November 2, 2021
  • November 2, 2021

Poetry for beginners | Philstar.com

By on October 8, 2021 0
LODESTAR – Danton Remoto – The Filipino Star

October 9, 2021 | 00h00

One of my next books is “Poetry for Starters”, which will be published by San Anselmo Press. In this book, I distilled everything I learned while writing poetry, from the classes I had with Professor Emmanuel Torres at the Art Gallery of Ateneo University in Manila. I also had conversations with the late national artist Rolando S. Tinio and Rayvi Sunico, which further refined my craft. The late national artist Edith L. Tiempo was also helpful when she taught us the concept of the poem at the National Writers’ Workshop in Silliman.

Short poems were a specialty of pre-colonial Filipinos. At the heart of these poems was the talinghaga or metaphor. A metaphor is a suggested or implied comparison between two things. It does not use “like” or “like” when performing the comparison, as a comparison does. The two things compared are different from each other. Pleasure in the text is the realization that there is a connection between the two things being compared. This awareness then leads to some form of enlightenment. American poet Mark Doty once said that we should thank metaphors because they “advance before us, they know before us … [they] serve as a container for emotion and idea, a container that can hold what is too slippery or loaded or too difficult to touch.

The Hanunuo-Mangyans also wrote the ambahan, which is made up of seven syllable metric lines and the poem can be longer than four lines. It is generally sung, like many forms of oral literature, and belongs to no one other than the community. The author of the text is not a single individual but the whole community, in which the words of the poem have sprung. Amahan generally teaches lessons of life and love. It is recited by parents to educate their children, by the young to express their love, by the old to share their experiences and by the community in its tribal ceremonies.

Using knives, the ambahan is carved from pieces of bamboo or tree bark. The Hanunuo-Mangyan script is one of three forms of the ancient baybayin (alphabet) still in use today. Some poems are haunting: they have the clarity and depth of haiku. One of them is a beautiful love poem for us who are separated from our loved ones by distance. Listen: “You, my dearest friend, / thinking of you makes me sad; / deep rivers are in between, / vast forests separate us. / But thinking of you with love, / as if you was here very close, / standing, sitting by my side.

The lyrical statement is there, the shrill and shrill cry of nostalgia. But the ambahan is not only a repository of personal feelings; it can also give strong statements on contemporary concerns such as illegal logging and environmental destruction. Look at this poem: “I would like to take a bath / collect the water with a plate / wash my hair with lemon juice; / but I could not take a bath, / because the river is dammed / with lots of strong trunks. “

This poem reminds me of an interview I once had with a northern politician. I asked him why, despite the ban on illegal logging, there are still many furniture stores selling chairs and tables in narra, the national tree, whose logging is not allowed by law. Without batting a corrupted eyebrow, he looked at me and said, “But those tree trunks fell because of the typhoon and the river currents just blew them downstream.” And that’s how the furniture makers got those big tree trunks.

The triple subjects of birth, childhood and adolescence are contained in many ambahans. An example of a poem reads as follows: “When the bush knife is still dull / You should sharpen it on a stone / Then you try it on wood. / You will then see its effect / On a bamboo or a tree. tree. “

Among other things, I think this poem is about how to raise a child: the way you raise your child now will be reflected in his actions when the child grows up. This little gem looks like a parent telling the child to be aware of the world and its wonders – or its many horrors. Listen: “Said the lado-lado bird: / In the distance you shouldn’t go! / Watch out for the traps of the evil ghosts / Who are scattered in the woods!”

“Evil ghosts” could refer to the elementals and evil spirits that abound in the forest, river, hill, and plain. A Western literary critic would hasten to cite this as an example of “magical realism”, or maravelloso real. But here in a spirit world where wonders never cease, we just call them “classical realism”.

Pre-colonial Filipinos lived near rivers and the sea. These bodies of water provided them with food in the form of fish, clams, crabs and seaweed. They also served as routes of mobility and transportation. It was said that water did not divide the islands of the pre-colonial Philippines.

Compare and contrast the ambahan with a poem by Luis Cabalquinto about his hometown of Magarao, Camarines Sur. This poem was written in 1973 and shows through very specific sensory detail why he loves his hometown, which national artist Edith L. Tiempo calls “the first piece of land we call home”. Cabalquinto studied at New York University with Galway Kinnel, the famous American poet, and he received awards for his poetry in the United States.

He also lived most of his adult life in New York, but his heart stays at home, as this poem “Hometown” shows: “After a supper of mountain rice / and wood-roasted river crab / I if we have a long bench outside / the old house, looking at a river: / Alone, myself, still far / from this other me in the city / on this piece of ancestral land, / my pulse slowed, I am at peace./ I have no wishes but this place – / stay here in a stopped time / with stars moving over this water / and in the sky a shine / answering: I don’t want anything else / than that stillness that fills me / of pure darkness on the earth / that freshly stinks of trees./ Night and I are quiet now./ But for a neighbor’s little laughter, / The swift sweep of a creature winged / And a warm dog, huddled at my feet.

Indeed, hometowns are eternal.

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E-mail: [email protected] Danton Remoto’s novel, Riverrun, was published by Penguin Books.


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