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.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I am mining the blog for possible book materials, upon suggestion of a quondam confrere at the old university.

The University of Santo Tomas Publishing House is inviting writer-alumni to contribute to the publication of 400 books to complete the project in commemoration of the university's 400th anniversary in the Philippines.   The Dominican-run univerity is one of the oldest universities in the world.

Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, herself an alumna and a notable Philippine writer, has taken over the project as the present Director of the UST Publishing House. Dr. Hidalgo, a retired professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines, returns to her Alma Mater to complete the 400 Books for 400 Years Project.

This author's A Theory of Echoes (A Selection of Poems) was published in Febrary 2009 as part of the project started by then Publishing House Director Jack Wigley.

Taking stock, I will be back before long. I think.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Toronto Star's Publishing Reporter Vit Wagner rounds up his reports on Canada's three major and most prestigious literary prizes today with the announcement of the $25,000 Governor General's Award for Fiction. Winners in the $50,000 Scotia Giller Award and the $25,000 Rogers Writers' Trust were announced earlier this month.

The Winners:

Scotia Giller: Johanna Skibrud, The Sentimentalists
Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize: Emma Donoghue, Room
Governor General Award for Fiction: Dianne Warren, Cool Water

This blog celebrates Canada`s nod towards its writers with the reposting of the following portfolio from Wagner who concludes these reports with Lessons of the Book Prize Season.

(Please click on the images to zoom on the text.)

The Governor General Award

The Rogers Writers`Trust Prize

The Scotia Giller Award

Vit Wagner thinks there are some lessons to be learned or confirmed during Canada`s fall book award season.

Give us your feedback.

The National Post came out earlier with its predictions, which also confirmed the disappointments of Star`s Wagner and critics of the awards.

Of curious interest was the shuttting out of the Man Booker awardees from the winner`s ring, except for Donoghue who won the Writer`s Trust Prize.

(See earlier blog post on Giller`s long list which ignored Philippine-born Montreal writer Miguel Syjuco`s Ilustrado, an earlier favorite according to Wagner.)

For a list of prize winners, check  the Governor General`s Awards website at

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Traje de Boda: A Review

Traje de Boda: Poems by Aileen Ibardaloza is a big debut poetry collection for its slim size (71 pages).

Fearless in its breadth (themes of historical archetypes, knotted loves, truncated lives, Jungian palinodes, bridled erotica, and an avid exercise of literary pastiche from glossa to hay(na)ku (tongue-in-cheek haiku-variant transformed to “hay(na)ku”, a Filipino interjection akin to bluster sighs of omigod! Good Lord, or simply Oh My!).

This collection is a mosaic shaped into an intriguing tapestry by a fearless literary pasticheuse.

It is mainly a celebration of betrothal, weddings, nuptial habiliments and fashion woven into the context of history (viz., Filipino hero Jose Rizal writing a farewell note to his dulce extranjera --- beloved foreigner --- on his day of execution), remembrances of iconic mothers, fathers-giving-away-daughters-in-weddings, and the ineluctable (also inscrutable) changes of lives from house furnishings to migration exiles.

Ibardaloza is most sensitive to these generational changes in a poem dedicated to her mother, “The Hay(na)ku of the Broken Fourth Wall.” Without sounding maudlin, she limns in the hay(na)ku structure (an invention of Philippine-born American poet Eileen Tabios, and also the Meritage Press publisher of this debut collection) the saga of two women --- Ysabel and Cecilia --- who take diverse paths from a genteel colonial past to a ravaged contemporary life of struggle and guile in a gated-mansion that would find itself converted to a bar.

The Philippine-born Ibardaloza, now Northern California based, regales in her use of the new-found hay(na)ku like a student showing her teacher-sensei-maestro, how adept she has become.

Nevertheless, she is at her best when she uses longer lines, her free verse capturing a more lambent spirit, a more urgent voice: In “Palinodes”, she is unafraid of neither erotic images nor recondite allusions. “We regret each other/ ‘s li(v)es./ Particularly the one where/ a phallus rises up/ out of the hearth fire,/ an Etruscan mother-right.” Lies and lives confirmed and denied. The ambiguity is a distinct poetic skill.

She has not, however, mastered the use of the “glossa” in the poetic verve that Canadian poet P.K.Page used it. “Road Trip (A Found Poem)” falls short of the demands of this form which uses quoted lines as ligne donees (given lines) of poems developed from them. This is an equivalent of the Ekphrasis which springs from a picture or a visual image.

In her “After Eileen Tabios’ Footnotes to the Virgin’s Knots by Holly Payne”, the footnoted lines would have served as the given lines whence the poems would spring. This is how the glossa works. Ibardaloza missed that.

Ibardaloza ‘s real voice is what she uses in poems like “Across the lonely beach we flit/ Like shorebirds, lingering. Wind and/ water brush against sand and sky. I / feel the sand beneath me. / You engage the wind. I/ follow until you are unseen to me. / I will wait for you/ here, where waves break toward/ the shore. Hear my call, rare wanderer./ I will love you then.”

A poet who can write a love poem is a poet, indeed. This poet can write love poems (see “For Paul,” and “Eve of St. Francis.”)

Ibardaloza might just be missing where her voice is most authentic --- she seems to be obsessed with her narrative use of the hay(na)ku (a three line stanza that starts with one word, followed by a two-word, and sandwiched by a three-word third line. The classical haiku is made up of three lines with a 7-syllable line enveloped by a first and third lines of 5-syllable each).

A debut collection like Traje de Boda promises an impressive future for a young poet like Iabardaloza, a microbiologist by training, but the caveats of a sustained poetic life still lies in how she matures beyond fascination with “novel” equipment for her aesthetic experiences.

An authentic poetic voice and an achieved aesthetic experience are among these caveats she should heed while she could.

Mississauga, November 14, 2010


traje de boda

Poems by Aileen Ibardaloza
ISBN-13: 978-0-9794119-8-4
80 pages
Price: $16.00
Distributors: Meritage Press and Lulu

Meritage Press is delighted to announce the release of traje de boda, a first poetry book by Aileen Ibardaloza.

Aileen Ibardaloza is a poet and memoirist who first trained as a molecular biologist. She grew up in Manila, and studied and traveled around Asia and Europe before joining her family in the United States in 2000. She was married in 2009; she and her husband live in the San Francisco bay area. Also the Associate Editor of Our Own Voice Literary Ezine, her writings appear in various online and print media including Manorborn; 1000 Views of Girl Singing (Leafe Press, U.K. and California, 2009); A Taste of Home (Anvil, Manila, 2008); Fellowship; Moria Poetry; and Galatea Resurrects.

Eileen Tabios (born 1960) is an award-winning Filipino-American poet, fiction writer, conceptual/visual artist, editor, anthologist, critic, and publisher. Born in Ilocos Sur, Philippines, Tabios moved to the United States at the age of ten. She holds a B.A. in political science from Barnard College and an M.B.A. in economics and international business from New York University Graduate School of Business. Her last corporate career was involved with international project finance. She began to write poetry in 1995.

Her poetry career:

Tabios has released sixteen print, four electronic, one CD poetry collection, an art essay collection, a poetry essay/interview anthology, a novel, and a short story book.[2] Tabios has created a body of work melding transcolonialism with ekphrasis. Inventor of the poetic form called "hay(na)ku," she has had her poems translated into Spanish, Tagalog, Japanese, Italian, Paintings, Video, Drawings, Visual Poetry, Mixed Media Collages, Kali Martial Arts, Modern Dance and Sculpture.

Tabios has edited or co-edited five books of poetry, fiction and essays released in the United States. She also founded and edits the poetry review journal, "GALATEA RESURRECTS, a Poetry Engagement".

She is the founder of Meritage Press, a multidisciplinary literary and arts press based in St. Helena, California.
--- (From Wikipedia)

Friday, November 12, 2010



(For Cesar and Lulu Aguila who now have Sam, Katherine, and Harry.)

Throughout my "ordeal" meanwhile, what kept me going/sane were Lulu of course, and my dearest Samantha and -- here's the other good news -- the birth of another grandson, Harry Finlay Moon, and a second granddaughter, Katherine Maria Elman. --- Catching up mail from Cesar Leyco Aguila, Philippine-born Australian Novelist


Ah, to be old and a mariner come upon that restful cove,
Where the final weapon is a chair not love;
To be old, cher ami, is a gallant slouching on that chair
Some porch of the heart grown insensitive to care ---

The stool stood sentry to a darkened room where
she said she would wait if it took forever and it did.

The stool will outlast the stonewalls, rotting doors,
loosened bricks, dust, and bramble. It will be there.


Sitting on her Florentine chair
atop the red-tiled stairs, the sirocco
breeze playing with her ivory hair,
she awaits her turn to say hello:
a caudillo-like half-raised wave
and a schoolmarm’s smile on her
waxen face, a smirk at times to save
her some chagrin falling off a chair
while she wags childlike to say:

Blow a kiss to your window-waving
girl, say au revoir for now, and pray
that as they grow, won’t stop loving,
and they do grow up and go away,
and you’d be left sitting on a chair
wondering why they have flown
like swallows, and hope would care
to come back and perch at sundown.


(For Julian Ashley+, October 2, 1984-January 30, 1885)

It is the Sea eats limb so life (so love)/ may not to its eternal wanting finish/ what it late started must soon deny:/ a clown’s journey through a circle’s shadow. . .

Another fishing season would have gone
by sundown, but I have stopped counting
and stopped fishing, too; think of all the bass
that got away and the crayfish dried brittle
on rocks laved clean of seaweed and brine,
ebb tide marking rhythm and time when
breaking waves drown the homeward halloos
of fishermen pulling empty nets and ruined
mesh dragged off by catamarans whose relics
now jag brackish breakwater rocks when
low tide retrieves stray shells wrapped in flotsam.

It is my hammock hour. Come swing yourself
on this final refuge. Don’t take too long, hijo.
We have groupers to grill, oysters to chuck!

Echoes of your shrill shrieks and laughter startle
me still when I cock my ear to catch them
filling rooms and spaces that I would have shared
with you if you had only given me the chance
to teach you how to fish. But you left without
saying goodbye. At sundown, though,
on my hammock hour, I still hum your lullaby.

October 2, 2010, Mississauga


(For Mikey)
Mikey bested his cousins in the game of balancing on the lily pads (mock pontoons) while crossing the pool without falling into the water before he gets to the last pontoon. This ancient mariner, bedazzled by his grandchildren’s confidence and derring-do, failed to even get past the first pontoon despite their egging him on: Come on, ‘lolo! You can do it! Just do it! --- Writer's Notebook on a Family Break

He leap-frogged lithely
with tentative grace
from one drifting lily pad
to the other, an uncertain smile
creased on his elfin face:
quite like relishing
the exquisite danger
of leaping from one life
moment to another
shorn of anxiety or fear
a fall could end it all.

Would the pontoons hold
while he teeters on them
grasping for absent branches?

His final leap was also
this old heart’s leap of faith
that this lad’s leap-frogging
will end in a crash of pool
where ripples are his balm
and sinking is his baptism
of fire in a game called living
where bridges crumble
with the tottering pontoons.

Mississauga, September 15, 2010


There is a scampering of grace/In the dry woods/ And a pulse upon some soliloquy: / It is the rain come as a lace/ Smooth and forbidding upon the cup/ Of the dead and dying weather!
--- From “Fugue in Narra’s Rain”, Narra Poems and Others, 1968

Something about running naked in the rain
recalls some lost decades withered now in
a fading trail hallooing with surprised laughter
tickled out of our backs by sudden pellets of rain.

The river! The river! Chanted my little lass
skipping to the tempo of scampering rain:

Let’s swim there, abuelo! Let’s dance in the river!
Brown and slithering over scraped-clean rocks,
the river meanders sans snails, eels, or crayfish,
emptied now of carp, catfish, small-mouth bass...

O, how we could have raucously scared the wren
with catcalls while mounting a wading caribou,
but those were noises of our lost years when
naked lads swam with dung and water buffalo.

We can’t swim here, hija mia, City Hall says clean
rivers are for clean table fish. We do have our rain.

August 22, 2010, Mississauga


He would not take a proffered hand to cross the street:
"I'm not a baby anymore. I will wait, abuelo."

But he will not wait.

No, he cannot wait for the world to pass him by:
no cars nor wars, landslides or fires, floods of blood,
or trembling babies wetting sheet will stop him.
Across the street is a pizza parlour.

He will not wait.

August 24, 2010


Rock-a-bye, baby, on the treetop,/ When the wind blows, the cradle will rock;/ When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,/ And down will come baby, cradle, and all!
---From a Mountain Lullaby

Close your eyes and fairy lights will lead you
Away from the dark and gloom that scare you:

In your dreams, do you run through brackish snow?
Climb leafless trees or swing from a broken bough?

Where the river bends, do you gather rotting fish,
Glean carrion left from a summer’s fishing mesh?

Has the snowman’s head fallen off its melting body?
Its stick hands twisted like pretzels. Arrows really.

The carrot nose has become its stabbing tooth,
Where both eyes were, now Cyclops orb is left

On a conehead of dripping snow; a crushed face
Stares blankly at a mid-day sun whose lapping rays

Forebode another season for yet another reason
To accept that what lives is also ripe for destruction.

(O, my aching heart, it aches, it hurts,
It hurts badly, it hurts to the core.
Kindly spare me your gentle nurture,
For I dread death’s coming spectre.)*

Close your eyes and let the wind rip through
Tears and cracks and cranny and broken doors, too.

Grip the tightened string on your wayward kite,
No wind could wreck nor snap it loose from flight.

You will ride the wind, my boy, and touch the sun,
Though frightful prayers plead that you must run

From the dreams that have become nightmares,
From the fallen kites; run from the fearsome snares.

Life is a trap, much like the burlap waiting downstream,
When you get there, you are enmeshed -- do not scream.

It is too late to scream. Close your eyes; shut them tight.
Life is not a waking dream. You have just begun to fight.

(O, my aching heart, it aches, it hurts,
It hurts badly, it hurts to the core.
Kindly spare me your gentle nurture,
For I dread death’s coming spectre.)*

Mississauga, March 3, 2010

* Annnay, pusok, annay, annay,
Nasaem, naut-ut la unay.
Itdem kaniak ta pannaranay
Ta kaasiak a maidasay.
--- Duay-ya: Dungdungwen Kanto
(A Lullaby of Love), Ilocano Lullaby Refrain


(For my ballerinas: Chloe, Sydney, and Taylor)

“Adios, adios, abuelo. Te Amo. Je T'aime! Mahal Kita! Luv ya!”
---- Chloe speaking in tongues.

A glimmer of a sylph on the gossamer bay,
She pirouettes and is gone into her chrysalis
Not unlike the sylvan truants that waylay
The wary wanderer among the trees,

Or the papillon flitting from blossom to bramble,
Hidden but always there, some surprise grace,
A magical fairy light to dispel the creeping pall
Coiled on the winter ennui of fallen days ---

O, she dandles dearly with her ragged ragdoll,
Caressingly delicate in a wistful pas de deux
Of her shadow Fonteyn caught in a sudden fall
By a prancing Baryshnikov vaulting off the shadow.

Was that his pas de chat to snatch her from disaster?
Quickly now, urgently now, hold the hapless Dame
As would a cat curl on the legs of its Master,
Dream now of a demure pas de bourree of fame,

While dreams still enthrall, while the dancing
Is still your language of love, of boundless courage,
While the arguments of your young body moving
To the beats of passion are still the true language

Of the good, the honest, and the beautiful:
Until then, mon amour, these decrepit hands cannot
Stop the deluge of fear, of hurt, and of the frightful
That would drown us all, before our windows are shut.

Even now, as you wave from your window,
I know you will be brave.

Mississauga, February 9, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The Toronto Star's publishing reporter Vit Wagner reported today that Canada's $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize, "Canada's most prestigious fiction award," was awarded to Johanna Skibsrub, 30, of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, who won with her debut novel The Sentimentalists.

(Please click on the images to zoom in on the text of his Star reports.)

THE finalists and  FAQs on their work follows. Vit Wagner, in an earlier report, expressed disappointment that Montreal's Miguel Syjuco, a Philippine-born writer who won the Asian Man Booker Award and the Philippine Palanca Memorial Literary Award for his debut novel Ilustrado, was virtually ignored by the Giller when it was not --- surprisingly --- even included in the longlist of the award despite rave reviews in Canada and internationally. This blog agreed with Wagner in earlier posts.

(Please click on the image to zoom in on the reporter's text. @The Toronto Star.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta, Poet (1934 – 2010+)


...I regret to inform you that our dear Ophie Dimalanta passed away shortly before dinnertime in her Navotas home due to hypertension-related illness....she got out of the house, returned promptly because she was not feeling well. She died in her sleep. --- Nov. 4, 2010 E-mail from Wendell Capili, poet and University of the Philippines professor:

To die, to sleep; / To sleep? Perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,/ For in that sleep of death what dreams may come/ When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, /Must give us pause.
--- Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare

The dreams must include a salon of jesters
Belting throaty ululations announcing her coming
To the party of outpouring angst and crippling blocks.

Are you all poets here? Yarn spinners maybe? Ah,
Sparrows wounded in flight bogged down by fear
Of rejection slips and rancid rancorous reviews!

She will touch them ever so lightly, giggling a little,
Having been there, flying, dying, having done that,
All figures waylaid on her poems’ wake bleeding.

Why write at all when raucously rabid living
Is raunchy enough for the sad and unfulfilled
Who find themselves eunuched by etudes and song?

The salon erupts into muffled moans and laughter,
Crowning its homecoming poet and doyenne,
Proclaiming life and love will trump poetry this time.

Are you all poets here? What rhymes tie you down
When verse and breath and beat must go on flowing,
Or perish with them entangled in death and dying?

A gaping satyr perched on a rock, waits and wails:
Monarch of dreams, lover of lust and life, Ophelia,
You have come home where poems have no dominion.

Mississauga, Nov. 4, 2010

Last April 27, 2009, I posted an entry on Philippine poet Ophelia Dimalanta. I protested her not having been appointed Philippine National Artist, that country's highest artistic award. She deserved it  more than most of the awardees in literature. In my exile, despite a lifetime of writing, I was not qualified to nominate her. But, of course, she did not need it. She is an important Philippine poet who would have lent respectability to the now politically-diminished award.

I am reposting this entry to acknowledge my indebtedness to  Dr. Dimalanta. When I was barely a struggling poet and academic, she introduced me to the literary realm with a preface to my first collection of poems, Narra Poems and Others, published by San Beda College Publiations in 1968.

In 2009, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House (Manila, Philippines) published another collection, A Theory of Echoes  (A Selection of Poems). By nurturing this book through the intracies of publication, Dr. Dimalanta got this collection off the press, and accepted the author's copies on my behalf at its launching in February 2009. Unable to attend, I asked her to accept the books, while I stewed in exile in Canada.

April 27, 2009


OPHELIA A. DIMALANTA, poet, critic, playwright, professor, writing workshop director, writer-in-residence, and multi-awarded author, is my nominee for the Philippine National Artist Award. If she is not recognized at this point of her literary life, I shall continue nominating her until she wins a well-deserved title: National Artist.

An exile from the current literary scene of that country, however, I am afraid I will not qualify as a nominator. Neither would I have a voter’s card.

Will my being a life-long literary creature give me some credentials?

As a critic and a reader of Philippine literature for decades now, I believe Dr. Dimalanta should already have been proclaimed national artist. Not that she would need it. Of course, that would even be superfluous. A tautology.

Dr. Dimalanta is an important poet. An author of unassailable credentials, she is by definition an artist who would lend her reputation to that award.

But that would all be prattle if her art would not bear her out. The following poems illustrate the range of her style and content.


Monday jolts and she bogs down, a ragbag
Splayed off at tangents. Windows
To the outside and flecks of faces
Spring the morning clear at her
To set her into her old dimensions.
Piece by piece she puts on eight o'clock;
Pillows and bedcovers in a tumble pat
Her in place. The clearest cutglass
Of grapefruit juice teetering on a silver
Tray for breakfast-in-bed exigencies
(Both for effect and effectivity)
Is for a fact but fictive in the mind
Which holds the fleeing moment longer,
Stalls the stupor of the previous spree,
Images of her beautiful in blank spaces
Wandering truantlike in private regions
Of the night, wisps of clouds jammed
In one wicked corner of sleep. She hoards
Them like a child at play, triumphantly
Pieces them into a single total perspective:
Splayed off tatters of Sunday, a dark
Undiscipline of clouds settled right
Into this alarming set-up environing
Her Monday-world, jolted suddenly
Into the teeth of everyday people
And cluttering sounds of slapdash.
She exudes it now becomingly
As she glides and putters about
By turns, spreads it as a scent
Ambiguously enwombing her, her form
Dissolved in semi-tones, nameless jewel
Durably ensphered in mist, constantly reborn,
Solid, whole in ever renewing shades.

Montage is the title poem of her first collection which won her first prize in the Philippine Palanca Memorial Literary Award and the best poem in the Poet and Critic Award at the Iowa State University in the USA.

Montage was the “given” central image of a short story I wrote which was published in the student magazine, The Varsitarian – “Monday Morning in a Bus.”


Wakes conjure in an uncanny pall,
A kind of sepulchral air evoking
Tombstones turned trysting chambers
For romancing late lovers freed
From life’s containing vaults.
How she hates funerals,
This communal show
Of makeshift grief, as leaden
Feet shove mourners in, deader
Than the mourned dead,
The pale gloss of sympathy
Plastered on thicker than the
Expert’s swab of simulated smile
Upon her own bemused face.
Here she flits around hovering
Over all, once and for all,
Up and about to watch them
Finally mourn her, (miss her?)
For once and then,
Be done, begone!
She is there, and not there,
In the box and everywhere else,
On the wing, her stilled heart
Sprung into the rhythm
Of muted life, a sentence
As purging as real grief,
And as forbearing, and life-giving.


They say this is the last to go,
This inward craze, this needling
Ache that starts below, and just
As soon mounts to breast to soul
In a ghostly spiritual surge;
This passion that fires the frame
In mighty thrusts of faith.
Residual spasms and spurts
Have not yet dissipated even
After the last throes, recalling body
As passional, pastoral site
In that sanctifying time out of time,
That one blessed space at once
Uplifted and emancipated.
The last to go they say,
These stirrings in the blood,
Going, going full force
And peaking into theFinal come.
God how she hates funerals
Except her own, that is,
For how exquisitely life’s
Raging now attenuate
Into a warmer crave
That holds a universe.
The body shaken
Into prayer before it
Resurrects ecstatic
Into a longed for
Perfect calm.

Passional is the title poem of Dr. Dimalanta’s sixth poetry collection. Her juxtaposition of a funeral wake and rather “erotic” description of the energy that “is last to go” is striking. Death throes as passion throes are supreme conceits of life, love, and dying. Part II of the poem is certainly one of the best descriptions of how the final death is truly the death of passion, the rigour mortis of the final separation between body and spirit, the final release of a “final come.” The perfect calm and the supreme emancipation of passional release and death release – the poetic juxtaposition is startling and truly poetic.


whenever my voice flings arrows
your way at a fiery pace,
read, discover, there is that
something in me
that dies to go gentle.
for when i viciously tangle
with you trying to throw
you off course, inside, i am raring
to cover you, take you, become
all of me fire and water,
flowing, all soft and fluid.
when i try to lord it over, empowered,
it is because inside i am already
slave grovelling, ready to heed your bidding,
crawling waves lapping you up
sea shore hillocks sky
all the way up all drool and drivel,
and when i insolently seek out
pulpits to mount my gospel truths,
i am really one humped question mark
thrashing about for your steadying hand,
and when i try to light you up whole,
there is in fact a part of your flame hence
i would want extinguished
to die rekindled in me alone.
and when i am wind taking roots
in your solid ground, i am roots as well
ready to take flight upon your wings.
when i prance about proud in times square,
i am a child carousing in the greener fringes
of the heart's final roosting.
read this idiolect,
read well, decode, detect,
and love me when i seem to hate.

Read Me as a love poem thrives on the tension built around a love/hate syndrome which becomes the vigorous thrusting, grovelling, thrashing, flowing, crawling, drooling that culminates in the “heart’s final roosting.” This love poem is a superior to Jose Garcia Villa’s Poem 40 (Centipede Poem) as an erotic exercise.


Stalking hunger takes on varied
Shades and voices; worst is that
Of a child’s whimper in the dark,
An imprisoned cry, voiceless,
Struggling for release, for the open;
Three meals a day, a warming touch,
Sunspace, one’s personal corner
In the most chilling night.
Here they are, all twelve,
Deprivations in all shapes,
Gathered in His bosom,
His Presence, core of light,
As fragile limbs draw strength
And faith from that reaching out,
One magnificent Host in one
Glorious feasting, on a table
Specially laid out for children
And all, in their direst need,
Hungry in more than body,
For more than food, and soon,
Hunger takes on the glow
Of a glorious brightening…
Sunwarm, vibrant against
A backdrop of sheerest dark,
Beyond the deepest blues
And the somber browns
Beyond that hovering gloom,
A grand feasting here, on a table
Laid out for all… each child
A part in us, us children all,
Partaking now of life of love,
Around his radiant presence,
A bounteous feasting
Of faith and ever abiding hope.

The Last Supper does not usually get celebrated in poetry; not even Gerard Manley Hopkins tried. But here is a sublime but altogether real “feasting” for the children “gathered in His bosom”. Here is the Host of the supper that is “laid our for all…each child a part in us, us children all, partaking now of life and love…a bounteous feasting of faith and ever abiding hope.” The Last Supper is, indeed, to this Catholic poet, the First and Everlasting supper: a Eucharist of hope where delicately the poet uses the word “eucharist” without using it.


Ophelia A. Dimalanta was my creative writing professor in my graduate studies at the University of Santo Tomas, in Manila. In one of those classes, she took the podium, read Montage (to perhaps establish her credentials?), and I thought I would write my first submission based on this “performance.” It was written for O. A. Dimalanta:


(For O.A. Dimalanta)

Eros finds us eunuched and gaping
At hedony begging for Pentecost
Shower the bellydance with fire –
Fire it is makes metaphors frantic
For bedfellows who, stripping bare
The bone of speech, fulfill hollow
Fantasies where moans deliver silences
Deep as the frog’s arrested croak.
“Forgive my bright conceits, Ophelia.”
Conceits are cockfight’s lances
One’s instant mercies, if you may,
Delights rupturing voice-boxes -–
So, bleeding may yet intone unsaid
Music in threnodies clotted
On cockers’ fingers, ganglia garbling
The crow violated on the rooster’s throat.

I don’t remember now what on earth I was trying to say, but the creative writing teacher thought, “there was hardly a dull line.” She was being kind.


Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta (born June 16, 1934; died November 4, 2010) was an editor, poet, author, and teacher. She was born in San Juan City in the Philippines. Dimalanta was a full professor of English and has held the position of Dean of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Faculty of Arts and Letters. She has been a panelist in the UST, UP, Dumaguete and Iligan writers' workshops and a judge in prominent literary award-giving bodies such as the Manila Critics' Circle, Free Press, and Palanca. This status, alongside her teaching experience, has enabled her to reach and influence generations of journalists and creative writers like Recah Trinidad, Arnold Azurin, Cirilo Bautista, Albert B. Casuga, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Eric Gamalinda, Jose Neil Garcia, Mike Coroza, and Lourd de Veyra.

Dimalanta has several works anthologized in local and foreign journals; has published three books : Anthology of Philippine Contemporary Literature, Readings from Contemporary English and American Literature, and The Philippine Poetic; and a collection of poems, Montage, which won the Iowa State University best poetry award(1969), and first prize in the Palanca Memorial awards for literature(1974).

She was a founding member of the Manila Critics Circle and an honorary fellow of the Philippine Literary Arts Council. In 1999, she founded the UST Center for Creative Writing and Studies and presently serves as its dynamic director.

Cirilo F. Bautista hailed her as "not only our foremost woman poet but also one of the best poets writing now, regardless of gender."
Her poems show the evident influence of T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens. Her later poetry draws from a wider range of influences, among them Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Denise Levertov.

Dimalanta believes that "The older you become and the more mature your art becomes, the more you realize that you have your own identity."

Mrs. Dimalanta also wrote books and critical reviews, handled literature and creative writing classes at the University of Santo Tomas Graduate School, Faculty of Arts and Letters, and De La Salle College . She also aquired a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of Santo Tomas.

In 2002, UST published Dimalanta's verse drama, "Lorenzo Ruiz, Escribano: A Play in Two Acts", with a Filipino translation by Florentino H. Hornedo and Michael M. Coroza. It was premiered on 22-24 February 1994 at UST in a production directed by Isagani R. Cruz. Dimalanta lived with her family in Navotas City.


* Poet and Critic Best Poem Award from Iowa State University (1968)

* Palanca Awards for Poetry (1974, 1983)

* Fernando Maria Guerrero Award (1976)

* Focus Literary Award for Fiction (1977, 1981)

* Cultural Center of the Philippines Literature Grant for Criticism (1983)

* the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas from the Writers' Union of the Philippines (1990)

* South-East Asia (SEA) Writer's Award from King Bhumibol of Thailand (1999)

From Wikipedia

Paalam, Ophie. Hanggang sa muli nating pagkikita. (In our native Ilocano: Lagip ken ayat iti ipabalun ko kenka, kabsat ko nga man-naniw. Agaluad-ka. Agkitatanto manen, sadin-no man iti papanam.)