American Poets Continuum
BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010
In her book Diwata, Barbara Jane Reyes frames her poems between the Book of Genesis creation story and the Tagalog creation myth, placing her work somewhere culturally between both traditions. Also setting the tone for her poems is the death and large shadow cast by her grandfather, a World War II veteran and Bataan Death March survivor, who has passed onto her the responsibility of remembering. Reyes’ voice is grounded in her community’s traditions and histories, despite war and geographical dislocation.
From National Book Critics Circle: “Diwata as a mythological invocation takes the reader back to pre-colonial Philippines when the belief in these god and goddesses shaped the everyday lives on the Southeast Asian archipelago. They have now become your muses as you reach toward this cultural legacy to shape a distinct postmodern poetics in which you don’t simply erase colonial history- you build with that narrative as well.”
“Reyes has accomplished a masterpiece by conjuring and weaving the dialectics and elements of Malakas and Magandá – a Filipina poetics of the strong and beautiful. This alone merits praise. In majestic prose and deep story, in rhythmic caesura and hunter woman voices, in genius image brushwork and long and short line archipelago, we learn lessons for the 21st Century: that colonial invasion, the horror of cultural dismemberment, is not exhaustive: Asia, the Philippines, Manila spirit, all of us – can rebuild and continue in América, in many ways become whole again, by the alma and ceremonias, the tellings kept for centuries and beautifully recast in this book. I was mesmerized by the true Diwata that lives in these pages. Diwata – she instructs us, lures us, takes us deep into her jeweled river, then breathes into us our Creation Story – one we thought we could no longer remember, write, speak, or call our own.” —Juan Felipe Herrera
Triumphant and plaintive, Diwata is a living document, offering both succor and claws.” — Rain Taxi
“Myth and story, telling and retelling, the claiming of an indigenous history and also a dislocation from that history form a thematic crux in this gorgeous text.” — American Poet