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, May 6, 2012



When I culled the Graffiti Poems together (Graffiti Poems 1-8) for the final day of the National Poetry Month (April), I was asked by Ohio poet Hannah Stephenson if I took pictures of the graffiti that triggered these group of poems (about 24 of them).

I went back to the Glen Erin Park near my home at Fifth Line West, Mississauga, and found these graffiti still legible on the pathway, walls, and trees they were sprayed on. It is a bonus from my daily walks (mandatory constitutional after my heart was fixed with a pig's valve some 9 years ago).

I admit that I am not half as skilled as a photographer than as a writer (poet), so I must apologize for these photos. Besides, using these digital cameras daunt me like the dotard and technological dinosaur that I am. I did some fixing on the gallery because the pictures were over exposed (sun was still blazing at 5 p.m.). 

The Pictures

"Voice" was the first graffiti on the pathway a hundred yards from the entrance to the park. Voice what?

Next, after another 50 yards or so, came "Love". I was intrigued from the beginning with its start---Voice, that reminded me of the popular and recent "Occupy" mantra.

After another 50 yards, "Peace" was sprayed near a garbage drum. The "communicator" is definitely trying to say something "dramatic", I convinced myself. Curiousity getting the better of me, I followed the direction of these graffiti.

A short distance thereafter, I saw the first park bench sprayed with "You Are Beautiful". A poem started germinating in my mind. A story of someone pleading for his love and asking for peace, and cajoling with "you are beautiful" teased my busybody yarn-spinner mind no end.

Atop a toboggan hill overlooking a Nursery School, at its ascending slope, these two trees were sprayed with the words "WILL YOU".

The topmost tree right smack in the middle of the hillock was the word "WIFE". Somebody has found a new way of proposing, I assured myself of a poetry prompt to end all prompts.

My camera could not pickup the two words here on these trees on the back slope going back to the pathway on the east. "BE MY" were painted on these two.

The word YOU is clear on this fifth tree. And on the last two trees on the northwest slope of the hill (see below) were the faded  words MARRY ME? (This was the graffiti seen earlier by this writer on his first ascent on the hill. That time, I made out the words: WILL YOU MARRY ME?

My subsequent climb revealed a new addition. From the first five trees sprayed with graffiti, there were now seven marked trees. The last two on the topmost promontory, were BE MY WIFE? I gathered there was a new message: WILL YOU BE MY WIFE? A more recent, a relatively more distinct spray. Two messages then? The first was WILL YOU MARRY ME? The last, using some words from the earlier trees, had to be WILL YOU BE MY WIFE/

I put on an extra hat here. My Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson alter egos insisted on a mystery here. Hence. the fictional element of my Graffti narrative which featured an impregnated lover pleading, WILL YOU MARRY ME? But I suspected, these plea must have come from a proposing lover. But the recent WILL YOU BE MY WIFE? had to come from the swain. Could he have absconded earlier when he knew about a positive "Frog Test" (which introduced the word FROGS in some of the Graffiti poems) painted on a nursery school downhill. He ran off to pursue his ambitions, and ran away from a responsibility to be a father and lover?

The abandoned lover, the pleading girl who asked WILL YOU MARRY ME?, goes it alone, bravely. Raised her child who becomes the headmaster (no gender adjustment here for a female) of a nursery school. And the rest is spread throughout the Graffiti Poems which I chose to end with a vengeful denouement which showed the absconding impregnator making it through Harvard but descends into the depths of a fraud that ruined him, lost his inherited wealth, got him jailed, and now a tramp, a homeless peddler of drugs and condoms, a wasted man, a defeated man who finally dies on that park bench where he must have written his first YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL bench graffiti and his last WILL YOU BE MY WIFE? after all the years, and he needed to be loved.

Too late the Graffiti. He dies. A stiff corpse on the bench in Graffiti 8. Just as he tried to redeem himself with that last graffiti WILL YOU BE MY WIFE? he croaks. The poem's persona says: "He is dead. The bastard."

Now, I have done two things. I wrote a narrative poem with a a hoary lover story/jilted lover/vengeful lover/repentant lover/lost love/ad nauseam thread, and used all types of poetic equipment from the Sonnet to the aubade, to the lyric, to all that poetry can throw on something that "may still be readable" in the slowly-dying literary art of poetry.

I trust I contributed to poetry's resuscitation. May it continue to be vibrant. In the last NaPoMo, I know I am not alone in this dream that is devoutly to be wished.

Nevertheless, much ado about graffiti? Why not? It is the primitive form of Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet.

It might be a good project to start talking about how a poem comes about if prose keeps on invading poetry anyway.


Hannah Stephenson said...

I loved reading about this, and your process, Albert. What a cool discovery...I love what you did with it.

Secret messages from the world are very helpful.

To complete the circle, now you have to paint your Graffiti Poems on neighboring trees....or at least leave them on these benches!!


Thanks, Hannah. Will you visit me in the slammer should they catch me spraying them (imagine complete graffiti poems!)? LOL. See you at The Storialist.

Vani said...
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