Once in awhile, I like to take note of local authors. My friend, Joselyn Ignacio, has just published her book collection of poems and short stories, Finding Rabbit – Many Worlds: Poems and Terse Tales. Ignacio has traveled widely, and this collection of poems, prose poems, and short stories reflect that experience in her encounters with “lives linked together by emotions and experiences.” Her writing is punctuated with evocative photographs by Robert L. Kleinberg.
The poems are often impelled by everyday objects (a tattoo, a cod head, wine—food is a recurring theme), and the environment in which the writer finds herself. Counterpoint to these material meditations, however, are poems that explore the emotionally fraught landscape of a troubled or dying relationship “Erased—palimpsest. Layers of / Paint and pain—gone like white / Light…” The second half of the book features short stories in two sections. “Terse Tales” begins with a story, “Finding Rabbit,” about a wild ride in Greece during her youth. The second and third stories take on a more serious tone, as the writer reflects on love and loss. “Into the Blue” brought me up short, for a moment, when I recognized in her short memoir the story of a specific young and promising Filipino American writer whose early bloom was cut short in the 1970s. “Rommel,” she writes, using the pseudonym, “you are the blues man with the guitar, not the man with the blue guitar.” The reference to Rommel’s poem, which references Wallace Stevens’ poem, is a reminder that Filipino American writers in the 1970s were beginning to delineate their own identities as writers, separate from the white man’s literary canon. Ignacio was deeply involved in the Filipino-American writing scene in San Francisco during the 1970s, and knew the people and participated in the events shaping that period (I-Hotel strikes, organizing for Ethnic Studies at SF State, and the “San Francisco [poetry] Renaissance”). I’m hoping that we may see, in the future, a collection of her stories and poems recalling those important years.
I especially enjoyed the second section of short stories, “World of Mari,” six tales encompassing a young Filipino girl’s experiences at home and in her provincial neighborhood in the Philippines. When I finished the book, I wondered why Ignacio chose for its title, “Finding Rabbit,” the title of her light-hearted short story, so different from the more serious and even conflicted tone of the other poems and tales. I could be wrong, but I suspect it may have been because there is much more to be mined from this obviously rich period of youth and young adulthood in Ignacio’s life. I’m sure we’ll see more of that in her next book, which is in progress.