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Jasmine Gibson created a playlist • 4 days ago
It’s interesting being asked to make a playlist of my book when I had my own playlist while creating it. While writing this book I was reading "Black Marxism", "Heroes" and "Everything You Could Be If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother". I was also listening to stream of doom metal like Electric Wizard & Sleep but also the oldies like Black Sabbath or Alice Coltrane. People often ask me what my book is about or what it means for the moment. My answer is my book and work can speak for itself, don’t ask me, ask it, it can speak for itself. Maybe this is comes across as a flamboyant refusal of my work to being package as a commodity, and that is partly the truth, but also an encouragement for readers to make up their own mind about what it means for them. My book carries its own mood and weight in the world and it doesn’t even answer to me anymore. I think I’ve most appreciated my work when I’ve seen it on my mother’s bed, tucked in my sister’s purse, a friend’s mother telling me “man, you’re heavy” after a reading or on my friend’s instagram story. That is how this book has developed meaning for me. That it's become a love language between those I love the most. I think I wrote and completed this book to spite many people. But ultimately, in the end the people who I love welcomed it the most and everyone I wanted to spite just fell away.
Of course the book works with current events that have happened and lead me to question my own existential being. Reading the news, being involved in protests and other political actions can often lead you to a psychosis like state. However, in these moments, in the middle of a march, getting kettled or whatever things that are better left unsaid, I felt like I had seen a glimmer of what it truly means to be a part of collective. A (love) supreme ego death.
During the day, I work as a mental health professional, and when I have moments I am a poet and writer. But in totality I am a Black communist, hungering for freedom and deliciousness, and that is how you should read these poems.
A poet's fascination with the sky might seem pretty cliche, but these poets prove something as old as time can continue to offer infinite invitations for inspiration to those of us who choose to look up.
"ESL or You Weren’t Here" tells the story of a queer Pinoy who immigrates to New York in the 1990s in order to be reunited with their parents. What follows is the poet’s awakening to the legacy of American imperialism & colonialism in the Philippines, and to the experience of living between languages, cultures, temporalities, and genders—untranslatable. ESL asks the reader to bear witness to embodied histories of forced immigration, separation and abandonment rooted in patriarchal racism. Released this month by Nightboat Books, Verse is honored to offer you this preview of Aldrin Valdez's first poetry collection.
On a deep personal level, Aldrin Valdez’s debut book of poems delves into my own beautifully tortured, torturously beautiful upbringing in Manila: its wonder, humor, imagery, confusion, and nostalgia. Then, from within, its pages fan out airing the mysteries and dichotomies of a queer immigrant body, purple gendered, paradoxical. I marvel at the collection’s tangled grappling—as with the constant negotiations between Tagalog and English, the definition of motherhood—and the process of omission and possession. Being also a visual artist, Valdez is pliant, imagistic, creating collages and giving expert shapes to poems that twist and turn in their churning relocation. But through it all, at the heart of it is a pursuit of connection, of totality: “In this body,/as it meets your body, there is a rhythm/like knowing and unknowing.”—JOSEPH O. LEGASPI
Aldrin Valdez’s ESL or You Weren’t Here is that rare book of poems that unfurls a story while also offering lovely, satisfying poems page by page. There is so much love here, so much tenderness, so much beauty, which doesn’t mean the book isn’t also full of grief, probing, protest, and alchemy. Valdez has written one long song I’m honored to hear.—MAGGIE NELSON