Navigating Poetics in Workshop and in Design

Yesterday I read alongside the writers of Kearny Street Workshop’s Navigating Poetics workshop.  It was advertised as six weeks of generative writing led by Truong Tran but turned out to be much more.

I originally took the workshop because I have taken workshops with Truong before and knew him as a skilled facilitator who views poetry from multiple angles. He shares the perspectives of visual artists while also being able to slow the writing process down. Truong can pick out one phrase or feeling in a poem and have the writer do a deeper dive into those small spaces in poems. He has been a constant voice in my poems for years. Whenever I revise I always ask, “Is this whole poem as strong as the best two lines?”  When I ask that of my poems and go back to be sure that the whole poem is strong, that is Truong’s influence on my work,

With Shelter-in-Place remote learning is the norm and I was curious how Truong would be able to create a community of writing while also fostering the trust that is needed for writers to give each other constructive feedback. Fostering connection during a Zoom session can be a dissociative task at times and that connection is the main ingredient for successful writing groups.

At the end of the six weeks, I have five new poems which would already be a measure of success. I also have a new writing community and renewed sense of purpose and confidence in my writing.  And I walk away developing a new skill:  e-book design.

I have designed and crafted all my chapbooks.  If you happen to have one of my older chapbooks then please know that each one was put together by hand and is unique. I have always prided myself on making a book with beautiful art and clean type. Huge props to Timothy Vogel and Matt Weber who gave me permission to use their work as my title images.  This process was always fun for me as I was able to play around with the order of my poems and typefaces while also trying to keep some kind of style together.  It was also fun because the words I was playing with were my own.

Sometime in the middle of the Navigating Poetics class I became excited about the prospect of having these new poems published. I was also impressed with the high level of writing from the other Navigating Poetics writers so I proposed to Kearny Street Workshop that the writing from the workshop be published together as an online volume.  Huge thanks to Mihee Kim and Jason Bayani for saying Yes.

Kearny Street Workshop: Navigating Poetics is the e-book I designed. Before I was messing around with my own poems but this time I was making book art that would represent KSW and also honor the writing of my workshop cohort.  I am proud of the finished product. It has intention and voice. There was also a ton of behind-the-scenes collaboration and last minute edits but it came together well, on time, and clean.  I hope you enjoy all the poems and if you feel moved, go to Goodreads and give it a review.  

Reading: KSW’s Navigating Poetics Student Reading

Navigating Poetics
Monday, July 20, 2020
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM PDT
Free Zoom Event
Register through Eventbrite

Kearny Street Workshop’s “Navigating Poetics” class, taught by poet and visual artist Truong Tran, is hosting a final student reading to showcase their work!

This six-week class centered around the simple yet elusive question: “How do we make art in times like these?”

Featured Readers: Ravi Chandra, Juliana Chang, An Huynh, Maggie Lam, Bobby Lu, Philana Woo, Marygrace Burns, Oscar Bermeo, Charlyne Sarmiento, Johnny Huy Nguyen, Mirah Lucas, An Bùi, Santisia Ambrosino, Shizue Seigel, Diana Diaz-Noriega, Kris Adhikari.

This is a FREE remote poetry event. Please register at Eventbrite for free ticket and log-in information.

#NationalPoetryMonth 26/30

Every man and every artist, whether he is Nietzsche or Cézanne, climbs each step in the tower of his perfection by fighting his duende, not his angel, as has been said, nor his muse. This distinction is fundamental, at the very root of the work.

— from “”Play and Theory of the Duende”

Today’s read: In Search Of Duende, Federico García Lorca – New Directions Publishing – 1998

I see myself moving closer to understanding duende but I would be lying if I said that I understood it more know than before. I have read this particular book a few different times during my poetic career and it is always a welcome read. This time around it helps prove that in poetry the more you learn can be the less you know.

I would say that there have been three times that I have come into contact with duende.

1) I was seriously drunk on stage. I read a poem with a particular refrain and the line caught on. I am sure it started with another poet friend who was also drunk and soon the whole audience was joining me in refrain. This continued through the poem and even after I walked off stage. It was exhilarating and completely false. It would mark the last time I would ever go on stage drunk.

2) I was poetically very young and invited to join in a group piece with some very talented poets.I had a few lines in the poem, some in concert and some solo. I was most nervous of one line in particular. When it came time for that line I delivered it from my toes through my skull. It lit the room up and helped make the piece a success. I have no memory of the actual words I spoke.

3) I was in the semi-finals of a poetry slam competition. I had put everything into memorizing and delivering my poems. It was the last round of the competition and I was mathematically eliminated. Even a perfect score would not get me to the finals. I felt humiliated and angry. It was time to deliver my last poem for the night and I did something I did not think I would do. I came to the stage, adjusted the mic, put my hands to the side, and delivered the poem without moving my body. I had learned this technique from Patricia Smith but never had the courage to try it. With nothing to lose, I followed through and the whole poem came out through my face and mouth. The duende for sure came out. I remember the whole moment because I came to the mic with the intention to be still but at a certain point I could not move at all. My body was frozen and it was no longer my decision. This is what the poem demanded because it was all building to one line and one word in my poem. And as soon as the word left me the duende went with it. I was exhausted but had control of my body back and walked off stage proud. I had given myself up and the poem came from all the places I had written and rewritten it from to be performed one time. I still have the poem. In fact, it is actually anthologized but that version and any other version of that poem will never be the poem that came through me that night.

LitCrawl and PAWA present Barrio Fiesta

I’m honored and excited to host this event tomorrow at LitCrawl. These are some amazing writers who are really invested in both their stories and their connection with community and I know they’ve been workin hard to make sure that this is THE event people will be talkin bout during LitCrawl. Y’all should come out and support the poetry and enjoy the lumpia.

Barrio Fiesta: A Literary Celebration

Irma Pampagna Restaurant
6:00 – 7:00 pm, Oct 13,2012
Presented by Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA)

PAWA is partnering with Irma’s Restaurant to bring you Barrio Fiesta: a reading where five writers will share work about a celebration. The celebrations will be culinary, cultural or focused on the community. In the spirit of every good Filipino Barrio Fiesta, lumpia will most likely be served. Featuring Lisa Abellera, Melissa Sipin, G. Justin Hulog, Jennifer Derilo, and Aileen Suzara. Hosted by Oscar Bermeo.

LISA ABELLERA earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco. Her work appears in The Southeast Review, Lowestoft Chronicle, and The Globetrotter’s Companion (Lion Lounge Press), an anthology of creative travel writing. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where she is currently at work on a collection of short fiction.

JENNIFER DERILO has a BA in Literatures of the World from UC San Diego and an MFA in Literature and Creative Writing from Mills College, where she was its first Jacob K. Javits Fellow. She is the Creative Nonfiction Editor for Kartika Review and an English instructor at Southwestern College. She enjoys writing and reading about people and things unseen. She often has nightmares about zombies. And abandoned predicate parts.

G. JUSTIN HULOG writes stories about ruined gods, forgotten spaces and new worlds. Born in Baguio City, he grew up in California before leaving home to study Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He has written for Hyphen, Remodelista, Karma Magazine and edits a Filipno food and bulul blog called The Palay. Justin is currently completing his MFA in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University.

MELISSA SIPIN is a writer from Carson, California. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012 and her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Kweli Journal, Tidal Basin Review, and Kartika Review, among other publications. Melissa was awarded the full-tuition assistantship in narrative writing and community engagement at Mills College and is currently pursuing her MFA in fiction.

AILEEN SUZARA is a Filipina/American educator, cook, eco-activist, organic farmer and adobo champion. She finds inspiration in the power of story to create change — from the voices of climate change fighters to the oral histories of California’s AAPI farmworkers. Aileen’s writing appears in The Colors of Nature, Earth Island Journal, Growing Up Filipino II, and more. She blogs on food, memory and place at Kitchen Kwento.

The Places We Call Home

“The Places We Call Home” -a free literary event in celebration of the upcoming Filipino American International Book Festival at Eastwind Books of Berkeley.

Eastwind Books Of BerkeleySeptember 29, 2011
Thursday 7:00 pm
Eastwind Books of Berkeley
2066 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704

Authors and Poets reading will include:

Oscar Bermeo was born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx. He is the author of the poetry chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below and To the Break of Dawn.

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the award-winning author of eight books, including the internationally-acclaimed novel When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Magdalena, and Vigan and Other Stories.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses earned her MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California’s Creative Writing Program, where she was named a 2005-2006 Jacob K. Javits Fellow and awarded the Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz Scholarship for Excellence in Fiction.

Veronica Montes is the co-author of Angelica’s Daughters, as well as a short story writer whose work has appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Growing Up Filipino, and Philippine Speculative Fiction 5.

Barbara Jane Reyes is a recipient of the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets and the author of Diwata, which was recently noted as a finalist for the California Book Award.

Benito M. Vergara, Jr. was born and raised in the Philippines. He is the author of Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early 20th-Century Philippines and Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City.

For more information about the October 1 to October 2, 2011 Filipino American International Book Festival visit

For more event information
Call: 510-548-2350