Cabie’s sonnets: Insights on the world within, without

By Paul Blanco Zafaralla

A sonnet, technically defined, is “(a) poem of 14 decasyllabic or (rarely) octosyllabic lines, originally composed of an octave and a sestet, properly expressing two successive phases of a single thought or sentiment.” (Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, 1974).

Cabie’s sonnets: Insights on the world within, without
'Rhymes and Roses,' a volume of 180 sonnets by Honor Blanco Cabie. 
Yes and no. Yes because a sonnet, more than its technical definition, expresses a thought or a sentiment. And no because a sonnet expresses not just a single thought, but a series of thoughts leading to universals as well as sentiments toward such universals.

And this is where a sonnet becomes class-less and culture-free—a clear, curt, and concise elucidation of humanity and the global village.

This is where the 180 sonnets of Honor Blanco Cabie contained in his book (his 12th) titled Rhymes and Roses mark their collective identity as the sonneteer’s concept of humanity in the large.

Rita Gadi, former editor in chief of The Philippine Chronicle, says: “(Honor Blanco Cabie’s) words have taken the journey and may well be on the way towards the moment when they become his blood, his glance and gesture, indistinguishable from what he is as a person… and at those very rare hours, when the words arise… they do go forth from there with a life of their own to inhabit the pages we read here.”

Nikka Cleofe-Alejar, broadcaster, announces with words: “Reading Rhymes and Roses allowed me to plunge deeper into his persona and psyche. His thoughts are equally nostalgic and practical, observant and kind, lyrical and graphics, bringing this reader to depths and heights that wax philosophical. Rhymes and Roses is a refreshing read.”

And Vim Nadera coined the aptest word for Honor Blanco Cabie’s sonnets: “Honnets.”

The kind reader, we are sure, can fully understand us for reprinting our introduction to Rhymes and Roses, with the tacit approval of the sonneteer who won first prize in the 16th World Congress of Poets in 2000, among many distinctions.

Creative juice can be continuous and endless: Life’s prismic realities become a resultant experience. This maxim, held awesome among artists through the ages, proceeds from two sources: The world within and without. The outlets: Eyes, heart, ears, mind.

Cabie, in his volume of 180 sonnets which covered 104 days (June 14, 2003 – September 25, 2003), proved once more that his creative juice can never run dry.

After all, the world within and without can always pulsate with both abstract and concrete realities waiting to be given shape and substance only the creative artist could best articulate.

As a journalist, Cabie writes about breaking events which are timely; and, as a poet, makes them timeless. The juice squeezed deepens and widens man’s experience of the world within and without, in toto. And man is the better for it.

This volume presents the sonnets chronologically—not thematically—the better to demonstrate the workings of the poet’s eyes, heart, ears, and mind within the set time frame.

Sonnet 5929, the first entry, opens with these lines:

would i indeed i had some sturdy wings

that i could scour, despite the rains, the sky

and there be with the pow’r that only kings

and potentates can have – I would be high.

The visuals are clear: Wings, rains, sky. They become metaphors of ambition, blessings and expansive aspirations that not “only kings and potentates can have”—but which the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, the now invisible but ever present Pow’r, can grant.

The last two lines run, thus:

i have my strength but wish that sturdier wings

were mine, that i can strum the happiest strings.

The penultimate line recognizes one’s weakness despite one’s strength before the One who gives “sturdier wings.” Clearly, humility overrules hubris, in the end.

Sundays are rest days, with God Himself setting the paradigm for mankind. But the journalist’s job, his mistress, is so demanding that he must do his thing even on such a holy day. And here lies the tampuhan between two four-letter words: work, home.

On June 22, 2003, Honor wrote his sonnet 5950:

a sunday but beyond my nose bridge lies

a most seductive mistress of a job

that has enslaved for years my mind and eyes

to many nights i couldn’t weave nor bob.

it is this job that often takes my goat

in moments i most need my household coat.

News stories, newspaper columns including editorial cartoons have not escaped Cabie’s eyes from which thoughts are shaped that flirt with the transcendental. And he jots down his creative juice anywhere: aboard a jeepney on his way to work, “along a less travelled highway,” canteens, classrooms or newsroom of NBN, five-star hotel room or lobby, snack bar by the road, etc., regardless of time and clime.

Sonnet 6072 is replete with one man’s history, from which can be gleaned the history of the early Filipinos (mostly Ilocanos) who picked pineapples in Hawaii and oranges in California “in the first quarter of the 20th century.”

The second stanza:

i’m sure he would no longer ask for more

while on the mound he’d sweep the fields that brought

him many a treasured mem’ry, cherished lore,

the furrowed fields that helped him buy his coat.

The man Cabie is referring to is his father, Bernardo Cabralda Cabie who, together with his cousin Tito Cabralda Zafaralla, my father, braved the elements in Hawaii where they held their chins up before the white and yellow people, including the big-bodied Kanakas. (Tata Bernardo also upheld his brown race in California).

Cabie generally broke away from established rhyming in western sonnets.

The Petrarchan/Italian abbaabba cdecde is ignored; while the Shakespearean abab cdcd efef gg is observed in some, ignored in most. Clearly the poet is focused more on content than on form: the former is eternal; the latter is ephemeral.

While the poet strictly followed the 14-line sonnets of the western sonneteers, he again ignored the decasyllabic lines of Shakespeare, for instance, in favor of 11, sometimes 12 syllables per line.

Whichever, the entry of visuals and metaphors, flow of ideas, effusion of feelings, textures, tones—in a word the “works”—are unhampered.

These sonnets, which count among the few (out of thousands) that Ondoy failed to flood away in September 2009, are worth keeping in any library. Reason: they present fresh insights on the world within and without.

Topics: sonnet , Honor Blanco Cabie , Rhymes and Roses , Rita Gadi , Vim Nadera
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