A class with Tony Robles – “The People’s Poet”

Today, I had another great opportunity to take a virtual writing class with Tony Robles,”The People’s Poet”, the author of the poetry and short story collections, Cool Don’t Live Here No More–A letter to San Francisco and Fingerprints of a Hunger Strike. He is the current writer in residence at the Carl Sandburg Historic Home in Flat Rock North Carolina.” More information taken from his website states that “his works have been widely published in anthologies and journals including, Where are you From?, Endangered Species, Your Golden Sun Still Shines, Born and Raised in Frisco and Growing up Filipino Volume II. He was shortlist nominated for Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 2018 and a recipient of the San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Literary Artist Grant in 2018. He is a housing justice advocate and the nephew of the late Filipino-American poet and historian Al Robles.

This is my second class with Tony, and I have to say his classes are life changing. He holds space and provides craft talk while providing ample time to write, share and receive encouragement and feedback. It was a two hour class but because it was so engaging, it felt like 30 minutes.

I’m not a poet; I’m more of a prose writer but, here is one piece I wrote today during class:

Christmas smelled like sizzling garlic and roasted pig

A white ceramic place greeted me – filled with bright greens leaves

cold orange wedges

noodles shaped like the letter S

soft and sinewy, salted with soy and ginger.

Your feet worked in this kitchen

Your belly rested above the plaid waist apron

You pushed the meaty flesh of your skin against the counter,

Pushing the rolling pin covered in white speckled dust like new fallen snow

Romantic Comedies

The last ten years, I made a commitment to read mostly writers of color in literary fiction. I reveled in works by Lahiri, Morrison, Alvar, Coates, Ward, Murakami, Adiche, Cisneros and chose titles from lists such as the Pen Awards and The New York Times. As a Filipinx writer, there was something profound about reading work that carried representation of issues and struggles that pertained to my life. These novels are usually deep reads, addressing issues such as race, family, culture, assimilation and diaspora. As of late, I’ve taken a break, not only from reading but the types of books I’ve been reading. 

I have found a new genre:  contemporary romance. If you’re wondering what this is, think My Best Friend’s Wedding, Crazy Rich Asians, How Stella Got Her Groove Back.  Yes it’s true, and I’m into it. I have no shame or qualms about this new discovery. My fascination with romantic comedy novels started a few months ago when I made a promise to my husband that I would balance my book selection by adding 1 or 2 “lighthearted” books with my serious books. As we started sheltering in place, I needed to escape and my serious books thrust me in worlds that weren’t too far from the real world I was living. After each book I read, I felt no respite or inspiration. Not to say that the books weren’t well written. They are. I think I was mentally drained and needed to laugh. 

In contemporary romantic comedy novels, I’ve found glee in reading through humorous plot lines and young, often naive, characters who are hopelessly in love in clubs, hotels and bars in New York and Los Angeles. I’m in delight with the idea of kissing strangers in the dark or drinking martinis after work while laughing through unconventional follies and complicated jovial circumstances. It’s a breath of fresh air for me. And I thank my husband for introducing me to this genre. 

Thanks to his suggestion, I’ve enjoyed reading again. I know I will eventually make my way back to literary fiction. For now, I’m laughing and finding fulfillment in these new pages where love is the only able force to surmount obstacles.