Awarded a Creative Work Fund grant for the third time since 2004, The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University has partnered with Barbara Jane Reyes to produce a text and a series of performances based on kuwentuhan, or talkstory.
“I started thinking about these oral traditions, and orality, that happen mostly in informal spaces, like family spaces, places with friends and family and food and drink — those are the times that people do come together, and there’s always this wealth of story that happens in those places,” Reyes said by phone. “Could we make that happen in and with the Poetry Center, and if so, what would that look like?”
An SFSU alumna who has written several books, including To Love as Aswang, Diwata (a finalist for the California Book Award), and Poeta en San Francisco (winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets), Reyes, a Filipina American, invited a wish list of poets to converge, write and essentially feed off of one another. The idea was that they would communicate via letters leading up to the events.
Reyes’ father died in November, and the experience permeated her letters. “It was really intense, my kind of just spilling my heart out in these letters and telling them how broken up I was about what had happened,” she said. Each of the poets responded in kind, with memories of their parents, or with other intimacies; it confirmed an idea Reyes holds from teaching: if you open up to people, they will open up to you.
It’s uncertain what will happen at the events, which begin on Thursday afternoon and culminate in a collective performance Saturday night. Each is preceded by an afternoon of private time among the authors, wherein they get together to talk and write, improv-style, and then try to extend that intimacy to the public.
“We’re constantly learning how to put ourselves out in public as authors and as educators, and I definitely am understanding how much of a connection is made when I am able to share something about myself instead of just falling back on the speaker and the persona, to actually talk about that poetic ‘I’ as I,” Reyes said.
Participating authors are Javier O. Huerta, Lehua M. Taitano, Arlene Biala, Aimee Suzara, Urayoán Noel (New York) andAngela Narciso Torres (Chicago).
IF YOU GO
Photo by Peter Dressel
Write of Way Literary Festival
Miah Jeffra, English staff at San Francisco Art Institute, has put together a daylong festival featuring 35 of the Bay Area’s indie lit organizations.
“I originally thought, OK, this will be kind of small,” Jeffra said by phone. He laughs, having spent all week adding more names to the flier. “I reached out to desired organizations, thinking that most of them probably wouldn’t be able to, simply because of either being overtaxed or whatever the case may be, and then almost all of them said yes, and it was kind of like, oh, whoa! Obviously there’s a need for this, so I went back to the school, and said, hey, can I have more space, because we have all these people who want to do it.”
SFAI is devoting a large lecture hall, a classroom, and a cafe area to the eight-hour event, which includes performances, a bazaar, and even some panels and a studio-style workshop.
IF YOU GO
Write of Way Literary Festival: 2 p.m. Saturday, April 23, Free, San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut St., (415) 771-7020
Anna Pulley reads from The Lesbian Sex Haiku Book (with Cats!) (7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21, The Booksmith, 1644 Haight St., Free).
Scott Esposito (The Surrender), Janice Lee (The Sky Isn’t Blue), and 2016 NEA Translation fellow Kit Schluter read from new writings (7 p.m. Friday, April 22, Diesel, A Bookstore, 5433 College Ave., Oakland, Free).
Siamak Vossoughi (Better Than War), Persis Karim (Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian-American Writers), Jasmin Darznik (The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Life), and recipient of the 2015 James D. Phelan Award Shideh Etaat discuss new narratives being shaped in Iranian American literature (4 p.m. Sunday, April 24, ARC Studios & Gallery, 1246 Folsom St., Free).