poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

February 29, 2012

HAIKU for Strong Sistahfriends

Here’s yesterday’s seventeen syllables/haiku:

For the Strong Sistahs  

© by Emily P. Lawsin

love and shout-outs to

all the sistahfriends who build

this bridge called my back.


February 28, 2012



* * *

February 12, 2012

Why I Couldn’t Watch it Twice: Nicki Minaj’s Grammy Performance and the Effect of Superstition

Getty Images / Billboard.com

Why I Couldn’t Watch it Twice: Nicki Minaj’s Grammy Performance & the Effect of Superstition

by Emily P. Lawsin

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Like everyone else who came of age on Whitney Houston songs, I watched the Grammys tonight to see Jennifer Hudson belt out an “I Will Always Love You” tribute to Whitney, barely 24-hours after the Pop Diva’s sudden death. Hudson did a fabulous rendition, which in the close-ups, you could tell was extremely emotional for her to do. That was to be expected; what was not expected (despite the announcer’s annoying “stick around” warning before each commercial break) was Nicki Minaj’s performance of her new single “Roman Holiday”. It was the most theatrical, mind-blowing Grammy performance I have ever seen: complete with her levitating amidst the backdrop of stained glass windows, and a video of an exorcism with an actor dressed as a priest (who was also Minaj’s date for the evening, dressed earlier as the Pope). Did I mention the flames and the smoke on stage?

My jaw dropped at the whole spectacle, which even had a dramatic black-out where the whole stage went briefly dark. At first I thought maybe the producers had pulled the plug on the whole show, but realized that maybe this was actually her “moment of silence” so Minaj could climb up to a higher riser. Afterwards, viewers (including me) lamented about how confused they were by it all.

Now if I was a “pure” cultural studies theorist (rather than a public historian/Pinay poet), then I might be inclined to pore over, rewind, and dissect the hell (pun intended) out of Minaj’s performance. However, I am more “Puro-Pinay” – a Filipina American – who was raised with so many superstitious beliefs beat into me from my Pinoy family and my best friend’s Creole family that I was frankly, a bit scared to even sit through the live TV broadcast. And I do mean scared.

The kind of hide-behind-the-pillow scared. The kind of “I’m-going-to-stay-up-all-night-and-work-or-write-about-this-so-I-don’t-have-nightmares” scared. The kind of “what-the-hell-was-she-thinking-she-got-hella-nerve” scared. The “Oh-no-she-didn’t-just-start-speaking-in-tongues” scared. The “oh-yes-she-did-scared-of-you” scared. Snap, snap!

See, I kind of understand where Nicki Minaj was coming from here, as her Indian and Afro-Trinidadian parents hail from a colonized island nation (Trinidad), like mine hailed from the colonized nation of the Philippines. It is this familial understanding of the legacy of centuries of empire, Catholicism, and Spanish colonialism that make me want to see Minaj’s performance as a critique of the church’s efforts to exorcise all demons. The title of the mini-movie shown, “Exorcising Roman”, refers to Minaj’s alter-ego Roman Zolanski (not to be confused with the infamous filmmaker Roman Polanski, director of horror films like Rosemary’s Baby and psycho-mysteries like Chinatown). The minute the word “EXORCISING” came on the screen: that’s when my superstitious instincts should’ve known something crazy was about to go down.

Yes, I know that sociologists argue that superstitions function in society to control behaviors. However, that does not easily erase them from one’s brain. I should have known something was up when Minaj strolled up the red carpet in a stunning red Versace robe-like gown looking like a cross between a devilish nun and a possessed Little Red Riding Hood. My Filipino elders always told me to wear red at night to ward off ghosts and evil spirits (or bangungot), especially after someone in the family has just died. So when the Roman character was zapped into the corner of the ceiling during the mini-movie, I almost screamed. Same for when the priest’s beady eyes looked like the reflections of the devil’s flames. Yeah, I know it’s all special effects, but damn, Nicki, why did you have to go there? Especially the night after Whitney died?

Maybe Minaj was just trying to push the envelope over the edge here with a multilayered homage to the occult? Or was it indeed a critique of the church, pro-life advocates, or their stance on homosexuality? Or was it a statement about exorcising our silence around multiple personalities or mental illness? Or was it just a shock-and-awe kind of campaign as she was nominated for this year’s Best New Artist?

I’m not sure what it was; all I know is that now I can’t sleep. I’ll let you guess what color I’m wearing to bed.

* * *


Update – February 13, 2012:

 Nicki Minaj explains the performance in her own words, as told to Ryan Seacrest by Jocelyn Vena on today’s MTV News website:


January 2, 2012

Day 2: Haiku When New Year’s Falls on a Sunday

Filed under: Free-Writes,Los Angeles,Poetry — EL @ 1:21 pm
Tags: , ,

Happy 1-2-12! I’m trying to keep my new year’s resolution of writing more and loving more each day. Here’s Day 2’s haiku (poems with 17 syllables that are usually lines of 5 syllables-7 syllables-5 syllables). Please leave a comment here on the blog (as every writer, especially me, needs the encouragement)! 🙂  Maraming Salamat/Many Thanks for reading. 


First Sunday: Global Warming?

© by Emily P. Lawsin

a kink out of place:

eighty degrees, new year’s day,

no parade of thorns?



January 1, 2012

New Year’s Haiku

Filed under: Free-Writes,Poetry — EL @ 1:29 pm
Tags: , ,

Happy 2012 Haiku
(c) by Emily P. Lawsin

New Resolutions:
write more and love more each day,
release fears and guilt.

Starting now, day one.
Manigong Bagong Taon =
Happy New Year, love.




October 30, 2008

POEM: Seattle / “She-attle” / Personified -For Blue Scholars


I wrote a “Shuffled!” article about some of my favorite Filipino American songs for today’s Boston Progress Radio, see http://www.bprlive.org. It includes a riff on songs by the Seattle hip-hop duo, Blue Scholars, and I promised to post my old “Seattle” poem here for them.  I wrote this poem six years ago, during a Free-Writing session facilitated by my sistahfriend, 2003 Detroit Slam Team poet Angela Jones. She instructed us to write about our hometown, using personification (giving inanimate objects human qualities). Here’s what I wrote in the 10-15 minute Detroit Summer Poetry for Social Change workshop. Maraming Salamat/endless thanks to my pamilya and Angela for the inspiration. I wish I could perform this with Blue Scholars in Seattle someday. (Geo?) Now that would be fun. 😉

Seattle / “She-attle” / Personified

(Free-write at a Detroit Summer Poetry for Social Change Workshop)

Inspired by Angela Jones, Nov. 20, 2002

© by Emily Porcincula Lawsin

“Chief Sealth”, “Sha-til”, “She-attle”, “Sea-Town”,

From the South End to Downtown – Seattle, a native part of me.

She climbs Rainier Avenue to the C.D. and the I.D.

Like a hiker on its mountain tops, raking gutters of rain

Past the Phó Noodle shops, the ghosts of Chubby & Tubby’s $4.99 Xmas Trees, and

Franklin High on an emerald night.

Her evergreen veins curl up 23rd to the heart of her hood,

Marching down MLK, formerly Empire Way,

To drum beats the FYA plays at the Black Festival, where she reigns.

She feigns summer’s SeaFair, its parade of pirates posing crooked smiles of

Thrown chocolate doubloons that couldn’t brush or floss Lake Washington clean

Despite the Hydroplane Races and Floating Bridges wrapping their legs around her,

Pushing and squeezing gas-guzzling SUVs back to their cold cul-de-sacs of suburbia.

That Queen is smart, she is.

Only giving a small hiccup during Mt. St. Helen’s violent overthrow,

Only giving a small buckle of a burp

at the quakes of the earth called Phinney Ridge.

She held that rage and anger in for 2000 years she did,

Until the Stock Market crashed, Microsoft injunctioned, Boeing went bust, and

dot.coms didn’t come no more.

The IMF brought a charade of bribes to her parade,

Trying to trade – all lies – underestimating that she knew the “WTO”

Didn’t mean “Washington’s Ticket Out”     of the rut of corporate greed.

Her strong fingers of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Avenues

Erupting in an intertwining, internationally televised spectacle

Of necessary anarchy.  Burning dumpsters –

Sweet karma for her sister city’s secret sweatshops,

Bringing Niketown to its shoeless knees.

That Emerald Queen plays smart, she is.

Hid her army of blood lines down Broadway where homophobes dread to tread,

She cruises down “The Ave” to cradle her chorale,

Whips up Wallingford to Woodland Park, setting all the zoo animals free.

Her crossed eyes of Elliot Bay and Puget Sound cries to witness the

Displacement of Asian ancestors from Jackson Street and Chinatown

For a Kingdome stadium that only ended up torn down

For damn luxury skyboxes and a retractable (read: RAINABLE) roof.

The irony of the fault lines quaking through Yesler Terrace’s Projects and

Old Skid Row streets, masquerading as Pioneer Square:

An underground over Underground Seattle.

Still, this Queen smoothes the wrinkles of her face: Aurora and Old Highway 99.

She stretches the stretch-marks of her stomach: I-5

Screeching with pride through traffic and lay-offs

Keeping the moon up all night, she dances through rocks of jazz and grunge clubs,

Holding her crown high on top of her neck of The Needle,

Standing guard on her ribcage of rusted rooftops rustling in the wind,

Claiming this green space.

This city, she is, this Queen, SHE-attle, “Sha-til”,

Seattle: my home.

*     *     *

“Joe Metro” – Song by Blue Scholars

AND because I love it and in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the Blue Scholars’ MTV video of their song “Joe Metro”. That Pinay sitting in the back could be me. And the elders could be my mom and dad. MAKIBAKA, Geo & Saba! Check it:



Watch “Back Home” by Blue Scholars’ too:

http://www.mtv.com/videos/blue-scholars/166934/back-home.jhtml#artist=1918439This video brings tears to my eyes. Bring the troops home. Peace.


Click HERE to READ and LISTEN to my Shuffle! of my top Filipino American songs on Boston Progress Radio.


Click HERE to read my previous blog post: REMEMBERING UNCLE SAM BALUCAS + POEM.


Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: