THE CABINET OF THE WORLD AND THE JOURNEYS OF WOMEN
I have a confession to make. Public restrooms can be pretty traumatic for me, which, in turn, can be pretty traumatic for my travelling companions, e.g., the hubby. It freaks my husband out that I resist using public facilities, even when I desperately have to, if I deemed said facilities “not up to [my] standard[s]”. No matter what continent, this derriere does not touch porcelain it is not comfortable with! So last year, while visiting my old haunt in the Notting Hill area, I realized I had “business” I urgently needed to attend to. Stressed out hubby knew that Kensington Palace had an exhibit going on, and thought royal porcelain might just make the cut. We hurried towards Kensington Gardens, and ended up on the Palace doorstep. While hubby was getting tickets, I dashed to the Porcelain Throne of Opportunity. Finally, having thoroughly emptied my bladder, I could now focus on the exhibit at hand.
“The Enchanted Palace at Kensington” was more than a dazzling convergence of theatre, fashion, and history. It was a fascinating quest to find seven princesses and their lost stories. So up the Wrong Stairs we went, past the Room of Royal Sorrows, and the Room of Royal Secrets, into the Rooms of Lost Childhood, and the Room of Palace Time. It was like walking through a dark fairy tale, with gnarled trees and climbing ivies, toy soldiers, a dress the color of time, dissenting voices and unhappy ghosts.
Some of the most significant clues were poems by Margaret Kemp, re-creating the princesses’ fairy tale stories. Reminiscent of nursery rhymes, “A Manual for a Princess”, inspired by the late Princess Diana, is cadenced, metaphorical, and disquieting:
First, find the right door. / It is hidden / under the bed. / Knock on it three times. / It will open up. / You must have / courage. / You must be / nimble footed. / Be sure to wear / your dancing shoes. / Step down / the stairs / under the bed / and into the woods. / You will go / through an avenue / of trees / where all the leaves are gold. / Do not linger. / Do not fear the wolves…
Out of all the stunningly dramatic installations, what struck me the most was the cabinet of curiosities, which carried the theme, “journeys undertaken by women from all over the world to reach London.” This part of the exhibit was prompted by the story of Caroline of Ansbach, a princess “born in a Century of Lights; / educated / in the Order of Things … / This princess / sets out to collect the world. / From her Royal Chamber / she can tame / the wild profusion / of existing things: / In this cabinet / fantastic entities / and fabulous animals / under lock and key…/ Then a room of knowledge containing / all of the books ever written.../ But there is, somewhere in her palace, / a secret cupboard…/ where she hides / minute pairs of shoes / belonging / to her lost children; / letters she never received / from her first-born; / the pleas that were never answered / by her royal in-laws / and other secrets of her heart / that will not be tamed / or reasoned with.”
Happy National Poetry Month! Our 37th issue features poems by Ivy Alvarez, Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier, Cynthia Buiza, Vic Gendrano, Clint Hill, R. Zamora Linmark, Joel Vega, and yours truly; a profile of multi-awarded poet Luisa Igloria; a discourse by Loyola Award recipient Nonon Padilla; as well as short stories by Kathleen Burkhalter, and Eusebio L. Koh. In Portrait, we are putting the spotlight on actor, director, and theater educator Randy Reyes. In Bibliography, we present a partial list of works by OOV Resident Poets, and GFLA (Poetry) recipients. Our Bookshelf picks include Cecilia Brainard’s Out of Cebu, Donna Miscolta’s When the de la Cruz Family Danced, Vic Gendrano’s Haiku and Tanka Harvest, Lysley Tenorio’s Monstress, and HANGGANG SA MULI: Homecoming Stories for the Filipino Soul, edited by Reni R. Roxas.
This is an issue where Poetry is imploding ever so beautifully. It is then fitting to introduce the ever-engaging Ivy Alvarez as our 2012 Resident Poet (you can read my interview with Ivy here). Last but not least, I’m delighted to announce that OOV is now on FB! Do come and visit us, we’d love to hear from you.
March being Women’s History Month, I felt it right and proper to attend my high school reunion in Southern California. The last time I saw most of these women, we were a continent away, almost a quarter of a lifetime ago. We have crossed oceans since then. I wanted to see them because they tie me to another place, to other people, to a lovely, obscure past. The night of the party, I entered the hotel ballroom biting my lip (some things never change), grasping my husband’s hand, and in between nuances of reflected light and diminished light, I saw the lovely faces, all the lovely smiles. And this writer of poems and rhythmic prose couldn’t conjure enough words to save her life. Her friends, instead, came and rescued her. We’re so happy to see you. And that was that. That was how we women crossed oceans, that was how we closed gaps. My word, the lives we lived, the roads we travelled, the bottled poetry, the morning after.
And, oh my word, you are a joy to behold.
San Francisco, April 2012
ART DIRECTOR AND WEB DESIGNER
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR FOR THE ARTS
OOV 2012 RESIDENT POET