I haven’t read Carlos Bulosan or José Rizal. I haven’t read Jessica Hagedorn. I haven’t read Patrick Rosal. I haven’t read Rick Barot. I haven’t read Nick Carbo. I googled Eileen Tabio, Gemino Abad, Michael Melo, Fatima Lim-Wilson, Virginia Cerenio but I haven’t read any of them either. I’ll probably like Catalina Cariaga. She wrote one book called Cultural Evidence and disappeared. I didn’t know Randall Mann and Ronaldo Wilson were Filipino. Or half. I might have read them without knowing. I followed then un-followed Oliver de la Paz on instagram because I got bored seeing his kids at the pumpkin patch, opening presents, eating spaghetti. I think I might like Marc Gaba. He went to Iowa then quit Denver: Part of the reason I left the Ph.D. program is that I felt like anything I could say would be treated as the thing said by “that guy from the islands.” How insulting and misinformed, though easy to understand, because America tends to be locked in on itself as any center of the world, and the Philippines keeps representing itself as a tourist destination with beaches everywhere. Interviewer: What are you going to do now? I’m going to work on a painting. I think I hit upon a solution to introduce narrative to the process. As far as creation goes, that’s the best thing that’s happened today...to find where in that abstraction is the beginning and the end. Of course, it’s going to be a process, because in abstraction, to finish is to make narrativity disappear. I follow Barbara Jane Reyes. I did not like this post of hers but I’ve been thinking about it for days: Here’s the thing. You grow up as a Filipino in America, believing we are not represented in Literature. This is a problem and so you diss Literature. Then you learn that there are lots of Filipinos in America, representing in Literature. You make the decision, however, to continue dissing Literature. You make the decision not to read; you diss Filipinos in America in Literature. And then you go about your life pretending they don’t exist, that they never existed in the first place. You are now part of the problem. On every cover letter I’ve ever written for every school, every award, every scholarship, every fellowship, I make sure to say that I was born in the Philippines so the judges know my white-sounding name belongs to me.
Jan-Henry Gray was born in the Philippines, grew up in San Francisco, and is an MFA candidate in Poetry at Columbia College Chicago. A recipient of the 2014 Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Arts Award, Jan’s recent work is published in Fourteen Hills, Puerto del Sol, Assaracus, and elsewhere.