literary career of the man who would become the Philippines’ great “National Artist” did not begin in earnest until he left the Philippines for the United States. Villa had, however, gained some attention for his student writing—though more notoriety than acclaim. After publishing a few poems with erotic content, Villa was expelled from the University of the Philippines, where he was a medical student; but his work also earned him a prize from the Free Press, giving him enough money to leave for the United States in 1929. He would spend most of the rest of his life in the U.S., returning to the Philippines only sporadically.

Once in the U.S., Villa enrolled at the University of New Mexico, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1932. He continued to publish, and his stories came to the attention of the influential editor and critic Edward J. O’Brien, who was, among other things, editor of the annual Best American Short Stories anthology. O’Brien selected Villa’s stories for his 1932 and 1933 collections; perhaps more importantly, he became an active advocate of Villa’s work, an effort that culminated in the publication of a volume of stories, Footnote to Youth, by Scribner’s in 1933. Although Footnote was not widely reviewed, O’Brien had apparently succeeded in creating a certain amount of buzz around Villa, as demonstrated by the opening paragraph of the New York Times review of Villa’s book:

“ For at least two years the name of José Garcia Villa has been familiar to the devotees of the experimental short story. They knew him as the editor of a small mimeographed magazine, Clay, which published the work of numerous distinguished newcomers. They knew him for his very unusual short stories—and they knew, too, that he was an extremely youthful Filipino who had somehow acquired the ability to write a remarkable English prose and who had come to America as a student in the Summer of 1930.” (7)

This assessment, coming at the very start of Villa’s American career, captures precisely the tension between Villa’s dual literary identities. In the first part of this account, Villa is preeminently an avant-gardist, known and appreciated only by a coterie; his role in the avant-garde is significant enough that he is not simply a writer but a gatekeeper and tastemaker in his own right, as the editor of a journal. But the abrupt shift in the final sentence—which is the first to mention Villa’s writing itself—signals a disjunction between this avant-garde identity and Villa’s race and nationality. Structurally, Villa’s national origin forms this paragraph’s surprising climax, disrupting for the moment any direct consideration of his writing and dwelling on the more “remarkable” facts of Villa’s biography. The condescending “somehow” is, of course, typical of responses to early Asian American writing, but here it even more remarkably represses the American colonial presence—with its English-language educational system—in the Philippines. So the notion of Villa’s stories as “very unusual” undergoes an odd slippage here, from aesthetically unusual (avant-garde) to linguistically or even racially unusual—foreign. But making the author’s immigration to America the telos of this troubled progress neatly resolves the contradictions: placing Villa in a “student” relationship to the U.S. contains his avant-gardism within the logic of U.S. paternalism, while making his against-all-odds achievement that much more remarkable.

The reviews of Footnote are also, to some extent, typical of responses to Asian American writing in their focus on content to the exclusion of form. According to a brief notice in Scribner’s Magazine, the book “contains some tales of [Villa’s] native land that have a poignant beauty” (382). The lengthier New York Times review also notes that “Most of the stories in the book—and certainly the best ones—have a Philippine background” (7). But the Times reviewer uses this point to fend off a claim made by O’Brien in the volume’s introduction: “He stresses too much…the freshness of Mr. Villa’s approach to American life.” The effect of the essentializing emphasis on racialized content is usually to circumscribe the author’s field of action; but here it seems that there actually is a threat that Villa could become an “American” writer writing on American themes. For Villa does, the reviewer admits, have a certain command of the craft of writing: “The rich lushness of his imagery, the passionate intensity of his emotion achieve, at times, a kind of biblical beauty….[H]e may—as Mr. O’Brien now claims for him—become one of the ‘half-dozen short-story writers in America who counts.’” And the reviewer’s comparison of Villa to Sherwood Anderson, an author who does present a “fresh approach to American life,” begins to position Villa with regard to an American literary canon.

With a well-received first collection and the sponsorship of a prominent critic, Villa would have seemed well on his way to a distinguished career as a writer of fiction. But after the publication of Footnote in 1933 Villa abandoned the short story and turned his attention almost exclusively to poetry. He published little in the years between 1933 and 1942, when Have Come, Am Here announced his triumphant (re)birth as a poet. Villa did nothing to discourage critics treatment of him as a “newcomer,” despite his decade-old career as a writer in the United States.

What can account for this radical and apparently willful break in Villa’s career? E. San Juan, Jr.’s seminal account in The Philippine Temptation of Villa’s project of “fus[ing] U.S. modernism…with a nascent, if problematic, Filipino sensibility” (171) treats his career, to a large extent, as being of a piece. San Juan does note that after Footnote Villa “abandons the subject-position of colonial deracinated/paranoid rebel and tries to construct on the borderline of nomadic space a simulacra of self-reconciliation,” but sees this as simply another, equally valuable strategy of “native ressentiment” (192). What San Juan is not able to explain is why Villa abandoned the apparently successful synthesis he achieved in his stories—a synthesis San Juan himself relies on in outlining Villa’s political project—in favor of the much more politically ambiguous terrain of his later work; more specifically, the crucial abandonment of the medium of prose for that of poetry is not fully explained.

I would suggest that we take Villa’s turn from prose to poetry on what seems to be its own terms: as an attempt to gain access to the modernist canon. The reception of Villa’s short stories as a collection of “tales from the native land” suggests that Villa’s work as a fiction writer would always have been constrained by a demand for lived experience; just as Sherwood Anderson was praised for “knowing” his native Ohio, Villa would have been judged by his presentation of his country of origin. Any attempt by Villa to present “American” content in his stories would likely, as with the New York Times reviewer, have been dismissed out of hand. By turning to poetry, Villa was able to relieve this sort of pressure to be sociologically correct; indeed, he was able to turn his foreignness into an asset, a brand of exoticism that appealed to the orientalist strain in American modernism while still allowing Villa to take his place among the “great” American writers. Readings that seek to ground Villa in a (post-)colonial historical context neglect Villa’s own efforts to escape that context—efforts that ultimately earned him his tenure (however brief) in the modernist canon.

The decade between Footnote and Have Come can be understood as a period of self-fashioning for Villa. The two crucial moves—from the Philippines to the U.S. and from prose to poetry—must, I suggest, be regarded as parallel, so that generic and national boundaries become roughly analogous. We can better understand the ground of Villa’s departure if we begin with a measure of Villa’s reputation in the Philippines, as marked by the publication of a volume of his selected poems in the Philippines in 1939. The collection, Many Voices, contains nearly 200 pages of poetry, attesting to the already long career of a writer who would be greeted as a “newcomer” by U.S. critics in 1942. It opens with a long critical assessment of Villa by the Filipino literary critic Salvador P. Lopez, who recognizes Villa as “the one Filipino writer today who it would be futile to deride and impossible to ignore…He has been, for the past several years, the pace-setter for an entire generation of young writers, the mentor laying down the law for the whole tribe, the patron-saint of a cult of rebellious moderns” (7). But Lopez makes clear that this status is not due to Villa’s work as a fiction writer:

“[W]hile the general public believes Villa to have made his most valuable contribution to Philippine letters through his short stories, Villa himself seems to be o the opinion that his principal literary achievement lies in poetry…For while it is true that Villa has done yeoman service for the Filipino short story, he has himself admitted that there are short story writers today who not only equal but surpass him in the master of this form. In the field of poetry, on the other hand, he stands quite alone…[H]e is first of all a poet.” (8-9)

Lopez suggests one possible reading of Villa’s turn away from prose: he is simply a better poet than he is a prose writer. But more subtly, Lopez may be suggesting that there is simply less competition in the field of poetry, as there may be fewer accomplished Filipino poets writing in English. It also seems that this generic choice helps Villa’s case in another way; Lopez pronounces his work free of the “taint of localism” that plagues the immature writer (8). We’ve seen that this “localism” is exactly the lens through which Footnote was seen by U.S. critics. By turning away from stories of his “native land” to poetry and the more abstract themes of “genuine poetic feeling,” Villa was able to achieve the universalizing aesthetic that made him not simply a great Filipino writer but potentially a great modernist.

That this perspective is not simply a retrospective one is evident from Lopez’s increasingly critical stance toward Villa as his introduction goes on. Lopez regards Villa’s turn away from social realism as a conscious choice, one which Lopez does not entirely condemn but does not approve either:

“One doesn’t bring the charge against Villa that his poetry lacks social significance—that would be pointless, since he long ago begged to be excused from those preoccupations that today absorb the attention of other writers everywhere. One is bound to complain rather that, after a while, Villa becomes somewhat of a bore…There is something effete and bloodless in the lines of Villa, something that smells of the study and the parlor. There is no wind to it, no sun, no saltiness of earth.” (14-5)

While Villa’s conscious break with those socially committed “other writers” may be lamented here, it is also what sets him apart from the mass of writers; this elitism, as Lopez suggests, is a conscious effect, one designed to gain Villa access to the modernist “parlor.”

Whatever Lopez’s opinion of Villa’s strategies, they proved effective in the 1940s, when Villa’s collection Have Come, Am Here was released to wide acclaim in the United States. Critics praised Villa’s mastery of the Anglo-American canon and of modernist technique, while for the most part ignoring his race and nationality. But in perhaps the best-known review of Villa’s work, poet Marianne Moore sums up Villa’s virtues as those of “a Chinese master.” American modernism, in other words, could only adapt to the phenomenon of a Filipino modernist writer by placing him with the Anglo-American tradition and filtering his racial difference through an orientalism already present within modernist ideology. But the presence of that orientalism also meant that there was a particular space available for Villa to occupy.

Villa’s reputation in the 1940s, then, was formed in a kind of contact zone between Asian and U.S. literary formations. That this contact zone was one of bodies as well as texts is evident from Villa’s relationships with two of his major patrons, Edith Sitwell and Mark Van Doren. For both of these influential gatekeepers, Villa’s exoticism—evident mostly in his person rather than in his poetry—was crucial to their interest in him and an integral part of getting his work on the critical map.

Van Doren, an eminent poet, critic, and Columbia professor, was one of Villa’s earliest supporters. In his Autobiography, Van Doren gives a remarkable account of his meeting with Villa in the early 1940s:

“José Garcia Villa, a Filipino who had lived in New Mexico before he came to New York, and whose connection with Columbia was never clear to me, though he belonged there in some essential fashion, called on me one morning to introduce himself. He had a completely impassive face, and he moved with a quietness that captivated me. He had brought some of his poems for me to read. When I said that I preferred to read manuscripts at my leisure, to myself, without their authors’ eyes upon me, he said in the softest of voices: “You can read these now. This one”—the top one—“is very fine.” He handed it to me and of course I read it. The first line justified his claim…The man was a unique combination of gentleness and firmness…His opinions, not always comprehensible, were stubbornly maintained, as if they were laws, were ancient decrees, not personal to him who held them…Villa never changed. I have said his face was impassive; there could be, however, a subtle play of humor or of pain about the eyes; and this amounted in the end to eloquence; for it expressed, delicately, a thousand reservations.” (252-3)

What Marianne Moore and other reviewers describe as characteristics of Villa’s texts—deep wisdom, “delicacy with force,” reticence—are exactly what Van Doren finds characteristic of Villa’s person. That shift makes it clear how much the response to Villa and his work partakes of orientalist complexes—inscrutability, delicacy, reserve, ancientness. The motions of Villa’s body are what “captivates” Van Doren, and they become a necessary backdrop to the motions of his lines (which Van Doren discusses very little), allowing Villa’s emphatically non-orientalist rhetoric to be read as “Oriental.”

These same elements are visible in Edith Sitwell’s reception of Villa. After reading Have Come Sitwell became one of Villa’s strongest advocates, working to find publishers for his work and including some of his poems in her anthology The American Genius. Sitwell ultimately contributed a preface to Villa’s Selected Poems and New, published in 1958, where she explained how she had become acquainted with Villa’s work:

“In the late summer of 1944, I received a book of poems from America, by an author hitherto unknown to me.

I learned afterwards that the young poet in question hailed from the Philippines, and is at present living in New York. I learned, also, that this book had been acclaimed by the principal critics of America as a work of genius…But this I did not know at the time…

Opening the book Have Come, Am Here, I received a shock…[R]eading it I knew that I was seeing for the first time the work of a poet with a great, even an astonishing, and perfectly original gift.” (ix)

Sitwell works very hard to create a pristine scene of reading, untainted by knowledge of biography orcritical response. In doing so she replicates the critical gesture made by many of Villa’s reviewers, turning Villa into simply another American poet (“a book of poems from America”); this gesture, it seems, is necessary to make a plausible claim for Villa’s greatness. While Villa’s nationality and the fact of his immigration are present, they are, as in Moore, curiously bracketed. Sitwell, though, puts herself in a more difficult position than Moore does by making Villa’s poetry highly personal, “spring[ing] straight from the depths of the poet’s being” (x). Like Louise Bogan, whose New Yorker review labels Villa a “Spanish mystic,” Sitwell identifies Villa as a mystic, but separates him from the “Spanish” mystical tradition by identifying him with Novalis and Meister Eckhart. She eventually achieves what seems to be a stable positive valuation of Villa’s work by encrusting the personal with metaphor: “This poetry springs…from his blood, from his spirit, from his experience, as a fire breaks from wood, or as a flower grows from its soil…[The] poems are equally the labour of ages, growing all from the poet’s earth” (x).

If we turn from this essay to Sitwell’s letters, however, we are struck by how heavily racialized and orientalized Sitwell’s perceptions of Villa are. As Victoria Glendinning writes in her biography of Sitwell:

“The fact that he was a Filipino caught Edith’s imagination; she enjoyed the fantasy that he was some kind of magic iguana, and wrote to Georgia that “it is so extraordinary to think of this presumably minute, dark green creature, the colour of New Zealand jade, spinning these sharp flame-like poems out of himself. Of course some are bad…” (246)

Despite Sitwell’s critical maneuvers in her preface, it’s clear that her orientalizing caricatures of Villa are the ultimate ground for her advocacy of him, entirely negating neutral aesthetic concerns. When she proposed including poems by Villa in The American Genius, her publisher protested, arguing that Villa’s work did not “merit anything like the space you have given [it]” (Glendinning 287). Sitwell responded in a letter that although to some degree she agreed, she was personally bound to Villa, in part because of his uncontrollable “Filipino” emotionalism:

“You know I think José Villa a really fine poet. I, too, think his experiments are bosh,--especially the comma one. But he is a Filipino, and Osbert says his heart will be broken if we don’t put in those explanations. I, too, agree with what you say about them. But it is very difficult. Because Jose began to weep at 5.30 on the evening before I left when he came to say goodbye; and although somebody took him out to dinner afterwards, tears rolled down is dark green cheeks, like large pearls, throughout the evening. This makes it difficult for me to hit him about his experiments. Because he says he has to have the poems accompanied by the explanations.” (169)

Here the modernist imperative toward successful experimentation is trumped by race: “But he is a Filipino.” Reading comments like these back into Sitwell’s essay suggests that Sitwell’s apparently mystical rhetoric of flame, blood, and earth is really tinged with orientalism, marked by her contact with the foreignness of Villa’s body.

Villa’s particular mode of border-crossing allowed him to be incorporated, albeit problematically, into modernist ideology through its orientalist underpinnings. But what about the return journey? Did the effects of Villa’s engagement with modernism return across the Pacific? To address these questions, I turn to a consideration of Villa’s reputation in the Philippines.

Although Villa himself remained, for the most part, physically within the U.S., his influence did return to the Philippines. Since the 1930s he has been considered one of the giants of Filipino writing in English, despite both his long-term residence in the U.S. and the vagaries of his U.S. reputation. So Villa’s reputation in the Philippines seems not to have been tied to national boundaries. But I would argue that Villa’s border-crossing, both generically and nationally, was as crucial to generating his Filipino reputation as it was to his U.S. reputation. The refusal of “localism” apparent in Villa’s switch from prose to poetry, and his embrace of modernist aesthetics, made Villa one of the first Anglophone Filipino writers whose work could be recognized internationally. But because those aesthetic standards were tied to the national boundaries of the United States, they were deeply implicated in colonialism. Villa’s move to the United States simply mapped these aesthetic boundaries more directly onto geographical ones. Although Villa became a crucial figure of Filipino cultural nationalism, I suggest that paradoxically, the cultural authority Villa lent to Filipino cultural nationalism derived from his position outside the Philippine nation and at the cosmopolitan center of its former colonizer.

As evident from the essay by Salvador Lopez I discussed above, Villa had already developed a solid literary reputation in the Philippines long before his U.S. “debut.” Villa’s rejection of “localism” and social realism in favor of a modernist experimentation with form and syntax that had not been seen before in Filipino letters was the centerpiece of his claim to greatness. But Lopez’s suspicions about the elitist and esoteric tone of Villa’s work show that Villa’s political sympathies were somewhat in doubt. Jonathan Chua’s essay “Colonialist or Critic: Revaluating Villa” gives an excellent overview of shifting evaluations of Villa’s aesthetics and politics in the Philippines, focusing on Villa’s crucial role as tastemaker. While Villa shifted his publishing priorities to the U.S. in the 1930s, he remained perhaps the most important critic and anthologist in the Philippines, editing the first major collection of Filipino short stories in English and several editions of the Doveglion Book of Philippine Poetry. Chua provides numerous examples of what one writer labeled the “tyranny of Villa” in Filipino writing, from the stars (one to three) that Villa awarded to various writers in his annual selections to the widespread stylistic imitation of Villa in the poetry of the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.

Chua provides at least three possible readings of Villa’s “tyranny.” The first, which Chua attributes to the Filipino nationalism of the 1960s and 1970s, is a sense among Filipino writers that “Villa in a very real sense served the colonial dispensation” (181). This is largely an extension of Lopez’s argument: Villa’s turn away from social realism, his defense of the autonomy of art and aesthetics, and his rigid standards of poetic quality made him an elitist accomplice of colonial culture whose pronouncements “blunted the subversive edge of literature” (182). Chua does suggest another possibility: that the national pride that Filipinos took in Villa’s American successes in the 1940s and ‘50s was itself a form of resistance to colonialism. Finally, he cites the suggestion of Eileen Tabios (the editor of The Anchored Angel) that Villa’s experiments can be seen as inherently political, as “his own way of imposing mastery on English, the borrowed language” (184).

I would argue, though, that understanding the politics of Villa’s influence and reputation in the Philippines is somewhat more complicated than labeling it as colonial or anti-colonial. Rather, the author-function “Villa” was a kind of border production, an effect of colonialism that might have served nationalism but cannot be understood outside the interaction between colonialism and nationalism, between U.S. and Filipino literary formations. While Villa’s meteoric rise in the U.S. was due in part to his foreignness and the way it played into orientalist expectations, his power in the Philippines relied upon his identification with the United States and his presence at the very center of U.S. literary culture, with his lifelong residence in New York’s Greenwich Village. Perhaps one of the most interesting examples of this identification is Villa’s nebulous association with Columbia University. Chua relates an anecdote from Filipino writer N.V.M. Gonzalez, who remembers that writers would wait “‘with bated breath’…for Villa’s manuscripts, written in Room 614 of Columbia University’s John Jay Hall, to be wired” (178). This highly specific locating of Villa gives Villa an assigned place within the U.S. academy and allows his selections to partake of the authority of that institution, even though Villa has no official role within it. Villa’s own curriculum vita cites “postgraduate work” at Columbia from 1942 to 1944, but Villa seems to have been quite skilled at maintaining his aura of academic authority. Mark Van Doren, himself a Columbia professor, wrote that Villa’s “connection with Columbia was never clear to me, though he belonged there in some essential fashion” (252). So although Villa’s “place” in American letters was tenuous at best, his ability to project his place in it back across the Pacific was crucial to maintaining his Filipino reputation.

I have argued that the work of José Garcia Villa and its reception can be understood only as a trans-Pacific phenomenon, generated in the contact zone between U.S. and Filipino bodies and literary formations. What, then, of Villa’s latest incarnation: as Asian American writer? For it is only under that rubric that Villa’s work is being read again in the United States. But Villa’s addition to the Asian American canon has been a belated one; as N.V.M. Gonzalez and Oscar V. Campomanes write in their essay on Filipino American literature, “Villa’s importance in Filipino and American cultural relations has yet to be seriously addressed” (69). Although Villa does earn a passing mention in a number of discussions of Asian American literature, including the introduction to the groundbreaking anthology Aiiieeeee!, his influence as a founder of Filipino American literature has been eclipsed by that of Carlos Bulosan, despite the fact that Villa’s Footnote to Youth predates Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart (1946) by 11 years, while Have Come predates it by four. Bulosan’s political engagement and social activism were highly consonant with the political goals of the Asian American movement of the 1960s, whereas Villa’s aestheticism, elitism, and obscurity, as well as his refusal of “Filipino” themes, made him far less attractive. Even now, as E. San Juan argues in his essay “In Search of Filipino Writing,” the project of recuperating Villa for Asian American literature is difficult: “[W]e have to read [Villa’s] work symptomatically for those absent causes that constitute its condition of possibility” (231).

Villa’s resurgence in Asian American letters can be attributed in part to recent attempts to broaden the Asian American canon and to recover pre-1960s Asian American writing. It is also linked, I believe, to a new interest in intersections between U.S. minority writing and the avant-garde tradition—a willingness to see that minority writing in non-conventional forms may be as political as those in conventional forms. But most importantly, the new interest in Villa can be attributed to the rise of new theoretical frameworks in Asian American literature—namely, those of post-colonialism and transnationalism—that give us a language in which to talk about Villa. The language of border-crossing that I have used, and the insistence on reading the U.S. and Filipino national narratives of Villa against and within each other, is itself characteristic of this new development.

So I want to close by suggesting that the resurgence of interest in Villa seems a metaphor for a paradigm crisis in Asian American literature: will a new focus on transnationalism result in an inclusive expansion of the field’s scope or in the erosion of a distinctive Asian American project? A transnational perspective does give us a way to recuperate Villa that an older, cultural-nationalist model of Asian American literature does not; the former does not limit his significance to his visibility on the American scene, nor does it hold his work to a particular model of political or social engagement. Thus is implies the expansion of Asian American literature beyond its previous, content-driven criteria and beyond the borders of the United States. But Villa’s elitist aestheticism and his troubled alliances with imperialism, cultural and otherwise, make him a disturbing figurehead for a new transnational Asian American studies. By shifting its attention to writers like Villa, does Asian American studies give up its particular political and historical position?

Villa’s work does seem to exist at the intersection of many of these concerns—national vs. transnational, aesthetics vs. politics, and the like. At the very least it would seem that trying to incorporate him into the discourse of Asian American literature disrupts, for better or worse, our notions of what Asian American literature is or should be. Ultimately, the questions raised by reading Villa as “Asian American” are much the same questions raised by reading Villa’s poetry itself. For much depends on whether we read Villa’s adaptations of narratives of nationalism, modernism, and orientalism as mere inhabitations of those narratives or as attempts to subvert them for an as-yet undisclosed end.

Works Cited

Bogan, Louise. Rev. of Have Come, Am Here, by José Garcia Villa. New Yorker 18.37 (31 Oct. 1942): 80-81.

Chang, Juliana, ed. Quiet Fire: A Historical Anthology of Asian American Poetry 1892-1970. New York: Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 1996.

Chin, Frank, et al, eds. Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian American Writers. New York: Penguin, 1991.

Chua, Jonathan. “Colonialist or Critic: Revaluating Villa.” In Villa, Anchored Angel. 176-85.

Glendinning, Victoria. Edith Sitwell: A Unicorn Among Lions. New York: Knopf, 1981.

Gonzalez, N.V.M. and Oscar V. Campomanes. “Filipino American Literature.” An Interethnic Companion to Asian American Literature. Ed. King-Kok Cheung. New York: Cambridge UP, 1997. 62-124.

Koshy, Susan. “The Fiction of Asian American Literature.” Yale Journal of Criticism 9 (1996): 315-46.

Moore, Marianne. “Who Seeks Shall Find.” Rev. of Have Come, Am Here, by José Garcia Villa. The Nation 155.16 (17 October 1942): 394.

Palumbo-Liu, David. Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999.

Phelps, William Lyon. Rev. of Footnote to Youth, by José Garcia Villa. Scribner’s Magazine 94.6 (December 1933): 382.

“ Philippine Stories.” Rev. of Footnote to Youth, by José Garcia Villa. New York Times Book Review 8 October 1933: 7.

San Juan, E., Jr. “In Search of Filipino Writing: Reclaiming Whose ‘America’?” The Ethnic Canon: Histories, Institutions, and Interventions. Ed. David Palumbo-Liu. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1995. 213-40.

---. The Philippine Temptation: Dialectics of Philippines-U.S. Literary Relations. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1996.

Sitwell, Edith. Selected Letters 1919-1964. Ed. John Lehmann and Derek Parker. New York: Vanguard, 1970.

Van Doren, Mark. The Autobiography of Mark Van Doren. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1958.

Villa, José Garcia. The Anchored Angel: Selected Writings by José Garcia Villa. Ed. Eileen Tabios. New York: Kaya, 1999.

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---. Selected Poems and New. New York: McDowell, Obolensky, 1958.

Wong, Sau-ling C. “Denationalization Reconsidered: Asian American Cultural Criticism at a Theoretical Crossroads.” Amerasia Journal 21.1-2 (1995): 1-27.

Yu, Timothy. “Form and Identity in Language Poetry and Asian American Poetry.” Contemporary Literature 41.3 (Fall 2000): 422-61.

---. “‘The Hand of a Chinese Master’: José Garcia Villa and Modernist Orientalism.” MELUS 29 (2004).