As we head into summer and take walks on the beach or solitary café breaks, poetry is an ideal companion for daydreaming and musing. Here are three volumes of verse by Filipino poets that will inspire, entertain, and provoke thought.
Nick Carbó serves his greatest hits
In Epithalamion, a slim volume from Milflores Publishing, Nick Carbó compiles some of his choicest poems from over three decades of writing and reminds the world of his special grace that straddles the mystic and the mundane.
Born in Legazpi, Albay, he graduated from St. Mary’s University with a BA in English and Sarah Lawrence College with an MFA in Creative Writing. He has written five books of poetry, from which the poems in Epithalamion were taken.
His “Directions to My Imaginary Childhood” is a surreal romp through streets of the Filipino literary mind: “roll down your window and ask / them if Mr. Florante and Miss Laura / are home. if the answer is yes, / then proceed to Noli me tangere Park and wait for a nun named Maria Clara…”
Trivia: the poem above was scrolled on the big screen at the Joshua Tree Concert in Manila in 2019, while the audience waited for U2 to appear onstage.
In his set of “Ang Tunay na Lalaki” poems, he takes us through the life experiences of a Filipino in New York, who meets Barbie at a bar, indulges in phone sex, and wonders how a man tastes – “He thinks / of the taste of fried garlic, of anise seeds, / of rambutan fruit, of broiled tuna — / none comes close to what a man / would taste like in his mind…”
Not only does Carbó delight us with wordplay and story-telling, he also offers pieces that combine imagery with verses. In “The Absence of Atmosphere,” he scatters colored circles with words on them like so many festive balloons. “Saussure’s Remedy” is a mixed media poem, words written on Alka-Seltzer pills cushioned on bubble wrap in a painted wooden cigar box. The original piece was destroyed in a fire, and only photographs remain.
Like a greatest hits album, Epithalamion is an excellent retrospective of Carbó’s body of work so far, and a wonderful introduction for those who have not read him yet.
Epithalamion: New and Selection Poems 1990-2020, by Nick Carbó
109 pages / P499.00 (milflorespublishing.com)
2022, Milflores Publishing, Inc.
Pablo Tariman offers lessons on life
Writer Pablo Tariman, best known for his pieces on arts and culture, particularly music, regales readers with his first book of poetry.
What’s amazing about this collection is that Tariman birthed these verses after half a century since writing his last poem. “After 50 years in 2020,” he writes in the foreword, “I resumed writing poetry during the long lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I wrote almost every day.”
At year’s end, his poem “Ode to Frontliners” appeared on a marker dedicated to health workers in Pasig City. “Many owe you their extended lives / You also gave the last warm moments / Of many before their flight unto the stars…”
“Heart of Fury,” written after revelations of questionable actions in the government’s pandemic response, went viral on the internet. It starts: “Many times / My anger has gone viral. / It is a fury boiling / From the pit of my being / Seeing my country / Going to the dogs? Just like that.”
But it was “Grief Without Words,” his remembrance for Michelle Silvertino, who died waiting for a ride back to her province during lockdown, that spread like wildfire among netizens, ‘liked’ on social media by over 6,000 people, and shared by more than half: “There is momentary stillness / In my psyche / As I look at the lifeless body / Wrapped in dark cloth / Given last moments / In a cemetery / Near the busy bus station.”
Tariman also writes about island life and his family, as well as shares his hopes for the future. His verses show that poetry serves everyone at some point in their life and lends them solace and peace, even after fifty years.
Love, Life, and Loss During the Pandemic, by Pablo Tariman
172 pages / firstname.lastname@example.org or text 09065104270
2021, Music News & Features
67 poets write pink verses
Among the most amazing things to happen during the presidential campaign of Vice President Leni Robredo was the outpouring of art created by Filipinos in all manner of media.
One such project was created by poets of the Philippine literary community, many of them distinguished, published, and well known to readers. The book 100 Pink Poems Para Kay Leni gathers the work of 67 writers from all over the country and abroad who managed to put everything together in just four weeks, including editing.
The publisher, San Anselmo Press, reports that the volume is in its “historic 8th printing in just three months” after publication, making it a landmark success of its kind. Among the contributors are Gémino H. Abad, National Artist Virgilio Almario (writing as ‘Rio Alma’), Merlie Alunan, Abdon M. Balde Jr., Alma Anonas-Carpio, Aileen Cassinetto, Frank Cimatu, Jose Dalisay, Marne Kilates, Angelo R. Lacuesta, Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta, Beverly W. Siy, Eileen R. Tabios, Pablo Tariman, Joel Vega, and Krip Yuson.
There are many interesting and worthy poems here, and perhaps the best well-known is Dalisay’s “Jesse’s Poem,” that went viral on the internet. It starts: “If this is what I died for, / Let no one grieve. / When wife became widow / She could not believe / That hurtful accident could make / Of loss a boundless gain / And of my bones a pillow / To dream away the pain.”
This volume is a must for every bookshelf as a reminder of what literature can accomplish as a barometer of society’s mood and a documenter of thoughts and feelings during this time of intense emotion and polarized sentiments in our nation’s history.
100 Pink Poems Para Kay Leni, by various poets
187 pages / P330.00
2022, San Anselmo Press
For comments and feedback, you may reach the author on Facebook and Twitter: @DrJennyO