In her third poetry collection, former Hyphen editor Barbara Jane Reyes moves backward in the Filipino diaspora timeline. Whereas her previous book, Poeta en San Francisco, addressed present-tense war and displacement from the viewpoint of fire escapes in San Francisco, Diwata returns to a Philippine archipelago caught in an eternal moment of myth. By turns invoking and speaking through diwatas (or fairies/spirits), mermaids and goddesses, Reyes' prose poems layer moments in Filipino colonial history upon mythical origin stories. A divine rape is mirrored in the book by a colonial rape; a siren later appears as the ocean embracing the bodies of murdered guerillas. The poems repeat motifs, story lines, even lyrics in a restless search for a new way to tell the story. And throughout, we hear the sounds of island life: the wind, the cracking of bamboo poles in dance, the chanting of villagers, the tattoo of gunfire.
Book Review: 'Diwata' by Barbara Jane Reyes