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.

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