wow. someone named “Ariadne” quoted my review of Paolo Javier’s work which appeared at Galatea Resurrects in February for their own review of Eileen Tabios’s The Singers and Others. so you should read both those reviews before reading on.
Ariadne uses my criticism of Javier’s analogy to “fishing” to Tabios’s mention of fishing in her chapbook. the problem, of course, is that Ariadne never develops this argument against Tabios, stating simply that my critique of Javier applies to Tabios. This is an obvious mistake since Tabios and Javier have COMPLETELY different projects.
Despite Ariadne’s mistake, Tabios’s comments on her blog do not dispute Ariadne for her lazy application of my critique, but instead eileen characterizes my own critique as
“some sort of *official* touchstone on what exactly is the significance of a contemporary English-language Filipino poet “fishing” to write poems — and this seems to be a possibility in that another critic is referring to Craig’s post, giving Craig’s interpretation a semblance of authority with which I guess I am not comfortable.”
first i dont know how being quoted by some obscure critic named “ariadne” in a review on an obscure site would in any way give my idio(t)syncratic critique of a completely different poet any sense of ‘officiality’ in regards to contemporary English-language Filipino poetry. what’s eileen drinking!
but that’s really beside the point. Eileen goes on to say that my critique of Javier is
“um, a tad short-sighted…in terms of thinking that Paolo’s fishing technique isn’t really tenable because Paolo wasn’t in the same position as Filipino “native listeners” being hectored by Spanish friars back when the Philippines was Spain’s colony centuries ago. If the obvious subtext to Paolo’s use of fishing is dissing colonialism, there’s no reason why Paolo (or anyone else) can’t do so by working in the aftermath of the colonial act, and centuries later, update the context of response (so that, for example, what’s moved forward in time is the impetus behind vs the specific narratives of the original situation.”
this is just a far-sighted misreading of my critique. i didn’t write that Javier’s analogy “isn’t really tenable”… i wrote that his use of homophonic transliteration as analogous to Vicente Rafael’s idea of “fishing” was a “barely tenable analogy”.
BARELY tenable is different from “isnt really tenable”. barely tenable means that the analogy IS tenable, but just barely, and does not mean “ISNT REALLY” tenable. even tho eileen’s critique depends upon this strategic misreading, i will comment more anyways 😉
“there’s no reason why Paolo (or anyone else) can’t do so by working in the aftermath of the colonial act, and centuries later, update the context of response”
“Neither Paolo or I or any 21st century Filipino poet need to have been the ones directly feeling the whip of the Spanish invaders 3 centuries ago to have that part of ancestral history affect the work we do today.”
I NEVER SAID either of these things. and i cant imagine how anyone would imagine ME, who comes from a STILL colonized country, would ever imply that! yes “update the context of response” … or dont!…and yes our histories affect us…”Write it!” (and i’ll review it;).
i said: “To me, this is a barely tenable analogy considering that Neruda’s Spanish is not being hurled at Javier from any pulpit; nor is he assaulted, linguistically, in as desperately strange a situation as the “native listeners.”
this doesnt mean that neither Paolo or I or etc cant do anything, nor does it mean that Paolo or I & co cant have ancestral histories affect the work. i only question his CHOICE of Neruda and the desperation of his linguistic situation as supporting his analogy of Rafael’s fishing.
more about the ‘barely’ which was for whatever reason turned into ‘isn’t really’:
one thing i wrote about my essay on MAGEE was the idea of ‘formal content’- that is, form, through theory, becomes infused with semantic content (Magee’s sense that disjunctive form means anti-racist, anti-hegemony content). This same desire to infuse form with its own content is seen in Eileen’s or Javier’s sense that “fishing” means “addressing colonialism’s legacy” or “dissing colonialism”.
it’s not that i agree or disagree with either of their theorizations of formal content, i simply recognize that they are infusing form with content. if they have support for their formal content, cool–i am more convinced by the legitimacy of that content. if they don’t support their formal content with other contents or even solid theory, i will question it (as i do in Javier’s review), and especially if the work betrays the formal content (as in Magee’s Glittering Guys).
why do i think Javier’s analogy is barely tenable? first, his analogy IS tenable because he implicitly makes the claim in the interview i quote in the review. that is, anyone can give their form semantic content (and equally, anyone can decide to leave their form contentless, or simply prosodic). his analogy is BARELY tenable because he doesnt give this formal content any other contentual support. in my review, i give an example of what he couldve done to give his formal content more weight:
“Perhaps I would be more convinced of this analogy if Javier chose an actual Spanish sermon to translate, or some other Spanish document relating to the colonization of the Philippines.”
part of this comes from my belief that FORM IS CONTESTED SPACE.
the utterance: “FORM is never more than an extension of content” is a colonizing utterance as it tries to establish a hegemonic definition of form.
same with disjunctive writing is always already “anti-racist”
same with homophonic transliteration by a filipino/a poet “addresses colonialism”
each of these positions are different attempts to inhabit and define the same SPACE, but each definition is not a defining or essential quality of FORM, but simply one way to understand, support, and defend one’s SPACE.
i LIKE javier’s analogy–i think imagining homophonic trans as “fishing” is really interesting and profound. i just don’t think there’s enough in the work, or in his speaking about the work, to make his analogy more than barely tenable.
i also still question Rafael’s claim that “native listeners”
‘for whom the priest’s words rouse in [them] other thoughts that have only the most tenuous connections to what he is actually saying. It is as if they saw other possibilities in those words, possibilities that served to mitigate the interminable verbal assaults being hurled from the pulpit. To the extent that such random possibilities occur, the native listeners manage to find another place from which to confront colonial authority.’
in my review i wrote:
We should also question Rafael’s “as if” in “as if they saw other possibilities,” which overly romanticizes native resistance (it seems less romantic that the native listeners just didn’t listen).
i wrote this because i spoke to my grandparents about their experience on Guam during Japanese Occupation (where they were forced into similar situations of linguistic estrangement). they said that when someone from the authorities spoke to them in Japanese, they simply didnt listen and stared at the person and pretended they were listening. They didnt see “other possibilities in those words” — they didnt see anything.
which is why i suggest Rafael is romanticizing the colonial subject into a post-colonial provocateur (an image of the “native” in Rafael’s own image perhaps–tho i must admit i never read his book, so this is all speculative–for all i know he couldve actually talked to the people he wrote about so he perhaps has opposing “case studies”–can someone who read his book comment on this).
anyhow, would appreciate folks comment and especially comments from Evil Eileen!!! 😉