Sunday, September 30, 2012

Word on the Street

Attended the Word on the Street in Vancouver Public Library today. I got several poetry books in a range of prices, and listened to W.H. New read from his new book YVR, while my little sister got some comic books. And we ate fresh corn with cheddar cheese; its scent brought us back to the past so very sharply.

Here's a bit from Jen Currin's "Orange Flowers" from The Sleep of Four Cities.

Do you find it strange
that the designated dreamers
disown their dreams after waking?
They slip into their crumpled second personas
like yesterday's clothes
and step into a day that will not foot/fit the bill,
a night that reaches for the stars
crisp as the smell of rain
in a blackened room.

And another bit from Jordan Scott's "Filiform" from Silt.

orbits left by the tide
stalled in the rock lip breath
pinniped carnivora
neck and ribs hunting in the cavity of Horus
marrow in the bone driftwood
care for the chinook wind
ear for the sea surge
slack murmur:

the tide will be       in
kelp will rise
crabs move in stone

I'm so happy to discover new poets. (Gillian Wigmore, Chris Hutchinson, Patrick Friesen and Calvin Wharton)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Periodic Table of (Canadian) Poetry

From the QuArc magazine. (New Quarterly 119 and Arc 66)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Something I liked: Nautilus by Joy Harjo

This is how I cut myself open
 --with a half pint of whiskey, then
there's enough dream to fall through

                       to pure bone and shell
                       where ocean has carved out

warm sea animals,

                             and has driven the night
                             dark and in me

                                             like a labyrinth of knives.

from She had some horses
(not sure about spaces, as I hand-copied it from the library.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Modpo, et al.

There's an online course on modern poetry that I'm following. I haven't decided yet if I will just audit it, or commit to the assignments. So far, however, the fare has been interesting, things I never knew before, probably because I did not study poetry in an American-centric way. (Or in a chronological, movement vs. movement way.)

The only division I'm aware of in the Philippines is Art for art's sake vs. Art as social document thing, which apparently is still a thing. Aesthetics-wise, I think our poetry is pretty settled, more Dickinsonian than Whitmanian, (depends on poet of course) and following the principles of Imagism, Formalism or New Criticism. I am not stating this from a position of authority, just from observation of published 'canon,' a couple of vivid courses, including a poetry workshop, and from reading contemporary works in an online journal.

I could be wrong.

Anyway, as a reader, I like Whitman more than Dickinson, but as a writer, I tend towards Dickinsonian myself. Or is it wrong to pick a side, given that neither were really present in my formative years? So what poets did I read as a kid?

We had a book of Jose Garcia Villa's poems, and studied some Shakespeare and EBB in school. There was an online poem that I practically memorized called "Dark Angel." (Ah. That was my Wiccan phase.) I was maybe thirteen. I also remember liking a poem by Czeslaw Milosz called "Hope." I was fifteen/sixteen. Then I discovered Ginsberg's "Howl" and was smitten.

Philippine culture is not really a reading culture. I'm hoping things have changed since I left, but the poets pretty much know each other because they studied together or attended the workshops together, and aside from required literature classes in college, they pretty much read each other too. It's a little insular, and the standards therefore are a little more difficult to circumvent. The best of them are aware of contemporary poetry the world over, and they read vast amounts, but being where they are, they know the big names. Anthologized names, poet laureates, Nobel prize winners.

At a bookshelf at a chain store, there are so many unfamiliar names I didn't know where to start.

My own poetic journey is uneven at best, and because I'm not part of any academe, I only have myself as motivation, and I'd be the first to tell you I'm a lazy bugger. The Modpo course certainly helps, and I still have to read through "Lives of the Poets" and maybe bits of the Norton Anthology I own, plus all sorts of anthologies and collections. I have amassed a library's worth of books, and I have yet to really dig into them. Some of my favorites: Palanca Award Winners of Poetry 1980s, Wesleyan Tradition, Rocksalt, The Iowa anthology I just bought, and the Modern European book. I also liked the book Scanning the Century from the library.

List + Notes

Books that arrived in the mail
E San Juan Jr's Sutrang Kayumanggi and Balikbayang Mahal: Passages from Exile
The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries edited by Reginald Shepherd

From a secondhand bookstore
Selected Poems by Octavio Paz
Oedipal Dreams by Evelyn Lau
(+ 2 fiction books)

Still waiting for
Returning a Borrowed Tongue
The Craft of Poetry: Interviews from New York


Yes, I know, it's an addiction.

I admire ESJ for his prolific and expansive cultural work, and I admire his skill at mixing traditional Tagalog lyricism with contemporary events, but it's too political for my tastes, especially when he name-drops activists who haven't crossed my radar at all. He did write about a former professor of mine, who had passed away. I bought the books because I felt like I needed models for more contemporary Tagalog writing, but I'm not sure how helpful they will be. There are some poems that I liked, though. And I love that he writes translations in English, and that I can see both versions and appreciate the nuances lost and retained.

The Iowa book is great. Some familiar names that I encountered in that Verse Book of Interviews. Lots of beautiful and difficult poems. Challenging forms, syntactical rebellions, and a really varied offering of what is termed "hybrid" poetry, I guess. Still not sure how they manage it, but between this and (still) reading a sci fi book, I got inspired to write a couple of drafts that experiment with form.

Haven't really gone through the Paz and the Lau volumes, except to say that Paz' expansive forms may have seeped into what I was writing as well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I got drunk on the letter home
     spilled a   few words
like rose petals they bloodied
     up the      space
I must have told you more
     than I can  stand

this modern standard
     faster than laser beams
        against invisible walls
where our senseless      selves
     are   rearranged

leave me in   the dust
     a brand name   tattoo
        fading on skin

let us sober up one by one

come and find secrets    green
     and grave
come and pirouette on floors
     that tremble
leaves in the storm      fire
     and gold and ash and stone

what else is there to brave
     this modern standard
        shrank the map and zoomed
the eye    to encompass the world

I always crave
     more than I had
        more than I can   stand

Christine Fojas
a sort of free-written draft inspired by translated song lyrics of a foreign song