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"Busy (re)Creating a Culture:" Praise for Barbara Jane Reyes and Diwata

Blogger Jessica Varin over at Rattle, much like BOA Poet Barbara Jane Reyes, traces her heritage from several cultures. On what kind of person she would be or how it would feel if she were able to fully share all of those cultures, Varin writes "I don't know the answers to these questions. I could spend a lifetime speculating: instead, I have chosen to create a new culture for people like me. There is no instruction manual, so I look to the creative work of those who stand at the intersect of two cultures." Barbara Jane Reyes' Diwata is her chosen guidebook for this venture, and indeed she has chosen a work in which the cultures both intersect and dismember each other. Varin writes of Reyes' "Polyglot Incantation," a particularly multi-cultural poem which trades off lines of Tagalog, English and Spanish. The diwata of the title is mentioned here as well; Reyes' guide and muse is never far from the poems, and the hint of the supernatural or mythical intertwines beautifully with the very real physical aspects of the poems. "Throughout the collection," Varin writes, "Reyes uses sharpened knives as a metaphor for cultural dismemberment. Often, the cleaving is physical," as in "Aswang," a poem which takes as its subject a mythological female vampire particular to the Philippine area which presents as a beautiful woman whose torso separates from her legs at the hips and flies about at night drinking the blood of infants and the unborn. Paired against this are poems such as "Call It Talisman (If You Must)," which talks about the way Filipina women bore the consequences of war and the hideous violence they and their families are powerless against. Diwata is both story-telling and myth-telling, and the two are intrinsically interlaced in the multicultural presentation that is today's "new culture." As perhaps poet laureate of this new realm, Barbara Jane Reyes brings it all together in a breathless and detailed presentation that cannot be denied. "This poetry collection provides a platform for the mythologies of a glorious and not-so-glorious past. In Diwata, creation happens time and time again." Diwata is available for purchase here. You can read the full review here.

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