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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.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Studies For Poetry

A poem must be magical as a seagull.
-- Jose Garcia Villa, Selected Poems and New

1. Reasons for Imagery

Stars must be capable of violence,
Frogs eloquence, earthworms grace;
And Chaucer’s cock or Peter’s gaoler,
Endless crowing into bright space.

Search here ends where fire begins
To consume the log which must be
Unconsumed; the logs are ember;
But in the ken, the log is reality.

Reality as reality is not even sound,
But a thing for mutes to talk about.

2. The Balance of Thought and Emotion

Agility on the tightrope
Is becoming to the dancer;
No put-on teetering robs
The act of its exquisite danger.

What happens then to clothes
Stripped off the limbs slowly,
While dancer on air unloads
Daily fears and common pity?

Circus fares keep shorn rags
Like widows their memento mori.

3. The Creative Process

Trust trembling cups, Alejo, fashion
answers to questions asked of black coffee:
Why is the cup a cup not a reason
for us to forget this morning’s ennui?
If coffee must be itself and must be black,
why do I take it and ask how the cup,
empty as it is, can take the lack
of mass where form and coffee overlap?
It is the cup as master of the form
resolves the problem of St. Augustine.
It is the cup as mystic on the table
shapes the pain that stops whatever we are in.

Poets Jose Garcia Villa, Achibald Macleish, had their Ars Poetica. So should I.
Macleish's "A poem should not mean / But be." is faithful to the New Critic's concept of the poem as an art work that stands on its on. It also perishes on its own.
Villa says: "A poem must be magical as a seagull." How so? Listen to the sounds of "magical" and "seagull". Do they recall the gongs of the Shinto shrine that one must strike before entering the temple? Visualize the glide of the seagull. Poems should be made of these.
Existing as ontological creations, poems thrive on these: oxymorons, conceits, ironies, the magical chemistry of form achieving content and content birthing a form.
"Reality as reality is not even sound,/ But a thing for mutes to talk about."
Indeed, "Search here ends whre fire begins/ To consume the log which must be/ Unconsumed; the logs are ember;/ But in the ken, the log is reality."
What is a poem? It is the "cup as mystic on the table". It is the shorn rags of lovers kept by "widows like their memento mori."
"It is the cup as master of the form/ resolves the problem of St. Augustine." Can the entire sea be contained in a teacup? The entire universe of possibilities, indeed.

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