Poeta en San Francisco

Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her undergraduate education at UC Berkeley and her MFA at SF State University. Her work has recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her first book, Gravities of Center, was published by Arkipelago Books (SF, 2003).


Poeta en San Francisco
by Barbara Jane Reyes • 2006 • $13
Design by Karen White & Colin Wilkinson


Barbara Jane Reyes’s Poeta en San Francisco is a linguistic tour de force, incorporating English, Spanish, and Tagalog in a book-length poem at once lush and experimentally rigorous. From the vantage of San Francisco, Reyes looks outward to the Philippines, Vietnam, and other colonized places with violent histories. As she said in a recent interview, “It’s almost a cliché, the phrase, ‘the personal is political,’ but certainly, this is a strong consideration in my work.” And yet, it is not only violence that concerns Reyes: “I am interested in how we come to love in this world, despite the historical circumstances, the conquests, the wars, which have created us as a diasporic people, as exiles, and refugees.” This is an ambitious, sweeping and necessary work. Reyes has won the James Laughlin Award for a second book from the Academy of American Poets for this volume.

from Poeta en San Francisco:

calles de los dolores y trastorno de tension postraumatica

your methods are unacceptable :: beyond human restraint :: things get confused i know :: the heart’s a white sepulcher and no man guards its doors :: against the growing dark :: incessant blades beat air :: incessant blades :: what means are available to terminate :: gook names :: with extreme prejudice :: you may use those :: blades beat :: easier than learning their gook names :: your boys don’t know any better than :: gook names :: dead men hanging from trees so far from the known world :: how does it come to this :: being blown to hell :: incessant :: gook names :: in panic mode trigger finger instinct efficiency :: incessant blades beat air :: blades beat :: dead men hanging :: gook names :: no sin committed :: no dead men :: to forgive.


Poeta En San Francisco is used as required reading at University of California (Santa Cruz), Stanford University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Muhlenburg College, Cal Arts and the University of Notre Dame.

Read a review by Joyelle McSweeney.

Read an interview with Reyes by Lantern Review.

Watch a reading by Reyes from Poeta en San Francisco.

On her website, Reyes revisits Poeta en San Francisco in November, 2012.