Monthly Archives: November 2015

Commemorating the 2015 Day of the Imprisoned Writer

I have been invited by PEN SA to read on 16 November 2015 at Kalk Bay Books to commemorate the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Here is a LINK to the PEN SA website regarding the event. I’m thinking of reading some poems from ALIEN TO ANY SKIN and perhaps a new work, if things fall into place.

If you are anywhere in Cape Town on that day, please do join us.

Copy of fist heart

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SA President declares ANC more important than the country

More Important than the Country

Is it possible to sleep
in a house on fire?
A shower alone
will not douse the flames.

Locking the doors to keep
everyone else out
may not be the most clever
thing to do. Mr. President,

the swimming pool
will not save those shiny
thoughts you hold
so dearly in your head.

-o-

LINK to Daily Maverick article.


JK Rowling, please read this. One day if not today.

I have never been to Israel or Palestine. One day I would like to meet people who live side by side there. Look into their eyes. See where they live. How they live. Greet their children. Touch the walls of their homes. Walk the path they take to get to work or school. Share a meal with them. Maybe share a poem or two. They can tell me how I got the details wrong, laugh with them at my mistakes. One day.

I began this blog when I had nowhere to express what I felt upon seeing photographs of what was happening in Gaza. That was many years ago. Many things have changed with my little blog, with my own life and the rest of the world. But Gaza remains in darkness.

Today I read an OPEN LETTER addressed to you. I decided to share it here, just to help amplify it. I realize you may never read it through my blog. But maybe you will. Who knows?


Ginahasa Ka Namin, Magpakamatay Ka na Lang – first draft

Many years ago I wrote a poem in Filipino in reaction to the rape and subsequent suicide of a movie actress. She was called a “starlet” – the label that sticks forever if one never gets out of b-movie, soft-porn productions – and one of the so-called “softdrink beauties” as promoted by an imaginative talent scout. Three daily TV show hosts were the rapists. It’s a surreal poem which may not work well in translation. I am posting that poem later here. Today I’d like to share a first draft of a new poem that is slightly more bitter (and perhaps less subtle – if that is even possible).  Apologies for the missing translation. I’ll have to see to that when I have more time. This poem came to mind as I read about the new antics of the same lot of “comedians” who remain popular and influential in my country of birth.

UPDATE: as this is a first draft, please feel free to tell me what you think of this new work. well I’m always open to critique, so treat the old poem and its translation the same way. maraming salamat.

UPDATE 2 (thanks to Ed Maranan) HERE is a link to a news article on the rape and death of Pepsi Paloma. Yes, some people remain in power despite everything they do.

Ginahasa Ka Namin, Magpakamatay Ka na Lang

dahil sikat kami at sanay
magpatawa. Softdrinks ka lang,
hindi pa seksi ang iyong bote,

GI goodbye Joe ang tatay
samantalang kami may daily TV show
na patok, habambuhay habang

dinudumog ng masang tila
bangaw. Ikaw, ililibing na balot
ng tabloid. Starlet

na hindi man lang kumisap.
Sino ang mumultuhin mo balang araw?
Hindi kami. Hindi kami.

-o-

Kuwentong Kalbo
para kay Pepsi Paloma

May anghel na nagbigti
sa puno ng kamatsile.

Kaya nagturok ng tinidor
at nagsalang ng kutsara
ang mga palaka

bago bumaha ng kidlat
sa dibdib ng langit
sa mga sandaling hindi pa sila nakapagliligpit

ng patay na butete
at lobong napunit.

Naglampungan ang mga dahon
bago lubusang huminahon
ang araw.

Kung mayroon lang tikbalang
sa kalapit na balete
nagkaroon sana ng munting salu-salo

at nagpamisa pa sana
ang mga mukhang taeng-kabayo.

Subalit mababang uri
ang anghel na ito
na nagbigti,

kahit pa man
siya’y nakaputi.

-o-
draft translation

Bald Story
for Pepsi Paloma

An angel hung herself
on a kamatsile tree.

Frogs heated spoons
and used forks as needles

expecting lightning to come
flooding over the sky’s bosom.
They had not yet cleared up

dead tadpoles
and torn balloons.

Leaves grew ecstatic
until the sun
became less aroused.

Had there been a tikbalang
on the nearby balete tree
there would’ve been a quick feast

and those with horse dung faces
would’ve called for a mass.

But this was only
a lowly angel
who hung herself,

despite her white
dress.

-o-

NOTE: Pepsi Paloma was one of a number of starlets discovered by a talent scout who gave them screen names after particular softdrink brands. Pepsi was raped by three comedians who hosted a popular noontime TV show: Joey de Leon, Richie “the Horsey,” and Vic Sotto (brother of another comedian, Tito Sotto, who would one day be a Senator). After being convicted for the crime, the three asked Pepsi for forgiveness. Soon after she pardoned them, she committed suicide by hanging.


People Who Live with Lions may roar once again

I wrote a poem a few years ago and it took a while for it to get published. But then soon after first publication in New Coin it was picked up by SA-born Denis Hirson and was luckily included in the original French edition of contemporary South African poetry which he edited and published in France. A subsequent English edition was released last year by Deep South Books which was co-edited by Robert Berold who is a great supporter of new voices in the country. This month, “People Who Live with Lions” has a chance of being read by an even bigger audience at the Goodreads.com Poetry! newsletter competition. if you are interested, here is the link to the contest:

NOVEMBER 2015 NEWSLETTER