text & body

writer / dancer / dance writer

The Romance of Siam: A Pocket Guide

Consuming and regurgitating orientalism and the tourist archive

The Romance of Siam

The Romance of Siam

The Romance of Siam by Jai Arun Ravine (Timeless, Infinite Light 2016)

The Romance of Siam by Jai Arun Ravine (Timeless, Infinite Light 2016)

The Romance of Siam: A Pocket Guide is a subverted travel guide that interrogates the desire white people have to lose and reinvent themselves in Thailand. Ravine tracks how this “white love” manifests in the tourism industry, popular American media and the western imaginary.

Order today from Timeless, Infinite Light! Purchase the audio book!

Praise for The Romance of Siam

It’s a lonely planet for the white alien, but let Jai Arun Ravine stage your hysteric dream tour. Navigating Siam’s dream jungle might require mounting white elephants, hunting nasty cats and exotic tigers, consuming stinky tropical durian. Too tame? Too cliche? Then stage your disappearance from whiteness and pop culture disfigurement: dance a threesome with Yul, Anna, and Christy; share a bed with Somerset and Haxton, hang yourself by silk threads from pagoda rafters, gild yourself in gold before mummification.

-Karen Tei Yamashita

It is difficult to describe the experience of reading The Romance of Siam. It is impossible to describe the experience of constitution in a body that disappears under direct gaze. The Romance of Siam is an unqualifiable “Death by Dream.” What is the essence of Siam? To ask that question is to ask what the essence of whiteness is. It is the parable of the blind men and the universal white elephant. At the moment of conception/colonial desire, the “abject” of identity is already lost. A dream dies when it comes true.

-Feng Sun Chen

Jai Arun Ravine’s Siam is a mesmerizing land of Cheshire-cat smiles: a sly, feverishly antic journey through a détournement of pop songs and travel television shows, labyrinthine reimaginings of The King and I and W. Somerset Maugham, and rapid-fire sestinas of lifted tourist lingo unfolding like tropical flowers ready to bite. Is Thailand an actual place in Asia, a mythologized theatre of longing, or some uncanny hybrid of both? Beyond questions of authenticity, beyond discourses of identity underlying this outré trip, The Romance of Siam reveals Ravine as an exuberant DJ of culture shock who unleashes a boundless capacity for self-reinvention.

-Pamela Lu

Interviews & Reviews

Entropy Magazine’s Best of 2016

Review by Jenny Drai for Drunken Boat

Orientalism and the Tourist Archive: A Conversation with Jai Arun Ravine | Lantern Review (August 25, 2016)

Audio interview with Avren Keating for the Waves Breaking podcast, Episode 6 (July 2016)

A Conversation Between Gabriel Ojeda-Sague and Jai Arun Ravine | Drunken Boat (June 2016)

แล้ว and then entwine

and then entwine - cover

แล้ว and then entwine

Tinfish Press (2011) | Guest edited by Craig Santos Perez

Also available from Small Press Distribution


Note from the Publisher

This powerful first collection by Thai American writer Jai Arun Ravine pulls itself and its readers across geographies, cultures, languages, identities, and genders in a performance of transformation. Ravine weaves Thai and English, the past and the present, the lyric and the narrative, into a hypnotizing poetic dance. Additionally, Ravine explores the documentation of identity and citizenship through re-articulating charts, pages of a child’s composition book, and a birth certificate. This collection explores the seams of identity and origin and how they are painfully and beautifully entwined.


Reviews

JH Phrydas | Something on Paper (November 19, 2013)

Susan M. Schultz | New thresholds, new anatomies! Trans-pacific gender / genre in work by Jai Arun Ravine, Eileen Tabios and j/j hastain | Jacket2 (April 20, 2012) and discussed in Schultz’ essay for AALR 2012: Generations, re-posted on Tinfish Editor’s Blog

Craig Santos Perez | The publication of Jai Arun Ravine’s แล้ว and then entwine (August 12, 2011)

Margaret Rhee | Our Subversive Anatomies: The Embodied Feminist Poetics of Jai Arun Ravine | Delirious Hem (May 18, 2010) [Rhee responds to earlier versions of segments of the book]


Praise for แล้ว and then entwine

“It starts with a rope, a body pulling itself mightily despite (and beyond) external and internal strains.

Then the journey stretches, splinters and transcends, chronicled and evoked with such dexterity and experimentation. In his remarkable first collection, Jai Arun Ravine has created a narrative swelling with beautiful, heart-rendering collisions. Languages—Thai, English—and documents—charts, pages of a child’s composition book, a birth certificate—define and defy meanings, margins. What is foreign is pitted against a cultural past. The myriad juxtapositions: of body and geology, of body swallowing body, gender and transformation, all history and livelihood. This collection is hypnotic, anthropologic, and in itself an act of reclamation.”

Joseph O. Legaspi

“In แล้ว and then entwine, what is real feels surreal and magical but believing in it happens as naturally as breathing.

Through ingenious physicality — be it in words, shapes, sounds, or forms — Jai Arun Ravine invites us to journey cross a few different kinds of ocean. Geologically, the poet takes us inside a home located in two continents, and linguistically, the poet converses with us in a language that navigates and develops, simultaneously, between what is odd and familiar. Though not all readers may understand every word in แล้ว and then entwine, they are sure to realize that this poetry is of superb engineering and genuine longing for a discovery of one’s difficult self.”

Padcha Tuntha-obas

แล้ว and then entwine is a skin that once peeled from Ravine’s body took the form of language.

Inscribed on pieces of rice paper, Thai lesson workbooks and notebook pages, this text hung on the walls of our apartment in Boulder, CO. แล้ว and then entwine is born out of Ravine’s divine and dangerous rite of passage from a half-Thai ballerina dancing in the hollers of West Virginia to a trans-shaman-prince-warrior in the form of Ram who dares to probe beyond the silence and speak hir mother (‘s) tongue. These words are not extended poem or anti-novel, but incantation. Ravine carried Ram to term and I helped coax the boi-child as midwife with the harmony of a shruti box and a congress of ravens. Pieces were conjured over a pot of simmering curry, stringy meats and steaming jasmine tea and in empty rooms where we danced to the sound of Thai vowels and embodied rock, rope and sea.”

Marissa L. Perel

“Jai Arun Ravine’s แล้ว and then entwine is gorgeously seductive in its multiple sonic and visual fields of symmetrically balanced lyric narratives, striking [cuts], interposed by poetic explorations layered in charts, documents, and workbooks.

Ravine peels back the nature of a contemporary identity, pulling the reader through a relentless charting of the body through Thai culture, language, cuisine, landscape, and, ultimately, poetic origin. The genius of this book is in not only how it pulls, but in how Ravine directs, pointing us gracefully to that which exists ‘in the motor capacities, to gears and apparent skeletal architectures’ where voice and ‘perception gravitate.'”

Ronaldo V. Wilson

IS THIS JANUARY

Is This January - Cover

IS THIS JANUARY

Corollary Press (2010)

THE SPIDERBOI FILES

THE SPIDERBOI FILES

Volume 1 (Self-published, 2009-2011), Volume 2 and 3 (Self-published, 2014)

The Spiderboi Files Volume 1

The Spiderboi Files - Volume 1 Chapbooks

The Spiderboi Files - Rodent

The Spiderboi Files began in August 2007 after I moved to San Francisco. Having completed an intensive, long serial work that took up the greater part of that year, I was eager to begin writing within the parameters of a radically different practice.

I started by cutting up kari edwards’ a day in the life of p. and obedience with old journal entries and mashing them with that particular day’s experience of being a gender-variant queer stuck in a random mall job in the middle of suburban California. I shoplifted structures from that environment and stole overheard text. I was inspired by the idea of “files” or case studies as segments of a larger whole (The X-Files and Max Wolf Valerio’s The Testosterone Files), as well as by the idea of documenting my ongoing confrontations with gender assumption. I also wanted to expose and confuse my own trans-identification with consumer culture’s promise of providing the power to choose and create identity.

I decided to write and complete one poem per day in a rather rough and imperfect manner. After several months I had collected about 50 some pages of Spiderboi’s journey, a character that draws from the power of the Spider and the Web as well as the popular Spiderman, a young man bitten by a Spider (a symbol of creative, feminine energy) and thus transformed. The super-hero archetype became a way to explore gender transition and gender transformation in relation to the desire to be fully embodied.

In late 2007 and early 2008 I began the process of inking the poems out into panels. I was further intrigued by the idea of a graphic poem-novel and the “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” novels I remember reading as a kid. I wanted to explore the idea of “choice” in relation to gender (versus sexuality) by placing that choice in the hands of the reader in the exact places in which those choices were difficult for me.

The result is a living document of my first year living in San Francisco and identifying as trans. Through poetry, spoken word, graphic novel, web comic, and hand-sewn chapbook, the web of Spiderboi is the force-field a gender-variant person must build to envelop themselves in the strength that allows for change, individuation and transformation.

The Spiderboi Files, Volume 1 (Hand-bound using found and recycled materials, includes 5 panel poems), contains [rodent, [freebox cunt, [THE EMBARCADERO, [add your difference and [anachronistic. [THE EMBARCADERO and [freebox cunt contain cut-ups from kari edwards’ obedience.


Reviews

“Exploring Gender in an Unexpected Package” by Emerson Whitney | Hyperallergic (October 24, 2011)

Graphic Poetry Spotlight by Craig Santos Perez | Poetry Foundation’s Harriet the Blog (March 16, 2010)

Exhibition and Publication History

THE SPIDERBOI FILES, Volume 1 chapbook, Handmade/Homemade Exhibit 2011, Pace University, Westchester (March 2011)

[theridion grallator, [unisex and [princess or soldier (panels) in Masculine Femininities Zine, Issue 4 (December 10, 2010)

[nausea of night (panel) in Drunken Boat #12 (2010)

[berdache (text form) in Here is a Pen: An Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets (Achiote Press, 2009)

[cute little dyke (panel) in Queef Zine (Issue 1, 2009)

[rodent and [anachronistic, UC Berkeley Queer + Asian Conference Art Exhibition, Berkeley (May 2, 2009)

IT ALL STARTED WITH A BOY WHO COULD CLIMB WALLS AT NIGHT (The Spiderboi Files), Fresh Meat in the Gallery, San Francisco (2008)

Essays on Dance and Performance

buffalo

a constellation of humans

a constellation of humans

a process essay for building a buffalo directed by devynn emory

compiled from participants’ language & edited by jai arun ravine

notes: building a buffalo will be performed at Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD) in NYC on November 18, 2016 as part of BETWEEN LINES. image by Kristel Baldoz. learn more about devynn emory / beast productions.

 

we breathe inside compartments // but we trust each other // & we need bodies in a different way // in this way // we want to bring our queer // brown // spiritual // communities together // we want this performance to be a location // a gathering // we want to bring worlds & bodies together // we want to throw it all in one pot // we want to be expansive & take up space with our whole selves // we traverse the space between worlds but we also want to be in our bodies more // we want to open up the ceiling & come down from the sky // we want to fly // we want to sit & eat first for an hour at least // & sit & talk for hours after // we are birds // we are humming // we are recording this // we are remembering this // we’re taking selfies // we bring the energy of the people who can’t be here right now // we’ve been learning how to divest & how to say no but today we want to say yes // we’re thinking about the different shapes & structures for performance & how they serve the people involved // we’re thinking about what virtuosity means in a disabled // mixed // gendered body // we want more ways to orient ourselves in space // we’re an adult slumber party // we’re all in a clump // we recognize each other // we take this opportunity to think about our identities in a new way inside of this performance // we want an art practice that can grapple with our struggles in ways that are not only reactions or responses to conflict //

 

we are invested in how you // the audience // receives this & we’re hoping that you // the audience // is not predominantly white middle class // we want cotton candy & popcorn // good food // children in the space // more female body hair // less cis men in underwear // we want to karaoke // we want to look at each other & really see each other // we want no time limits // we want to be able to take a nap // we want windows & doors to throw open // we are allowed to have fire // we’re climbing // we’re jumping & jumping off things // we are intimate & expansive & free // we want to skype in // all the dead // we’re cuddling // the roof opens up // to the ocean // to stars // we’re keeping the fantasy in // we’re singing before you see // the sound is moving // 3s & 7s // slow fade up // oversaturation of light //

procession // purple light // we are the voice // we’re gonna start with singing // how much echo is this // what does a lot of echo sound like // placeholder // we’re stepping out to look at this // step one // we’re BAAD // change the orientation so it’s really wide // the deep way // we saw it the wide way // let’s pretend that’s what’s happening // that’s kind of not seen yet // coming from the basement // let it go a little bit before the polyrhythm // a flocking clump // in the blue light // in the rainbow sunset // let’s stop there // meander // fade out when we arrive // it’s possible in silence // amoeba // so where’s the audience right now // a clear break // silence not darkness // darkness not silence // did anyone watch the tiny iphone video in google docs // laughter //

 

what’s the method of the line // as a unit // pulling // tension // a slow turning away // should we try it again from the wall // should we try to do the same thing we did before // looking out & it was really nice to see their face // maybe not all the way // choose your own adventure arms // the same energy as // the line kind of breaks // immediately close the gap // dispersed // do you want to try it from breaking out // that time when // make eye contact // not make eye contact // touching someone // not touching someone // being on the ground // not being on the ground // constellations // stay in a constellation for a few moments // find a new constellation of humans // do you want to try or move through // let’s move from the break out // it’s your time to shine // how did that happen right now // that felt really awkward // let’s go from // variations of interaction // let’s go from constellation of humans #2 // once we start that’s your cue // the thing that comes after this // flumpish // depending on the night // people start exiting // hah hah hah hah hah hah hah // as a flump // join the flump whenever you want // leave the flump whenever you want // do you want people to exit the space entirely or do you want them to stay on the edges // can we talk through the whole structure before we do it // i would love to try it before we do it // do you want to popcorn it // a processional flump // what’s our relationship to the audience at this point // to answer your question // exciting to see everyone’s eyes // looking past // i think this can be really slow // gaze fixed // weaving // then you can just let it go // it seems that there wants to be // breathe as an organism together // i’m where i should be // it’s almost an embrace // but how would we see that // we can just be inspired by that // something that felt really nice // i’m making it up too i’m not sure // maybe what’s not working // when it folds in on itself //

 

i kind of want to go through it verbally from the beginning // we never finished our popcorn // i was imagining it whispered // either change something about the song or something about us // finding a huddle & then that one can dislocate // casual constellations // installations // if you do dislodge // but could it be // i really like that rhythm being constant // more range in the upper body // as a juxtaposition to a pattern // opportunity to interject other rhythms // like punctuation // quiet // or soundless // or quiet // overlaid on top of the voice // scattered trill // but within it i wanted to change more // what is it // where are you // the group doesn’t all have to shift at the same time // not everything has to start & stop at the same time // in what ways can things build or build out // it’s coming closer // how is the gaze different the second time you turn around // this thing is going forward & i can’t stop it but i’m going to try anyway // there almost had to be a response // i guess i didn’t have a feeling which one was right or not // contrasting interaction // loving & aggressive // soft & human // battlefield // grieving // animals // bodies & breath & sound // we could have switched one more time // observing is a nice texture // a lot of movement doesn’t have to be the only strong choice // who is this to //