My photo
ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Sunday, August 28, 2016



MY POEMS TODAY spell out my Ars Poetica as a practitioner of the literary art of poetry---the most venerable of the literary arts.

Like most literary artists, I restate my Ars Poetica as I write. This reminds me of an aesthetic which I may have defined some time ago in my The Aesthetics of Literature, a book I wrote for my literary theory and criticism classes at the De La Salle University in Manila. (ca. 1970s)

These poems, like those of poets Archibald MacLeish and Jose Garcia Villa, articulate my poetic credo. Describing the process, I also keep in mind the kind of poetry I deign to create.


It is a fiery birthing: after the lonely call
of the last gull that darts after the last
glow of sundown; after the sandpiper’s
song peters out to a lost bird’s chirp;
after all the images have crept under
these breakwater boulders to surface
perhaps as frenzied dancers casting
shadows swaying underneath this tent,
this caravanserai of dreams; after this,
on a throne of palaver, a fire-bearer
lights the torches that fence us all in.

Like Apollo’s captives, we cup flames
in our palms and sing polyglot hymns
to the beauty of words while we shower
our paths with pellets of fire, as we crown
the beggar queen with a flaming nosegay.


(An Ars Poetica)

Surfacing. We allow ourselves this one
salving act when every balm fails.

Bobbing up for air where it is rare,
we pray that this will hold long enough.

Enough for the moments at dusk when
we must dive again, submerge again,

into depths we know will one day hold us
down, and remain there to mend hurts

that in those magical spaces become
like pearls: prickly cutting dirt engulfed

into bivalved flesh that may in turn
become a magical gem from the agony.

Surfacing, we find ourselves some river
stream to rest with the rolling river stones.

Surfacing, we know we must go back
to the darkened depths, and like oysters

bear the pain cutting through our flesh
that we may surface soon with a new pearl.


Friday, April 22, 2016


APRIL 22, 2016, Philippine National Artist for Literature EDITH TIEMPO's 97th Birth Anniversary. Remembering a dear mentor and a literary giant.


Edith L. Tiempo, poet, fictionist, teacher and literary critic, was born on April 22, 1919 in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines. The daughter of an auditor who had been assigned in various places in the country, she spent her childhood and pre-teen years in Laguna, Pasig, Zamboanga, Surigao, and Samar.

Back in Nueva Vizcaya, she began corresponding with Edilberto K. Tiempo, then already a published writer, who had written a story with a protagonist named after Edith's older sister Arlynne. She wrote Ed Tiempo to ask for an explanation, and the exchange of letters began. Ed Tiempo would become the greatest, most enduring influence on her life and her writing. They both studied in U.P.--he took up his M.A. and she began her law studies. But after only one semester, they got married, went to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, and settled there.

Ed left for the States in 1946 on a fellowship at the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, and Edith followed in 1947, after she graduated from Siliman, magna cum laude.

They stayed in the U.S. a few more years to study and teach--from Iowa to Michigan, then Denver--then returned to Dumaguete. In 1962, they founded the Silliman Writers Workshop, the first of its kind in Asia, where many of the Philippines' best writers have honed their craft. They spent every single summer since then managing the workshop, even sharing their wedding anniversary celebrations (May 20) with the writing fellows.

University funding for the workshop stopped in 1992, and for the next thirteen years, the workshop continued through the efforts of workshop alumni, who formed the Creative Writing Foundation, Inc. and the Dumaguete Literary Arts Service Group, Inc.; with generous support from CAP College, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and various groups and individuals.

Edith L. Tiempo's influence as teacher of literature and writing is beyond measure. She is one of the finest Filipino writers in English. In the words of poet Gemino H. Abad, Edith has established a tradition in writing with “two distinguishing marks: a fine critical sense for language and poetic form, and a ceaseless quest for that synergy of idea and emotion by which the Filipino sensibility is most fully expressed.” Her poems are models of organic unity, each word inevitable, each line earning its keep. Her fictional characters are complex and memorable, a confluence of conflicting impulses and principles. When writing fiction, she always starts with character, even in The Builder, which she calls her most plot-driven novel.

She was conferred the National Artist Award for Literature in 1999.


A Blade of Fern (1978)
His Native Coast (1979)
The Alien Corn (1992)
One, Tilting Leaves (1995)
The Builder (2003)

Abide, Joshua, and Other Stories (1964)

The Tracks of Babylon and Other Poems (1966)
The Charmer’s Box (1992)
Beyond, Extensions (1993)
Marginal Annotations (2001)
Commend, Contend (Work in progress)

Introduction to Literature (Co-authors Dr. Edilberto K. Tiempo and Fr. Miguel Bernad), Manila: R.P. Garcia Publishing Co., 1980
College Reading and Writing (Co-author Dr. Edilberto K. Tiempo), Manila: Rex Publishing House, 1964. Revised editions, 1967, 1980

Six Uses of Fictional Symbols, University of the Philippines Press, 2004
Six Poetry Formats and the Transforming Image: A Monograph on Free Verse, 2008

National Artist Award for Literature, 1999
Various Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards and Philippines Free Press Awards in the short story and poetry categories
National Fellow in Poetry, UP Creative Writing Center, Manila, 1992-1993
Negros Oriental Centennial Commission Award for Outstanding Negrense in Art and Culture, jointly with Dr. Edilberto K. Tiempo, 1991
L.T. Ruiz Professional Chair in English, 1981-89
Outstanding Sillimanian Award, August 28, 1989
UMPIL Award-Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas jointly with Dr. Edilberto K. Tiempo,1988
Focus Magazine Special Citation in Poetry
The First Leon Kilat Trophy, jointly with Dr. Edilberto K. Tiempo, as Distinguished Citizens of Negros Oriental in the field of literature, 1987
Cultural Center of the Philippines First Prize in Novel, His Native Coast, 1979
Elizabeth Luce Moore Disitnguished Asian Professor, 1977-78
Region VII Award of Recognition in Poetry, 1975

*(Reprinted from the Edith Tiempo Blog)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

back cover blurb for language of ashes

"Language of Ashes", Joel Pablo Salud's first collection of his poems, is worth spending precious life time on. I know I have scarcely any left---physical, spiritual, even literary--- but I find reading his poems a delightful jolt (he would call it "orgasm", not afraid to use all forms of linguistic figures to capture his poetic "meanderings" --- no, not "rants") for their breadth of content and sagacity (audacity?) of style and unobtrusive technique. He describes this book as a collection of love --- and he has them aplenty, the poem for his wife Che being stellar; viz., "Your love/ So strangely swirling without shore/ Binds me to you---a feather or a wing/ Heart beat among breasts of honey." In "Song for Eve", (feminine mystique, really), he sings "...words mean little when set against/ the cuddles of suns in your eyes... how can all this be a thing too odd/ when men love more richly because of you?" It is lyrical and romantic lines like these that made me squirm with envy. Oh, that I could have shed all restraint and burst into unbridled warbling in my poetic diction! Yet, he writes: "I cannot for the sake of brevity/ Impose my will on a word..." for he declares in his ars poetica --- in "I Write" --- "I write to sculpt/ creatures, dye their/ eyes with metaphors/ primrosed by time." Indeed, his metaphors could easily be "over-the-top" were it not for their coalescing into a clear gestalt of imagery when he writes finis to a poem. This is an unerring mark of a gifted poet. Mr. Salud's collection is a stout collection of poems on persons, (writers Nick Joaquin, Edith Tiempo, F Sionil Jose, Jorge Guillen, Dylan Thomas, Che Sarigumba), politics and culture (in "Oremus", "Mendiola Massacre, 1987"), engaging musings on themes poets are never caught without, Indeed, he admits" "It is the wreckage of a soul/ where poems reign." That would even involve poems of vomits, inebriation of assholes, the naked and erotic, and bravely whimsical use of street language that en fin would sound poetic---beat that. "I am not a spool/ Of blunt words,/ A gathering of moss-eaten/ Homes, fallen trees/ And the roots of manes/ Where ingots coalesce/ Brooding and frozen." I shall not torture this "blurb" with a book review or even a critique --- not yet --- I eagerly look forward to reviewing it, and finally criticising it for its literary merits in order to establish its rank as a poetic achievement in his country and internationally. This book is that good. I have read a number. ---ALBERT B. CASUGA, Canada

Friday, April 1, 2016



A condition of stillness pursues you,
wherever you find your exile, at sea
or in any exploration. You will be there.

It is your image on the mirror: an old
longing for the simplicity long lost
in the shuffle of life, loves, and losses.

Every wave that beats on the ballast
asks: Are you happy at last? Will this
outlast the lingering left-over dread?

Out there where waves break at the edge
of the firmament of quiet stars on stars
you can see through moving darkness.

Where have all the pains remained?
On what shores did you neglect to load
them, overstaying albatross of gloom?

Your heart leaps with the bobbing bow
and stern, and you whisper a prayer
drowned quickly by the sea. You laugh.

They cannot haunt you anymore than
dead memories can bear you down.
You have built a mansion of dreams.

You have been here before, haven’t you?
Exploring the depths of what happiness
you could grab, you will hold them.

You will never let them slip away; you
have earned them. In this brief exile
on the sea, would you hold on to this

sudden grace of simple stillness?
Will this still simplicity pursue you
wherever you roam? Come home then.




(For Joanna Allas-Fojas's Pier Photo)
They will not break though
waves may lave and years may find
them when rot sets in.

---Albert B. Casuga

Sunday, February 14, 2016


MY POEM TODAY was prompted by a post by KATE BOWLER who has written on God and the faithful, the Prosperity Gospel, and Death. She has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer and she wonders why the God she is faithful to rewards her faith with this illness.


(For Kate Bowler and all the Faithful)

He said it first: after this death,
there is no other. It is peremptory.
But a world without a memory,
is as final as it can get without you.
Will it be a place where love is free?
Magical, except you can’t come back.
The pictures will be on the walls,
as mute as the hooks they hang on.
They will not talk to you, they can’t.
Even if they could, they would not.
Even if you have become the cobweb
wrapped tight on the broken frames,
you would not have been there. No.
You are not part of the furniture.
Like dust in abandoned houses, you
will inhabit the nooks and crannies,
and would not be disturbed until
termites take over. Too late then,
because you are not even a remnant
of temps perdu, you are lost in time
and in space; even among the stars
and black holes, you are not there.
Like the sound of a single hand
clapping, you will not be heard.
The first death is always the last.


Saturday, February 6, 2016


MY POEMS TODAY ARE ON "EXTINCTION". These poems were prompted by a post on "Where have all the flowers gone?" Man has caused the sixth extinction which started as early as the 1700s.


It’s when I’m weary of considerations,/ And life is too much like a pathless wood.../ I’d like to get away from earth a while/ And then come back to it and begin over.../...Earth’s the right place for love:/ I don’t know where it’s likely to go better. --- Robert Frost, "Birches"

If you marvelled at the dance of the Northern Lights
Counterpointing the smouldering plumes of ashen smoke
Billowing out of an Eyjafjallajokull cradled by melting glacier,

Or quietly scanned the opal horizons of Banda Aceh swathed
In a glorious sunset chiaroscuro before the waves claimed
Atolls and infants back into the rip tide roar of that tsunami;

If you were ambushed by an unforgiving temblor that rocked
Haiti out of its romping in reggae regaled beaches turned
Into common graveyards of carrion crushed under rubble;

If you have walked through cherry-blossom-strewn streets
And smiled at strangers’ hallooing: How about this spring?
Before rampaging twister funnels crushed hearths and homes;

If you have strolled and danced ragtime beat on Orleans’
Roadhouses rocking rampant with rap and razzmatazz
Before Katrina’s wrath wreaked hell’s hurricane havoc;

If you still marvel at forest flowers as God’s fingers
And espy sandpipers bolt through thicket cramping marsh
Before infernal flames crackle through Santa Barbara’s hills;

If you have stolen kisses and felt purloined embraces
In the limpid ripples of Cancun’s caressingly undulant seas
Before the onset of the curdling spill on the playa negra;

If you braved the stygian stink of Ilog Pasig and sang songs
While harvesting floating tulips, debris, or stray crayfish
For some foregone repast before it turned into River Styx;

If you have lived through these and now blow fanfare
For Earth’s being the right place for love or maybe care,
You might yet begin to accept that Mother’s lullabies were

Also her gnashing of teeth when you wailed through nights
When slumber would have allowed her love not tantrums
Of infants grown now and “quartered in the hands of war”:

How else explain the wrath of days descending
not into quietness but pain? Has she not kept her anger
in check for all the tantrums of the Ages: Thermopylae,
Masada, Ilium, Pompeii? Hiroshima, Auschwitz, Nagasaki?
Stalin’s pogroms? The death chambers and Holocaust trains?
Polpot’s killing fields in Kampuchea? Rwanda’s genocide?
Before it lured tourist trekkers, the verboten Walls of China?
The Berlin Wall? The Gaza Wall? Fences of n.i.m.b.y.
neighbours: India and Pakistan, Iran and Iraq, splintered
Korea, the Irelands shorn of the emerald isles, the fractured
United Kingdom where the sun has finally set on its Empire,
the still haemorrhaging American southern states crippled
and still unyoked from black history but seething now
from the African-American’s irascible entitlement ---
With Zimbabwe’s apartheid, Congo’s rapes, Ethiopia’s
hunger, Sudan’s ceaseless putsch tango, Somalia’s piracy
trade, tribal wars in Uganda, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya,
will blacks overcome someday, soon? Only if they, too,
would get munitions from Venezuela’s bottomless vaults
gurgling with black gold, aceite y petroleo, and Oil of Ages.
Lubricator of the war and killing machines, in Oil we Trust.

3. End Times? It is here. Stop It. It is late.

On its tail is another wild wind to mop
Up, where the living would rather be dead
Than build sandcastles on islands gobbled
By the hungry sea that must claim dominion
Over the Ring of Fire, and Mother Earth
Can only yell: Damn it! Why puncture the sky,
To heat her armpits, with radioactive leftovers
Of Hiroshima, and the galloping horsemen
Of an unbridled Fukushima paying back
The land of Enola Gay and the hangar of a dark
Dirigible, a Negro Saviour, whose Eastern name
Will not stop the death and dying of civilisation
In Atlantis and now the rigour mortis of Mu?

4. The Deluge Reprised.
(Beware the melting of the Arctic).
A Deluge comes. Only this time, we have no Arks
Nor Ararats to salvage all who hope to find
Another Blue Planet in an extended Universe.
No one has applied to be a Noah. They are all,
All retired and tired of saving a ruthless specie,
The homo viator whose journey brings nothing
But a discovery that he has lost the Love he had
For all the meek who shall inherit the Earth.


Thursday, February 4, 2016


MY POEMS TODAY ARE ABOUT AGEING AND HOW people respond to the process. This effort was prompted by the blog post of Janet Weight Reed on her take on ageing. (See her post right after this in my Timeline, and in her "My Life as an Artist (2)".)

(For my Life Partner in My Twilight Years)

"And these few precious days, I'll spend with you....these golden days, I'll spend with you. ---September Song"


"Ah, to be old and a mariner come upon that restful cove,/ Where the final weapon is a chair not love;/ To be old, cher ami, is a gallant slouching on that chair/ Some porch of the heart grown insensitive to care ------ “Houses are Better Off Without Porches Here”, From my "A Theory of Echoes (Selected Poems)", UST Publishing house, 2009)


Sitting on her Florentine chair
Atop the red-tiled stairs, the sirocco
Breeze playing with her ivory hair,
She awaits her turn to say hello:
A caudillo-like half-raised wave
And a schoolmarm’s smile on her
Waxen face, a smirk at times to save
Her some chagrin falling off a chair
While she wags childlike to say:

"Blow a kiss to your window-waving
Girl, say au revoir for now, and pray
That as she grows up, won’t stop loving.
"And they do grow and go away,
And you’d be left sitting on a chair
Wondering why they have flown
Like swallows, and hope would care
To come back and perch at sundown."

“Favorite spot,” Nguyen Cao Tran pointed
To the bench on Lincoln Green before
He waved me bonjour the Montreal way.

“Favorite spot for wife and me…drink
Tim Horton Coffee from across,” he winked,
Now unafraid his accent might betray
A Viet Minh rasp from Saigon days,
A shrapnel buried on his nape: “Still smoke
Camel sticks from GI Joe friend in Frisco.”

He looked away when I remembered to ask
About Nguyen Bao. “Isn’t she walking
With you this morning? It’s spring, mon vieux!"

He mumbled: “She gone…far away now,”
And shuffled away, his knapsack slung
Like a rifle crooked on his flaccid hand.

A single cup of Roll-up-the-Rim teetered
On the bench the next day while I waited.
No cups on the ground, the bench was naked.

"Caminare. Fare una passeggiata.
Eh, come stai?" She shot back looking askance.
Perched birdlike on her stroller, she inched
Her way to the middle of the cul de sac ---
Where I tarried, a wide wave our ritual,
I called out, "Come va, Nonna?"

Her andador tilted off the cobbled strada,
She stared blankly, but smiled nonetheless
In the courtly manner she never failed to show
To neighbours and strangers alike.

Her sallow skin becomes her regal face,
I thought, but the same face furrowed,
Her eyebrows arched impatiently then;
She demanded: "Are you the police?
Or are you my son with a Florida tan
Hiding as usual from me? I called them
From 2441 because I could not find
My house, nor my keys. Was just walking,
Was just enjoying the sun for once.
Crazy Calabria weather. Rain. Sun. Wind.
Sun. Snow. Cold. Hot. Aiee... Who are you?

“2441 is your house, Nonna. And you have
A daughter who will be here tomorrow.
And this is Mississauga. I am Alberto
With the nipotes Chloe, Louie, & Marie at 2330.”

"Aieee...dolce angelo! My angels.
How are they? E come va, amore mio?
Caminare. Fare una passeggiata.
O, com `e bello, O sole bello!
But you will help me find my home,
Won’t you? Won’t you? Amore?"

A lilt on her voice, she flirted rather coyly.

(Para mi Madre)
Los pajaritos están dejando su nido;
el invierno de su vida ha venido
tan muy temprano!

Mira! Mira! Madre mía.

Tan fuerte ahora, sus pájaros
están volando a puertas desconocidas;
están volando tan lejos para que
nunca jamás devolver y quedar en la casa
de corazón triste, ahora casa abandonada,
nida desolada, madre mía.

O mi madre querida!


“I just wish your Father would come and take me soon. I am tired,” Mother said and closed her eyes. --- From a Visit to Poro Point, Writer’s Notebook, 2009

The flannel blanket was an armour:
it shielded me through nights I needed you
to defend me against the onslaught of day
when I had to rise to know
that the children were all in bed last night
dreaming their dreams or fleeing nightmares
where flailing they fall from precipices
and you were no longer there to catch them
nor were they there to fall in your arms.

Even the sunrise assails me.
I beg for sunsets now and nights to hide me
from the rush of day when finally I ache to see
them home and you beside me asking
how I made it through my day.

When will you come to take me home?
The flannels have shrunk and, threadbare,
They could no longer keep the intruding light away.

*All alone, always
An Excerpt from a speech I addressed to some senior citizens in our City of Mississauga: "Like the troubadour who has earned his meal at the table, I will sit down now, hoping someday I may again find myself among you, reading poems about today and some of my impressions of you and I growing yet older not only in aches and pains, but also, and more importantly in wisdom, love, and spirituality. "
Excerpt from a song: "You and I will travel far together/ Watch the evening star together.../ We may never get to heaven/ but it's heaven at least to try."
Excerpt from William Wordsworth's "Ode to Intimations of Immortality":"Whither is fled the visionary gleam/ where is it now, the glory and the dream?/ Though nothing can bring back the hour/ of splendour in the grass, / of glory in the flower, we will grieve not,/ rather find strength/ in what remains behind."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


MY POEM TODAY (02/03/2016) was prompted by a post on having faith that the first step of a ladder leads to another whether one sees them or not. Martin Luther King was quoted by Minnie Roiles in her Come Out and Shine post earlier.
Why must one believe? How can one believe? Why believe in Life, Love, and Letting Go? Why and when must one make his leap of faith, or not at all?


When the torch of desire burns clean
you would have learned all there is to learn:

To give, Datta. To feel and care, Dayadhvam.
To own and control, Damyata.Therefore,

To love beyond all loving because it is pure
like the mother suckles her infant. Give.

To know when caring will make things grow
like the raindrops nourish but will not sting.

To have and to hold even when that lashes
irreducible hurts to weary hearts that care.

It is for this that, naked, we halloo in the rain,
Let it come! Let all desires fill our dry vessels.

Then we wake to the warm caress of the Sun
for the day is always new, the flower lovely.

Is not the rose lovelier when its thorns sharpen?
Does not the potter’s knife need its razor edge

to pare the lips of the wine jar and smoothen
its mouth that lovers may drink to full desire?

Bare your body then to its wild abandon, salve
it with the cool spring water now welled

from the earth, and open your mouth to kiss
the sunlight, defy the anguish. Never say, not yet.

Let it come! Let the leaves fall on this Upanishad,
because the leap of faith is never to say Not yet.


My take of the answers I might give to those posed by Prof. Simon Blackburn in his The Big Questions, Philosophy, 2009, Quercus Publishing, Plc,, London, UK. Mr. Blackburn is a philosophy professor at Cambridge University in England.

Monday, February 1, 2016


MY  POEM FOR TODAY (02/01/2016). It is a poet's constant dread. The poem will be stillborn. So one plays for time. Wait for the surprise that creation is. One recalls the decapitated Orpheus nailed on the lyre, singing still. There must be a song arrested in his throat. The poet plays for time, a zeit schinden. Sometimes, the poem dies in the waiting.

ZEIT SCHINDEN (An Ars Poetica)

If playing for time is idleness regained,
a game of dunking Orpheus’ head
in a pot of boiling water would indeed
buy us the song screaming to drown
silences that are midwives to poems.
Did not the head nailed to the lyre
sing still of the beauty that was Greece?
What does it matter that limbs are shorn
from limbs in prurient violence?
A paean in darkened rooms is still pain
that seeks its balm in threnodies
muted now as dirges for the final quiver
of the song arrested in his throat,
a stillborn sigh that could have been
the dying gurgle of our descending
into a sandbox of absent games
and players gone and quietness fallen.


(Drawing by Matisse)