Saturday, December 20, 2008


So there I was at a Copperfields Bookstore, introducing my 80-year-old mother (with weakened eyesight) to the world of audio books. While she browsed the audio books' shelves, I decided to browse the nearby poetry shelves -- all three of them (Tsk, Copperfield: I wish you'd game up on your poetry selection overly-weighted on *three* shelves with Rumi, not that there's anything wrong with Rumi of course).

Anyway, while looking at the poetry, I saw a copy of Best American Poetry 2008. Recalling that my name is in it -- my name, not one of my poems -- I thought to show it to Mom. I called her over, waving a copy of BAP at her.

Intrigued, she lifted an eyebrow but didn't know what BAP is. So I explained BAP's concept; for my purpose (see below), I emphasized that the poems in this book are supposed to be the "best" according to certain editors' judgments.

Then I pointed to Charles Bernstein's poem "Ku(na)hay", noting that it's a reversal of the word "hay(na)ku".

"Oh!" she responded with much cheer. She was very happy to see this Charles Bernstein (I described him (sloppily) as one of the nation's "best" avant garde poets) pay attention to Filipino matters (ahem).

Then, piece de resistance! I went to the the back of the book and showed Mom my name in Charles' bio where he explained the hay(na)ku's background.

"Wow!" Mom said. That was the reaction I anticipated. Okay, so much for that, I thought, and turned to return the BAP anthology back onto the shelf.

But Mom stayed my hand, asking innocently, "Wait, let's get that! Shouldn't we be bragging about you being in BAP?"


"Um, Mom," I coughingly replied. "I'm mentioned in BAP but I don't have a poem in it. I mean, I don't apply to these things...." (yes, I know one doesn't apply to BAP but I stumbled in my explanation as I suddenly had to, uh, somehow get around the fact that I don't have a poem that's ranked "best" -- I discovered that it's not that I would have wanted a best-ranked poem so much as that, suddenly, I didn't want to disappoint Mom in her thinking that her daughter wasn't that good of a poet, something convoluted like that)...

I continued, "My name in BAP is nothing to brag about...."

"Well!" my precious Mom replied. "I want to brag about you! Let's buy that book!"

"Oh, Mom -- I wouldn't buy this book! Why, you should buy someone else's collection," I said, motioning towards the shelves.

"Like what?" Mom said.

I looked swiftly over the shelves -- Tsk, Tsk, ye Copperfield -- and breathed a sigh of relief at recognizing one that had interested me but which I hadn't yet had a chance to purchase: SORRY, TREE by Eileen Myles (also an anomalous presence there among the other offerings, I belabor to add). I plucked it out and showed Mom, "This one."

"Fine," Mom said. "I'll get that for you and let me have that Best American Poetry book so I can tell people my daughter is in it."

Goooood Lord. Well, Lordie et al, I was stuck, obviously. So, I sighed and let Mom bring the two books -- along with her first audio book -- over to the bank of cash registers. I can just see the future unfolding in front of me: Mom bragging left and right to everyone she knows that her daughter is in Best American Poetry.....except that, of course, I'm not.


While waiting for the sales clerk to ring up our purchase, I decided to read Charles Bernstein's poem to Mom. I did. Then I asked her, "What did you think of Charles' poem?"

After some thought, Mom pursed her lips then replied, "He's so pessimistic. Or maybe he's just tired. He seems so tired! He should get some rest."

If you don't know what Mom's talking about (a feeling I know much about), you can check out Charle's poem by reading BAP 2008. Why not? After all, I, too, am in Best American Poetry 2008.


P.S. Re SORRY, TREE -- Eileen Myles had me at Hello! She had me on Page 1:
When I think
about loving
I think
about opening
my bible
and shaking

I don't recall an "Eileen Tabios" ever being mentioned in the Bible. But it's a long book and I haven't read it in a while, so let me go offline to check....and pray -- Please, Lord! -- I'm never around when Mom is waving BAP 2008 at someone and proclaiming, "My daughter is in this book!"

As for the Bible, perhaps Eileen the Saint? Eileen the Redeemer? Eileen the Angel? Wait, wait -- I see her! There's Eileen amidst the crowd looking askance as the Tower of Babel starts to lean over....!

Labels: ,