Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dragonfly (pages 20-21)


The next poem in Dragonfly is a transition poem. The two previous poems focus on family in conjunction with pop culture. Starting with this poem we get a series of poems that deal with childhood. This poem focuses specifically on Asian American childhood in San Francisco in the '60s.

I've written about this in the blog before: last year, I posted a short story on this very topic titled "Manny's Climb"; when that story had been published in the book Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults, it had appeared with a preface that explains what happened: during the '60s and '70s, teenagers who were neither white nor black had to choose one or the other of those identities in order to survive on the streets. That's the way it was in San Francisco, certainly, and I would hazard a guess that that happened in many locales.

What I saw happening with Asian American kids in particular — both girls and boys — is that they would oftentimes teeter-totter back and forth between passing as white and passing as black.


Jive Talk


Growing up, I thought
I was black.
For 2 or 3 years, anyway. Playing

the dozens, jive talk,
Smokey Robinson
and the Miracles.

Dancing the 4 corners,
A & I, Sophisticated
Cissy, Mother Popcorn.

Afternoons with Joe, Ronnie,
and Resting-His-Eyes Jackson
harmonizing with the Tempts:

"The Girl's All Right with Me,"
"Get Ready," "My Girl,"
"Ain't Too Proud to Beg."

At Grattan Playground, our gods
were the Big O
and Wilt the Stilt.

Soft steal like
Walt "Clyde" Frazier,
a Meadow Lark hook from half court.

Knit shirt-jackets like rainbows,
creased jeans, black and red
pimpsocks, gold dashikis.

Talking trash. Doing
Muhammad Ali and The James Brown.
Testifying, funkifying:

Page 20



Get down
                    with the get down!
                    Get down, brown.

                                                  Joker,
                                           wild card
                              sure is you own.

                    Get by
                              with the get by!
          Get by, Sly.

                                                  Getting on, keeping on
                                                  for real.
                              But don't mean nothing.

                    Flaming funk
          be jiving junk
if you the signifying skunk.





Page 21


Here are a couple of images that will illustrate a bit of the fashion spirit of that time. On the left we see typical African American fashions from around 1970. This is how an Asian American teenager putting on blackness would have dressed. As did I during the time described in the poem.

On the right is an image of African musicians wearing the dashiki. Not gold as in my poem above but other bright colors . . . the man in the center sports a mainly red one while around him are white dashikis, orange, yellow, etc. From about 1968 on, people in the African American civil rights movement wore dashikis as an Afrocentric statement; this fashion filtered down to common folk, and Asian American youth who were, again, "putting on blackness" followed suit. Bad pun, sorry.

Because of the realities of my growing up during that time, I was fluent in Black English (again as a survival practice). A linguistic fluency that also came in very handy during my US Army service from 1972 to 1975. When I use this poem at readings, in fact, I perform the latter part of the poem, the italicized portion, in Black English.

There's also an interesting story connected to the closing part of this poem. I wrote this text as a freestanding poem in a beginning poetry writing class with the poet Belle Randall at Stanford University in 1971 or 1972. Then, in probably 1986 or thereabouts, when I was working on my MFA in poetry with Yusef Komunyakaa, I resurrected it, as something that really spoke to my childhood experience, and inserted it into this poem, so that the opening section (the romanized portion) serves as contextualization for the ending section. I sprinkled the latter around the page in order to differentiate it from the part in standard English and to give a sense of its performative quality.

Okay, that's all for today. I'd love to hear what you think of this poem or whatever; please comment below. Thanks. Ingat.

The image on the left is borrowed from the website PastReunited.com. No attribution of photographer there. I'll be glad to give credit or remove this image if the creator contacts me. If you click on the photo, you'll be taken to PastReunited.com; this specific image is about 14 screenloads down that page.

The image on the right was created by Emilio Labrador, resides in wikimedia.org, and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

DRAGONFLYFIRSTCONTENTSPREVIOUSNEXTLAST
   


9 comments:

Buddah Moskowitz said...

Dug this. Resonated to much of it. Moskowitz

Vince Gotera said...

Mosk, thanks. Are you and I about the same age? Where did you grow up?

Andrea Boltwood said...

Love all these words, beautiful, beautiful words. Great illustration of how we are funneled into groups where perhaps none of us belong. My favorite place to be as a kid was on the basketball court where I was part of a team, nothing cultural or ethnic about it, just a place I loved to be. Off the court was a different story... This is where "Soft steal like Walt "Clyde" Frazier, a Meadow Lark hook from half court" brought me. Really enjoyed the "performance" at the end. I would love to hear it read aloud. Perhaps on Mosk's audio poetry site??? Mosk, what's the web address? I'll look for it ...

Andrea Boltwood said...

Ah, yes, http://www.virtualpoetryreading.com/ :)

chromapoesy.com said...

This is awesome. The process of development and individuation is always fascinating and you have a highly original take on a well-travelled theme. I love we're getting your notes and photos along with these! I agree I'd love to hear you read it.

I did an experimental piece today I thought you might get a kick out of, one of my rare humor poems, where I transcribe my actual conversation with Cleverbot. If you have the time it's very short http://chromapoesy.com/2012/05/10/turing-test/. I'd love hear your response. I was inspired by a prompt on machines but also your erasure poem as Cleverbot responds based on millions of conversations it has had with humans. In a way it is simply another blend of selection, randomness, and the 'poetry' of others.

Vince Gotera said...

Andrea, thanks. I almost recorded it to put up on the blog. I'll try to do it tomorrow or Saturday. About basketball ... always loved it, especially being on a team. For some reason when you're playing on a team the air in a gym feels colder. Was it the uniform, maybe? Don't play b-ball much anymore; my left acl is half-blown.

Vince Gotera said...

Cool, Anna. I'll come look at it. Did you ever see the book of poems called "The Policeman's Beard Is Half Constructed"?

Andrea Boltwood said...

I hope you do! Make sure you let me know when you record it. :) LOL! Yes the air did feel colder - the uniform or the nervous sweat maybe. ;) Your comment made me revisit our PAD sports prompt. It could use some work, but I posted it on my blog anyway if you're interested.
http://circletheblock.blogspot.com/2012/05/write-sports-poem.html

Anonymous said...

the aircraft acquire unlikely ten [url=http://www.ddtshanghaiescort.com]beijing massage[/url] minutes after the fulmination Today in conjunction with the allied open pledge organs experts rushed

13th floor elevators (1) 3d (1) 9/11 (3) a schneider (1) abecedarian (6) acrostic (2) adelaide crapsey (1) african american (1) aids (1) al robles (2) alberta turner (1) alex esclamado (1) alexander chen (1) alexandra bissell (1) alexandrines (1) alliteration (2) alphabet (1) alphabet poem (2) altered books (1) altered pages (2) amanda blue gotera (6) amelia blue gotera (3) amok (1) amy lowell (1) anacreon (1) anacreontics (1) anaphora (1) andrea boltwood (19) andrew davidson (1) andrew marvell (1) andrew oldham (1) angelina jolie (1) angels (1) animation (1) anna montgomery (3) anne reynolds (1) annie e. existence (1) annie finch (1) anny ballardini (1) anti- (1) antonio taguba (2) aprille (1) art (7) arturo islas (1) ash wednesday (1) asian american (4) assonance (1) astronomy (2) aswang (8) aswang wars (1) atlanta rhythm section (1) balato (1) ballad (1) barack obama (7) barbara jane reyes (1) barry a. morris (1) bass (2) bataan (5) becca andrea (1) beetle (2) belinda subraman (2) beowulf (1) best american poetry (1) bible (1) bill clinton (1) billy collins (2) blank verse (4) bob boynton (1) body farm (1) bolo (1) bongbong marcos (3) brian brodeur (2) bruce johnson (1) bruce niedt (2) buddah moskowitz (2) burns stanza (1) callaloo (1) candida fajardo gotera (5) cardinal sin (1) carlos bulosan (1) carlos santana (1) carmina figurata (1) carolina matsumura gotera (1) caroline klocksiem (1) carrie arizona (3) carrieola (3) carriezona (1) catherine childress pritchard (1) catherine pritchard childress (35) catullus (1) cebu (1) cecilia manguerra brainard (1) cedar falls (6) cedar falls public library (1) charles a hogan (2) chess (1) childhood (1) children's poetry (1) China (1) chorus of glories (1) chris durietz (1) christmas (2) chuck pahlaniuk (1) cinquain (1) civil rights (1) clarice (1) classics iv (1) cleave hay(na)ku (2) clerihews (2) cliché (1) computers (1) concreteness (1) consonance (3) cory aquino (2) couplet (5) couplet quatrains (1) crab (1) craft (5) creative nonfiction (1) crewrt-l (1) crucifixion (1) curtal sonnet (6) dactyls (1) daily palette (1) damián ortega (1) danielle filas (1) dante (4) dashiki (1) david foster wallace (1) david wojahn (1) de jackson (2) denise duhamel (1) deviantART (2) dick powell (1) diction (1) didactic cinquain (1) dinosaur (2) disaster relief (1) divine comedy (1) dodecasyllables (1) doggerel (2) doggie diner (1) don johnson (1) dr who (3) dr. seuss (1) draft (2) dragon (1) dragonfly (17) drug addiction (1) drums (1) dusty springfield (1) e e cummings (1) e-book (1) earth day (1) ebay (2) ecopoetry (1) ed hill (1) edgar allan poe (2) edgar rice burroughs (1) editing (1) eileen tabios (6) ekphrasis (2) election (2) elegy (1) elizabeth alexander (2) elizabeth bishop (2) elvis presley (1) emily dickinson (5) emma trelles (1) end-stop (3) enita meadows (1) enjambment (5) enola gay (1) environment (1) erasure poetry (9) erin mcreynolds (4) ernest lawrence thayer (1) exxon valdez oil spill (1) f. scott fitzgerald (1) facebook (3) family (4) fantasy (1) fashion (1) ferdinand magellan (1) ferdinand marcos (5) fib (1) fiction (3) fiera lingue (1) fighting kite (4) filipino (language) (1) filipino americans (6) filipino poetry (1) filipino veterans equity (3) filipinos (5) film (3) final thursday reading series (2) flannery o'connor (3) flute (1) fortune cookie (1) found poem (1) found poetry (6) found poetry review (2) fourteeners (1) frank frazetta (1) fred unwin (1) free verse (1) fructuosa gotera (1) fyodor dostoevsky (1) gabriel garcía márquez (1) gambling (1) garrett hongo (1) gary kelley (1) gawain (1) genre (1) george w. bush (1) gerard manley hopkins (8) ghazal (1) ghost wars (5) ghosts of a low moon (1) gogol bordello (1) golden shovel (3) goodreads (1) google (1) gotera (1) grace kelly (1) grant tracey (1) greek mythology (1) gregory k pincus (1) griffin lit (1) grimm (1) grinnell college (2) growing up (1) growing up filipino (2) guest blogger (1) guillaume appolinaire (1) guitar (9) gulf war (1) gustave doré (3) guy de maupassant (1) gwendolyn brooks (2) gypsy art show (1) gypsy punk (1) hades (1) haiku (16) haiku sonnet (3) hart crane (1) hawak kamay (1) hay(na)ku (16) hay(na)ku sonnet (8) header (1) hearst center for the arts (2) heirloom (1) herman melville (1) hey joe (1) hiroshima (1) hiv here & now (1) homer (1) how a poem happens (2) humboldt state university (1) humor (1) iain m. banks (1) iamb (1) ian parks (1) ibanez (1) imagery (1) imelda marcos (4) immigrants (1) imogen heap (1) indiana university (1) ink! (1) insect (2) insects (1) international hotel (1) interview (3) introduction (2) iowa (2) iran (1) iran-iraq war (1) irving levinson (1) italian bicycle (1) italian sonnet (1) ivania velez (2) j. d. schraffenberger (4) j. i. kleinberg (3) j. k. rowling (1) jack horner (2) jack kerouac (1) jack p nantell (1) james brown (1) james gorman (2) jan d. hodges (1) japan (1) jasmine dreame wagner (1) jeanette winterson (1) jedediah dougherty (1) jedediah kurth (31) jennifer bullis (1) jesse graves (1) jessica hagedorn (1) jessica mchugh (2) jim daniels (1) jim hall (1) jim hiduke (1) jim o'loughlin (1) jim simmerman (1) jimi hendrix (2) jimmy fallon (1) joan osborne (1) joe mcnally (1) john barth (1) john charles lawrence (2) john clare (1) john donne (1) john mccain (1) john welsh iii (2) joseph solo (1) josh hamzehee (1) joyce kilmer (1) justine wagner (1) kampilan (1) kathleen ann lawrence (1) kathy reichs (1) keith welsh (1) kelly cherry (1) kenning (1) kennings poem (3) kim groninga (1) king arthur (1) king tut (1) kumadre (1) kumpadre (1) kurt vonnegut (1) kyell gold (1) landays (1) lapu-lapu (1) lapwing publications (1) laurie kolp (2) les paul (1) leslie kebschull (1) library (1) library of congress (2) limerick (2) linda parsons marion (1) linda sue grimes (2) lineation (5) linked haiku (3) list poem (1) little brown brother (1) little free libraries (3) lost (tv) (1) louise glück (1) luis buñuel (1) lydia lunch (1) machismo (1) magazines (1) mah jong (1) man ray (1) manananggal (2) manong (3) margaret atwood (1) maria fleuette deguzman (1) marianne moore (1) marilyn cavicchia (1) marilyn hacker (1) mark jarman (1) marriage (1) martin avila gotera (16) martin luther king jr. (1) marty gotera (5) marty mcgoey (1) mary ann blue gotera (6) mary biddinger (1) mary roberts rinehart award (1) mary shelley (1) matchbook (1) maura stanton (1) maureen thorson (146) meena rose (3) megan hippler (1) melina blue gotera (3) mental illness (1) meter (7) mfa (2) michael heffernan (2) michael martone (2) michael ondaatje (1) michael shermer (2) michael spence (1) michelle obama (1) middle witch (1) mirror northwest (1) misky (1) molossus (1) monkey (1) morel mushrooms (2) mushroom hunting (1) music (3) muslim (1) my custom writer blog (1) myth (1) mythology (3) nagasaki (1) naked blonde writer (1) naked girls reading (1) naked novelist (1) napowrimo (153) narrative (2) natalya st. clair (1) nathan dahlhauser (1) nathaniel hawthorne (1) national geographic (3) national poetry month (154) native american (1) neil gaiman (2) neoformalism (1) New Formalists (1) New York School (1) nick carbó (3) ninang (1) north american review (7) north american review blog (2) of books and such (1) of this and such (1) ottava rima (2) oulipo (1) pablo picasso (2) pacific crossing (1) padre timoteo gotera (1) painting (1) palestinian american (1) palindrome (1) palinode (1) palmer hall (1) pantoum (1) paradelle (2) paranormal (1) parkersburg iowa (1) parody (3) parol (1) pastoral poetry (1) pat bertram (2) pat martin (1) paula berinstein (1) pause for the cause (2) pca/aca (1) peace (2) peace of mind band (1) pecan grove press (2) pepito gotera (1) percy bysshe shelley (2) performance poetry (1) persephone (1) persona phone (1) peter padua (1) petrarch (1) petrarchan sonnet (7) philip larkin (1) philippine news (1) philippine scouts (6) philippine-american war (1) philippines (8) phish (1) pinoy (1) pinoy poetics (1) pixie lott (1) podcast (1) podcasts (3) poem-a-day challenge (151) poetics (6) poetry (5) poetry imitation (1) poetry international (1) poetry reading (4) poets against (the) war (2) pop culture (2) prejudice (1) presidio of san francisco (1) prince (2) princess grace foundation (1) promotion (1) prose poem (3) ptsd (2) puppini sisters (1) puptent poets (2) pyrrhic (1) quatrain (3) r.e.m. (1) rachel morgan (2) racism (1) rainer maria rilke (1) rap (1) rattle (1) ray fajardo (1) reggie lee (1) rembrandt (1) ren powell (1) reviews (1) revision (1) rhyme (7) rhysling awards (1) rhythm (1) richard hugo (1) rick griffin (1) rime (1) rippled mirror hay(na)ku (1) robert bly (1) robert frost (2) robert fulghum (1) robert j christenson (1) robert lee brewer (151) robert mezey (1) robert neville (1) robert zemeckis (1) rock and roll (2) roger zelazny (1) ron kowit (1) ronald wallace (2) rondeau (1) ross gay (1) rubaiyat (1) rubaiyat sonnet (1) run-d.m.c. (1) saade mustafa (1) salt publishing (1) salvador dali (1) san francisco (8) sandra cisneros (1) santa claus (1) santana (1) sapphics (1) sarah deppe (1) sarah palin (1) sarah smith (26) satan (1) sayaka alessandra (1) schizophrenia (1) science fiction (1) science fiction poetry association (1) science friction (1) scifaiku (1) scott walker (1) screaming monkeys (1) scripture (1) sculpture (1) sena jeter naslund (1) senryu (3) sestina (6) sevenling (1) shadorma (1) shaindel beers (2) sharon olds (1) shawn wong (1) shiites or shia (1) sidney bechet (1) skateboard (1) skylaar amann (1) slant rhyme (5) slide shows (1) small fires press (1) sniper (1) somersault abecedarian (1) sonnet (27) sonnetina (3) soul (1) southeast asian american (1) specificity (1) spiraling abecedarian (1) spondee (1) spooky (1) st. patrick's day (1) stanford university (1) stanley meltzoff (1) stanza (1) stars and stripes (2) stereogram (1) steve hazlewood (1) stevie nicks (1) stone canoe (1) sue boynton (1) suite101 (2) sunflowers (1) surges (1) susan l. chast (1) syllabics (1) sylvia plath (1) syzygy poetry journal (2) t. m. sandrock (1) t. s. eliot (2) tanka (1) tarzan (1) teaching creative writing (2) ted kooser (1) term paper mill (1) terrance hayes (1) terza rima (9) terza rima haiku sonnet (7) terzaiku sonnet (4) terzanelle (1) the byrds (1) thomas alan holmes (90) thomas crofts (4) thomas faivre-duboz (1) thunderstorm (1) thurifer (1) tiger (1) tilly the laughing housewife (1) time travel (1) tom perrotta (1) tom petty (1) tom phillips (1) toni morrison (2) tornado (1) translation (2) translitic (3) tribute in light (1) trickster (1) triolet (1) triskaidekaphobia (1) tritina (1) trochee (1) tucson (1) typhoon haiyan (1) typhoon yolanda (1) university of northern iowa (6) us army (7) vampire (2) ven batista (29) verses typhoon yolanda (1) veterans' day (2) via dolorosa (1) video poetry (6) vietnam war (4) viktor vasnetsov (1) villanelle (1) vince del monte (1) vincent van gogh (1) virgil wren (1) virtual blog tour (1) visual poetry (3) volkswagen (1) w. somerset maugham (1) wallace stevens (3) walt mcdonald (1) walt whitman (3) war (7) war in afghanistan (2) war in iraq (2) wartburg college (1) waterloo (1) whypoetrymatters (1) wile e. coyote (1) wilfred owen (1) william blake (1) william carlos williams (1) william f tout (1) william gibson (1) william oandasan (1) william shakespeare (2) wind (1) winter (1) women's art (1) wooster review (1) writing (1) writing away retreats (1) writing show (1) wwii (6) young adult (1) yusef komunyakaa (6) zone 3 (1)