Friday, July 20, 2007

Diwata Manuscript: Thoughts on Revision and Digression

Of course, with the axing of poems, the manuscript changes. Its trajectory, its many offshoots, these things I have to reconsider, which is fine, however overwhelming the thought of overhaul currently is. It is no big surprise, no big coincidence that overhaul comes promptly after we have buried Papa. Surely, things change in our art when things change in our lives. What is "Good Enough" never did fly with Papa. During that murky, uncertain period in my educational and writing career, he said to me with a stalwart, declarative hand gesture, "You! Are not yet Great." This is not to say he was an ogre. A perfectionist, perhaps. A man who held hard to his standards. A few years ago, a girlfriend, exasperated at the way I was pushing myself, once screamed at me in public, "Why can't you be happy with 'good enough'?"

But this is a digression. In fact, I think what I am in the process of axing from Diwata can be considered digression. Certainly, the act and performance of storytelling involves digression in story:

During the war, the old women would still go outside the house to smoke their hand-rolled tobacco, after cleaning the suppertime dishes, after feeding scraps to the goats and the stray dogs of the village. But in order to not be seen by Japanese soldiers, they learned to place the lit ends of their cigarettes inside their mouths. So adept they became at this cigarette tongue flipping, we kids would try to copy them, singeing their own tongues in the process. Your Lola Ilang, she used to do this, and I tried to copy her. It hurt! It hurt so much when I burnt my tongue! Yes, your Lola Ilang, she used to cook the best pochero, and visitors thought it was a little weird, to cook with banana and bok choy. You use the saba banana. No other kind is sweet enough. Do you know that when she died, everyone had already forgotten how old she was? We asked her a few years back, but even she had forgotten. But I was saying about the war. No, the women did not want the soldiers to find them and capture them. You know what the soldiers did to the women here. The Japanese buried so much gold in our hills. This is because our northernmost provinces were the last places they set foot before their ships left, after their emperor surrendered. They stole this gold, Spanish gold, from our churches. You know, not too long ago, some of the Japanese who had gone into hiding were found in the hills. They were so old. They never knew how the war ended.

Something like.

So I think I can still affect digression and still hold my storyteller's focus on story. Not "The Story," mind you, but rather, "Story," "Storytelling," "Talkstory." I don't think "The Story" is the point. Rather, I wonder how Story flows without our impeding it? Whether or not we mean to impede it, we do by inserting our judgment, or we can't resist our urges to editorialize. I could easily fuck up the above, which is as close to a stitching together of talkstory from Papa, from Tita Alice, from my mom, as I can manage spontaneously, by inserting some historical fact/data, about Japanese war atrocities, using terms like "atrocities," pulling (yanking) myself out of the voice of the personae. Ugh, like in a poem about an experience in (of) racism, to write, "I have experienced racism." Gawd I hate that.