"To bring the poem into the world / is to bring the world into the poem."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011



I have three jobs.

I am an adjunct professor, and this semester, I teach two classes: Filipino Literature in the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program at University of San Francisco, and MFA workshop at Mills College. I teach two late afternoons/evenings a week. Next semester, I will teach at San Francisco State University and USF. These positions are offered to me, and I can’t say no. Discussing Filipino literature with young folks and teaching poetry workshop are a joy to me.

I have a M-F, 9-5 job, a non-profit, public health job where I’ve been for over 11 years. I worked elsewhere before this, and have worked full time while in college and in grad school. Balancing poetry and economics has always been a part of my life. I am an administrator, auditor, paper monkey in a fluorescent cubicle.

The benefits of a full time job are a decent salary and, yes, benefits -- health insurance and a 401(K), which I have not looked at since before the recession, since I withdrew all kinds of money from it to make a down payment on my home.

I bought before the housing bubble burst. It was my mom’s insistence and expectation that, upon finishing grad school, I buy myself a home. She helped me out immensely.

I am a poet. I make very little money as a poet; honoraria and royalties are insignificant to my annual income, and this is fine. I am married to a poet, who, like me, also has a job outside of the arts. We’ve just bought a Prius, because it made more sense to do this, rather than continue to succumb to the increasing costs of gas, and for regular and costly auto repairs on the old hooptie.

We have been able to contribute to our favorite non-profits arts orgs.

We’re doing better than alright; our life is stable, safe, comfortable, quiet.

In order for us to do better than alright, I have three jobs, and this is not a complaint. Sometimes, I feel like I’m being greedy, given the nation’s unemployment rate, and that many have been out of work for a long time, something I just could not bear.

We live in Oakland, where the world has just witnessed the OPD brutalize thousands of peaceful Occupy Oakland protestors. Now that Occupy Everywhere is happening, now that a general strike has been called, I am torn, wanting to support, needing to work.

I don’t want Poetry to get lost in all of this.

I don’t have an answer yet, where my own poetry fits. I write when I can, and submit to publications when I can. In lieu of expensive travel, I Skype to talk poetics with classes who are reading my books.

I try my best to open up venues and opportunities for writers and artists as a working board member and readings/workshop series curator for PAWA (Philippine American Writers and Artists), as co-editor of Doveglion Press, as a letter of recommendation writer, book blurber, book reviewer. It’s challenging to have artists constantly asking for, demanding, or expecting stuff from me, and posturing when I don’t have the time or energy to take something new on.

I believe that surviving this recession as an artist requires that artists do away with a sense of entitlement, and that we not treat one another merely as resources/contacts.

I continue to believe in gift economy, e-publication, and digital print, and am thinking about zero capital models, whatever means of mutual support and reciprocity for artists, in order to keep Poetry in the world.



I will pass on the poem, since I don't think I have anything specifically related.



Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of Gravities of Center, Poeta en San Francisco, and Diwata. She teaches Philippine Studies at University of San Franciso, and Filipino American Literature at San Francisco State University. Find her online at http://www.barbarajanereyes.com/


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