White, the second

I posted on Instagram the second poem in the trilogy of poems I wrote after seeing the films by the late Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski.

HERE IS THE LINK.


Not an Instapoet

I’m not. I’ve been writing long before the internet became accessible to the general public. Yes, I’m not as young as I wish to be.

But I’ve recently been sharing my poetry in Instagram.

HERE IS THE LINK to the latest post.

Please follow me there if you wish to read more. I’m keeping this blog for longer random musings and other stuff.

My crowd funding campaign for me to get to Seattle this March is still ongoing. Please consider donating our sharing the campaign with your network of friends and supporters of poetry.


The neglected, the old, the new, and paths with unknown destinations and companions

New year can be seen as a new beginning, a new opportunity. It can also be seen as nothing more than a change of numbers on a piece of paper or whatever you use to keep track of the dates.

I’ve been neglecting this blog for a while. My apologies. I think I got overwhelmed by 2022. When the year began one of the things I was almost sure to happen was to finally see my very first book get published in South Africa, my home since 1994. Then, after the launch of the book in May things just got crazy.

I managed to share on this blog some of those unexpected events and bits of recognition, but not all. Listing them now might seem like boasting, and I was taught to think tooting one’s horn – or, magbuhat ng sariling bangko (lifting one’s own chair?) – is really uncool.

But I’d like to think that mentioning such blessings should be a good way to show appreciation and thanks to whoever made such miracles happen. Also a kind of reminding yourself that a journey is never truly a solitary thing. Sometimes it’s just not that easy to see who is supporting you, who’s there to help you on your path, who might feel it worth their time to clear the path for you so that you can travel better, further, to stages and places you maybe never thought possible with the barest that you have.

So in no order, and with apologies if I may have left out some names, I owe a debt that I can never repay to the following:

Robert Berold of Deep South for BLOODRED DRAGONFLIES, Quaz Roodt and Ismail Mohamed of Poetry Africa, Jee Leong Koh of Gaudy Boy, Yeow Kai Chai who chose my manuscript for the book prize, Marianne Chan and World Literature Today Gary Cummiskey and Stanzas, the organisers and judges of the Poetry in McGregor Festival, San Anselmo Publications and the Santelmo Journal team, the readers and judges of the Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards, the Johannesburg Review of Books for publishing my essay, and the generous donors to the ongoing crowd funding campaign.

I’m writing this on a second hand phone which I bought with funds from one of those gifts I received in 2022. I’ve had less time in front of my laptop (personal reasons I’d rather not explain here), so this phone has become a kind of refuge, another way to keep writing. My previous phone was a bad hand-me-down, but I was also using on the side a phone left behind by my brother-in-law. That one could take good photos and make decent audio recordings, but it wasn’t really mine and is also fairly old, I now have to give it up.

With this phone I found myself posting more on other platforms, Instagram and Facebook, short bits of writing or photos with a bit of text. Rambling and random stuff that may one day become a poem or story. Like the following paragraph.

People remember either the darkness or the light. More difficult to recall what was in between, the moments before, when there was no certainty that what would follow should be welcomed or not, when it was unsure that who became visible from the fog was friend or someone intent to end your hopes.

I posted that on Facebook today.

For now the thing that is making me uncertain and uncomfortable is the scheduled trip to Seattle. Honestly don’t have all the funds yet. It’s in March!

If you read this post, please share it and the crowd funding campaign. Donate if  you feel inclined to do so, but at least spread the word.

I’m still hoping to keep going to wherever this writing life may lead, even if the Seattle plan falls through.

HERE IS THE LINK TO THE CROWD FUNDING CAMPAIGN.

Thanks for reading this, and if  you are a subscriber, even more thanks for staying with me on this journey.

Peace and Freedom for the New Year, and all the years we have before us.


Dragondream, Old poem

Posted on Instagram this one from my second book, SALIMBAYAN.

2022 brought many unexpected gifts after many years of grief and other woes, it felt like a series of dreams one has while having a fever.

Please consider donating to the crowd funding campaign for me to get to Seattle next year. If you don’t have funds to contribute, please share THIS LINK with your network of friends and family.

Thank you to all of you for the support.


This Feather…


On Instagram… Been posting some poems published in various journals and my own books. Follow me there if you think you can find some fun in more random images.

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The dead and the living


Poetry in McGregor 2022

I will be at Poetry in McGregor this weekend with two events.

First one is this Saturday, to present new work alongside other poets.

https://poetryinmcgregor.co.za/event/new-body-of-work-zen-spark-snail-patterns/

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Hope and Memory

On 18 September, 10am ET, the online Zoom event for the announcement of the manuscript that would win the 2022 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize started. The organisers of the prize, Singapore Unbound and Gaudy Boy Press, are based in New York.

It was 4pm in Cape Town, South Africa where I was, half a world away from my country of birth, the Philippines which is six hours ahead. By the time I was about to read, the son and namesake of the former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, was landing in New Jersey. It was his first time to return to the USA where numerous legal cases had been filed against him and his family. But he was untouchable, having gained diplomatic immunity as the supposed president of the Philippines in the recent elections which “failed to meet the international standard of a free, honest and fair election” according to the International Observer Mission.

On 21 September 1972, the late dictator announced martial law in the country. His regime was brought to a dramatic end when the people chased his family out of the presidential palace in 1986. Now the Marcos family appears to be back in power, propped up by the brutal legacy of the Duterte regime. They are once again flaunting their excesses without a hint of remorse for all those years of tormenting a people.

So on that day, as part of the five shortlisted poets for the Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize, I decided to highlight particular poems from my manuscript, Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight, that hoped to revisit the martial law years. With my voice quaking, I read from a prepared text:

This September marks the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines by the late deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The lies that continue to be spread by Cambridge Analytica-trained social media handlers of the Marcoses will keep trying to decimate the memory of those who fought the regime.

My manuscript doesn’t just tackle martial law, but I chose these particular poems today to highlight the anniversary of the declaration.

I did not think my manuscript would win. For many years my country of birth, sad to say, never really took to my work as I had hoped. I have had more recognition in South Africa and elsewhere. I was told not just a few times to consider stopping putting out books, for who reads them anyway?

Days after the announcement, sometimes even when I’m driving, I would still suddenly be struck by a surge of emotion not unlike when I momentarily remembered a loved one who had just died. But this time, instead of tremendous grief, it was of overflowing joy.

I will have to keep reading this press release to remind myself that maybe I should keep writing no matter what happens:

What presence, what exquisite sensitivity. Such perspicacity of mind and heart illuminates Jim Pascual Agustin’s crystalline poems. Masterfully observed, shone through with Zen penetration, these songs of innocence and experience divine a universe of complex lives lived, torn asunder, celebrated, and mended. You are enveloped in these entirely believable scenarios filled with people and creatures finding themselves in everyday moments, and extraordinary circumstances. With a few deft strokes, many of the poems here range far and delve inwards. Politics, nationality, identity, family, laws of nature – everything everywhere all at once, yet intimately, pulsatingly at home.
Prize Citation by judge Yeow Kai Chai

Thank you, Yeow Kai Chai, for finding something worthy in my work. Thank you, Jee Leong Koh and the wonderful team behind the Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize.

Books by Jim Pascual Agustin

Bloodred Dragonflies (Deep South, 2022/San Anselmo Publications, 2022)

Crocodiles in Belfast & other poems (San Anselmo Publications, 2020)

How to Make a Salagubang Helicopter & other poems (San Anselmo Publications, 2019)

Wings of Smoke (The Onslaught Press, 2017)

Sanga sa Basang Lupa at iba pang kuwento (University of Sto. Tomas Publishing House, 2016)

A Thousand Eyes (USTPH, 2015)

Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran (USTPH, 2013)

Sound Before Water (USTPH, 2013)

Baha-bahagdang Karupukan (USTPH, 2011)

Alien to Any Skin (USTPH, 2011)

Salimbayan (Publikasyong Sipat, 1994)

Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil Publishing, 1992)


Injured in the Night – a poem for Joel Pablo Salud

Here is part of what I said during the Zoom event (watch it on YouTube) for the announcement of the winning manuscript for the 2022 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize:

This September marks the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines by the late deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The lies that continue to be spread by Cambridge Analytica-trained social media handlers of the Marcoses will keep trying to decimate the memory of those who fought the regime.

My manuscript  doesn’t just tackle martial law, but I chose these particular poems today to highlight the anniversary of the declaration.

There are four sections – Bound by Wood, The Belly of a Termite, Something in Its Grip, and Resonate. The first three sections deal with nature, politics, and departures respectively. The fourth has all three, but the themes are bound together by a single line from a song by Icelandic musician Bjork, a line “misheard” in different ways becomes the title of each poem in the final section.

“Injured in the Night” is among the poems I read, written for Joel Pablo Salud who has many interesting stories about those martial law years.

Injured in the Night
for Joel Pablo Salud


September is a war of memories
in the home country. Roads and alleys,
unmarked cemeteries. Billboards
are nothing but metal skeletons hiding
behind the clash of colours on tarpaulin.
The promise of whiter skin looms
over the patchwork maze of shacks.

No one mends a bullet-ridden car.
It becomes fodder to the crunching jaws
of scrap machinery, not a piece of evidence.

Who will remember those injured
in the night, the disappeared?
Are we only here to scavenge
a landscape where smoke coils
long after the last burning?

-o-