I look at the work of many Asian American poets, but the work of Barbara Jane Reyes is one I truly enjoy reading. I consider her writing and her journey through the world of modern letters personally essential for its peculiar parallels and divergences from my own. I may not always know what she's going to do next with her work, but whatever she chooses, I know it's well thought-out. And she cracks me up on a regular basis.
Born in the Philippines in the city of Manilla, she grew up in California in the San Francisco Bay Area. Eventually she graduated with a BA in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley, where she also began getting her feet wet in literature. Her two main books so far are her 2005 collection, Poeta en San Francisco and the much more difficult to find Gravities of Center from Arkipelago Books, from way back in 2003. Her newest book Diwata is coming out this year, barring sudden cataclysmic catastrophes in the publishing world.
Barbara Jane Reyes' blog always contains interesting perspectives, opportunities and a no-holds-barred commentary on her work and the work of others, and how we might approach literature in the modern age. It's a rockin' read. I may not always agree with her, but I listen to her, and there are many reasons I requested her to write the forward to my first book, On The Other Side Of The Eye and to read at its launch in 2007 at the Loft Literary Center. She's one of a handful of exceptionally key influences on my work in the last decade.
Her approach isn't for everyone. It's brave and takes real risks. In my book, that counts for a lot. Here's looking forward to many, many, many more books from her.