5 Questions with Barbara Jane Reyes, Author of To Love As Aswang

too much happensaswang

Our 2016 events seasons starts up this Tuesday with a poetry double-header. Barbara Jane Reyes and Kathleen Weaver both read from their newest poetry collections at City Lights Bookstore. Reyes answers to our 5 Questions are below.

Event: Tuesday, January 11 at 7:00PM. 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133.

About To Love as Aswang: Songs, Fragments, and Found Objects (published by PAWA):

The Philippine aswang is a mythic, monstrous creature which has, since colonial times, been associated with female transgression, scapegoating, and social shaming, known in Tagalog as hiya. In the 21st century, and in diaspora, she manages to endure. Barbara Jane Reyes’s To Love as Aswang, the poet and a circle of Filipino American women grapple with what it means to live as a Filipina, or Pinay, in a world that has silenced, dehumanized, and broken the Pinay body. These are poems of Pinay tragedy and perseverance, of re-appropriating monstrosity and hiya, sung in polyphony and hissed with forked tongues.

About Too Much Happens (published by Post-Apollo Press):

After years of translating and presenting other writers, Kathleen Weaver has now produced a collection of her own poems, Too Much Happens, a collection that mingles personal and major social concerns in an attempt to give voice to a sense of increasing fear for a cherished world in crisis. Catastrophic wars, child soldiers, dried lake beds, the relentless onslaught of bad news. “What shall we do with what we know?” Too Much Happens poses a question for which no answer is clear in a world skirting a perilous edge.

“Days, slaves to the sun, / the sun herds them into shadows. // A valley fills with traveled light / and snowmelt.” Once you step in between these lines, you know you’ve reached home: heart-and-mind, the body-and soul of why poetry matters. Nearly one of a kind, Kathleen Weaver lyrically weaves love and social awareness with language. To a cyber-bashed, corporatized, red-lit planet prison, her bright voice rejoices in green-lights.”
—Al Young


About Barbara Jane Reyes: Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila, the Philippines, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. To Love as Aswang is her fourth full-length collection of poetry. She is the author of the poetry collections Gravities of Center (2003), Poeta en San Francisco (2005), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and Diwata (2010). Her work explores a variety of cultural, historical, and geographical perspectives. With her husband, the poet Oscar Bermeo, Reyes co-edits Doveglion Press, which publishes political literature. She has taught creative writing at Mills College and Philippine studies at the University of San Francisco.


City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit?

Barbara Jane Reyes: I think my first trip to City Lights was when I was in high school. I attended a Catholic high school in Hayward, and doing things like going to City Lights wasn’t something on people’s radars, so it’s not like my cool quotient was boosted in my classmates’ social memories. But I thought I was super cool, buying William Blake books and all.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

BJR: Well, it would not be the Carmina Burana, because everyone uses that. It would be a mixtape which includes Garbage, Penelope Houston, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Destiny’s Child, Rasputina, Grace Nono, Si*Sé, Hole, Erykah Badu, Christina Aguilera, and Mariqueen Maandig.

CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?

BJR: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I think. Though I hear it’s since been re-titled The Very Hangry Caterpillar? I read that on the Internet.

CL: If you weren’t a writer, what might you do?

BJR: Grow vegetables, kayak, hike, binge watch everything, read hella comic books, sleep in.

CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no wifi). 

BJR: A stack of blank notebooks and .7 mechanical pencils, obviously. A Star Trek replicator, because seriously, I would starve to death if I had to learn to hunt, and eat animals alive. Oh, and it’d be nice to have the Bible, not because I’m especially religious, but because then I’d actually have time to read it.

Barbara Jane Reyes is reading with Kathleen Weaver this Tuesday at City Lights in the Poetry Room. You can find Reyes’ new book, To Love Aswang at City Lights, or from PAWA. Weaver’s new book is Too Much Happens from Post-Apollo Press.

Check out our complete calendar of events for 2016 and stay up to date on all things City Lights via our Twitter feed, Instagram, and weekly & monthly newsletters.

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