Monday, February 6, 2017


In addition to aggregating reviews from the internet, THE HALO-HALO REVIEW presents The Mangozine which features new reviews and serves as the online publisher for reviews and other engagements (e.g. book introductions) published in print but not yet available within the internet.  Other features, including author interviews and reader testimonials, also will be presented. The following presents a Table of Contents for Issue 4 -- CLICK on links to go to the reviews.

(February 2017)

Editor's Note:  Welcome to the fourth issue of THE HALO-HALO REVIEW where we provide engagements with Filipin@ literature and authors through reviews and engagements, interviews and other prose. We hope readers, writers and publishers will continue to participate and share information about numerous Filipino authors and the wide variety of their writings. 

The Mangozine's Review Copy information is HERE; you are encouraged to fatten up the list as well as pick some to review! Submission deadline for the fifth issue has been set at Dec. 5, 2017 (though I will take reviews sooner than the deadline if that is more convenient for the reviewers).

Eileen Tabios' Editor's Note continues over HERE.


American Son by Brian Ascalon Roley (W.W. Norton, 2001) and The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal by Brian Ascalon Roley (Curbstone Books / Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IL, 2016). Engaged by Vince Gotera

Puñeta: Political Pilipinx Poetry (Moria Books/Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017). Engaged by Eileen R. Tabios

Poetry is: José Garcia Villa's Philosophy of Poetry, edited by Robert L. King (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2015). Reviewed by Monica Manolachi

A Series of Un / Natural / Disasters by Cheena Marie Lo (Commune Editions, Oakland, CA, 2016). Reviewed by Kimberly Alidio

Writer in Exile / Writer in Revolt: Critical Perspectives on Carlos Bulosan, edited by Jeffrey Arellano Cabusao (University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). Reviewed by Paulino Lim, Jr. 

BALIKBAYANG MAHAL: Passages from Exile by E. San Juan, Jr. (Philippine Studies Center, Washington D.C., 2007/2017). Engaged by Eileen R. Tabios

WATERMELON NIGHTS by Greg Sarris (First Edition, Hyperion Books, 1998; Penguin, 1999). Engaged by Leny M. Strobel

TRICKSTERS & COSMOPOLITANS by Rei Magosaki--with review focus on Jessica Hagedorn (Fordham University Press, New York, 2016). Engaged by Eileen R. Tabios    

WRITING NAKED by Arnie Mejia (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Manila, 2016). Reviewed by Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan

RETURNING A BORROWED TONGUE edited by Nick Carbo (Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, Minn., 1996). Reviewed by Jessica Gonzalez

LIFEBOAT by Kristine Ong Muslim (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Manila, 2015). Reviewed by Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan

The Gilded Age of Kickstarters by Eileen R. Tabios (Dancing Girl Press & Studio, Chicago, 2016). Reviewed by Jim McCrary

Fault Setting by Joel Toledo (University of Philippines Press, 2016). Reviewed by Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan

The Art of Exporting by Cristina Querrer (Dancing Girl Press & Studio, Chicago, 2011). Reviewed by Chris Mansel 

Histories by Charlie Samuya Veric (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2015). Reviewed by Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan


Kimberly Alidio 

Erin Entrada Kelly

Barbara Jane Reyes


Go HERE to see: 

Sheila Bare on Carlos Bulosan

Michael Simms on Jose Padua

Eileen Tabios on Mg Roberts

Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan on Gemino Abad



SISA'S VENGEANCE: A Radical Interpretation of Jose Rizal by E. San Juan, Jr. (Philippines Cultural Studies Center, Connecticut, 2014). Reviewed by Francis C. Macansantos

From Books: Introductions, Prefaces, Forewo
rds, Afterwords and Author's Notes

Mg Roberts introduces ALL THINGS LOSE THOUSANDS OF TIMES by Angela Peñaredondo (Inlandia Books, Riverside, CA, 2016)

Jaime An Lim presents the Preface to Peace Mindanao edited by Jaime An Lim (UST Press, Philippines, 2013)  

Jaime An Lim presents the Preface to his The Axolotyl Colony: Stories (UP Press, Philippines, 2016)


Welcome to the fourth issue of THE HALO-HALO REVIEW / The Mangozine where we provide engagements with Filipin@ literature and authors through reviews and engagements, interviews and other prose. We hope readers, writers and publishers will continue to participate and share information about numerous Filipino authors and the wide variety of their writings. 

The Mangozine's Review Copy information is HERE; you are encouraged to fatten up the list as well as pick some to review! Submission deadline for the fifth issue has been set at Dec. 25, 2017 (though I will take reviews sooner than the deadline if that is more convenient for the reviewers).

As well, send me links to reviews/engagements with Filipino literature! These links will be aggregated in various genre categories displayed HERE. Updating the genre categories with links will occur as information is received.

An interesting feature of The Mangozine is its putting online various Introductions, Prefaces, Afterwords and Authors' Notes to published books. The presented essays to date  corroborate the need for a journal like THE HALO-HALO REVIEW -- they highlight the uniqueness of English-language Filipino literature that cannot be subsumed in other categories like "Asian American" or "People of Color" literature. Feel free to suggest other books which may offer useful contributions that deserve to be republished online.

I also call out to readers to SHOW SOME LOVE TO A FILIPINO AUTHOR(S) by sharing statements as to why they love their writing.  All writing styles. You can focus on authors dead or alive, send as many statements as you are moved to write.  You can praise authors not already mentioned or still to be mentioned. You need not be a critic, writer, scholar or teacher (though all are welcome). You need only be a Reader. (Examples are available at Issue 1, Issue 2 and Issue 3).

The Mangozine is possible not only due to the volunteer efforts of our reviewers but  to readers who choose to share their love. 

All Best,

Eileen R. Tabios

Contact: galateaten at gmail dot com

Index (May it Grow!):
ISSUE 1, September 2015
ISSUE 2, February 2016
ISSUE 3, August 2016
ISSUE 4, February 2017

Sunday, February 5, 2017



American Son by Brian Ascalon Roley
(W.W. Norton, 2001)


The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal by Brian Ascalon Roley
(Curbstone Books / Northwestern University Press, 2016)

From an American Son
to The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal:
Brian Ascalon Roley’s Diaspora

Brian Ascalon Roley, when his collection of stories The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal appeared from Curbstone in 2016, completed a double-decade arc of fiction writing that began with his widely acclaimed novel American Son (Norton, 2001). The recent collection is best appreciated and assessed in tandem with the earlier novel: the two books along with a short story called “American Son Epilogue” comprise a broad-ranging narrative landscape and tapestry of Philippine family in the diaspora.

            In 2002, I addressed American Son in an omnibus review titled “Brave New Archipelago: Recent Filipino American Writing,” which looked at sixteen books—fiction, poetry, a published film script—by such luminaries as Eileen Tabios and Nick Carbó as well as first-book writers like Marisa de los Santos and Roley. Here is the section of that review on American Son (containing comparisons with Bino Realuyo’s Umbrella Country, “the story of dreams and nightmares in the Philippines, where the solution to every problem is America: if we could only get to the US, if we could only be American”).

Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son approaches from the other direction: Gabe and his older brother Tomas live in Los Angeles where, like Realuyo’s Gringo and older brother Pipo, they are surrounded by an intoxicating violence that threatens to seduce and engulf them. Roley’s sparse minimalism renders masterfully the moral desert in which Gabe and Tomas exist. Strangely enough (or perhaps in perfect irony), the solution their mother longs for is a return to the Philippines, where Uncle Betino has offered to take the two boys in hand and reform them. Both Roley and Realuyo (hmm, their names are in poetic consonance) capture the angst of young boyhood memorably and ably, set against backgrounds of lyrical beauty. (North American Review, May-August 2002)

Roley’s debut in FilAm literature—in American literature, more properly—was auspicious and important. He dramatized (for the first time in novel form, I believe) the plight of thoroughly assimilated and Americanized immigrant young men of Philippine ancestry. Perhaps the word immigrant is not exactly right because Gabe and Tomas are US-born and raised. Nonetheless, the point stands: how do these young Filipino American males survive in American (sub)culture(s) and how do their Filipino heritage and their Filipino-ness survive within them, if at all. An added wrinkle here is that the brothers are biracial: their surname is Sullivan, their father an Irish American estranged from their mother. Roley was also first to write the FilAm biracial bildungsroman, and as such he was at the forefront of the hapa cultural movement championing Asian American biracial experience.

            With regard to the question of individual survival and cultural legacy, in the case of the older brother, Tomas has taken on the LA/SoCal cholo gangbanger identity of their environs. He wears on his back a large tattoo of Our Lady of Guadalupe, among other street tats. Tomas’s look and attitude are sources of great consternation for the boys’ mother, Ika. The younger brother Gabe, narrator of the novel, is in flux culturally and personally, seduced by the brother’s gangster persona though resisting at first, an honor student at a Catholic high school. Their uncle Betino, who represents the aristocratic history of the Philippines, continues throughout the novel to offer to their mother that he would be glad to take the boys in hand and, in loco parentis, raise them up into good Filipino men well aware of their religious and national heritage. That’s the brilliant set-up of the novel, against which we see Gabe’s coming of age in the US: American? Filipino? Some hybrid of the two?

            American Son takes on important questions about the Philippine diaspora and more broadly, the diasporic problems that continue to arise, both literarily and socially. It is a kind of anti-Huck Finn, one could say: Gabe steals his brother’s gangster ride and escapes northward for several days, like Huck lighting out for the territories, but no go. The theme of Chicano identity being overlaid on the boys’ warring Irish and Filipino identities is ironically played out: Tomas, who trains and sells guard dogs, mistakes a customer’s wife as a Mexican maid and the deal goes south; more poignantly, Gabe, to impress a white father figure he has encountered on his journey north, points to his own mother as a Mexican maid.
            American Son is brilliantly written. Roley is one of the most adept writers I have read at using spare description for crisp characterization. In one scene, after the boys are in a bloody fight with a man Tomas is trying to punish, as they escape their attack dog Greta is described as also bloodied: “On the window she has left red smudges which glow like translucent rose petals clinging to the glass.” This image, observed by Gabe, hints that he has an artistic or creative disposition, even in the aftermath of violence, so that the novel could be a story of the making of the artist. Except that it’s not. The power of violence is just too seductive. Especially because such action is an empowering alternate to the self-silencing, the voicelessness that Gabe endures in social contexts (both American and Filipino) because of his inferiority complex as a person of color. Gabe and Tomas lie and prevaricate throughout the novel because that is a way of survival when language is the only problem solution available.

            Roley published an afterword to American Son in a FilAm fiction anthology, Growing Up Filipino. This short story, titled “American Son Epilogue,” continues Gabe’s life after his brother Tomas has been arrested and seems likely headed for prison. In this epilogue, we see a poignant narrative of the young man’s attempts to put his violent (immediate) past behind him. He grows closer to his mom and his Irish American aunt as, expelled from his Catholic school, he prepares to make a bid to be readmitted and thus resume his American dream. Very telling is a scene where Ika and son enter a church to pray before Gabe goes to see the school principal Father Ryan (who had been a mentor for him previously). Gabe imagines, “the chapel in the Philippines, on our farm, where they have cobwebs in the rafters and dolls of the saints that poor tenants place on tables. Instead of putting candles below the Virgin’s feet that you can light for money, they strung up light bulbs—the big colorful kinds, like tacky Christmas lights old people use, bright red, green, yellow, and blue.” Here we intuit that Gabe’s penchant for creativity can be rekindled; clearly he has regained his eye for beauty and lyricism. Again, brilliantly written—characterization through visual description and point of view.

            Roley’s Last Mistress of Jose Rizal is an appearance equally auspicious to American Son: a demonstration of the prowess of this writer in the middle of a strong literary career. These short stories constitute the continuation and expansion of the family in American Son. A much larger extended family in both the Philippines and the US. The larger arc and matrix of the collection follows the pedigree rooted in the patriarch Santiago Navarro, grandfather of Ika, Tomas’s and Gabe’s mother. Santiago is the aristocratic landowner whose hacienda is the farm with chapel Gabe imagines in “American Son Epilogue.” Roley includes a two-page family tree, a savvy move since the stories range over several generations and locations—LA (as in the earlier novel), the Philippines, the American midwest, etc. There is even a story about a non-Filipina woman, the mother of the European American husband of Ika’s sister Dina. In this collection, therefore, we see a broad range of life and experience surrounding and comprising the FilAm diaspora.

            The title Last Mistress of Jose Rizal refers to the Navarro family’s nationalistic pride in their relation to the Philippines’ national hero, the writer and physician whose novels and poetry resulted in his martyrdom at the hands of the Spanish colonial powers. Ika, mother of Gabe and Tomas, is the “great-great-grandniece of Jose Rizal, poet, novelist, revolutionary, martyr, a surgeon in Europe and a linguist in nineteen languages [who] had six mistresses in six different countries.” The family’s pride in this legacy is not only nationalistic then—it is internationalistic and aristocratic—but does it survive into the American context? Ika’s Aunt Candida (a name that resonated for me because that’s my mother’s name) identifies not only with Jose Rizal but also with Josephine Bracken, his Irish mistress. Candida’s granddaughter, a biracial girl in the US, becomes interested in Bracken and Candida fosters this fascination actually to save the girl’s immortal soul because she feels that her daughter’s family, Protestants, are not sufficiently correctly religious. In this story we encounter a theme that Roley only tangentially touched in American Son: how does religion, specifically Philippine Catholicism, fare in the diaspora?

            Interestingly, although Gabe from American Son surfaces in the collection, as a young boy before the events of the novel, it is Tomas rather than Gabe whom we now see as narrator. Very interesting because we learn how Tomas has reformed himself and become a productive member of society who, in the short story, reignites his relationship with his father Russ Sullivan (whom he had beaten up in American Son), now ill and old. Fascinating to see Tomas not just as the gangster and overbearing older brother but as a grown man who is now (we find in another story) a secret father to the son of a woman we had seen in American Son as a girl, a distant cousin. Tomas is now sensitive and responsible and wants nothing more than to be simply a real and regular father. We see the basis of these feelings in Tomas’s care for his brother Gabe when they were children, before the time covered in American Son.

            The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal is essentially a dynastic story cycle, going back to WWII and before, then coming forward to our present day. The oldest setting in the collection, interestingly in the last story in the book, is of Ika and Betino and Dina’s mother who, faced with an arranged marriage being imposed by her father Santiago, the Navarro patriarch, escapes to a convent and is then forcefully brought back to continue with the destiny her father intended for her. In an article, Roley detailed this specific story as one that comes out of his own family legends. The collection reads like the experiences we all had as young people first hearing our family stories. The lion’s share of Last Mistress concerns the family of Ika’s sister Dina, married to Seth, a European American, and their children Matt, Becca, and Ben (nicknamed Twig), who is disabled. A very interesting parallel here is that a boy whom Tomas and Gabe beat up in American Son is seen in “American Son Epilogue” as a figure in a wheelchair, also named Ben.

            A writerly skill significantly prominent in Last Mistress is Roley’s skill with plot. American Son is elegantly plotted, yes, but the arc of the narrative unfolds over a couple hundred pages. In the short story collection, by necessity, structure is much more compact. In the story “New Relations,” Matt (now grown, a grad student) has eloped with Carolyn, a scion of a wealthy Chicago family of European American ancestry. After their wedding, they must make it up to their families and so the newlyweds travel to Chicago so Matt can meet her parents, and they bring along his mother Dina. The dramatic context thus sets up for culture and generation clashes, conflicts about class and wealth, regional difference (the West vs. the Midwest), and most specifically American vs. Philippine mores. In the Philippine custom of pasalubong, Dina as the visitor brings a gift to Carolyn’s parents, a blue Ming vase that she does not know is probably “a cheap Philippine knockoff of something Chinese [but which] had belonged to her dead father, and was a family item.” This begins a series of misunderstandings on all sides, especially when both sets of parents and the young couple visit Carolyn’s hipster Uncle Robert (“a professor of South Asian studies”) who had married a Filipina “mail-order bride.” There follows a contentious and uncomfortable dinner where Dina, after perhaps too much wine, defends her own family’s aristocratic history (and the Philippines by extension) against Robert’s Marxist-leaning stories about American imperialism in the Philippines and the rampant poverty there. But this is all still rising action. The crisis of the story doesn’t come until the newlyweds are alone and argue about what had happened. In the climactic action, Matt “aimed my fist at her parents’ antique leaded window. I managed to veer it away at the last moment, however, and my knuckles slammed against my grandfather’s fake vase instead. . . . It smashed against the wallpaper and porcelain pieces fell onto the carpet. My hand came away torn and I felt warm dripping beneath my pajama sleeve.” This is plot creation at its best. I’ve maybe revealed too much here—should have typed “spoiler alert” above—so I won’t say more about what this means. My point is that the plot of the story is elegantly and brilliantly structured, with the internal climax within Matt’s character revealed through decisive action and bravura description.

            American Son and The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal are Brian Ascalon Roley’s paeans to diasporic FilAm life: the earlier novel’s two sons finding their American-ness at violent odds with their Filipino-ness, then the later collection’s various family members striving to bridge the old and the new, the Philippines and the US. Roley’s American Son and The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal should be required reading for all of us in the diaspora, but don’t read it like it’s required! Enjoy. Salamat, Brian.


Vince Gotera is a Professor of English specializing in creative writing and American literature at the University of Northern Iowa, where he served as Editor of the North American Review. Poems appeared recently in The American Journal of Poetry, Altered Reality Magazine, Delirious: A Poetic Celebration of Prince, Dreams and Nightmares, Eunoia Review, and Parody Poetry Journal.



Puñeta: Political Pilipinx Poetry
(Moria Books’ Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017)


There are only 13 poets in Puñeta: Political Pilipinx Poetry, which I recently edited for Moria Books’ new chap series, Locofo, that focuses on “politically-oriented” poetry. Yet this brief chap displays a variety of meditations on the “political,” as well as a variety of poetic forms. This attests to the diversity of wonders within the field of Pilipinx poetry.

First, let’s address the more discernible stuff: content-wise, the poems may surprise. “Political” is not synonymous with just anger or protest—though they are (logically) present, e.g. in the poems of Jose Padua, Barbara Jane Reyes, Glynda Velasco and Kimberly Alidio, among others. They also span the wisdom of apology (Aileen Ibardaloza), taking stock (Luisa A. Igloria and Leny M. Strobel) and love (all of the poets, if one believes in love’s infinite ways of showing itself). Many other facets are displayed, from "immigrant son" wonderment (Jose Padua) to grief (Mg Roberts and Cristina Querrer) to philosophy (Luisa A. Igloria and Angela Penaredondo) to both subtle and blunt observance/call-out (Jean Vengua). My summary is not fully representative, but serves to show how this mere baker’s dozen worth of poets display an emotional expanse appropriately representative of human diversity.

But perhaps not as discernible are the gifts of poetic forms within this slim publication. You can say the same or similar things in a poem as in prose. But what can make the work a poem is (partly) its form. It’s a pleasure to discuss some of these forms; unless indicated otherwise, the opinions below are mine and not the authors’:

2 Poems by Kimberly Alidio: The unending, unpunctuated line of "untitled" (with first line “I’m sick of…") reflects the pent-up frustration of a speaker “sick of” something. If someone were to say the words out loud, it would be one long exhale … or rant. Such frustration is apt given the poem addressing the 2015 Baltimore protests, white privilege, co-optation of others’ stories, fear engendered by the color of one’s POC skin, class, ignorance and complacency, among others. The shape of the poem? Like a brick.  

Kimberly's "I was born for a stricter regime" is from her book After projects the resound, and Jessica Gonzalez's review of the book illuminates as regards form. Go HERE for Jessica's review, but here's a relevant excerpt:

… boast a cadence that could not feel more familiar, taking on a language of fragment and subconscious rhythm that is unmistakably current. Whether the poems shout in a similar vein as knee-jerk, 140-character tweets … or ring out decidedly in the midst of a quieter chaos … Ms. Alidio presents an intuitive language pieced together by Filipino history, societal commentary, a queer, female, Filipino-American experience in the United States. The result is masterful: a collection of poems that are thumping declarations, intoxicating in their at-surface ambiguity and affirming in their ultimate power. 

“Flow” by Michelle Bautista:  Michelle is a 4th degree black belt in the Kamatuuran school of Kali.  She intended for her poem (partly) “to create the feeling from a Kali movement when you feel you should stop, but keep pushing forward.” As a result, her poem is one with very little punctuation and no line-breaks. As regards the latter, the published variability of line “breaks” is dependent on the margins and space provided by the poem’s publisher. (Thus, to translate the poem from book form in KALI’SBLADE where it was first published to the space provided by Locofo was to present the poem as a single-paragraph prose poem. The lines then broke across the screen or page as Locofo determined. Michelle’s poem just went with the flow…)

“The F Word” by Glynda Velasco: As one sees in the chap, the poem is presented as an image of a first or early draft of the poem. The image then presents the editing marks later applied by the author. I could have presented the final text version but opted to show it as an image to highlight the rawness of emotion in the poem based on the unfinished surface (including the shades of darkness in the image as a result of less-than-ideal photographing). Also, the handwritten sections offer an emphasis on their references, e.g. those involved in the fracking industry. As well, the poor quality/gray-ish look to the image visually relates to the matter at hand: oil and oil sludge. Finally, the tag at the bottom of the page, “GT Velasco” reflects how Glynda considers “GT [to be] more proactive. Glynda is the name my mother gave and is more meek and humble.” I thought the reference to “GT Velasco” appropriate given how the poem is neither meek nor humble. 

“Headhunters” and “Seven and Seven Is” by Jose Padua: Jose’s poems straddle and play with that very thin edge between being boring and being riveting, as explained by what he says about his two poems: “[they] are in a form I came up with for some of my more narrative poems. I don’t remember exactly how it evolved, but the form is seven lines to a stanza and usually thirteen syllables in a line. It was a way to keep things moving (at least in my own mind) in a way that seemed cinematic with the specific movie I had in mind: Michelangelo Antonioni’s L'Avventura. It’s not something I make reference to in any of the poems. But it is among those long, slow movies a lot of people find boring but which I find riveting and as such is one of those things I keep in the back of my mind for inspiration.”

“Prayers of Petition” by Barbara Jane Reyes:  Barbara’s poem is “crowd-sourced” in that she’d asked for other writers to participate; she used feedback from Arlene Biala, Veronica Montes and Jay Santa Cruz for her poem. It’s an approach that reflects her poetics, including “Aswang poetics.” Here are some useful links from her blog: HERE and HERE2I present an excerpt below as “Prayers of Petition” reflects her approach:

“… poetic kapwa, “shared humanity.” That humanity, constantly under attack, must be preserved and upheld, by any means necessary. Recognizing, practicing kapwa can be essential, crucial here as insurgency. Is this praxis? Not entirely, not yet, but it begins the process of bringing to light our epistemologies, and doing so collectively. I would like to think that critical dialogue, that circles of women, like war council, can return to our own families, communities, and work, can  bring something back with them, and enact... // … I know who I am writing for, and it bears repeating that my ideal reader is that young Pinay who has never seen herself in literature, only superficially represented as an acquiescent wordless body for patriarchy. “

Barbara’s poem also reflect "found" materials from various sources (e.g. information about a saint named Saint Wilgefortis), which is a logical reflection of her assemblage approach. 

“On The Limits of Grief” by Leny M. Strobel: The title partly relates to the origin of Leny’s poem: 2014 journal entries while doing a Grief retreat with Francis Weller. In Leny’s poem, we’ll see single and double slash marks. A single slash denotes a line break and a double slash denotes a stanza break. So one can rewrite her poem into a free verse poem, which is also its final form, by following the codes as presented by the slash marks. The poem is presented as a single-paragraph prose poem to leave it up to the reader to discover the poem in its final form—a strategy that befits the reference to archaeology at the end of the poem and its conclusion, “… being seen.”

“APOLOGY” by Aileen Ibardaloza: Aileen’s poem is in the form of a chained ducktail hay(na)ku, which is a series of tercets ending with the “ducktail” of a single long-ish line.  Aileen has written many hay(na)ku because she feels its writing to be “almost effortless…, albeit intentional in its effortlessness.” It’s  an observation about the hay(na)ku that many other poets have shared, and is obviously a form with which Aileen feels at ease—one can sense the effortless flow of her words, from one tercet to the next. Finding a form with which she’s comfortable is, according to Aileen, especially important to her as “a self-trained poet.” (More information about the hay(na)ku is available HERE.)

“LINE THEM UP” by Cristina Querrer: Lyrical, but also quite effective as spoken word. Don’t just read it. Read it out loud! When I did, I sensed faint drum beats—how apt given the reference to “…ancestors’ spirits.”

2 Poems from All Things Lose Thousands of Times by Angela Peñaredondo: I so appreciate the haunting, freshened-up imagery of Angela’s poem. One can read but also easily picture something like

When a tree falls, its roots

aim jagged, pointing
   in all directions

like a chapel buried up

by the sea, hiding from any
marriage of light. Her cross
poking out of waves covered in nothing

but a green flesh.

Her combinations of abstractions and images are particularly deft, like

You think of the different places
now washed over by rain,
                                                  very well,
they tell you under fractions of sky,
because they’ve watched all things
lose thousands and thousands of times.

It’s raining hard in California as I write this, and yes, I am looking up at “fractions of sky.”

“SEPTEMBER 5, 2013” by Jean Vengua: Jean’s poem is a wonderful manifestation of telling it slant and imagery. As a result, its ending couplet offers a heightened—and powerfully blunt—impact, all the more impressive when the ending’s bluntness arises from the delicacy permeating all of the couplets in her poem.

“PEOPLE LIKE US” by Luisa A. Igloria: I was first struck by the poem’s (deceptively) casual tone. But the tone—“matter of fact” is another way I thought to describe it—is appropriate to fit what’s happening as the poem begins: a cafe conversation bespeaking a(n initially) casual encounter.  As the poem later transforms into a more philosophical meditation, the tone helps to keep the reader’s interest in keeping accessible what are actually weighty philosophical issues addressed mid-poem. Finally, the casual tone works to emphasize the power—and danger—of the ending by not writing over the danger but by simply presenting it as what it is. This is one of those writings where the author makes it look easy, but is not.

“excerpts from Anemal Uter Meck by Mg Roberts: Here,  Mg shows mastery of the caesura and white space. A good way to illustrate is to imagine her lines as just printed quad-left on the page. How would your reading differ between that imagined free verse poem versus how Mg displays them: spread across the page with words surrounded generously by white space?  For me, I read Mg’s versions more slowly as the caesuras encourage me to linger over what I’m reading. By lingering, I focus more. By focusing more, I feel more deeply the impact of the poems—including that I meditate more over their significances. Their fragmented appearances also befit how the lines are … fragments: form=content.

In our prior issue, Marthe Reed also offers an illuminating analysis. Go HERE for Marthe's insight which begins

Mg Roberts’ Anemal Uter Meck (Black Radish 2017) draws from Oakland graffiti art and artists for its title, re-contextualizing the poet’s art and language within the transgressive, urban, and public temper of graffiti. This richly folded, felted text takes complexity, multiplicity, profusion as its genetic code, a textual mirror for the world(s) Roberts invokes and celebrates, realms of being and knowing by which she, and her readers with her, are rapt and riven.

“Pilipinx” by Eileen R. Tabios: As noted in the chap’s acknowledgements, “Pilipinx” was generated by my “Murder, Death and Resurrection” Poetry Generator project. The poem was written or “generated” with the general idea of “political” in mind. You can read more about the MDR Poetry Generator HERE.


(You can read Puñeta: Political Pilipinx Poetry for free HERE. Or buy a print copy—which is gorgeous, an unexpectedly lovely book production—HERE.)