what REVIEWERS are saying
Though the Filipino American writer confronts numerous challenges each time he goes to the page (among them, an incalculable range of historical and cultural references, a context of systematic and institutional deletion, the seduction of assimilation by form and language, the temptation of nostalgia), Jason Bayani's poetry collection, Locus, takes all these obstacles head on by way of several strategies--collage, narrative, and myth-making, but most beautifully and painfully, by examining his own affections, betrayals, desires and fears with all the energy the poet can muster. When they try to tell the story of America in the next century, they will have to recount the violence and the tenderness. Bayani is a poet who longs to gauge both by the honest measure of his one ordinary, complicated, brutal, loving voice. Locus is the place—and the proof.
Patrick Rosal Author, Brooklyn Antediluvian
In reading, one listens as though to an oral history that weaves the story of a country and people, once colonized, and the story of a body, which houses an identity – male, brown, and defiant, recounting and vocalizing a struggle in continuum against the rhythm of early hip hop and of ocean waves hitting starlit tropical shores.
It seems too easy to describe Locus as a 'mixtape' but what better metaphor than a work that draws so much inspiration from Bayani’s childhood remembrances of DJ culture? He plays as a selector, where each poem and preface works like a different track to be planned and sequenced in such a way to take the reader on a journey through Bayani’s memories and influences. He plays as mood mixer, balancing comedy, tragedy, love, despair so that each new page contains a potential surprise shift to keep the reader off balance yet in key. Most of all, Locus plays as a showcase of how creative expression is not just powerful but pleasurable, where one can marvel at how Bayani’s wordplay is filled with cuts, loops, scratches and long, meditative breaks. You reach the end and you find yourself wanting to rewind back to go through it all over again.
These poems are both poems and tales of magic and myth, 'creatures of excess' as the author calls himself. I find this baroque abundance appropriate for such stories of belonging, native land (of the Philippines) and new land. There are also apparitions ('Every few weeks the Virgin Mary statue/ Would appear on our living room mantle'), initiations, and themes of postcolonialism. These threads are woven and meander through the rich quilt. They move in zigzag, non-linearly, with preface in the middle, and more prefaces to crop up later in the book as well. We read: 'To know that everything exists in motion/ Is to be held in perfect still.' That’s how I felt reading this book, and that '21 spirits watched over me,' as this work carried unique spiritual weight.
Ewa Chrusciel Author, Of Annunciations