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.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Carousing was a ritual of passage in the city. Every night was a good night to fill our lives with what we thought we would miss soon enough. We would finish school – or not, drop out and become working stiffs – or just bum around hoping anxious parents would not throw us out of the coop because we wasted time acting like Kerouacs consumed by angst and emptiness. Beatniks were the 60s’ sacrifice in the altars of art and culture. Besides, living in the dingy, university-area dormitories in the vicinity of Aleng Mameng’s Carinderia inured us to a life of penury, humdrum, and terminal boredom. We were beatniks-manqué.

We were going to be Hemingways. Or Truman Capotes. Or Jack “On the Road” Kerouacs. Great poetry and fiction will stream out of our consciousness or un-consciousness (from liquor-guzzling stupor or dementia).

From the previous night’s burlesque salons, we would wake up with “immortal” verse like:


But in her agile belly dance I see you,
logic of my thirst, weed-like large
upon the dew, forever alive and handsome,
forever dying with the city as its jewel ransom.

Still prances the gilded female as feline,
And it is Monday’s dawn upon the froth of wine.

--- ( Albert B. Casuga --From In a Sparrow’s Time, 1990)

Then, we grew up. Or not.

It would take some time to be a Hemingway at a United Press International copy desk job. Will teaching high school brats help hone our sensibilities to be able to write fiction like Other Voices, Other Rooms? Maybe freshman English and Lit-classes would do it in the Benedictine-run college? Or the Christian Brothers’ De La Salle? McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Splendour in the Grass by Inge. Williams’ The Night of the Iguana. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Eliot’s The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock. These were gospel for us in the university.

But a writer was not a writer until he literally suffered anguish from the depths of despair that nothing will come out of this posture. Poseurs. Were we striving after wind?

That ligne donee, “striving after wind,” shaped a villanelle that one would regale an audience of wannabe writers, lads and lasses from the downtown universities, with one night at a place called Grey November. Poseurs who have taken over from one’s generation, they listlessly listened to my "dramatic" reading between their Tom Collins and furtive cuppings under table covers. Of course, one thought they would be impressed by “learning” that one drew inspiration from a villanelle-master called Dylan Thomas. John Thomas? One lad asked. No, that’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover – the coop keeper. Giggles. Verily, one was “striving after wind.”


--- All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it.

Malaise stamped on evenings like this ripens romance:
Wisdom becomes our sad bohemia, and we are clowns.
We laugh at what night disgorges --- the gilded askance ---

But night defines shadows twixt dancer and the dance;
We are cynics grown old, now satyrs of the lounge
Malaise-stamped on evenings like this. Ripens romance

When we, Simon-like, doubt wine and whore’s relevance?
They, too, have time who walk the streets, liven towns
We laugh at. What night disgorges (the gilded askance)

Hounds us, we them, arguing the grip of night and trance
Makes of us involuntary heroes but our bravura drowns,
Malaise-stamped, into evenings like this. Ripens romance.

Romance is talk of God and lady’s drink, a dash of Launce-
Lot, which, too, has time as we have time for cups and daunce
We laugh at. What night disgorges (the gilded askance)

This painful laughter? This wastefulness of remembrance?
We have become martyrs of meaning yet must be clowns
Malaise-stamped on evenings like this. Ripens romance.
We laugh at what night disgorges: the gilded askance.


Then, we grew old. Dull heads among windy spaces. That, indeed, was no city for old men. Eliot and Yeats still people our minds. Our hearts have become “lonely hunters.”

No comments: