October is Fillipino American Heritage Month! Unfortunately, this article is a little late.

For the occasion, I did a deep dive into Facebook’s abyss to find Arianna “Lady B” Basco’s (Dante Basco’s [“Avatar: the Last Airbender”] sister) mini poetry series, “A Story of Worth.” I had initially wanted to write about Basco’s directorial debut with her upcoming short film, “Glimmer,” but the festival’s viewing access was restricted to California. My next best alternative is Basco’s spoken word series “A Story of Worth.”

However, the process of viewing (and more specifically finding) the directed poetry videos was challenging. Though “A Story of Worth” has an official-looking IMDb page, the actual product had a less than stellar roll-out. Instead of having one online location where each video was linked, the five parts of the poetry series were hidden across Facebook and YouTube like Easter eggs. Some videos were on Dante Basco’s YouTube, prefaced by a short message from him. But Dante’s promotion of his sister was somewhat half-baked, not intended for poetry enthusiasts to view three years later. 

On Dante’s active YouTube page, only two of the videos were included in a playlist. Reportedly, all the videos can be found on the Our Mic Facebook page but in the age of rapid timelines, Arianna Basco’s 2017 work was lost to the endless scroll. Not even a targeted page search could dredge up the entirety of her project. In the end, I was only able to track down four out of the five parts. (You can watch them all — the trailer, one, two, three, four).

The five parts are intended to build off each other. While each has a different flavor and style, they tell an overarching story about self-love, progress and legacy. The second and first have dancing extras. The third video is a song. The fourth is an intimate, passionate conversation. By having these many different styles, she prods at poetry’s definition: Can songs, rants and conversations also be poetry?

Basco would say yes. Her work departs from the traditionally shaky, amateurr poetry recordings I am accustomed to. She nobly tries to bridge poetry as a piece of entertainment and poetry as an experience. But her questioning and inclusion of different elements ultimately confuses more than transports. Spoken word performance is all about experientiality. Half of the allure of spoken word is the intimate setting or the feel of the room and charisma of the poet. On a recording – while fantastically democratic – the magic is cut out of frame. 

Though I am an enthusiast, I’m not great at poetry. I came into college with a firm appreciation for poetry as a medium equally trite and devastating. Poetry walks a very thin line between making me laugh awkwardly and making me sob brokenly. 

One Lloyd Scholars for Writing and the Arts (LSWA) poetry club and Creative Writing class later, I am still unable to really discern how “good” a poet or poetry is. 

I can appreciate clever wordplay and diction. But oftentimes with spoken poetry, you’re being talked at. Unlike with novels, I evaluate poetry using imprecise tools. I base my enjoyment more on experience than technical skill.

Therefore, I have two minds about Basco’s poetry. On one hand, I couldn’t fully immerse myself in her work. My mind was too loud and my rattling thoughts kept breaking my attention. No matter how many of her videos I watched, my attention was flighty. I don’t know if this is an indictment of her attempt to bridge entertainment. I can’t speak to how technically good Basco’s poetry was but the different styles confused the message. My film brain kept wanting to think about the production when my poetry brain wanted to listen and feel. 

Despite my flighty mind, Basco’s poetry made my stressed nerves feel something in 2020. And for that reason, I recommend watching her poetry series (especially the second and the fourth).

***

I have unfortunately never had Filipino food before. So I’m passing this week’s food recommendation off to my friend Teena!

Teena says: “I loooove lumpia and pancit!! Lumpia is basically a fried spring roll but it is just so good idk how to explain its goodness. Pancit is one of the really popular filipino dishes and it’s super thin noodles.”

As a side note: Basco mentions lumpia in her fourth video!

Daily Arts Columnist Lizzie Yoon can be reached at elizyoon@umich.edu.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.