ERIC ABALAJON offers “Short Take” Reviews of
Forth by Rosmon Tuazon, Translated by Ben Aguilar (Balangay Books, 2021)
Pesoa by Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles, Translated by Kristine Ong Muslim (Balangay Books, 2021)
Tangere by Rodrigo V. Dela Peña (UP Press, 2020)
Pag-aaral sa Oras: Mga Lumang Tula Tungkol sa Bago by Kerima Lorena Tariman (High Chair, 2017)
Lahat ng Nag-aangas Ay Inaagnas by Paolo Tiausas (UWU Books, 2020)
Maging Sa Silid: Mga Tula by Vanessa Haro (Self-Published, 2021)
Forth by Rosmon Tuazon, Translated by Ben Aguilar
All of Tuazon’s poems deal with the ordinary, the out in the open but still unseen. They however don’t celebrate the mundane, but open them up to the winds of history and located in their dire realities. Some of the most economically composed belong to the series ‘Some People’, pieces tackling lives instead of objects or situations, but in the last instance, the latter categories also belong to the former.
ILANG TAO: ARSONISTA
Akala ko, likas lamang
ang hangad kong manatiling buhay
ang apoy. Lubhang madilim.
Mahigpit ang yakap ng lamig.
Nagtutumpukan ang mga gusali
at tabi-tabi ang mga bahay
kung saan hindi ako nakatira.
Ako noon ang musmos
na ang tanging laruan
ay kisap ng isang napulot na layter.
Akala ko ay panggatong
ang buong mundo.
SOME PEOPLE : ARSONIST
I thought it was only natural
to want to nurture
fire. It is too dark.
Cold embraces me tightly.
Buildings crowd and houses
gather side-by-side where I
do not live.
I was the child
whose only toy
was the spark from a lighter I picked up.
I thought the world
was my tinder.
Pesoa by Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles, translated by Kristine Ong Muslim
Back in 2014, Arguelles blacks out the collection of essays by Rene O. Villanueva’s Personal. The result from the erasure is Pesoa, one letter lacking from the prominent Portuguese poet. Now, the novel-in-verse is translated into English by Kristine Ong Muslim to produce or to find more permutations of meanings from the earlier project. Investigations of the self and memory, its fragmentation and haunting, is presented in bilingual format. The sense of the eerie in the search is doubled, the otherwise concise lines become vertiginous. The translation builds up on, as well as demolishes the ‘original’ text. This book feels like a homage, an exercise, a challenge, all at the same time to language, poetry, translation, all in its broadest definitions.
Bago mag-alas otso, umaalis ako. Araw araw, nag-iisa ako, naglalakad. Dire-điretso ang paglalakad ko. Sa bahaging may lilim ako naglalakod. Pero bihirang magkalilim. Bumabagal ako pagdating sa sarili. Pinagmamasdan ang mukha. Sinisilip ko rin ang mga retrato. Muli akong maglalakad. Minsan humihinto rin ako. Aksidente lang ang sarili.
I leave before eight in the morning. Every day, alone, I walk. I walk straight. I tend to walk under the shade. But shaded areas are few and far between. I am slow to respond when it comes to myself. I keep inspecting my face. I keep peeking at photographs. I walk again. Sometimes, I stop. The self is just an accident.’
‘Naiiba sa iba ang isang tao, maliban sa pangalan. Naiba sa iba na nagnanais makalayo sa sarili. Ang natatandaan ko'y wala akong pangalan. Bawat pangalan ng iba ay sa akin. Bonifacio, Fernando, Tomas.
Except for the name, the person differs from the other. Differs from others who wish to escape themselves. All I know is that I do not have a name. All other names are mine. Bonifacio, Fernando, Tomas.
Tangere by Rodrigo V. Dela Peña
Chapters of Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere (Charles Derbyshire’s translation) are interpreted, translated once again, interrogated into poems by Dela Peña. Reading the novel prior is not needed, I barely remember it myself. What remains is its core, and the then emerging nation it speaks to; dark secrets behind fancy dinner parties, anxious homecomings, wisdom cast as insanity, doomed lover affairs. The morbid symptoms outlined could either be those of late 19th colonial Philippines or of the present. Here’s Chapter 4.
HERETIC AND FILIBUSTER
In this story, a man is convicted of crimes that he did not commit. A stone flung from a slingshot hits a bird on the wing.
The story goes that he fell out of favor with the parish priest, who accused him of not coming to confession. How could he not have erred when everyone else was so besmirched?
The man becomes a story only after he dies. Death is the frame that bounds a life, rendering it final and complete.
To be a heretic is a great danger; to be a filibuster is worse. The story is repeated to anyone in need of a cautionary tale.
The story spreads all over town, each mouth tasting of rumor. The church bells sound rampant when pealed.
The story is an evasion is a carriage is a thorn. It takes the shape of its container: an earthen jar, a crystal goblet, a broken tea cup mended lacquered gold.
The story hardly matters, What counts is how it propels the narrative and leads a son to be heroic or tragic. In this sense, the story is a shadow of another story.
The story is everywhere and nowhere. It itches and festers, a phantom limb that throbs every time it is told. Grief is the root word of grievance.
Pag-aaral sa Oras: Mga Lumang Tula Tungkol sa Bago by Kerima Lorena Tariman
One could easily be mistaken to read this collection as linear, a poet’s biography, but the year indicated at the end of each poem shows Tariman returning and even polishing her thoughts on certain themes. The first section is undeniably urban, ironic, occasionally disenchanted, reminiscent of Emman Lacaba’s poems in English. The break is most distinct in a poem literally titled ‘leaving the city’, and from there on, the poet no longer observes but labors. Now, side by side with peasants, miners, charcoal makers, a community recovering from a storm, materialist dialectics it put into practice, in small moments, a handshake or waking up in a hammock, or in demystifying what is thought to be divine, the flow of the river, and as the title indicates, the study of time. Final part is made up of translations, of mostly members of militant poetic tradition, though this is also a misnomer, some were actually contemporaries (like Mayamor). The poem about Mt. Isarog has close affinities to Claribel Alegria’s Flowers to The Volcano, where a tectonic movement parallels a peoples’ upheaval. The next stage of revolutionary poetics, of course, is its complete abandonment. Rest in power.
Ano at sa kabila ng kisig at alindog,
Ang Isarog nga pala'y 'sang bulkang natutulog.
Pinid ang mga mata, abot-tanaw ang Asog,
Naiidlip sa ulap, sa panaginip, busog.
Sa kanyang pangangarap, nakikipagtitigan,
Sa bundok Puti-anay at mga kabukiran.
Kanyang dinurungawan, lawak ng kapatagan,
Ugat ng kanyang gubat, tungo sa karagatan.
Sa maginaw n'yang lilim, tulad na nahihimbing,
Ang magiting na masa, na dapat na pukawin.
Di miminsang nag-alsa sa pagkakaalipin,
Tlang ulit ginipit ng pasismongmalagim.
Masa ay magbabangon at muling mamumulat,
Ito'y katotohanan, liwanag na kakalat.
Ang tuktok ng Isarog, saksi sa pagsiwalat,
Nitong bukang-liwayway na malayang papakat,
Dahil sa Hukbong Bayan, hukbo na kailanman,
Ay hindi s'ya iniwan, hindi kinaligtaan.
Gigising ang Isarog dahil sa sambayanan,
Sa pagsabog ng apoy ng ating digmang bayan!
Pira-Pirasong Pilas: Mga Tula by Liberty Notarte-Balanquit
One can sense strong kinship with Claribel Alegria and Ida Vitale in Liberty Notarte-Balanquit’s terse poems, mostly revolving around the anxieties of the domestic sphere —as a mother, spouse, or daughter, vis-a-vis the toll of birthing of a more just collective fate. The poet in the persona is subtly hidden, but also emerges, in day-to-day encounters with lives that labor, endure, and taken.
"Nasaan na ang mga tula para sa akin?"
Mapaningil ang biro mo
ang ating panahon
sa mga anak,
at sa mga gawain.
Ngunit alam kong alam mo na
kung ang mga metapora
ay rasyon ng pagkain
sa pang-araw-araw na delubyo
hangga't nariyan ka
at ang dalawa nating anak,
handa akong magutom.
Kung ang rebolusyon
ay isang antolohiya,
ang bawat pahina
ay may nakalaang
patlang para sa mga lihim,
ang mga talababa
ay hiram na pangalan,
ay talaan ng ligalig
at bawat tuldok
ay tanda ng ating mga pasya.
Alay kay Pamela Jane Lapiz, isang lna, Martir ng Sambayanan
The collection is available for download here. https://www.swfupdiliman.org/project/sugat-sa-dibdib-ng-lungsod-clone/
Lahat ng Nag-aangas Ay Inaagnas by Paolo Tiausas
Tiausas’ long verses, sprawling and rambling-like, concentrates on mundane details of young adult life, and holds them up against equally trivial if not external moments to articulate the joys and sorrows of a generation, to rethink masculinity and mores. Angsty, but with tenderness, wit, and humor. A poem on disenchantment and alienation at the workplace is an easy favorite, the piece on Carly Rae Jepsen is a close second.
Wala namang pumipilit sa iyo.
Hindi mo naman kailangang umalis.
At oo, minsan, kahit ang máya biglang
bumubulusok sa tagpi-tagping yero
na pinamamahayan ng higanteng daga.
At oo, hindi naman iyon ang intensiyon,
baka gumagapang lang naman ang sawa
ng sapantaha paakyat sa lalamunan
kaya mo naisip na may ganitong pakana.
Pero ikaw naman ang makapagpapasya.
Pero ikaw. Pag-isipan mo kaya muna?
Punasan mo ang bintana. Sabunin din.
Sabawan ang kasasaing na kanin.
Itulog mo muna, baka sakaling
matauhan iyang gagamba sa dibdib
pagkagising sa malalang panaginip.
Mahirap nang makahanap ng trabaho
sa panahong nagkukubli kahit ang ipis
na kalilisan lamang sa dilim ng kanal.
Alam mo bang napipigilan ng ipis
ang kanilang hininga sa ilalim ng tubig
hanggang sa apatnapung minuto?
Kaya nakatatawid sila sa mga tubo,
nakalalangoy at nabubuhay sa estero.
At minsan, kahit dinan ng tsinelas,
nagagawa pa ring kumaripas.
Baka may kinalaman sa paghinga.
Baka dahil walang nababasag na buto
at lampahin mo man ang apat na paa
may maiiwan pang dalawang gumagana.
Sapat na kaya iyon para mabuhay ka?
Kung oo, e di ikaw na.
Maging Sa Silid: Mga Tula by Vanessa Haro
This digital chapbook is only made of ten poems, but I’ve never encountered a collection as expansive. Haro’s poems are primarily melancholic, but in a very restrained way. This frame is unsettling; bodies and spaces spill into each other, compositions of departures from homes and lovers, and even rehearsals of return are sources of apprehension. Here, emotions are made concrete and tangible, observable from a distance. Our lives are made up of moments so much beauty and ache at the same time.
NO PERMANENT ADDRESS
Palagi kaming lumilikas mula sa hindi tiyak na sakuna.
Akala ko noong una, likas ang pag-iimpake
Ng sari-sariling lungkot.
Ang paghahakot ng mga kubyertos at tabo
Sa iisang kahon.
Ang pagmamadaling abutin ang mga damit
Na nakasampay sa balustre ng hagdan.
Hindi ko na maunawaan ang pagkakaiba ng
Kaba ng paghimpil sa kaba ng paglisan.
O ang paghimpil ng kaba tuwing lilisan.
Kung may naunawaan man ako ay ito:
Ang tahanan ay walang katapusang
Paggagayak ng mga naiwan.
The collection is available for download here. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cYbl4Wom2v855u9y7bjrhzoSQ7uTjXdQ/view
Eric Abalajon is currently a lecturer at the University of the Philippines Visayas, Iloilo. Some of his works have appeared in Revolt Magazine, Loch Raven Review, Ani, Katitikan, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, The Tiger Moth Review, Marias at Sampaguitas, and elsewhere. Under the pen name Jacob Laneria, his chapbook of short fiction Mga Migranteng Sandali (Kasingkasing Press, 2020) was included in CNN Philippines’ best Filipino books of 2020. He lives near Iloilo City.