Monday, March 02, 2009

Gatherings Along the Road

When I travel, I always find myself in possession of new books and films. During my recent journeys through the South and Chicago, here are a few of the better ones that are now part of my library.

Barbara Jane Reyes' Poeta en San Francisco. Barbara Jane Reyes has always been a particular favorite contemporary of mine with an exceptional voice and a fierce take on life and the world. I've finally gotten my copy of Poeta en San Francisco and have already returned to it several times for its great scope and sweep. I can't wait for her next book, Diwata, to come out soon.

Oscar Bermeo's Palimpsest. Of course, I'm partial to this, because the palimpsest is a great art term I've loved for years. It refers to writing or creating a work of art on top of another piece of art. Oscar made a bold move to make this book available under a non-commercial creative commons license, a generous and appropriate gesture, given the theme of the book. Poems to check out include Definition, Congruence, The Trouble with Poverty and many other pieces. Several were composed in response to several of our poetic contemporaries, and overall, I find Palimpsest is a great look at the new voices and languages of the 21st century.

Tan Lin's BlipSoak01 was a particular treat to find. I was torn between this or a copy of Cathy Hong's Dance Dance Revolution, but this is by far the more difficult of the two to locate. When it works, it's really daring and inventive, and reminds me how experimental and creative we can be with poetry without it becoming kitschy or bogged down by great technique, but no soul. It's given me a few new thoughts for upcoming projects. Definitely not for everyone, but for people interested in experimental visual poetry, I'd recommend it.

During the AAPIP/NGEC gathering, one of the books they gave to everyone was a copy of Lora Jo Foo's beautiful earth passages: Journeys Through Childhood. At $32.95 it's easy to balk at the price, but Lora Jo Foo's account of coming to terms with her relationship to her mother and how that impacted her as an activist on Asian American women's issues is engaging. There's a great poetry to Lora Jo Foo's account, told not only through her writing, but her nature photography. It's an approach that's quite intriguing without becoming maudlin. Alas, the price will probably keep this out of the hands of many who'd really benefit from it.

Cheers to Muses: Contemporary Works by Asian American Women is a multi-generational anthology of over 60 artists who identify as Asian American women, including the Hmong writer May Lee and a poem by Barbara Jane Reyes. Put together by the Asian American Women Artists Association, it blends visual and literary work together. Each contributor was additionally asked to write a dedication to a non-familial Asian American who was an inspiration and influence on their life, which was very interesting to see. In the coming month ahead I'll probably discuss a number of selections from this book.

Parabola used to be one of my favorite magazines, exploring a lot of interesting ideas on tradition and myth. In recent years, it had been in a bit of a rut, oddly, but their Spring 2009 issue has proven almost as engaging as the first issue I'd picked up of theirs back in the 1980s. This particular issue had a fine retelling of the Monkey King, Kosiya, the Buddhist Scrooge, A Hen and A Rooster and several other interesting pieces. If they keep it up, I may have to start buying these regularly again.

Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing is one of those books I've been reading in the bookstore bit by bit, but hadn't gotten around to buying until now. As most of you know, he's one of my favorite singers, and this was written during his five year stay at a zen monastery. The work that emerged from this period takes some amazing and human turns, and he's that rare breed of writer who truly does both lyrics and poetry well. There are several pieces that linger with me for hours, days and weeks after reading them.

Persepolis was on sale recently for a great price, and it's well worth the money.  As there are more than enough people who've commented already on both the book and the film, I won't go into excessive discussion here except to say that this is a deeply refreshing work that reinforces the power and potential of animation and film. As glad as I am that Wall-E won the Academy Awards this year, I'd certainly love to see more stories like Persepolis made.

Phantom Museums: The Short Films of the Quay Brothers is a particular gem I was delighted to come across, having been deeply influenced by their work in the early 1990s to the present day. As animators, they are really in a class all of their own. 
And finally, The Godzilla Collection, a box set of seven remastered Godzilla films, over 20 hours of bonus features and both the original Japanese and English language versions of the films.

So, I'm going to be busy this season. I can only wonder what I'll pick up next!

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