Looking Outside(r)

Somewhere out there, in the equal parts beauty and terror of the multifarious realm of postcolonial studies, there should be an explanation for my fascination for Bruce Springsteen. I’m thinking (hoping?) for an argument that doesn’t merely dismiss my liking as colonial mentality, especially if any attempt at critical self-interrogation is short-circuited. This is something that seems to me an easy consequence of perspectives that capitalize and essentialize nation and culture into, well, Nation and Culture.

Springsteen strikes me, you see, as performing America(na), something that is either symptomatic of or the root cause of how he performs authenticity. When I think of Springsteen, and this may be a holdover from Greil Marcus, I’m reminded of epic drama:

This guy can’t be real, I tell myself, and it’s that which fascinates me. He’s larger-than-life, mythic even, but I kind of see him reaching out for that state and that both undercuts and emphasizes his, er, grandeur.

(I haven’t read this book, but I’m willing to explore the idea that Springsteen sings the American nation-state.)

I feel I’m writing myself into a corner here though, and all this was really just meant to be mere prologue to how I also like it when a non-Filipino talks about Philippine culture without adulation, with affection that doesn’t shrink from criticism. Your Honor? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury?

Exhibit A: David Byrne and the experiences that helped him with Here Lies Love.

Exhibit B: Author Robin Hemley, whose Dispatches from Manila show him more fully assimilated than Byrne, but–and this is crucial–never completely so.

Wonderful pieces, all of these, and reading them is being on the inside looking from the outside at the inside. Utterly vertiginous, and delightful precisely because of that.

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“Where I’m From”

I’ve enclosed those three words in quotation marks–conspicuously missing from the Permalink–because I’m not going to talk about where I’m from, at least not here/now.

I will, however, talk about this poem as a writing assignment. It is a rather enjoyable experience, even if (more so?) one were to do it in a fashion that’s somewhat schematic.

My teacher used Pat Schneider’s Writing Alone and With Others, but I’m not sure my efforts, fun as they are, supports the claim that this exercise “has produced gorgeous pieces from the entire workshop with almost unfailing consistency.” My work seems to belong to that zone marked by “almost.”

I suspect a significant part of this is rooted in the unresolved simultaneity of my fascination for and my suspicion of the poet’s I, but there’s also the aversion I feel towards writing poems about my childhood (which could be traced back to issues that would give a Freudian fits, or simply my having listened to this at a formative age).

Or maybe I should just be a little more focused. I should really do a bout of intensely concentrated writing, rather than the lazy scribbling I’ve been doing, similar to the way I doodle when, say, over the phone. And I should really open the work to the exacting tasks and demands in what I’ve been reading lately (and not-so-recently).

Still, I suspect that my resolve to focus on craft might be a ploy to shift the emphasis away from something else.

Nick Cave on Love Songs

I’ve just caught up on some recent discussions about Cave. In light of the sometimes-heated exchanges that have taken place, many of which I agree with despite being a big fan, perhaps now is not the time to shift the focus away from those substantial discussions in favor of Cave’s remarks on the love song.

Still, here it is as a lecture, a version that contains slightly more typographical errors than its more polished reappearance in The Guardian (parts one and two). I so want this, almost as much as I want to see his Gladiator 2 screenplay filmed.