EILEEN TABIOS Engages
100 Pink Poems para ka Leni/for Leni edited by Noel Romero del Prado, Emmanuel Quintos Velasco and Krip Yuson
(San Anselmo Publications, Philippines, 2022)
100 Pink Poems para ka Leni/for Leni, edited by Noel Romero del Prado, Emmanuel Quintos Velasco and Krip Yuson, is an existential project for the Philippines. The country is at a significant crossroads as regards the Philippine elections next month whose outcome will determine its next President. Among the leading candidates, Bongbong Marcos rides on the coattails of his dictator-father Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. Another, Leni Robredo, is the leading light for this book under review. Marcos, Jr. represents the sordid past that aborted a once promising developmental future for the Philippines and whose unearned leadership would result only from hardened corrupt and elitist practices. Robredo, on the other hand, would represent the country’s admirably stubborn and hopeful search for a more uplifting way of life for its citizens.
For this future, it’s difficult to ascertain the significance of a book of poetry. Perhaps it’s enough—perhaps it’s a lot—to note how Robredo’s support, always grass roots oriented, moved enough Filipino poets worldwide to create this project of 100 poems delivered to her as a Valentine’s Day gift earlier this year.
But if one is to be objective, one should consider this book a paradox. Though it’s on about its 8th or 9th printing, it will be read by an infinitesimal percentage of Filipinos. I read online that it’s the top poetry bestseller in the country’s history, a fact I can’t confirm but whose value I've seen questioned since poetry books generally don’t sell or are distributed in munificent numbers. Yet this book is a significant achievement as it is another layer to the multi-layered support for Leni Robredo’s Presidential candidacy where each individual support may be small but contribute to a sum much larger than the totality of its parts. This is significant as I believe (as of April 27 when I wrote this review) that Leni Robredo will be the next President of the Philippines. Not that long ago, I remember when the polls clearly said she faced huge odds against attaining her campaign’s goal.
Turning then to the actual poems, political support is overwhelmingly the raison d’etre for this project. Nonetheless, the book provides sufficient literary sunshine to remind how poetry is worthy of our attention. Here are three sample poems that moved me in particular—which is not to say they’re the “best” poems as such assessments are subjective and differ per reader. Still, as a book reviewer, I’m moved to highlight the following poems, and thank their authors for writing them. A caveat needs to be that I could only assess the English-language poems as I am not fluent in Pilipino. But here are English poems I hope you, too, will enjoy:
“Sonnet 13: Ways of Lookin at a Pink Rose” by Joel Vega
“Jesse’s Poem” by Jose Dalisay (Jesse is the name of the husband to Leni Robredo who also is a widow)
“Parol” by Justine Camacho-Tajonera
I will feature the poems below but before doing so, I wish to share Leni Robredo’s response that was featured in the anthology’s 6th edition (click on images to enlarge):
Robredo’s response ultimately deems the project successful since, regardless of election outcome, she can receive the gratitude of people who understand that to run for office in the context of how the Philippines chooses its political leadership is an arduous—and often dirty—undertaking. Maraming Salamat, Ma’am Leni Robredo.
Three Sample Poems:
Eileen R. Tabios has released over 60 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in 10 countries and cyberspace. In 2022 she releases the poetry collection Because I Love You, I Become War; a book-length essay Kapwa’s Novels; and her second French book, Double Take (trans. Fanny Garin). Her 2021 books include her first novel DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times and first French book La Vie erotique de l’art (trans. Samuel Rochery). Her award-winning body of work includes invention of the hay(na)ku, a 21st century diasporic poetic form; the MDR Poetry Generator that can create poems totaling theoretical infinity; the “Flooid” poetry form that’s rooted in a good deed; and a first poetry book, Beyond Life Sentences, which received the Philippines’ National Book Award for Poetry. Translated into 11 languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 15 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays. Her writing and editing works have received recognition through awards, grants and residencies. More information is at http://eileenrtabios.com
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