Invocation To Daughters
City Lights Spotlight No. 16
By Barbara Jane Reyes
2018 California Book Award Finalist
Feminist experimental poetry in the tradition of Audre Lorde and Theresa Kyung Cha from a prominent Filipina American poet.
“I am not your ethnic spectacle,” declares Reyes (To Love as Aswang) in her powerful fifth collection. “I write whether or not you invite my words.” Reyes fuses elegy, psalm, prayer, and the language of protest as a challenge to hegemonic, patriarchal, and colonialist narrative-making. Moving among English, Spanish, and Tagalog, Reyes chronicles the ways legal and judicial systems fail to protect Filipina women such as Mary Jane Veloso, who sits on death row in Indonesia, and Jennifer Laude, a trans woman murdered by a U.S. Marine stationed in the Philippines. She boldly exposes and documents violence against Pinay women while also embracing a liminal, transitory, trilingual identity: “This lyric-making me, now a dazzling we.” Reyes writes with conviction about the various ways imperialism transforms women into “capital, collateral, damaged soul.” However, the women that appear throughout the book are not merely victims; in Reyes’s radical cosmology, these women—these daughters—are rebels, saints, revolutionaries, and torchbearers, “sharp-tongued, willful.” This book is a call to arms against oppressive languages, systems, and traditions, all that “strips us of our kick and grit.” In choosing to be ethical, and by refusing to submit to oppression, Reyes writes, “We rise/ And in writing, we restore our lives.” Publishers Weekly, starred review
“San Francisco–based, James Laughlin Award–winning poet Reyes (poeta en san francisco) uses incantatory language to speak to Filipina girls and women, and her words will resonate with many, many readers. “Daughters, our world is beyond unkind” opens an early poem; the collection as a whole then details the arduous female condition (“We are fed up being groped, being entered, being punished, being/ trashed. We are nobody’s fucking things”), then strikes back sharply (“Why does my outrage inconvenience you?”), and advises (“let us create a language so that we know ourselves”). Individual poems apostrophize Filipinas like the murdered transgender Jennifer Laude. VERDICT Infused with Spanish and Tagalog, Reyes’s beautiful, angry verse shines throughout. For a wide range of readers.” Library Journal, starred review
The fifth collection from Oakland poet Barbara Jane Reyes, in the tradition of Audre Lorde and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Invocation to Daughters is a book of prayers, psalms, and odes for Filipina girls and women trying to survive and make sense of their own situations. Writing in an English inflected with Tagalog and Spanish, Reyes unleashes this colonized tongue against sexualized and racialized violence towards Pinay women. With its meditations on the relationship between fathers and daughters and impassioned pleas on behalf of victims of brutality, Invocation to Daughters is a lyrical feminist broadside written from a place of shared humanity.
“Against violence against women, Barbara Jane Reyes rips and runs, jumping off Audre Lorde’s ‘the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,’ Invocation to Daughters recombines registers––prayers, pleas and elegy––braiding a trilingual triple-threat, a 3-pronged poetics that enjambs and reconfigures the formal with the street, utterance with erasure, the prose sentence with the liminal. Invocation to Daughters reminds me of the 70’s in the East Bay, when Jessica Hagedorn met Ntozake Shange and ignited a green flash seen from horizon to horizon. Barbara Jane Reyes is one of the Bay Area’s incendiary voices.”––Sesshu Foster
Born in Manila, Philippines and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of four previous poetry collections and winner of the James Laughlin Award, among others.
Some poems from Invocation to Daughters are published online:
Some poems from Invocation to Daughters can also be found in the following print publications: Prairie Schooner, Raven Chronicles, South Dakota Review, Vector Press, and in the anthologies IMANIMAN: Gloria Anzaldúa Anthology, and Golden State 2017: The Best New Writing from California.