(Anvil Publishing, Manila, 2004)
We have here 60 Filipino poets offering a total of 85 poems that dwell on their fathers, and in a couple of instances, their fathers’ fathers.
Off the bat we said that we did not want poems on a spiritual, inspirational or any other imagined father, rather only on the poet’s own, whether of consanguinity or affiliation, flesh and blood as it were or at least as homegrown as correlated destiny.
Neither did we entertain the idea of accepting poems on fatherhood per se, or those written from the point of view of a father, as on a son or daughter.
Very simply, we sought to collect poems on poets’ fathers — their real, official, adopted or fostering ones.
The initial temptation was to group the selection by thematic content. We could have wound up with a section on fathers dying or recently dead, as well as one on remembered bitterness over physical coercion, or as in the case of one poet-daughter, a stepfather’s sly intentions. Other sections with common motifs would have been manifested.
However, this anthology had to run a race against Father Time. We wanted to offer it in time for gifting on Fathers Day, 2004, which falls on the third Sunday of June.
From a first assembly of over a hundred poems (settling on that round number for this collection proved to be another vain temptation), we arrived at our final selection of 15 less. Eighty-five seemed mystical enough, especially when these poems’ provenance signified a sold source of three-score poets.
There remains the dream to collect a hundred poems on fathers, maybe from an international cast of poets. That volume should follow this one, perhaps next year, in time for Fathers Day 2005.
For the nonce, the 60 poets represented in this volume are of a common if narrower bloodline. They are Filipino, with Filipino fathers. Twenty-seven are Philippine-based. Twenty-five are either Filipino Americans or Filipinos presently based in the United States. Three are living in London, one in Dublin, one in the Netherlands, and one in Bangkok, while a couple are currently engaged in academic effort in Singapore.
The numbers cannot betray us—40 sons and 20 daughters—as we may have once felt betrayed by the randomness of parentage.
We have kept the faith, however, and have remarked no end on the men who sired us, and loved us, and whom we loved back, whether in gratitude or terror, once upon a time, and perhaps still do.
In this collection we have a father and son, and a father and a daughter, still bound together as coevals in the fellowship of poets.
Here are poems that honor fathers, as well as poems that tweak early omens of conflict, trumpet the first signals of defiance. Here are poems that recollect fathers in their prime as well as on sickbeds, and poems that grieve over their loss. And here too are poems that revisit joyful moment or ineradicable image, and poems that may still suffer from the way a father’s torch was passed.
It is the passion of recall that binds this collection together. Our memories of our fathers provided the first lodestone for our poetry. The editors’ thesis that every poet must at one time or another have written a poem on, of or for a father cannot be affirmed without doubt. What is doubtless is that as a source of primal love and fundamental memory, the father remains a mighty provender in our pursuit of fine poetry.
Would that this collection approximate the standard of excellence our fathers spoke of at one time or another—lovingly, wistfully, forcefully—as to make us remember their hand, gentle or firm, in the crafting of our own worth as sons, daughters, Filipinos, poets.
Alfred A. Yuson