Leny Mendoza Strobel presents a Foreword to VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA: A Storm of Filipino Poets
(Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, CA, 2014)
A philosopher once asked: What are poets for? A question that is even more relevant in the face of Yolanda’s aftermath. What language do we invoke to describe Super Typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines? What song can we sing when the songlines have disappeared and there is no more dreamtime to sing us back to life? Can we dance again and offer our bodies to the earth to restore balance?
A question that is answered by the poets in this book.
As I read the poems here, I am reminded again of the healing power of Poetry. Grief becomes eloquent and brings me to the shore of Memory. In the outpouring of the sundered heart and the baffled mind in search of its “Why” the poems simply offer an invitation: Stay. Read. Be Here. Feel.
For this is the Loob of our Kapwa connecting with our Damdamin. This triangulation of the internal and external Filipino sense of self that is connected through the depth of our empathy for one another is what these poems evoke. You are the mother who had to let go of her child in the raging waters. You are the neighbor who rescued the elder woman next door. You are the father who hoped. You are the child who asked, “Why?” You and I are One. We are each other’s Kapwa.
In these one hundred and thirty-three poems, we are invited to shed tears and see and feel more closely and deeply our Story as a people. There are connections to be made: the location of our islands on the typhoon belt, the impact of climate change on island nations, the arrogance of the global north and refusal to reckon with climate refugees, the history of supremacy and the colonizing gaze that engulfs all in its path, the numbing effects of consuming, and the internalized shame and oppression of folks on the receiving end of dominating narratives.
Yet our Story as a people in the face of Yolanda speaks of something other than the ways in which CNN has reported about us. The poems in this anthology hint at this, teases out the ineffable, and makes us ponder.
See where it leads you.
Leny Mendoza Strobel
Editor, Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous