Two decades is a long time to be away from your own children. What if they were only made of paper, words on paper in a language you grew up speaking but now rarely use because no one else where you now live knows it? Would you still recognize them as your own? Would they seem as important and worth reading after all these years?
I am currently proofreading the text for my first book of short stories in Filipino, Sanga sa Basang Lupa, which is due for release later in the year. I had to stop for a while again. I remember the rough outline of each story, but I found myself getting all tense and fearful for the characters, or laughing with them at certain points of the narrative. Had they taken on a life of their own in all the time they had been in storage?
Would other readers feel the same way if and when they finally open the pages of the book and enter the worlds I had imagined? Will these stories even be given a chance by a single reviewer? A single reader?
I never thought of these at all when I was writing each story. If I had, none of them would be here now.
Stubbornness and wreckless abandon, I blame you, you twins of creation. And thank you. Now I have nothing but hope.
I just made up this design for this post and will not be used for the final book at all.
Mahirap panatilihing buhay ang wika kung ikaw lamang ang tanging bumibigkas nito sa iyong kinalalagyan. Hinahagilap ng isip ang bawat hakbang ng salita, hindi madaling magtatakbo kung saan pumapanig-panig at kumakampay ang imahinasyon. Kaya nga dumadalang ang aking pagsusulat ng mga tula sa Filipino. Balak kong gisingin muli ito sa pamamagitan ng pagsasalin. Ang una ko sanang proyekto – idedeklara na kahit hindi tiyak kung mabibigyang-pansin agad – ay ang pagsasalin ng mga piling akda ko mula sa Inggles/Ingles (alin ba ang higit na popular na baybay?). Ito sana ang pamagat:
KaLaman at DayuHan: mga saling-sarili.
Ngayong taon ilalabas ang una kong aklat ng mga maikling kuwento (SANGA SA BASANG LUPA) sa wikang kinagisnan. Gayong matagal nang nailatag sa papel ang mga salitang naipon bilang mga kuwento, ngayon lamang sila sabay-sabay na hahakbang sa mas malawak na daigdig. Pangamba kong matindi ang kanilang kahihinatnan. Magiging mabuti kaya ang kanilang paglalakbay? Paano kaya sila tatanggapin ng mga mambabasa? Sino kaya ang aampon sa kanila? Ilulunsad sila kasabay ng aking ikapitong aklat ng mga tula (A THOUSAND EYES) sa mga susunod na buwan. Sana, o sana, pagbuksan sila ng pinto, o kahit man lamang ng bintana. Lagi, kakambal ng “sana” ang “pag-asa.”
(ROUGH TRANSLATION: I’m worried I am losing my ability to write in my mother tongue so I am embarking on translating my selected poems from English to Filipino, even as two new books are due to be launched this year – SANGA SA BASANG LUPA (my first collection of short stories in Filipino) and A THOUSAND EYES (my seventh book of poetry). I hope to have an online launch of both books in Manila and a launch of the poetry books in English in Cape Town – if all goes as planned (more “as hoped for”).
Most of my friends are scattered in various parts of the world. Not a single one was able to attend when I read at Off the Wall on Monday night.
It would have been nice to see familiar faces. But that night I also made new friends, I hope. Thank you to those who came to listen, and for those who wished they could’ve been there, I’ve made a brief recording and put it up on Soundcloud. Tell me what you think. And thanks again for all the support. Soon I hope to announce the release of A THOUSAND EYES.
photo from The Guardian of a Lego man depicting what took place in Abu Gharib, Iraq
If all goes well, I’ll be reading at Off the Wall in Observatory’s A Touch of Madness bar and restaurant here in Cape Town. One of the poems I intend to read is “The Man Who Wished He was Lego” which appeared in Sixfold. I shared a link to that in an earlier post. But for those who missed it, HERE IT IS AGAIN.
I’m hoping not to make the audience fall asleep. Well, an audience would be nice to have in the first place. So if you are in Cape Town or plan to have a weird night on Monday, come on over. 🙂
I’m also going to read work included in the recently released NEW COIN POETRY bumper issue. If you ever read contemporary poetry, this journal has got to be on your list. Convince your local library to subscribe to NEW COIN POETRY (check them out on Facebook).
Hmmm wait, might as well post the poem here for lazy readers who cannot even click to a link. haha.
The Man Who Wished He was Lego
His hands would be yellow
and forever curved
into a semi-square “C.”
Designed only for quick
and easy snapping
of pieces meant
to fit. His shoes
would be the same color
as his pants with no zips
or buttons, no pockets
for slipping in notes
that could be shredded
in the wash. He would need
not worry about the shape
of his head, or haircuts
and thoughts for that matter.
And best of all, his chest
would be stiff and hollow,
far too small
for a heart.