Friday, November 24, 2023


The Halo-Halo Review is pleased to interview authors in the aftermath of their books’ releases. This issue's featured authors include Jim Pascual Agustin. 

What is your most recent book? Who published it and when was it released?

Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight, which won the 2022 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize, was published in April 2023. Gaudy Boy is an imprint of Singapore Unbound, an independent publisher based in New York. This is my first book to be published in the USA.

I’d like to mention that two other books first published in the Philippines have found independent publishers in South Africa, and are being released in the last quarter of 2023:
 Crocodiles in Belfast (Vhakololo Press, Limpopo 2023) and Sound Before Water (Minimal Press, Cape Town 2023). Both books deal with life in South Africa and highlight moments in the country’s political landscape after the end of apartheid. 


What has been the response/what has surprised you most about the response to Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight?

Soon after my manuscript was announced as the winner, I got the news that I had been invited to Poetry Africa in Durban. It was there that I found a new “family” - one that shared the excitement I had been trying to contain about the forthcoming book. They heard about the invitation for me to launch it in the USA, and my reluctance due to unavailability of funds. They convinced me to agree on a crowdfunding campaign for the trip. Their support was astounding. I got reconnected with old friends who also generously contributed to the campaign. Their overwhelming support gave me the chance to see the USA for the first time. 

All the early copies of Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight that my publisher brought to the AWP Book Fair and Conference in Seattle were sold out. We had two well-attended events in Seattle and another one in a private venue in New York. One day I will have to write properly about that whirlwind experience.

The title has been picked up since by Ateneo de Manila University Press. The Philippine edition issue is due for release in the first quarter of 2024. 

There is also interest in the book to appear in translation in a European country, but I can’t reveal anything until a contract is presented. 

While I was at the AWP Book Fair and Conference, I made friends with an independent publisher from Oregon who bought a copy of the Snail book. I showed him my previous books that I brought with me. He loved How to Make a Salagubang Helicopter & other poems (San Anselmo Publications, Manila 2019), which is mainly a critique of the murderous Duterte regime. This publisher said he would like to release a North American edition of the book. My Philippine publisher has given him the green light. Although there isn’t a date yet for its release, I’m looking forward to that wonderful offshoot of the release of Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight.

Aside from your review in Halo-Halo, the book has just been reviewed on the website of Rhino Poetry. Here is Rhino's link.

During the recent Brooklyn Book Festival, Filipino Americans eagerly bought copies of the book from my publisher’s stall. 

It’s also heartening to hear that my publisher has entered the book to the CLMP Firecracker Awards as well as the PEN Open Book Award.


Tell me something not obvious or known about the book.

It is one of my most playful and unpredictable books. It has this ridiculously long title, which is from one of the shortest poems in the collection. Only when I had finished putting together the manuscript did I notice the numerous references to a wide variety of famous and infamous people, or popular musicians and bands, as well as characters from movies. Björk, Taylor Swift, Maria Ressa, Leni Robredo, Desmond Tutu, Counting Crows, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, disgraced former South African president Jacob Zuma, and Mad Max all stand side by side. 

There are even ekphrastic poems based on the work of Filipino painters Fernando Amorsolo and Celeste Lecaroz. The phrase “star-studded” somehow fits the book.


What are you working on right now?

I have an overdue project, a collection of essays, that I would like to finish by early next year. It will be a mixture of ramblings, personal notes during travelling or while putting down roots in one place, dream memories, characters met while working in a music shop, the various creatures that have fascinated me in the small bit of land where our kids grew up, as well as fictional retellings. It won’t be a usual memoir, more like a puzzle with seemingly missing pieces. 

I also hope to finish a selection of my own poems from English which I want to translate to Filipino as a way for them to “come back home.” I've had a title for that project for years now—KaLaman at DayuHan. 

I also want to find publishers in different parts of the world that might be interested in releasing editions of my books, including in translation. There’s one particular book that I’m very fond of that deserves being “reborn.” It got taken off the list by the original UK publisher due to some misunderstanding which I won’t elaborate here. The book is Wings of Smoke and contains poems straddling the Philppines and South Africa.

Since October I’ve been on a series of readings at various public libraries in and around Cape Town. These are small gatherings that allow more direct and personal interactions. So far the experience has been quite enlightening. In one session I had very young kids from an underprivileged community earnestly listening to the poems and then asking surprisingly probing questions. In another session I read an entire section of Crocodiles in Belfast called “Endings are Beginnings” which I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, as it’s a very special piece of cohesive work on its own that I’m quite proud of. 

I hope to continue the series until early 2024. Being with small independent publishers is both a blessing and a challenge – you can do anything and everything to find your own audience.

I’ve been playing with audio recordings and some amateur videos as promotional material, too.

Lastly, I want to gather all my previous poems that directly or indirectly tackle the situation in Palestine. I’ve been writing these poems since about 2008, when my ignorance was unmasked by some very good online friends from Prague. I want to put it out as a free digital book – my small attempt at making sense of the senselessness of so-called world leaders who fail to see themselves as nothing more than bullies.



Jim Pascual Agustin grew up in the Philippines during the Marcos dictatorship. He writes in Filipino and English. He holds a degree in English Literature from Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. He has been a lecturer, an NGO worker, a secondhand music shop employee, and a fridge cleaning kit seller, among others.

Agustin has published several books of poetry and a collection of stories in the Philippines, the UK, South Africa and the USA. His poetry has won prizes in South Africa at the New Coin DALRO Awards, the EU Sol Plaatje Poetry Awards, the AVBOB Poetry Competition, and the Poetry in McGregor Competition. Lunch Ticket, a US-based online journal, awarded him the Gabo Prize.

He moved to Cape Town, South Africa in 1994 to be with the woman he fell in love with the year before while exploring the Mountain Province in the north of the Philippines during the monsoon season. 

Jim Pascual Agustin shares rambling thoughts and publishing news on his blog Matangmanok. Here is a link to where to get his books:

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