April 8, 2014
At the present age, Filipinos would usually seek to involve themselves in more lucrative preoccupations. It is a need. Not all of us are privileged to just travel, enjoy the scenes, watch sunsets. Not all of us are given the time to reflect around us and create. Yes, all of us are battered by unwanted stimuli everyday but not all of us can create something out of it—at least in one of the accepted art forms. Many would start at an early age but would abandon the habit altogether. Perhaps after seeing that there’s no place for it in the current sphere. They just forget and go through life as it is.
The poor would say: “You can’t eat art nor can it bring food on the table.” How can you read or write when your stomach is eating you? How can you look at art when you can’t even get inside a museum or gallery for want of proper attire?
There’s also familial pressure: “Fine Arts is a course for rich people!” or “You will gain nothing from your pen, enter maritime or nursing school instead!”
You hear this all the time. And the government, alas! The government, despite Constitutional mandate to promote culture and the arts, seems to treat it as second thought. The CHED has not mandated that national fellowships or literary prizes be commensurate to an MA or at least MA units. For some measure, writing or reading is taught by example (as National Artist Edith Tiempo used to say), and writers are voracious readers—and writers. For this reason alone, they ought to be the one teaching literature subjects. Passion for literature is a contagious malady. If you don’t have it, you can’t inoculate it.
Admit it or not, there are only two factors that serve as impetus for literary culture: 1. An inquisitive mind, and however sophomoric it may sound, 2. Peer pressure. Why is it that I did not say “an inquisitive literate mind”? This is because literary culture is primordially performance-based. For instance, poetry is drama, is theater—is performance. We all have this in us—an inquisitive mind, only that in an effort to civilize us, society trained us not to “stare” too much or “ask to many questions.” It is however inherent, if not native to us, to be curious, to observe, to read. The world is a text and is something to be read. And this culture of reading and observing is better shaped by peer pressure.
Hence it is nothing new for us to hear about the Beat Poets or the Nuyorican Poets in the US during the 40’s and 60’s, or The Ravens and the Veronicans in the Philippines during WWII or just right after. The literary flame is somewhat kept alive by these groups. They influence people to write, and they likewise encourage people to read. Ironically, their passion could even lead to a book burning incident as in the case of the Balagtasistas and the Modernistas during the 60s. The result of the Talaang Ginto being dominated by the Balagtasistas so much infuriated the younger generation of Tagalog writers that they ended up tossing to the fire not only their plaques from said contest but also books by the old vanguards or “matatandang tanod.” Not to mention that earlier, the parties almost ended up in a knife fight in some nearby beerhouse. The book burning infront of the National Library proved to be a more peaceful way of expressing literary disgust during those times.
Yet there could also be factions. We all are familiar with this story: Poet starts a writers group, but later, ideologies come in the way, forcing him to leave and start anew—with a new group. Yes, it is true that the practice of literary arts is a political act. The choice of what language to use is a political choice. Poetics in fact, much as it could get so technical, is still a political animal as culture is always politics.
But my take on the matter is this—the same is a political question and not a justiciable or scientific one. It lies on prerogative, on personal freedom of choice. And nobody can tamper with that and no one would want that theirs be tampered with. More so that of artists and creatives.
It is safe to say that these writing groups, no matter how we argue that one does not need a group to be able to write, kept literary culture alive within and without the academe. Heck, it even caused career shifts for some. It is not uncommon for a pre-med student to end up shifting to a creative writing or literature course after being “brainwashed” by a group of poets wont on doing guerilla tactics on campus—starting up poetry readings just about anywhere and anytime, and then disappearing just as fast as they assembled.
And so we have groups like UP Quill, UP Writers Club, Heights, Malate, Thomasian Writers Guild and FEU Writers Guild to name a few. Outside of the campus, we have KM64, Kamakathaan, Guniguni and so many more. And with the advent of social media, they are now manifold—poetry slam groups, Facebook poetry, haiku poets, you name them, you got them.
And in the provinces, these groups also continue to thrive. Just in the Bicol Region, we have Kabulig-Bikol, ABKAT and Parasurat-Bikolnon. These groups are active within and without the academe. And just lately, we hear of campus-based group Ateneo Literary Association (ALA) doing small poetry workshops and readings here and there. Their presence could very well have caused some career shifts as mentioned earlier, but they push on.
This month of April, where summer heat is just as fiery as the creative writing workshop season, ALA is holding the very first TALA Poetry Workshop. To be held on April 11-12, the workshop will utilize the so-called “writeshop method” or “praxis method” where theory is followed by practice. Lecturers will give inputs on poetic forms, voice and tone, and metaphor, and then the writing fellows, true to their name, will write. They will write according to the lesson of the day. Later, their output will be critiqued, placed under astringent scrutiny by the panelists and the fellows themselves. The workshop will be held at the Ateneo de Naga University, at the 3rd floor of the Fr. O’Brien Library (Multipurpose Room).
With Jusan Misolas as workshop director, this writer has been invited as one of the lecturer-panelists this year, along with Frank Peñones, Jerome Hipolito and Jeff Regullano. And this year’s fellows are: Joy San Jose Agor, Anthony Diaz, Ken Brian Esperanza, John Leir Castro, Rea Robles, Elmer Guarin Ramos, Shellah Farina Chan, Stephen Prestado, Ma. Leonora Cervas-Bregala, Cherry Ann Largo, Jeffrey Almazan and Love Leir Arcelie Castro.
April 7, 2014
Pertinent to my application for a travel grant with the Harong kan Literaturang Bikolnon (Naga City-LGU) as per my Dumaguete fellowship (for poetry), I was asked to prepare a letter showing the benefits that the Nagueno would get from my travel. In this regard, I started to look into myself. What have I done for my people? Am I just a writer for myself? An ego writer who has self- aggrandizement as primordial motivation? I had to ask myself these questions and introspect.
Looking back–I do remember that 2003 was my homing year. It was the year that I started to feel like going home. I was determined to further my academic life in this locality, find work here and perhaps start a family–and of course, practice literary arts here. I wanted to start a writing group, a critique group to be exact. At that time, I was already a LIRA member and had attended the Ateneo and UST National Writers Workshops. I wanted to look back though, to dream the dreams of my youth. I thought that Bicol itself is already a rich material. I can make it here, and in Manila, and in the world literary arena as well. No need to locate myself in the Center.
But before taking any more steps, I figured if there was already an existing writing group here in Bicol. And there was. The late Rudy Alano was then the ring leader for Kabulig-Bikol. I joined them.
But Kabulig-Bikol was taking too much time. I wanted the group to have more fire.
I continued to associate with them through. Writing is a lonely vocation, and they were good beer buddies. But I persisted in attending national workshops, sending my works to publications and joining some contests. Technically, I was on my own. But I found real good company in Tomas Navarro, a fellow Atenean who was as good as a strategist as a prose writer. I also loved the company of the ABKAT people from Tabaco, Albay for they were so project oriented. They could get things done.
But deep inside, what I really wanted was to do research on Bikol poetics and write a book about it. I also wanted to share my poetics to young Bikol writers. Hence I organized the Tarusan Bloc and I gave free lectures and workshops. Thanks to my teachers Rio Alma, Cirilo Bautista, Ricardo Lee, Marjorie Evasco, and Cyril Conde, I had a firm ground when it comes to comparative literature. And so I did my thing–monthly poetry critique sessions.
But it wasn’t enough for me. Bikol poetics dictates that poetry is drama–is theater, is performance! I wanted to go out and make Naga City a city of literature by organizing poetry gigs from time to time. Said gigs would be open to the public, and for the benefit of the public. Poetry in public places–this was my battle cry and it still is.
Now I realized that I have published three articles regarding these gigs. Let me post their pictures here.
This appears in the August 1, 2012 issue of The Daily Tribune. And it is about the Writers Gig and VerSosimo projects. Now I was not able to take a photo of my article “Not Your Usual Writers Trip” which was also published in the same newspaper on January 3, 2013. But as you all know, I took a picture and posted my article ” Come as You Are: Naga City’s Poetry Reading Culture” which appeared in the April 7, 2014 issue of the Philippines Graphic.
Well, man. If you want to be a writer for others. Organize occasional poetry gigs in your locality. Do it for the people. They deserve more than what popular culture offers them.
April 7, 2014
I was invited by the Ateneo Literary Association for their first Tala Poetry Workshop, a campus based workshop. It will be held at Ateneo de Naga University on Friday. The workshop approach is the so-called “writeshop,” and the methodology is: 1. Lecture, 2. Writing activity, and 3. Critiquing. My topic is poetic form, actually, one of the toughest. I will make it as simple as possible. I also plan to assign a simple poetic form during the writing activity. There will also be poetry readings and other intermission numbers. The group even invited my band The Super Poet Genome Project. We will figure.
The deadline for fellowship application is today, April 7. If you are an Atenista, a Bicolano Atenista who is somehow connected or was connected to AdNU, and you are serious in pursuing a career in creative writing, give this a try. It is wise to attend regional workshops first before applying for national ones. And read my book too, “Pagsasatubuanan: Poetikang Bikolnon” (NCCA, 2008). Copies are running out!
April 3, 2014
A few weeks ago, we had a Cirilo Bautista tribute as part of the Naga City Public Poetry Project. Only a few was able to attend as readers. There were only five of us there. But still, we pushed through. Afterwards, we had a meeting. You see, we are planning to apply for grants. I made a video of the event and started sending the YouTube link to FB friends. I wanted to involve as many people as possible, even those who failed to attend. The result was amazing. People did show interest and watched the video. Joel Pablo Salud, the editor-in-chief of Philippines Graphic even wanted me to write an article on the poetry gigs that I have been organizing in Naga City. So I did. And now the article is out, printed in Page 36-37 of the April 7, 2014 issue of said magazine. Please do buy (and grab) a copy at your nearest news stands, National Bookstore and 711 outlets. Here’s the picture of the pages. Nice lay-out!
The next session is going to happen on April 25, 2014, again at the Raul Roco Public Library. I hope we could replicate the WG/VerSosimo/Bikol Slam projects as per attendance. Summer, summer, poems of summer. More updates coming!