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A space to encourage writing of Filipino American literature and the arts




Philippine American Writers and Artists blog for lit/arts events, reviews, news, and opportunities.

Filtering by Tag: Barbara Jane Reyes

GUEST POST: Barbara Jane Reyes, Work in Progress: Rules for Ladies


I am currently writing a poem that I’ve tentatively titled, “Rules for Ladies.” It’s a long prose poem, 18 pages and counting. I thought I had let go of the prose poem, but I picked it up again while I was teaching Sesshu Foster’s City Terrace Field Manualand discussing with my students what makes a prose poem a prose poem. It was great to revisit Foster’s work, and remember what he said during one of his readings a few years ago at City Lights Bookstore. Something about avoiding or eliminating the “cuteness” of enjambment, i.e. not allowing gimmick to overtake form and function. Just writing the poem, letting the lyric or narrative be. And so then, as I return to the prose poem, I think about what characteristics of poetry we maintain even when we’re not breaking lines — music, repetition, figurative language, compressed language, et al. And then, what does the density of prose serve in the poem.

I thought about this a lot when I was writing my first book, after/while reading Truong Tran’s Dust and Conscienceand then Within the Margin, which took the idea of the long poetic line, of the unbroken poetic line, beyond the confines of a single page and then beyond the confines of a set of facing pages. That line just kept going, comprising the entire book. It was refreshing to reconsider all of this, after writing what I think of as more palatable poetic lines in For the City That Nearly Broke Meand To Love as AswangHere, I say “palatable,” to mean more straight forward, more easily, visually and musically identifiable as poetic lines, after I’d read a lot of Juan Felipe Herrera, especially the litanies in 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border.

How does the prose poem form serve the content of “Rules for Ladies.” The repetitions, “A lady must always…” “You would be pretty if…” These are the litanies we hear throughout our lives as girls, young ladies, as women that our society continues to violate, objectify, repress, infantilize. There are so many rules for correct appearance and correct behavior, many of which are contradictory, most of which are absurd. You can’t do anything right or good enough. And then it’s compounded by social expectations stemming from Filipino patriarchy and internalized oppression. The more you try to comply or adhere to unrealistic social standards, the less human you feel. Not only is my lady poetic persona already feeling hideous and animal-like, not only is she feeling consumed, devoured by others, but now a ghost has made her way into this work as well.

I’m taking language from an old school Filipino text, Tomas and Pilar Andres’s Understanding the Filipinowhich among the many cultural artifacts and phenomena it addresses, states plainly Filipino gender roles and responsibilities without a hint of irony. It’s an explanatory text, directed (I believe) at a Western audience. It’s meant to alleviate East/West cultural disconnects.

I am also taking language from fashion and beauty advertisements. I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at or reading fashion or beauty magazines. I don’t think my sanity could take it right now, though I certainly will. Soon. But the language in the advertisements — for example, the daily emails I receive from Sephora and Ulta! — are great. How much money do we spend on fashion and beauty treatments, and whose standards of beauty are we trying to meet/fulfill. There’s this tendency to think we are doing the empowering #selfcare thing, being beautiful for ourselves to feel good for ourselves. We say we’re feminists, but there’s the insidious presence of Euro-hetero-dominant, patriarchal aesthetic preferences, which inform our standards of beauty for ourselves. And of course, this rabid desire to preserve youthfulness. I am in my mid-40s. I have smile lines, crows’ feet, and gray hair. I have no children. If I am not useful to the patriarchal order, then do I become invisible?

What prompted this poetic project is Miss Universe. Of course Miss Universe. One question: Can I personally have nothing against Pia Alonzo Wurzbach, can I still admire her and think she’s stunning and gorgeous, and still be a feminist, and critique beauty pageant culture, and standards of beauty, its ties to colonialism and neocolonialism. Is that too irreconcilable a contradiction? As she is the current, ultimate icon of beauty, I think she embodies contradiction. I think we all do, perhaps as a survival tactic.

In a previous blog post, I asked for Pinays’ participation in “Rules for Ladies.” I am so glad and grateful to be receiving such terrific responses. I am not surprised that these other Pinays and I have all had these, “You should…” “You should not…” rules and ultimatums leveled at us. And failing to meet these numerous, unrealistic expectations, we are at fault for not trying hard enough.

I don’t know how to end this work. I don’t know when it will feel done. I am just writing it.

Photo credit: Peter Dressel

Photo credit: Peter Dressel

Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of To Love as Aswang (Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc., 2015). She was born in Manila, Philippines, raised in the SF Bay Area, and is the author of three previous collections of poetry,Gravities of CenterPoeta en San Francisco, which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets, and Diwata, which received the Global Filipino Literary Award for Poetry

Need some gifting ideas? How about some Filipino American authored books?


To Love as Aswang by Barbara Jane Reyes


PAWA is pleased to announce the publication of To Love as Aswang, by Barbara Jane Reyes.

Book Description: 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 reappropriating monstrosity and hiya, sung in polyphony and hissed with forked tongues.

To Love as Aswang is award-winning Pinay poet Barbara Jane Reyes's fourth full-length poetry collection, and it is available for course adoption. Please contact us at if you are interested in teaching this title.

To Love as Aswang: Songs, Fragments, and Found Objects

Poems by Barbara Jane Reyes

5.5 x 8 | 83 pages

Paperback Original

ISBN 978-0-9763316-8-1


Number of copies + Postage:
Add To Cart

04/01/2012: Pinay Lives and Voices @ OACC (Oakland)


Pinay Lives and Voices Sunday April 01, 2012 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Philippine-American Writers & Artists (PAWA) Sponsored by the Oakland Asian Cultural Center presents

PINAY LIVES & VOICES: an afternoon of Filipina literature & storytelling, in celebration of Women's History Month

Featured Artists: Vangie Buell, Barbara Jane Reyes, Camille Robles, and Rina Ayuyang

This event is free and open to the public. Please consider making a donation to support our programs: contact Herna Cruz-Louie, Programs Manager for more information or call (510) 637-0455.

03/15/2012: Poetry Flash Presents Lorna Dee Cervantes and Barbara Jane Reyes (Moe's Books, Berkeley)


Poetry Flash presents Lorna Dee Cervantes and Barbara Jane Reyes, Thursday, March 15th Poetry Flash presents a poetry reading by Lorna Dee Cervantes, Ciento: 100 100-Word Love Poems, and Barbara Jane Reyes, Diwata, Moe's Books, 2476 Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, 7:30 (510/849-2087,

MORE ABOUT THE READERS Lorna Dee Cervantes new book of poems is Ciento: 100 100-Word Love Poems. Luis Alberto Urrea says, "In this delightful book, Lorna Dee Cervantes has undertaken a mad discipline: the 100 word format unleashes paradoxically vast effects. Full of playfulness, rage and her traditional fire, Ciento is a masterful performance." Through her writing, she played an important part in the Chicano literary movement, and through Mango, the literary journal she founded, as well as through her small press of the same name. Author of three previous books of poems, she has received numerous honors and awards, including an American Book Prize for her first collection, Emplumada, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and a Lila Wallace Readers Digest Fellowship. Barbara Jane Reyes's latest book of poems is Diwata—which means, roughly, 'spirit' in Tagalog—a book which begins in a fusion of Genesis with a Philippine creation myth. Juan Felipe Herrera says of it, "[S]he instructs us, lures us, takes us deep into her sacred, jeweled river, then breathes into us our Creation Story—the one we thought we could no longer remember or write or speak or call our own." Born in Manila and then raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Reyes is the author of two previous books, the second of which, Poeta en San Francisco, won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.

The Rumpus Interview with Barbara Jane Reyes


Rumpus Poetry Editor Brian Spears conducted the following interview via email. The Rumpus: I love the way you work with creation myths in Diwata, especially because you pull from multiple backgrounds. What drew you to that concept, and what were the big challenges you faced in working that soil over?

Barbara Jane Reyes: Thank you for reading Diwata, first of all. I’ve been influenced by Filipino writers and artists whose source material are the indigenous arts and cultural productions of the islands. The musicians Joey Ayala and Grace Nono were my “way in.” Ayala introduced me to the term, “Bagong Lumad,” the “new native,” or the “altered native,” or “the alternative,” as he wrote in his liner notes to one of his albums. In other words, how have the “natives” survived modernization and urbanization, how do they continue their cultural practices now, in the 21st century. The themes in Joey’s songs also espouse values we could call “indigenous” — environmental advocacy, reciprocity, et al.

Nono, I believe, is an ethnomusicology teacher at University of the Philippines. She’s recorded various chants, songs, and other orally transmitted narratives in different communities. One of her albums which has had a profound affect on my poetics is Isang Buhay, which means, “One Life.” So the songs on this album are a life cycle, a series of rites of passage, and they contain some wonderful call and response, incantation, praise, and lament. The quality of her voice as well is just tremendous; it embodies “diwata,” a strong woman voice that is elemental and otherworldly.

Of course, both of these artists are Philippines-based, and I have lived most of my life in this country, so I admit to a huge experiential disconnect. That is always a challenge.

Read more.

09/29/2011: The Places We Call Home (Eastwind Books of Berkeley)


09/29/2011 at 7:00 pm at Eastwind Books of Berkeley:

"The Places We Call Home" -a literary event in celebration of the upcoming Filipino American International Book Festival. Authors and Poets reading will include:

Oscar Bermeo was born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx. He is the author of the poetry chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below and To the Break of Dawn. Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the award-winning author of eight books, including the internationally-acclaimed novel When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Magdalena, and Vigan and Other Stories.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses earned her MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California’s Creative Writing Program, where she was named a 2005-2006 Jacob K. Javits Fellow and awarded the Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz Scholarship for Excellence in Fiction. Veronica Montes is the co-author of Angelica’s Daughters, as well as a short story writer whose work has appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Growing Up Filipino, andPhilippine Speculative Fiction 5.

Barbara Jane Reyes is a recipient of the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets and the author of Diwata, which was recently noted as a finalist for the California Book Award.

Benito M. Vergara, Jr. was born and raised in the Philippines. He is the author ofDisplaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early 20th-Century Philippinesand Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City.

For more information about the October 1 to October 2, 2011 Filipino American International Book Festival visit

Eastwind Books of Berkeley, 2066 University Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704

Review: Barbara Jane Reyes, DIWATA


From Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century: Barbara Jane Reyes is busy (re-)creating a culture. In Diwata, she dreamweaves what is and isn’t remembered through prose and line broken poems. Her third collection explores metamorphosis amid two cultures and tongues.


Reyes is a storyteller. Her motifs are intricately woven and the arc is unmistakable. Half of me wants a loose end to grapple with; the other half is in awe of Reyes’ ability to carry such a cohesive, full-length collection.

Read more.

07/30/2011: PAWA Workshop: How to Submit Your Work for Publication


PAWA WORKSHOP with Barbara Jane Reyes: How to Submit Your Work for Publication

Bayanihan Center, Mission Street @ 6th, San Francisco.

Saturday, July 30th, starting promptly @ 10 am

Registration: Sliding Scale ($25-35 for students with valid student ID; $35-50 general).

Please make checks payable to: Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc. P.O. Box 31928 San Francisco, CA 94131-0928

Include “07/30/2011 workshop” on the memo line.

Paypal option is here:

What to Bring: yourselves, your questions, your current submissions packets, your current submissions calls resources.

Who Should Attend: Aspiring and emerging writers with limited or no experience with the submissions process, or writers with some submissions experience, who would like to refine or clarify their own current processes.

For more information, please email:

I have the space reserved from 10 am until 2 pm, and will use that entire time if necessary, to present, to discuss, to answer questions.

The rationale for this workshop: For some time now, I have been receiving a volume of email questions, many people asking me how to submit work, how to make a submission, how to determine where to submit. There is no single or quick way to answer these questions adequately, especially via email, especially when I do not know the writer and/or his/her publication experience/history.

I am therefore conducting a workshop via PAWA, so that I can have the space to answer these questions in a non-virtual forum, but first, break it down: What are the do’s and don’t's. In other words, what are our commandments, and what are our cardinal sins.

  • I will compile and present resources, places where I find submissions calls.
  • We will discuss how and where we decide to submit our work.
  • We will discuss literary journals, magazines, anthologies. We will discuss print and online publication.
  • We will talk about cover letters and bio statements.
  • We will read a number of sample submissions calls carefully for the directions that we must follow. What does each publication require? For example: What are their page limits and formatting specifics, what are their policies on snail mail versus online submissions, on unpublished or previously published work?
  • We will discuss ways of recording/tracking our submissions. Finally, we will Q&A until we’re good and done.

Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of Diwata (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010), recently noted as a finalist for the California Book Award. She was born in Manila, Philippines, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Gravities of Center (Arkipelago Books, 2003) and Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Press, 2005), which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. Her chapbooks, Easter Sunday (2008), Cherry (2008), and West Oakland Sutra for the AK-47 Shooter at 3:00 AM and other Oakland poems (2008) are published by Ypolita Press, Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, and Deep Oakland Editions, respectively. Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Arroyo Literary Review, Asian Pacific American Journal, Chain, Filipinas Magazine, Hambone, Hyphen, Interlope, Kartika Review, Lantern Review, Latino Poetry Review, Maganda, New American Writing, North American Review, Notre Dame Review, Parthenon West Review, XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics, among others.

Paypal option is here: Indicate in your note: "July 30."

You will receive a confirmation from Paypal for your payment and a second confirmation from PAWA.

Thank You.