BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
There are few times when I read poetry and feel as though my perspective is truly changing. We Will See the Scatter (Dancing Girl Press, 2014) is one of those brilliant exceptions. As a poet, I read verse all the time, and while I often feel mesmerized by so much of it, I rarely feel as though my world has altered--that the world as a whole will benefit from the brevity of meaning.
Nikay Paredes is a woman's woman. Naturally, I don't believe writing should be a gendered experience, where writing about women is merely for other female-minded folk. That being said, it is crucial for women to stop existing as Other in poetry, as merely a gendered experience; Nikay is unafraid to write about womanhood and takes everyone as prisoner.
Her poems take risks--where else can you find a poem that comments on feminine wash? In "Lacyacyd White Intimate Feminine Wash'" the poet comes out in full force, unashamed, and rightly so: "CAN I / USE IT FOR / MY FACE TOO?" The female body, especially a non-white body, is still the mysterious other, which no society, no matter how progressive, has stopped objectifying. Nikay turns this rabid voyeurism on its head by infusing dark humor, while also maintaining sincerity and exemplifying racial bigotry and anxiety: "O my dark, / engulf them--"
Submissive is not a word to describe We Will See the Scatter. The poet in this collection is not just confident, but prophet: "I ripen / and you / subtle into song". The chapbook is aware of its incarnation as poetry, of what poetry symbolizes politically, especially for a poet who has everything on the line--her very identity. We enter the collection at exactly the right moment: gutting fish. The entire structure--from catching the fish to deconstructing it, is a trope for the entire experience of poetry--it requires life and death, a feast somewhere in between, an invitation: "Reader, I am breaking bread with you".
In "Cicadas," there is a rare moment of insecurity and vulnerability, which the speaker reassures herself, as a sort of prayer against loneliness: "Girl, there will be other summers, / other boys mounting bicycles and--".
For me, of course, the heat of the collection lies in its obsession with Manny Pacquiao, the symbol for masculinity, domination, Filipino culture, and an end to the speaker's girlhood. Manny is first introduced in "Hurt Business" where the speaker describes boxing, similar to the poet's own survival quest. In this poem, Manny is strong--he is winning. Then in "Manny Pacquiao We Love You Get Up, " a playful homage to O'Hara, Manny's failure signifies the end of an era--the end of girlhood into the dangers of a murky future.
Jasmine Nikki “Nikay” C. Paredes was born and raised in Cebu City, Philippines. She received a BFA in Creative Writing from Ateneo de Manila University and an MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College.