Friday, July 23, 2010
From time to time, we come across good poetry that we are compelled to share with readers and the rest of the literary world as an exemplar of what should be written and read as "poetry" as opposed to a welter of mediocre and even thoroughly bad verse being published as "poetry" in both print and world-wide-web media.
A teacher's old habit of presenting models gauded me to write this post which, however, should primarily be read as my admiration for Luisa Igloria's poetic skills.
On the Difficulty of Discerning Shapes in the Distance earns quite convincingly its label as poetry. Its content (subject, theme) dictates its form and its ideographic format achieves its content vice versa.
A rhapsodic limning of desire, longing, nostalgic aching, and a resignation to an absence, this poem uses aptly chosen images to objectify and subjectify these furtive thoughts and immense angst for lost love that must finally find its surrogate either in indelible memories or those "Only let me keep what I may."
They are "little oases of language" that keep these go on "living, ...just as we go on living." What distinguishes this imagery from what could otherwise become maudlin is the author's use of lines like: "As we rise with first light, impelled/ by the thin pencil stroke of salt in the air,/ herbal and almost sweet, making importunate demands. What's dark/if not the catalyst of desire?" This juxtaposition of "first light" and "dark" makes palpable the transformation of familiar odours (bedroom scents suffusing rooms and sheets still) to the tugs of desire in the dark as a "particular failing, to beg intention from such fleeting randomness,/ the overexposed and seductive."
The poet, a skilled dress designer and maker, impresses with her use of images from this trade: "scrim of trees" ( an alignment of trees fencing in or out a space), "eye of the needle" (a painfully narrow path for an avalanche of longing and desire), "orange linen threaded through its halter" (a prime colour, orange --- not red --- expresses not lust but a robust wanting objectified by this linen thread passing through its needle's halter. Again, a restrained but erotic image nevertheless.) . All these collateral images concretize, as it were, the "fleeting randomness" of seductive remembrances "purchased" now in palpable memories "to tether and bind at cost." Will this amour last? Pray, let it stay longer.
But "someone knocks at the a gate/amd is let into a courtyard. Little children/ come out to slide in cardboard boxes/ down the cobbled lane." This is reminiscent of the tug on the harness of the Robert Frost horse while stopping by the woods on a snowy evening --- he cannot stop forever marvelling at the "woods (being) lovely dark and deep...But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep." Reality is an interloper. The children will play their carboard games.
The exquisite pain or hurtful pleasure are in the persona's plaint: "What have I held/in my arms and loved?" It is "light" above fenced-in-houses "that strikes the first or last chords trembling the leaves." Ending in mundane wakefulness, this is the persona's "difficulty of discerning shapes in the distance." But distance, of course, gives the persona a "distance-given-right-to know" in the words of Philippine poet and National Artist Edith L. Tiempo. Either way, both dread and longing are realities. Realities will wake the somnolent up. And all fall down.
"Only let me keep what I may." Like "Once in the night, like a weather vane/ I turned to the sound of another: warm breath in my ear/ mouthing a name; rivulet folded back in water." The need will be sated. A "rivulet" will quench this thirst. But that, too, will fold back in the water. The stream will flow on forever toward a sea that engulfs a universe of longing, desire, need, pain, angst, and an unending supply of wishing.
Seen as a poem-on-the page, the meandering lines recall the ebb and flow of the sea waves. The rivulets rejoin the sea. They are part of the water again. A fleeting reverie dies, the doleful world supplants it. As an ideographic aspiration, this form has its roots in Ancient Chinese and even Zen poetry. The truncation of lines where key substantives are (console, body, sod, trees, living, we, impelled and all the way down to the final line "rivulet folded back in water" that makes the discernment of shapes in distance truly difficult) may not have been consciously intended by the poet, (she certainy has done it intuitively through her language and images) but this is the case where the content is shaping up the form, and the form shapes up a receptacle for the looming content. As in pottery. Yes, New Critics called it: "achieved content."
Luisa A. Igloria is the better poet for her use of content and form that objectify a wisp of an experience into a palpably affecting aesthetic experience. But I do not want the reader "to miss the many splendoured thing," by more hermeneutics.
Luisa A. Igloria was born in the Philippines and
received a PhD in creative writing from the University of Illinois. The author of ten poetry collections, she received the 2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize for Juan Luna’s Revolver. She was chosen by Ted Kooser as the recipient of the 2007 James Hearst Poetry Prize and by Adrienne Rich for the 2006 National Writers Union Poetry Prize, and she was a finalist in Narrative’s First Annual Poetry Contest. Igloria directs the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, Virginia. (From Narrative)
Luisa A. Igloria (previously published as Maria Luisa Aguilar-Cariño) has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, The Missouri Review, Poetry East, Smartish Pace, The Asian Pacific American Journal, and TriQuarterly.
She has received various national and international literary awards including the 2007 49th Parallel Poetry Prize (Bellingham Review, selected by Carolyne Wright); the 2007 James Hearst Poetry Prize (selected by former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser for the North American Review); the 2006 Richard Peterson Poetry Prize ( Crab Orchard Review ); the 2006 Stephen Dunn Award for Poetry; Finalist for the 2005 George Bogin Memorial Award for Poetry (Poetry Society of America, selected by Joy Harjo); the 2004 Fugue Poetry Prize(selected by Ellen Bryant Voigt); Finalist in the 2003 Larry Levis Editors Prize for Poetry from The Missouri Review; Finalist in the 2003 Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press); a 2003 partial fellowship to the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg; two Pushcart Prize nominations; and the 1998 George Kent Award for Poetry.
Originally from Baguio City, in the Northern Philippines, Luisa is also an eleven-time recipient of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature (the top literary prize in the Philippines) in three genres (poetry, nonfiction, and short fiction); she has also been inducted into the Palanca Hall of Fame. She has published 10 books including Encanto (Anvil, 2004), In the Garden of the Three Islands (Moyer Bell/Asphodel, 1995), and most recently Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, fall 2005.) Trill & Mordent was a Runner-up for the 2004 Editions Prize, the recipient of the 2005 Calatagan Award from the Philippine American Writers and Artists organization, a nominee for the 9th annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards (poetry category) in 2006, and a nominee for the 2007 Global Filipino Literary Awards (poetry category). (From Panitikan, ph.)
Imprimatur: (Following is this writer's comment sent to Ms. Igloria's Blog "The Lizard Meanders" asking for permission to republish her poem (published by Narrative).
The deep ambiguity of this poem had me spinning looking for the object of "the dark catalyst of desire." A love poem, no doubt, it could be a remembrance of someone, something dead but un-dead "making importunate demands."
Then someone knocks at a gate --- "what have I held in my arms and loved?" This new one, this surrogate, strikes the chords "trembling the leaves." Will this amour last? "Only let me keep what I may." The "warm breath in my ear mouthing a name" is the "rivulet" come to sate the love thirst. But it does "fold back in water."
Luisa, what a powerful last line. What a lovely, lovely love poem.
May I publish it in my lit blog with an analysis of its poetic equipment and a critique of how it achieves its content through its truncated lines and conceits (I saw the Narrative lines.)?
As always, you write excellent poetry. Congratulations.
Mississauga, July 23, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Welcome to the official website of Doveglion Press.
Doveglion Press is an independent publisher of political literature and orature. We are committed to publishing aesthetically diverse and challenging works of strong artistic merit.
Doveglion, the pen name which Jose Garcia Villa crafted from the dove, eagle, and lion, is a fantastic and hybrid creature, signifying the writer’s ability to embody multitudes, and from splintered selves, to reinvent, and to reconstruct him/herself anew.
Future projects include a semi-annual print journal, interactive blog with rotating guest writers, and an audio/video gallery.
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of “manifesto” is as follows:
1. a. A public declaration or proclamation, written or spoken; esp. a printed declaration, explanation, or justification of policy issued by a head of state, government, or political party or candidate, or any other individual or body of individuals of public relevance, as a school or movement in the Arts.
intr. To issue a manifesto or manifestos.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the manifesto, particularly that I don’t see many. Last year, the Poetry Foundation featured a series of poetic manifestos, and really, one of the only ones I found interesting was Thomas Sayer Ellis’s “The New Perform-A-Form: A Page Vs. Stage Alliance.” I have previously written in response to Ellis’s manifesto:
I commend him for really expanding and exploring that space between page and stage and speaking to the the perception that performance is lowly and undisciplined. This in-between space I believe most of us really do inhabit; for me it is something more like a spectrum between page and stage. Within this spectrum, we don’t occupy a fixed point.
This was written by Barbara Jane Reyes. Posted on Wednesday, July 21, 2010, at 1:29 am. Filed under Preview. Tagged manifesto, Thomas Sayers Ellis. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments here with the RSS feed. Post a comment or leave a trackback.
1. Anisa wrote:
Hey Barbara, I haven’t attended nearly enough spoken word performances, but I have come across this discussion, and people who believe spoken word and poetry are two different animals– spoken word being beneath poetry.
Recently I bought a copy of Willie Perdomo’s “Where a Nickel Costs a Dime” and was blown away by the beauty of his reading on the disk that was included. It made me think of the Kerouac recordings– some of my favorite.
I don’t see why the two should be viewed as separate.
When was the last time we had a Yevtushenko galvanizing the surging feelings of audiences? What’s wrong with replicating the lyrics and music of the Beatles as performed poetry? Let’s get Dylan Thomases reciting in street corners or T. S. Eliots busking in the subways.
Poetry, among the literary arts, had its furthest reach when first composed and recited by poets in Ancient Greece or China. The “academy” ,unfortunately, has contributed to its stagnation as a “perfomed” art. Poetry barely lives through plays like those of Shakespeare. Should it find its ultimate demise in lazy prose ramblings disguised as poems because they have truncated lines that find no use for music, rhythm, and charged language?
Let me find time to write a contribution to firm out a Poetry Manifesto which is much needed at this point when charlatans think a pile of words (sans evocative images frequently) or a succession of rhyming or alliterative sounds make for poetic “rap”.
An Ars Poetica must, indeed, be posted on every door of every closet poet who need not be afraid that he his writing for an absent audience or an indifferent barbarian throng.
Doveglion Press is a significant addition to online blogging when printed poetry has practically died in academic literary journals. Curiously, however, some of the online poetry blogs have resorted to charging fees for considering poems during their reading periods. (Ah, the almighty dollar!)
(En passant, “Have come. Am here.”, Garcia Villa’s ontological “rap” need not remain as a cathartic poetic orgasm. It is an ars poetica.
ALBERT B. CASUGA
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 4:46 pm Permalink
Yes, to disconnect “spoken word” and poetry is to be ahistorical. I tend to wonder if “spoken word artists” consciously take on this label to separate themselves from these long poetic traditions (of various cultures, not only English and USA-American poetry), because in that separation, there’s more perceived freedom to write without others’ expectations to bog down the artist.
Finally, Albert, on “have come, am here” as ars poetica! Yes!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 6:30 pm Permalink
1. Doveglion: Manifesto : Barbara Jane Reyes on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 1:37 am
[...] all, so I am also blogging at Doveglion Press. My first post, “Manifesto,” is here. Doveglion Press is still finding its legs. An inaugural project is in the works; I promise to say [...]
2. Intuitive Intertextuality » Blog Archive » Dovelgion - The online poetics journal of Oscar Bermeo on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm
[...] first post Manifesto is already generating some nice discussion which is exactly what we’re looking for. I hear [...]
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Monday, July 19, 2010
I am immensely pleased to find that the succeeding generation (see my blog post on my son, Albert Beau writing poetry in an earlier life) has taken up the lost cause of literary writing in a world of pulp and insipid vampire stories.
Rev. Albano wrote me to introduce our literary successors: Dear Albert, PAX! Wanda and Louise are my young nieces who want to be literary artists. Both are Ateneo grads. Wanda has MAs in Comparative Literature and Creative Writing. She is in NY solo. Brave heart. At last I get to read her work. Excellent read, I think. Well-crafted short-short. What say you, hermano? I have yet to send her my comments. Nothing from Louise (yet). It's just three of us in the clan interested in literature.
I am sure Father Paco was responding to a reading of my post on my heir-apparent, unico hijo Albert Beau's poetry.
To his email, one of his periodic literary missives, I dashed back a note that I wanted him to on-pass to Wanda. I have, en passant, heeded the challenge of Fil-American writer and creative writing professor Barbara Jane Reyes (PAWA Inc. Blog), to "be wind beneath the wings" of emergent writers from the Philippine-American ethnic diaspora.
"Hermano. I like the story very much. It could have been a poem. The central image of the desktop computer is felicitous. A life of building, trials, caring, memories --- what better objective correlative (theme in fiction) is there? Thank God, Wanda still believes in the short story's structure --- you know, expostion, initial action, complication, denouement. It is a successful short story, and a bonus in getting to the bottom of the autobiographical material being the compleat description of their disintegrating vinculum. What can I say? It is a story that I would have wanted to write myself!"
"Roadtrips and Endings" is a story in many levels. It is the slice of life unwritten in the brief prose which struck me as the "story behind the story". Sad. Masterfully written. I empathize with the broken heart moving away in a roadtrip and the endings left on the curb of a deskstop computer that was not brought along. Left behind. Now dysfunctional. Memories still intact in its derelict hard drive. A death on the street curb, on a dreary and humid afternoon like this. Some rain should fall soon.
The reader has been warned. (Those who still subscribe to E. A. Poe's short story structure will delight us still with their stories that tell stories. You know, like grandmothers, dads and moms, still say: And they lived happily (or sadly) every after.) To my readers, I am proud to introduce Wanda, who has allowed us to reprint this story which was first published, she said almost apologetically, by a "small literary journal in good old Brooklyn."
MY HUSBAND was not someone who would ever claim to have read Tolstoy or Proust for pleasure. When his mind needed a book, he went to Asimov or Bradbury, or Gaiman and the occasional Moore. He read Wired rather than The Economist. He played World of Warcraft in his spare time. He was on Linux before he was on Windows.
He was different from the other men I had dated. He was practical. Quiet, but not with the smoldering, simmering intensity I had come to expect from silence. Staunch, but with a firmness unlaced with arrogance. Instead, he was shy in a matter of fact way, because to him it was the path of least resistance. He took everything in stride, was seldom ever flustered.
At first, I didn’t know how to handle his stoicism, his almost stubborn lack of drama. Now I recognize how similar we actually were. Together, we inhabited a space that had been cleared of the debris of previous entanglements, emptied of the chaos of past emotions.
That isn’t to say that we kept secrets, because we never did. There was no cause. Instead, we held the various pains and sufferings up to the light, displayed in stark, naked glory, each put in its place. Deprived of mystery or shadow, drama never seemed able to gain a foothold. There was too much objectivity, too much plain logic. He was just that kind of man.
I used to imagine that this clean, open-minded pragmatism was the cornerstone of our equilibrium.
I used to imagine that this equilibrium anchored me.
One afternoon, in our flat in Forest Hills, he came home with a bulging duffel bag slung over a shoulder, his delicate, long-fingered hands clutching a much battered cardboard box. He poured the contents into the carpet of our bedroom floor: cables, wires, plastic and metal and copper things.
“You’re going to build a desktop,” he told me, smiling.
We did this on occasion. I would buy him a book that I thought he might like, which he would then read, but we knew it was only to please me. He would explain the inner workings of the virus mind, and I would listen and nod my head, but it was only to make him feel like he had taught me something, that our intertwined lives served some higher purpose.
That weekend, I sat on the floor and began the trying task of assembling a computer from various spare parts culled from office storage spaces and friends’ garages. He was meticulous, and I tried to be patient. We discussed the special uses of this new thing which we were to create. What kind of sound card would we need? What kind of video? How fast did it need to be? How much memory? What programs would it need to run? What OS? The project soon took a life of its own.
We modified everything that could be modified. We adapted a hybrid cooling system that integrated special fans and water-filled tubes. We tested different motherboards. We clipped and extended wires, wrapped and twisted copper into intricate braids, scoured the discards of even more geek-friends. He tested various open-source software. Our only rule? We would not spend a penny.
It took a few days, but when it was done, I felt like I had given birth to a child. There it was, an enormous desktop carved from scraps and refuse, assembled by my own hands. We gave it pride of place in our apartment. I used it everyday until we had to move.
We decided to move to Las Vegas.
I don’t remember the intricacies of that conversation. I don’t remember the paths that may have unwound in my mind. But I do remember telling myself that if nothing else, it would be different. Interesting. Another chance to push myself out of my ever-shifting comfort zone. Another piece of the world to see.
The day we were supposed to leave New York, we stared at the computer we had once built. It had been painted a riot of purples and blues and reds – my idea, a sort of brand to claim it as my own. The behemoth had now been unplugged and disconnected, stripped of any kind of function. It lay uselessly in the greenhouse, surrounded by the other discards of our lives.
“Let’s take it with us,” I said finally.
“I guess we could try,” he replied.
We hauled monitor, keyboard, and tower out to the garage. We had created this, I kept on telling myself. Each piece had been carefully selected from the rubble. Each bob and bit and copper wire inspected, cleaned, and modified. We had picked the colors. We had installed and adapted its programs. It was a repository of unbacked-up code, of forgotten stories, of unfinished poems, of the beginnings of memory. In this thing – this lifeless heap of odds and ends, we had poured pieces of ourselves.
We lay the various parts on the sidewalk. I opened the door to his car.
The backseat was so full, I feared that moving even the tiniest thing would cause this tangible manifestation of our years together to collapse, like a house of cards. This was the puzzle of us, I thought. Books and speakers, pillows and paintings, geeky little figurines. Separate little things, piled up on top of each other haphazardly for no other reason than the fact that they had to be moved.
My life and his, unravelled to a puzzle in the back of a car.
And the desktop we built continued to lie dispassionately on the side of the street. It wouldn’t,
couldn’t ever fit. So we simply left it on the curb.
WANDA “MITA’ ALBANO, a Brooklyn, New York-based writer, is a third-generation progeny of the Albano clan of Isabela, in the Northern Philippines. A graduate of Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, she has MAs in Literature and Creative Writing. This blog has had the honour of publishing the poetry (in Spanish) of her grandfather, Don Francisco Albano, Jr., and her uncle, Rev. Francisco R. Albano, a poet and seminary rector in Isabela. She lives in New York and is working on her first novel.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
MIGUEL SYJUCO'S CANADIAN DEBUT: A ROMANCE THAT GOES ON...AND ON...AND STILL WAITING FOR THE COLD CRITIC'S EYE.
The Toronto Star's post publication review by Alex Good (July 11, 2010) appears to be a hard-headed look at Syjuco's novel. "Dysjunction and indeterminacy are Syjuco's aim...some parts, like the series of lame gags involving a character called Erning, don't appear to have any point at all. Others like the running commentary on contemporary Philipine politics, seem to belong to another book... The resulting loss of focus makes it hard to keep straight what Ilustrado is finally supposed to be about...This confusion is compounded by the shifts in voice and tone...For all its unevenness, there's no denying Ilustrado is a good first novel."
(Please click on the image to zoom on the text.)
Will Syjuco's sheen last? From the fallout, he seems to have arrived, the debut novel notwithstanding.
Miguel Syjuco hopes to teach some time or the other after his doctorate, preferably at world-class McGill University. That might help with his literary aspirations. With the single novel, assuming it will continue to sell, he could have enough to fund other novels, other voices, other rooms, but literary nevertheless.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I thought I would publish them now, or they will forever perish in the limbo of other interests my progeny have gone into. All my five children are reasonably literate and immensely expressive of their opinions (on everything from pebbles to diverse Weltanschauung), but none of them ventured into creative writing in their adult years. Wisdom and empathy for my creative agony (rarely ecstasy) must have taught them to steer away from this pain-in-the-you-know-what artsy fartsy urgencies that would ultimately not amount to a pound of beans. Good thinkers, these kids.
But once upon a lifetime, I ached to see one of them improve on my chosen art, and write the best yet seen in the realms of poetry, the queen of the literary arts. Maybe in another life. But for the nonce, here are Albert Beau's poems. I learned much from them. Even felt pangs of guilt and missed moments of knowing him as he grew up. I hope it is not too late.
The tenth and final poem in the collection is my favourite. "The Man at the Hill", I suspect was about me, addressed to me, and I should have been more attentive to his plea: "O man who is at the hill,/ Please come down and remember me..." I recall the one time Albert Beau and I sat on a slope near his school's track and field at T.L.Kennedy High School in Central Mississauga. I must have been lost in the maze of onrushing thoughts about the magazine I was editing for the Metroland Publishing's leisure and entertainment periodical, SMILE. He sat silently, impassively, ahead of me on the mound, preoccupied with his own thoughts (he never really talked to me about them. He kept them to himself when he was sixteen. He still does at 43. I wonder if I really knew my son, then. Do I really know him now? I wonder if my own father, the late Francisco F. Casuga, ever asked that same question, too, when he wondered why I wrote what I wrote when I was in high school myself. As editor of the school paper, The La Uinon TAB, I did sneak a poem into the tabloid's literary pages (monopolized the column inches, I realise in hindsight). But I concede, without reservation, that upon re-reading my son's poems when he was 15 or 16, that he wrote better ones than I did at the same age --- I could understand his poems, I could not decipher mine.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Not in this anointed urn before me are you, Mama;
Not in unchained elements of your ashes,
Once mode of your body and heart and mind.
Where is your spirit now but in freedom
Of earth and sea, sky and wind -- god-like
Nowhere and everywhere undefined, uncontained?
Where are you, Mama of stories and prayers,
Model of forms of kindness that brought
People to enlivened faith and hope and caring?
I break this silent vase with this poem of tears --
Your real presence explodes in fiery holiness,
Enfolds me with light of memories of love and home.
The taste of your milk is on my tongue,
That made us one: Madonna and Child.
--- FRANCISCO R. ALBANO
I am publishing this poem (reprinted from his blog Pax Vobis) with a prayerful wish that my own mother, at 88, would consider this poet’s sentiments to be the exact, same thoughts I have, and hope that from this distance she would read them, too, while she is still with us. So "death shall have no dominion."
In a comment I affixed to the poem via Multiply, I wrote Fr Albano:
“This is a beautiful poem. La Pieta reversed. The juxtaposition of physical and metaphysical creates a tension that achieves your theme.. Bless her soul who inspires great utterance. Albert”
Saturday, July 3, 2010
DYED ON WASHLINES IN DHAKA
1. Impressions Dyed in Red
Swatting flies off the sahib's table,
Slapping bloodsuckers off the soft skin
Of money changers in the Dhaka alleys,
Dumping discarded foetuses in rivers
Curdled with carcasses and dung:
All in a day’s work of a boy in Bangladesh.
Beating dread into brittle skeletal backs
Of scampering beggars, howling slumdogs
Praying for mercy while batons are rained
On loins to supplant the eked out alms
That could have bought this lad’s repast
Coming out of sweatshops drenched
With dye that reeked with bodes of dying:
All in a day’s work for the Rajah’s riot police.
Impressions swathed on mud-splattered
Garments strung in shanty town washlines
Wound tight on gnarled branches of trees
That will not grow beyond this lad’s height
When he creeps out in the night toward
The hills these armed bastards have driven
Him to, and he will come down a grown man
Of wraith-like limbs and dark sunken eyes
Burning with wrath and towering anger.
2. Looking Back in Anger
Decapitating the governor and his paramour,
He lisps: All in a day’s work for the child-slave
Who prayed for them to stop dumping batons
On his mother’s back: “Hit me! Beat me instead!”
They spared the splayed old woman grovelling
Atop a mound of scavenged used diapers
But did not think the better of him that time,
This waif, this little boy, running through
The streets begging for a little more rupiah,
A little more dried squid or corn for siblings
Around his table. The riot police jeered:
Eat shit, you little shit. Eat this rattan stick!
All in a day’s work for police and lads in Dhaka,
The proud city of Bangladesh, where label
Shirts of Tommy Hilfiger, Grenadier, Chaps,
Yves St. Laurent and Ralph Lauren are made.
---ALBERT B. CASUGA
July 3, 2010, Mississauga