Category Archives: Silly Babble

The announcement I nearly missed

It turns out that yesterday’s Cape Times where Karin Schimke reviewed my book, Sound Before Water, had a small announcement in their “Diary” section. I nearly missed it, then nearly choked when I was shown it:

Off the Wall Poetry announcement Copy of DSCF6716

I haven’t come up with a list yet of poems to read. I plan to mix old and new, perhaps even some translations. Or I could play with a theme, music or music-related. I might post some of the poems here if I have the time. Otherwise, please hope I don’t bore the audience into trying to drown themselves in the nearest wineglass.

If the audience survives, or even likes my work, they might have a chance to buy the handful of copies of SOUND BEFORE WATER that I plan to bring with me.

The Ghosts of Fukushima

One day someone will write a novel, or at least a short story, if not a poem with that title. It probably isn’t going to be me, but I’m willing to take credit for the title. 🙂

Seriously though, this article from the New York Times is worrying.

Cape Town has had its own problems with its nuclear plant which, like the ones in Fukushima, are by the sea. A few years ago a wrench was found in a sensitive section of the reactor. There were also reports of the dwindling number of qualified technicians. These days power utility Eskom seems to have either managed the various problems or now employs good spin doctors.

The other night I suddenly recalled the horrifying footage we saw during the Fukushima disaster – of black waters wiping out everything in its path, cars, street poles, and even buildings that looked stable and unmovable. Shots filmed from a helicopter made you realize the extent of death and destruction.

And yet we forget. Or so easily get used to such events. There are ghosts. You know there are, and they will haunt us all.


A Bewitching Poem and three news items


By chance I discovered a stunning poem by a poet I had never before heard of. Toe Good Poetry which published one of my poems, “Parable of the Stupid Man,” not long ago, has featured Michaela A. Gabriel. Read the poem, listen to her reading. She’ll make you gasp for air!

NEWS ITEMS: Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, and Stop Prawer Plan the first two have been covered by various mainstream and independent media while the last one should be. 

I hope to write a poem for each item. Some day. Perhaps they won’t be as good as what Michaela A. Gabriel might write, but I’ll try anyway. 🙂

Someone thought this baby has something special

caspian and my watch

In an earlier post I mentioned a poem that I didn’t expect would get noticed. Got a nice surprise this morning.

The current judges of the Monthly Poetry! competition thought my poem has something special enough to be chosen as a finalist for the August Newsletter. It isn’t the biggest charmer among those chosen, but it’s got a lot going for it.

Donning my salesman’s hat here – all ragged and out of shape. 🙂

First, this poem has an unusual title: End of 2010: Another Science Fiction Year has Come and GoneNow, how many poems do you know can pull off that kind of title and still expect to be liked? hahahaha… almost falling off my chair here.

I’m not going to tell you that the other poems are not as good. Much of poetry comes down to taste. But if you want more than just a passing oooh and aaah, something that deals with more than just the pretty and easy, something that will make you stop for a moment and won’t let you slide back into the groove of the day, maybe you want to give this poem a chance.

If you do like it – odd as that may sound – please sign up with and the Poetry! group in order to vote for it. And tell others. Or at least tell me here. One day the poem might end up in a future collection tentatively titled SKY FOR SILENT WINGS.

Had my fun. Thanks for reading this. Oh, that cat is our stray Caspian. He has nothing to do with the poem. He’s there to attract readers.   😛  Or scare them.

An Updated Entry and a Ramble

The five poems of mine which appeared in the online Middle East Monitor needed links updates, so I might as well mention it here.  I hope the poems are still worth reading, years after they were written.

Now the ramble…

When I arrived here in Cape Town I worked briefly for a small company (mother and daughter owners) teaching little kids how to use the computer. It was an odd experience, but one of the many things I clearly remember was this strange sensation when I was referred to as someone who had come from “the Far East” – a phrase I’d never thought of.

For me, “the East” was not far at all. It’s home! And then if you really think about it, there is no East or West or North or South when you look at the globe. It’s a sphere and wherever you turn and keep going, you’ll end up just going round and round without reaching East, West, North, or South!

End of ramble. End of silly ramble.

wallet made in guatemala from susan

Another poem finds a home

Here’s some good news. Often when one sends out a poem to a publication there is a huge chance it will get lost if not outright rejected. Well sometimes one gets lucky. I wrote about such an event – small as it may be – in my blog for Alien to Any Skin.


Shortlisted… there’s a sweeter term to “Did not Win” :)

Isagani Cruz, in his article in the Philippine Star writes:

REMINDER for non-winners of the National Book Award: If you go to a bookstore and look at the covers of foreign books, you will see labels such as “Finalist, Booker Prize” or “Short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize.” Foreign authors and publishers are proud to be finalists of a major book award. Needless to say, winners are even more proud, but there is nothing to be ashamed of about being a finalist and not a winner. After all, even movies are advertised as “Nominated for an Academy Award.”

I should show this article to my publisher. Give them hope that maybe the next book will get it. haha. 🙂


From Switzerland

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In my early years of writing, I started to wonder when the next letter of acceptance or rejection might arrive. We had a dog, and often this creature would bark wildly at the postman – the arch enemy of dogs, apparently, followed by the newspaper man and the pandesal delivery boy. Those stories about a pet chewing one’s homework are only true if you had a dog like ours. This dog jumped for anything that got placed in the postbox or stuck between the topmost metal spikes of our gate. So I had to know when the postman arrived, usually around three in the afternoon. A chewed up letter is not easy to read, let alone retrieve.

These days I live on a semi-rural area where no postman comes around. We have to drive to a small shopping centre where they have postboxes. A bit of a trip, so I go once a week, usually on a Friday. Today, though, I felt something was calling me. I went, and sure enough there was something, posted all the way from… Switzerland?!?

I’d never received a parcel that had been posted from Switzerland. Odd, since as far as I know Modern Poetry in Translation is published in the UK. Here then, to share with friends and readers, my bit of excitement for the day!

Am I a Puddle or a Pebble? Neither? (just a silly title haha)

I finished the initial translation of the first of three sections from my first book of poetry, Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil, Manila 1992). It comes as a surprise to me that most of the poems still work – at least based on my own attempt at “pretending-to-be-reading-someone-else’s-work” – and that, translated into or from English, something new starts to quiver as if coming to life. There are a few from the original Filipino that just flounder in translation because the subject matter itself demands a particular knowledge of (dated) local popular culture.
Although I do this work on the side, I do have my own deadline to meet. I need to complete this work so I can get on with writing new poetry, and perhaps get back to attempting essays and stories which, in my experience, take more time and effort.
After I finish translating and editing the text, I intend to find a publisher or, failing that, put it out as an ebook on my own.  I am declaring this to the world in case some good soul urges me to persevere, or even offers me a door. It does seem like a long and lonely road, otherwise.
A pebble that never gets thrown will never cause a ripple. hahahaha. A terrible inverse (or some other term perhaps?) of a poem by one of my heroes, Emmanuel Lacaba, called. . . ready for this? . . .


In puddles and rivers
Pebbles hit bull’s-eyes
Before targets are drawn.

The Thief of Ideas

Translation has become a good way for me to cross between two types of consciousness – as one way of saying it. My Filipino roots and other influences come together when I write, but more so when I translate. Translation has become more than a bridge. It is now like a village with no gates or guards, the borders are always expanding if there are any at all: many ideas come together.

Translation has made me aware that what may seem easy to say in one language becomes a task in another. And often I find there are other ways of crossing the rushing waters – one can even leap. Of course sometimes one lands in a not so graceful way. There are always second, third attempts, or as many as it takes. Sometimes one has to choose another part of the river to cross, or find another river altogether. Hmmm mixing metaphors here now. haha.

Enough of that. I was getting more and more upset with the way a Senator from the Philippines has dragged the word “translation,” and, to my mind, is justifying the stealing of ideas.

This article will shed some light: PLAGIARISM COMPLAINTS VS SOTTO.

Here is an odd poem in two versions and two languages.



Each time his mouth opens, his dummy
falls to the ground. He wails
and protests. It is necessary
to speak to him in simple sentences.

Point out his errors and his heart
breaks like a cookie in a hand
in a jar. It won’t be long before
he trips on his own clumsy feet.

Don’t let him see you
laugh. He bites
like a dog.


version 2

Each time his mouth opens, his dummy
falls to the ground. His cries
sound like yelping hyenas. It is difficult
to reach him even with simple sentences.

Point out his errors and his heart
crumbles like a cookie in a grip.
It won’t be long before he trips
himself as if he had three legs.

Don’t let him see you
laugh. He gnashes
before he bites. Luckily
his teeth are falling out.



Tuwing bubuka ang kanyang bunganga, nalalaglag
ang kanyang dummy sa lupa. Umaatungal
at nagpoprotesta siya. Mahalagang kausapin
siyang gamit ang pinakasimpleng pangungusap.

Kung tukuyin mo ang kanyang pagkakamali
mabibiyak ang kanyang puso tulad ng biskwit
sa kamay sa loob ng garapon. Hindi magtatagal
bago siya matisod ng sariling mabubuway na paa.

Huwag hayaang makita ka niyang
tumatawa. Nangangagat siya
na parang aso.


version 2

Tuwing bubuka ang kanyang bunganga, nahuhulog
sa lupa ang kanyang dummy. Tunog hyena
ang kanyang palahaw. Kahit gumamit ng simpleng
pangungusap, mahirap pa rin siyang maabot.

Tukuyin ang kanyang mga pagkakamali
at madudurog ang kanyang puso, animo biskwit
sa kuyom na kamay. Hindi magtatagal bago patirin
niya ang sarili na tila may tatlong paa.

Huwag hayaang makita ka niyang
tumatawa. Magngingitngit siya
bago mangagat. Mabuti na lang
palagas na ang kanyang mga ngipin.