Wanna Peek into My Notebook? Notes on Pinay Liminality
(Paloma Press, 2022)
What I admire most in Barbara Jane Reyes’ writing is her insistent, critical inquiry into the nature of the Pinay experience and writing. Wanna Peek into My Notebook? Notes on PInay Liminality invites you into the author’s process, her willingness to “write through the ugliness and horror,” to examine and disrupt perceived notions about Pinays and WOC—whether in family, society, world literature, even in language itself. We learn about the contexts and history, the influence of family and community on her poetry. Reyes’ literary explorations have always ventured along multiple routes, yet she has developed a consistent path of questioning that becomes the writing itself—which, by the way, is not always in the form of poems, but also blog posts, memes, spoken word, journal excerpts, and essays. One somehow becomes a participant in her journey—one of struggle and joy, and complexity. This process has created a significant body of multifaceted work addressing the times, lives, and struggles of Pinays in the diaspora. Reyes’ notes and prose in Wanna Peek, as well as her poems, return me to the kitchens, dance halls, bedrooms, offices, and classrooms of my youth—where I find that, inspired by her passion and perseverance, I still have questions to ask, things to figure out.
~ Jean Vengua, author of Marcelina
These critical and East Bay tender third world feminist lyrics model for us what it means to commit to the unglorified “work of arriving,” to care rigorously about craft, and to craft religiously a genuine care for community. Poet-teacher-kasama Barbara Jane Reyes defetishizes the creative politics of poetic life. Through a decade’s worth of intimate autohistoria-teoría, Reyes documents the interiority of her previous books, chronicles the day of her father’s passing, humbly mourns and uplifts mentors such as our beloved Al Robles, insistently questions who gets to tell the Pinay’s story, invites us into a deep genealogy of Pinay literature, and manifests a feminist poetics of dailiness, revision, rethinking, and reckoning. A memoir, a bridge, a lyric, a liminality, this book is a gift from that cool rebellious poet friend who never stops reading, learning, writing, reflecting, and sharing, who sees in us our multitudes, and wants for us nothing short of pure self-determination and possibility.
~ Jason Magabo Perez, author of this is for the mostless
The passion and prolificacy of Barbara Jane Reyes blooms from, to crib Prof. N.V.M. Gonzalez, the “rhizomatous nature” of the Filipino voice. She is a chronicler whose words bear the watermark of their own specific place and time, while her imagination stretches across history, heritage, and memory. As history is reflective, she evokes our own passage(s) through time, how ways of seeing inform ways of living. If heritage is the sum of cultural treasures, we find memories of our own families and personal moments in the nuances, chemistry, and music of her language. As interstellar black holes bend time and light, she demonstrates how poets, as forces of gravity, bend or re-make the “rules” of language. Her unstoppable catalogue is a defiance against silence and marginalization, while a compassionate light for others, most especially Filipinos of the world who, beyond place and time, grow from a common root: an identity undeniably our own, which we’re all responsible for nourishing.
~ Allan G. Aquino, poet and professor of Asian American Studies at California State University, Northridge
Those of us who have caught on early to Barbara Jane Reyes have been fortunate to follow her slow, strong, and steady evolution coupled with a rhyming evolution within culture and society, every step of the way. Those just tuning in, you’re at the threshold of giant steps. If I may cross a “t” to that – for the past five or so decades, I’ve been silently but keenly following the unfolding of one of the great open secrets of our times: voices in general society hithertofore underground or too unheard now becoming known and coming into their own. Within that broad perspective, IMHO, Barbara Jane Reyes is a vital ark sailing forwards on the tidal surge of our human ancestors and descents. My life and work is ennobled by her presence and power in our midst, all ways.
~ Gary Gach, author of Pause Breathe Smile – Awakening Mindfulness When Meditation Is Not Enough