Category Archives: Mga Tula / Poetry

The Breath of Sparrows… for Madiba

Mandela from wikimedia commons
The Breath of Sparrows
for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

So it has arrived, the news
of your departure. Last night
I dreamt I was in the house
of my mentor, as a frequent guest
who took a desk by the window.

A towering tree with red
and yellow flowers as big as hands,
the breeze slipping between each
petal finger. I went to his room
to ask the name of that tree.

He lay on his bed, resting
with eyes closed but aware
of the birds weighing down
the branches, leaves caressing
the roof. The breath of sparrows

like his own. There was no need to name
the tree, no need to name anything
at all at that moment. I bid him thanks
before leaving, my footsteps drowning
in sparrow wings.


Cape Town Launch of the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology 3

I’m not sure what to expect, but I already promised I’ll read my work at the Cape Town launch. So here’s the official announcement…

I will try not to make a fool of myself in front of complete strangers. “Try” is one word but “Fool” always seems to cling to me. :P

Rusted Radishes 2 will feature one of my poems!

rusted radishes issue 2

My poem “If Palestine were a Treasured Painting” has been included in the second issue of Rusted Radishes! I need a working teleporter to attend the launch in the next few days. :)

I submitted the poem a long time ago. Their fantastic editors suggested some changes which I gladly accepted. And finally it’s out there!

Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran is now available!

My new book of poetry in Filipino, Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), is finally out! Readers in the Philippines should easily find the book at National Book Store and Fully-Booked, Solidaridad Bookshop and maybe a few others.

The fantastic introduction from Benilda S. Santos alone is worth reading, aside from the poems. :)

The cover is designed by John Marin Flores. I hope you find it disturbing.

My Middle Name is My Mother’s Surname. No, Her Father’s!

sol plaatje iii in my hands low res

I finally have in my hands my contributor’s copy of The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Volume III! Took some time due to the mysterious appearance of a black hole, but what matters is that it has arrived intact ahead of the Cape Town launch in early December.

silent wing low res

I feel lucky to be in this anthology despite sending my three poems in at the last minute. The poems, “Silent Wing,” “Human Patience,” and “Exit Music for the Disappeared,” are part of a nine-poem cycle called Endings are Beginnings which is the last section of my manuscript in progress, Sky for Silent Wings. I just wish my middle name – which is really my mother’s surname… no, wait, her father’s surname! – had not been left out altogether… well, not entirely. I see it in the biographical notes!

human patience and exit music for the disappeared low res

I’m not complaining, not at all. Just a niggle, really. :)

Thank you to Liesl Jobson and all the judges. Maybe next year I’ll be even luckier. Hahaha! Keep dreaming, Jim Pascual Agustin!


My country of birth is still reeling from the devastation of Haiyan/Yolanda. There is no forgetting how this tragedy has ruined so many lives. And yet human kindness and generosity shine through despite the petty politics of various parties (media, politicians, and individuals armed with keyboards). I am thankful for those who continue to help in countless ways the survivors, and all those who see beyond this catastrophe, those who seek new ways of lessening the blows of climate change. The human family can come together, I believe. This I say in a world where often there seems so little to believe in, to hope for. Yet we continue to surprise one another. We are never alone.


Paper, Water, Air, Alien Hands

My mother taught me how to make paper boats. Newspaper was not the best material to use, for water moves fast on its skin, further darkening the printed words. But newspaper was what I was allowed to fold and tear. What is a boat if it never runs on water? A round basin of water is no more than a cage. So making paper boats meant waiting for rain. Or setting your fragile boat on rushing open drains – water that spurted from neighborhood pipes, dragging bits of rice, fish bone, sometimes other stuff that I’d rather not mention. I was young and only what flowed mattered.

I never thought I’d be writing one day. My hands look like they were meant to do something else, hold a scythe or a hammer, tear down old buildings or mix cement. I have the hands of someone who might till the land. Yet I don’t. I write as if it was something like air for me. If I don’t write I know I am slowly dying – the kind that starts from inside, and no one else can see or sense until all limbs hang without a single beating vein.

jim with sbw smile 2

Now this. After more than a full month in various dark places (sorting boxes, airplane cargo bays, conveyor belts running through metal tunnels, etc) and being handled by strangers who may never hear of me or read a single word I write, the only copy in Africa (yes! the only one! for now!) of my new poetry book in English (the language of one of my former colonial masters) Sound Before Water felt young and weary when I finally held it in my hands yesterday. That sentence was intentionally long and tedious to reflect the journey. Or just to test the patience of the reader. :)

stella and other friendly ghosts low res

A very good friend, the poet Emmanuel Q. Velasco, sent Sound Before Water by post along with a copy of Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo’s book of essays, Stella and Other Friendly Ghosts and the various documents from the National Book Awards last year. I was thankful that my collection in Filipino was a finalist, but was also sad at the same time that the English collection was not even nominated.

My new book joins Alien to Any Skin and Baha-bahagdang Karupukan in their search for readers who might find my words on paper worth keeping. One more paper child is due to meet the world soon. We always hope for the best for our children.

close up of sbw and alien

Here is the Goodreads LINK to Sound Before Water.

My Poems Greet Readers First!

The slightly delayed release of New Coin’s first issue for 2013 finally arrived in my postbox the other day and I was ecstatic to see my poems featured so prominently. :)  No, it wasn’t just because my surname starts with “A” – I had that thought for a moment, too, upon opening the journal.

New Coin June 2013 cover

Here is a link about the current editor and what he says of the issue: Vonani Bila.

New Coin june 2013 contents page

Subscribe to NEW COIN. Why? Because you get to read amazing poetry from South Africa! I’ve been informed that my work has also been accepted for the December 2013 issue… (Jim does a silly dance). This means I have better chances of winning the DALRO Award again hahahaha – yeah, keep wishing, Jim!

New Coin DALRO PRIZE judge's report

Here’s one of my poems in the June 2013 issue… one of four poems.

New Coin june 2013 HOOKS AND FEATHERS

Subscribe and you get to read all four and a whole lot of other great poetry from South Africa! More great news to come in the next few days/weeks, so please keep visiting this little blog. Better yet, make me happy and consider purchasing my books from UST PUBLISHING HOUSE:

Sound Before Water

Alien to Any Skin

Baha-bahagdang Karupukan (shortlisted for the National Book Award)

and forthcoming … Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran

… end of self-promotion. Please move toward the EXIT in an orderly fashion. :P


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 699 other followers