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Gleaning Wisdom from the "overall badass-ness" of Barbara Jane Reyes

 

Diwata_Final

Recently, book reviewer Craig Santos Perez interviewed Barbara Jane Reyes about her poetic process and recent book, Diwata, for part of his series through Jacket2, Last Commentator In Paradise. They talk extensively and thoughtfully about many elements of her creative process and focus. They talk also about where she's been, as a writer, and where she's going next.

When asked about the mythos of her writing, she talks about the complexities of storytelling and perspective, and her great love of traditional storytelling methods. Among many other things, she says,
"I am always looking for someone other than myself to 'tell the story,' or to be the speaker, as I prefer to think about my own stories, and those of my family, within the context of these larger cultural and historical narratives. If my grandfather survived the war (WWII), for example, then what did his ancestors survive? Because I can’t knowledgeably answer this question, because I don’t know the names of so many of my ancestors, because I do not know the details of their lives, I invent, I speculate, I turn to myth-making. [...] I wonder about other perspectives on a well-known enough story. What voices have we not heard, what perspectives do we take for granted or neglect or fail to consider? Whose versions of the story are suppressed or repressed and why?"
The ideas of perspective and giving voice to the silent are pervasive throughout the dialogue, and later Reyes also admits, "I have come to poetry because it is a place for those suppressed voices to speak, and to do so beautifully." Through her thoughtful responses and Perez's equally thoughtful and reactive questions, much of the spirit of Reyes's culture, writing style and ethos, and sincerity shine through. The conversation is one well worth reading, full of literary allusions and references to themes, folklore, and specific poems and styles used throughout Diwata. Through the interview it is clear that Reyes devotes a great amount of love and labor to her artistic form, and uses it as a fundamental lens for the world: "poetry is the thing which allows me to translate, understand, participate in this world, to be of this place." The entire interview is available here. Diwata is now available for purchase.

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