Confessions of a Reluctant Book Author – Manila Bulletin
Through Pablo A. Tariman
In December 2021, my first collection of poetry, Love, life and loss: Poems during the pandemic, will be out of the press.
This month I will make my debut as a poet in the anthology published in Singapore titled Best of Asian Poetry 2021. I can’t believe I’ll finally be a book author at 72!
When did my love affair with poetry begin? On Bicol Island in Catanduanes, where I was born and raised, I read Edna St. Vincent Millay and Walt Whitman courtesy of an American Peace Corps volunteer named William Keating.
In college at Manuel L. Quezon University, I wrote poetry in the college publication Quezonian.
In 1971, my first published poem appeared in the Sunday Times Magazine. It happened like this:
Someone dropped a coin, the needle
Lifted and a polyphony of sounds came
Blasting in the early morning.
whether, whether …
I thought the lyrics struck a chord
Rich in human experience. The lyrics could
Be pure people’s poetry if only the
The machine would calm down a bit and give
Your ears take a break.
In search of words of wisdom …
Good wording, indeed! it could have been
Russell or Goethe spoke. This
It reminds me of Aiken whose thoughts
Lost in the depths of the deep sea
Would end up in the long labyrinth
Confusing corridors, dead ends that
Somewhere along the song I asked:
Who am I? Why has life become so bad?
What is good and what is bad?
Then I heard the last line:
So be it.
After 50 years, in 2020, I started writing poetry again during the long lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I wrote almost every day. I heard good words from Internet users that I barely knew.
At the end of the year, my poem “Ode to Frontliners” appeared on a marker dedicated to health workers. It was unveiled on my birthday (December 30) by the mayor of Pasig, Vico Sotto, with a special program with brass bands.
Two days after Joe Biden’s inauguration as President of the United States, my poem, “A Poet is a Lonely Hunter,” appeared on famed young poet Amanda Gorman’s FB timeline. I greeted her with this poem.
Two days after Joe Biden’s inauguration as President of the United States, my poem, “A Poet is a Lonely Hunter,” appeared on famed young poet Amanda Gorman’s FB timeline.
In February 2021, I was one of the speakers at the University of the Philippines (UPB) Baguio Symposium on the topic of Poetry in a Time of Pandemic. At that time, I had written about hunger on the streets, how people lost their jobs, and my personal reaction to how the government was handling the pandemic.
I would like to thank Fara Martia Manuel-Nolasco, President of the UPB Culture and Arts Committee, for giving me the opportunity to talk about my pandemic experience through poetry. The theme of the UPB symposium was “demja”, which in Ibaloi means “to open your eyes after a long time”.
I linked to the theme because my modest production of poetry during the pandemic was literally an act of reopening my poet’s eyes after almost 50 years of silence. I could tell that my second literary life, ushered in by the pandemic, changed dramatically during the lockdown.
My poems noticed the empty streets which brought temporary peace and quiet to the neighborhood. I thought of the people lining up at the pawn shops and unemployed breadwinners facing hunger in the family. I was deeply touched by the news of this boy who offered his school medals for sale so that he could feed his family. I paid homage to the townspeople walking and cycling back to their hometown for days. I did not spare myself. I wrote about my own mortality and what I would do when it was my turn to be hospitalized or taken to the nearest crematorium.
In other words, I lived through people’s fears to write about their hopes and simple coping mechanisms. I faced death for what it was and how it changed the landscape of the living and the dead.
A poem, “The Heart of Fury”, has gone viral and has aroused strong reactions from Internet users. I was incredulous by the overwhelming returns of my poem “Mourning Without Words”. It has been loved by over 6,000 Internet users and shared by over 3,000 readers and with over 3,000 reactions and comments.
It is a good consolation for those who have not touched poetry for almost half a century. When I stopped to look at what I posted on FB, I suddenly realized that I had already written almost 400 poems in 18 months. It wasn’t a shocking thing. I don’t like to count poems. But I know it’s a good start to move forward and explore the heart and soul of poetry. I know I can still improve myself.
(The author’s first book, “Love, Life, and Loss: Poems during The Pandemic”, is published by Music News & Features with cover photography by Carlo de Leon, book design: Jennifer Patricia A. Carino and review by Elizabeth Lolarga Early copies of the author’s edition are priced at 1,000 including delivery For booking and delivery details email [email protected] or send an SMS to 09065104270.)
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