Friday, December 22, 2017



After the Sunstone by Michellan Sarile-Alagao
(CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016)
Almost Beyond Articulation

When it comes to poetry, my main criteria is inspiration. Do these works lead me towards a lushness of language, a lushness of ideas, towards picking up my own pen and writing things down? If so, Michellan Sarile-Alagao's first collection, After the Sunstone, receives a resounding Yes.

As Marjorie Evasco writes in the introduction, “Bearing Witness, Taking Just Measure,” the book is divided into four sections, each one with a title-poem: Another Look Back; The Mechanics of Time Travel; He Calls for the Moon in His Sleep; and The Weight of Words. But for the poet, it’s not merely a matter of looking to the past, but connecting it to the present moment.

As Sarile-Alagao's first collection, we see a range of experimentations with forms, and we glimpse a shadow of her inspirations from Whitman to Bishop.

She was dubbed
the goddess of lost things,
much to her dismay.

Most things
are simply misplaced:
a bookmark from a friend,
a pair of glasses;
the occasional set of keys.

Hearts, for instance,
are never truly lost
and the mind
is an infinitely hidden thing,
still there in the maddest of us,
only falling into itself;
a closed system
bent on the saddest of entropies.

From “Ana Go Lightly”

Some poems are sparse and seemingly fragile, with bones of steel. So it seems fitting that you will meet a lot of women in this collection, from imagined goddesses to all-too human personas.

They call me calmness. I retreat and return like my gift the moon, consistent in my presence and absence. And when the ocean responds to my appearance, I acknowledge. I follow the eyes of those who trace my journey and kiss the eyelids of children who sleep underneath.

From “Mayari’s Lament”

Some poems are dense, rolling forward inexorably, carrying their own weight. There are approximations of her poetics, as the writing becomes a search for a place or perspective from which to stand. Nowhere is this clearer than in the section on The Weight of Words.

There is pathos and pain and humor. And Sarile-Alagao's poetry also showcases her instinct for narrative, such as in the sarcastic poem, “A List of Unlikely Alternatives Collides with a Gifted Disregard for Awkward Facts” and the eerie “You don’t know the rich.”

I especially enjoyed the inventiveness of "Homemade Remedies."

Between the book of bad poetry
And inane sitcom reruns,
I thought of making
My own first aid kit
For the almost brain-dead.

For medication, a pill of each:

Cliogesic - to take away
political amnesia.

Eratocetamol - to cure
cheesy romance diarrhea.

Singing, rich with repetition and unexpected juxtapositions, incorporating science, technology, and even law with more traditional poetic subjects of myth, history and art, this is a collection of ideas and images, of small concrete details side by side with a largeness, a longing almost beyond articulation.

Look at me. Look at me.
I am a child ready to play hide and seek,
ready to be found.

From “Psalm”

But Michellan Sarile-Alagao manages it anyway.


Christine Fojas is a Filipino-Canadian resident of Metro Vancouver, with a BA in Comparative Literature from U.P. Diliman. She is currently in the Library and Information Technology program at Langara College. She can also be found at

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