Hyphen Magazine

I just found a new mag online, “Hyphen Magazine” — paging through it, I was caught by the high quality of art, sweeping brushstrokes, and bold photos. Article titles, hed & dek, even the subscriptions categories had me rollin’. It’s a magazine devoted to taking a fresh look at Asian America (yes, including the Midwest). As to race? They seem to take things tongue-in-cheek. A little irreverent. Lots of sense of humor. Getting into what is overlooked by more mainstream press. What else could I do? I subscribed.

I’ve got it linked under “Bayanihan Spirit”. Hyphen is a non-profit mag. The staff works for FREE. “We do it as a labor of love,” they say. I lift a glass of Dom to you — that’s bayanihan spirit. Mabuhay to Hyphen.

Check-it and subscribe if the spirit moves you. Let’s get that staff of artists, writers, and editors paid.


New Links Category +

New to check out:

A new category of links, “Bayanhihan Spirit, Cooperative Spirit”. These are links devoted to people and orgs engaged in collaborative work and community-building.

  • Anti-Gravity Surprise – collaborative arts for social change.
  • Pinoy+Proud – celebrates Filipino heritage, history, and arts; helps cultural centers; all welcome. (Yes, my cousins and I run this site.)
  • Tanikgalang Ginto – Ken Ilio’s pinoneering site that serves as one of the largest Filipino culture directories online.

Under “Natural Heritage” category:

  • Ansel Adams – awesome nature photography, environmentalism, and majestic images of Yosemite.


“Advice for Visiting Relatives” – Kids’ poems

Just out a page of poetry on my site for kids –

“Advice for Visiting Relatives” is my in-progress poetry collection for children based on my first trip to Manila when I was thirteen. Enjoy!


Kim Taylor Reece & Wampanoag links

Lovers of history and art, a couple of new links on my site:

  • In “Joy of Artistry” –> Kim Taylor Reece and his gorgeous, sensual, and well-researched sepia photos of kahiko hula, ancient hula. Beyond mainland novelty plastic skirts, 1950’s kitsch posters, and hula girl bobbles, Reece’s photos capture the power, spirituality, and sensuality of the dance. Breathtaking.
  • In “Globe-trotting and Time-travel” –> The Wampanoag Homesite, part of the Plimoth Plantation site. Learn about Thanksgiving from the perspective and experiences of the Wampanoag community. (National Geographic has a children’s book, 1621, A NEW LOOK AT THANKSGIVING, which shows historical re-enactments of the multi-day feast. A real eye-opener. What is factual? What is national mythology? Great for kids.)



Flow, Stop, Go

One of the things I love about writing is what, over the years, I’ve come to know as The Flow. It’s that Time beyond time. It’s when the words come, in a smooth rush or a river of images, and I no longer feel I’m “in control” of the story. The Voice that rings in my body resounds like a bell tolling inside. I’m not really sitting at my desk or table or even really conscious of myself anymore. I become the pen and the ink rolling, spreading, curving on the page, the Energy of the Story as it comes. To me, as an artist, those moments are sacred. It’s a kind of surrender to intuition — I love that.

(Incidentally, I feel the same way about prayer. Fixed words usually don’t do it for me. Intuition and opening myself up to the larger Creative force feels more honest, more in-the-moment.)

There have been periods when I’ve written for 13 hours and not noticed that time has passed. It’s a kind of joyous absorption in something larger than myself.

What I know as F L O W,  Robert Olen Butler, in his creative writing book FROM WHERE YOU DREAM, calls a “trancelike state”. And there are things we all do to slip into the trance. Me personally? I light a candle. I say whatever prayer comes to mind, mostly in the form of “Thank You, thank You, thank You for this precious time.” Or “Let me hear what needs to be heard.”

But these last two days, with my son home and sick and the trick of learning how to balance historical research with creative writing, email to respond to, deadlines, and catching a virus — well, it’s been less F L O W than Stop’n’Go. *lol*

You know those kind of days? When life seems to conspire against your showing up on the Page? Yes, time to cultivate a little patience and nudge my sense of humor.

Does F L O W  work the same way for musicians? Painters? Sculptors? Other writers? I wonder.

Sisterhood of Motherhood

A new page to check out: “Sisterhood of Motherhood”. A couple of poems devoted to the beautiful and challenging process of becoming a mother. Enjoy! – MGB

Koan #3: Oil Spill on the Des Plaines

65,000 gallons on land.

“The oil spill has been contained,”

an official-sounding man from Caterpillar

chirped brightly on NPR’s morning newscast.

No more wildlife will be affected —

beyond the ones already touched.

6,000 gallons of oil

sludged into the Des Plaines River.

How many blue gills?

How many herons?

How many egrets?

How many frogs?

How many salamanders and newts?

How many beavers, raccoons, button bushes?

No need to worry, officials assure us.

It was already an Industrial Zone anyway.

Koan #2: Last Shudder before Spring

Winter trees, Chicago (Bertulfo, 2009)

Flat white Great Lakes sky,

Distant frozen fog,

Yet warm enough

for hammers

to sound on rooftops.

Men work in hooded sweatshirts,

jeans, thin tennis shoes

upon brick bungalows

that kept us warm

in the bleak months.

But the trees

stand haggard,

bare-limbed and stoic.

Maple and oak and Kentucky buckeyes –

indistinguishable to my eyes.

All stand equally stripped,

naked, vulnerable

in the diminishing chill.

Oh, how they stretch

their feathery twig tips

towards the hiding sun!

How can I not cheer

for their survival?

No one calls Chicago trees heroes,

but they are.

Even we hearty people,

blood winter-thickened,

cozy up inside our walled homes.

Our windows may rattle

beside the El tracks,

but still, we are warm.

Chicago’s winter trees

brave ice storms,

branches snapped

by unflinching winds,

endure the bitter bite

of Below Zero.

Water-stained, whorled, gnarled

gray on brown bark –

they stand and endure.

In 40 degree air,

my hands gloveless,

the skin on my fingers redden,

knuckles chafed and aggravated.

Nowhere near Below Zero.

Koan #1: Life Hungry

Cooper's Hawk w/pigeon, Chicagoland (Bertulfo, 2008)Cooper's hawk eats Pigeon (Bertulfo, 2008)

Perched securely on a branch

above my car,

the Cooper’s hawk

munched on young pigeon.

Starlings scattered,

downy feathers

drifted like summertime snow

upon my head.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

A tattered yellow book, ZEN FLESH, ZEN BONES sold for 50 cents at a used book store. Thin, old tape hangs the front cover onto the manuscript’s body; the back cover is lost to moves from Los Angeles to Berkeley to Chicago. Inside, over 100 stories and problems and ancient teachings from 5 centuries of Chinese and Japanese monks. Fun stories. Confusing stories. Stories that stick to me and make me breathe more slowly, with more appreciation of the world around me.

I’ve hiked the hills of Berkeley in California seeking solace, meditated the sand blowing across the ocher and limestone faces of dry desert cliffs at Red Rocks in Nevada, and stood in the glory of woods in Chicago where the low Fall sun slanted through golden maple leaves. What does it take to feel alive? To grasp the moment that is now, the dazzling mystery of the world we are in?

Somehow, we are lost. Rich as we have become as a nation, brilliant as we are with technological advances, as far as we’ve gone to explore space, still, we are lost. In our busy-ness, in my busy-ness…lost. Loving as we are, well-meaning as we are, we can lose ourselves; striving as we do just to make ends meet, we forget how deep beauty really is.

And it is deep.

So. This thread, KOAN OF THE WILD, is a play on the phrase “Call of the Wild”. A few observations,  a kind of poetic puzzle. Writers know that words are poor substitutes for the real deal, for the actual EXPERIENCE of living. But here’s my humble attempt, anyhow. Poetry in the service of Nature.

An offering: Moments connecting with the Wilderness that is our World; moments that have taken my breath away. Sometimes, all it takes for me to feel the alive-ness of being alive is for me to run to the woods, the scent of loam and leaves on the river caught in the wind.