Friday, August 31, 2012

Roots

It's been awhile since I last read anything in my mother tongue, if it can still be considered that.

Here's a link to a free download of a publication of progressive writing, called Kilometer64. The issue is about the Ampatuan Massacre of 2009. It contains a mix of Filipino and English and Maguindanao writing. I liked several poems, including "Parada ng mga Bayag (Tugon sa mga Panawagan Nila)" by Lolita Go and "Follow me on Twitter" by Rustum Casia. It feels weird to critique poems based on style when their content is the point. But the style of these poems remind me of Jose F. Lacaba, who's one of my favorite poets who write in Filipino. He also writes sardonic pieces that are rooted in current events. My favorite poem of his:


Ang mga Kagilagilalas na
Pakikipagsapalaran ni Juan de la Cruz

Jose F. Lacaba

Isang gabing madilim
puno ng pangambang sumakay sa bus
si Juan de la Cruz
pusturang pustura
kahit walang laman ang bulsa
BAWAL MANIGARILYO BOSS
sabi ng konduktora
at minura si Juan de la Cruz.

Pusturang-pustura
kahit walang laman ang bulsa
nilakad ni Juan de la Cruz
ang buong Avenida
BAWAL PUMARADA
sabi ng kalsada
BAWAL UMIHI DITO
sabi ng bakod
kaya napagod
si Juan de la Cruz.

Nang abutan ng gutom
si Juan de la Cruz
tumapat sa Ma Mon Luk
inamoy ang mami siopao lumpia pansit
hanggang sa mabusog.

Nagdaan sa Sine Dalisay
Tinitigan ang retrato ni Chichay
PASSES NOT HONORED TODAY
tabi ng takilyera
tawa nang tawa.

Dumalaw sa Konggreso
si Juan de la Cruz
MAG-INGAT SA ASO
sabi ng diputado
Nagtuloy sa Malakanyang
wala namang dalang kamanyang
KEEP OFF THE GRASS
sabi ng hardinero
sabi ng sundalo
kay Juan de la Cruz.

Nang dapuan ng libog
si Juan de la Cruz
namasyal sa Culiculi
at nahulog sa pusali
parang espadang bali-bali
YOUR CREDIT IS GOOD BUT WE NEED CASH
sabi ng bugaw
sabay higop ng sabaw.

Pusturang-pustura
kahit walang laman ang bulsa
naglibot sa Dewey
si Juan de la Cruz
PAN-AM BAYSIDE SAVOY THEY SATISFY
sabi ng neon.
Humikab ang dagat na parang leon
masarap sanang tumalon pero
BAWAL MAGTAPON NG BASURA
sabi ng alon.

Nagbalik sa Quiapo
si Juan de la Cruz
at medyo kinakabahan
pumasok sa simbahan
IN GOD WE TRUST
sabi ng obispo
ALL OTHERS PAY CASH.

Nang wala nang malunok
si Juan de la Cruz
dala-dala'y gulok
gula-gulanit na ang damit
wala pa rin laman ang bulsa
umakyat
        Sa Arayat
                      ang namayat
na si Juan de la Cruz


WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
sabi ng PC
at sinisi
ang walanghiyang kabataan
kung bakit sinulsulan
ang isang tahimik na mamamayan
na tulad ni Juan de la Cruz



I've been thinking about language lately, wishing I could write as easily in Filipino as I do in English. To be cut off from your own tongue is to be so much poorer.

But really, whenever I try to read anything in Filipino, I end up feeling impatient, viewing the language as onerous and indirect. Instead of the world clarified by language, it feels a little obscured by it. Maybe I'm just not finding the right works. Or maybe I need to review my diminishing vocabulary...

---

In terms of poetry in English, however, I didn't realize how much I've been influenced by fellow Filipino writers until I paged through locally produced anthologies and found a certain kind of stance or feel that I echo in my own poetry. I didn't really study poetry with much enthusiasm in college, but I read a pretty wide variety, especially in certain classes: women's lit, filipino lit, gay lit. I also encountered a sampling of latin american, singaporean, and anglo-american poetry.

I came to love poetry after graduating, under a poet-professor who taught us a different way of reading. So tradition-wise, I can say I follow in other people's footsteps, unconsciously, without even knowing other kinds of poetry exist.

And in a way, that's the box I'm trying so hard to escape now. If I only read certain kinds of poetry, other kinds--mostly experimental, a bit surreal--are just incomprehensible to me. And when I am trying to revise my own works, I end up going back to what tradition dictates as "good": mostly very spare poems with a central concept that unifies the images and metaphors.

I'm still trying to be less linear and rational in my own poetry, but I feel as if every poem I produce must be something I can defend, something I can explain. I still can't let a poem just be.

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