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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.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


This is the third post on the process of writing poems triggered by a given line (ligne donne) which, by this time, would be recognized as a creative exercise as well as an effective trigger to a poem which otherwise could be "arrested" in the poet's blocked mind.

Forming as a series, these have taken the shape of quickly-written compositions. Because I am happy so far with the results of the process, I am posting them for evaluation. Will they measure up as poetry, or are they merely meditations-on-the-run? 

Here is Dave Bonta's given line (ligne donne) from his Morning Porch blog:

The snowpack glows in the soft, mid-morning light. A dog barks in the valley. The resonant knocks of a woodpecker opening a new door. ---Posted by Dave Bonta on Morning Porch, January 15, 2011 at 9:26 am (


Snowpack glows in soft mid-morning light:
As glaring as its empty monochrome, it wakes
The valley up to a frozen stasis---same day,
Same scarred skies, same sun, same snow...
Until a dog barks and snarls at some staccato
Of a stray woodpecker opening a new door:
Could be an early spring; how else explain
This interloper in this wet and weary winter?

--- Albert B. Casuga
Mississauga, 01-14-11

Morning Porch is Vimalakirti's Room, or Like the Tardis

I am posting the following as my manner of acknowledging Dave Bonta's assiduous work in his Morning Porch blog and his main work Vianegativa (  Rather playfully, I asked him if posting reaction poems in his Morning Porch would be overcrowding his porch, Bonta graciously replied: "This porch is like Vimalakirti's room: it expands to accommodate all visitors." Fellow visitor at the porch Luisa Igloria chimed in: "Or like the TARDIS." (Wikipedia was helpful in explaining what these places are.)

Red Trillium*

Trillium erectum

Wake-robin, red trillium,
stinking Benjamin: a three-faced flower.
It lives by subterfuge.
Its stem is really a scape,
its leaves are really bracts,
sessile, glabrous, cuneate
or attenuate at the base,
broadly ovate, with margins
entire & acuminate apex.
The rank-smelling, self-
compatible flowers alternate
petals with sepals, three of each,
& six stamens ring the single,
three-part pistil.
To us they are wake-robins,
flushed with good cheer,
but they tempt frustrated
Calliphorid flies with the scent
of a blood-red corpse,
& get pollinated for nothing.
Later they will lure ants
with an edible bait, the elaiosome:
a fleshy appendage to the seed,
itself inedible — designed
to be discarded in the colony’s
rich compost, & there take root.
So many masks!
Will the real Trillium erectum
please stand up?

---Dave Bonta
Commenting on the Bonta poem, his second in a series on spring wildflowers posted in his Vianegativa blog, I wrote the Pennsylvania poet and online poetry curator.

Bonta's meditations in his Morning Porch blog have served as given lines (ligne donne) to poems written by poets like Luisa Igloria---and recently this writer---but his springflower series is an exciting measure of what he can do with a full-bodied poem.

This satisfies curiosity of how his poems would stand beside his pithy meditative lines (veritable kernels of poetic thought). Here is my comment on Trillium Erectum:


In the red trillium, you have just created a perfect metaphor for human beings — Don’t we all really live by subterfuge? Born, we surround ourselves with defences against the vagaries of being alive. Quite a number of us live by our wit and wile, others by unabashed physical pulchritude, violence, disingenuous stances, fraud, and betrayal. Yet, we get by with the wake–robin’s good cheer, amass quite a lot of purloined happiness or power or fraudulent charisma—attractive ploys to feed unproductive greed—all for the graveyard, food for the worms, compost really.

While we have built civilisations to earn even an insignia of divinity, man has likewise built fearsome weapons of destruction, and—by profligacy and uncaring-recklessly-imprudent stewardship of a scarred paradise— the wrath of a pissed-off terra firma whose landslides, floods, viruses, O—a baleful of cataclysmic mayhem—have done us in, like those hapless ants, trapped together to rot in compost. Too late.

But by design, man is provided with “Trillium Erectums” as built-in caveats—subterfuges notwithstanding—that by our shadows we will not prevail. The true trillium erectum should still lie within homo erectus because he is homo sapiens.

* Dave Bonta in his Vianegativa blog on his spring flowers poems (an ekphrasis, since the poems are triggered by the photos of the wild flowers): "This is the first of what I hope will be a series of poems about spring wildflowers native to eastern North America, in response to macro photos by naturalist and blogger Jennifer Schlick. Even though Jennifer calls herself WinterWoman, and I’m quite fond of the season too, I figure a few of you might be ready to think spring thoughts."

Photo by Jennifer Schlick. Drawing is Dave Bonta's self portrait.

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