I’ve said it before somewhere, if not here. Your place of birth is not for you to choose. And then, even when you’ve found your footing, there may be reasons to leave what you’ve known as home for another land where the people may not know a thing about you, or care. You may have to learn to negotiate new social mazes, get lost in them, in search of a new home.
Political border policies add another layer of branding you a stranger.
I wrote a poem years ago about this, “Birds will have Dominion When I Take Swallow Form.” It found a home in my book Sound Before Water. Now it has another chance of being read more widely through the Goodreads.com Newsletter (January 2018) should it win the current voting cycle. Yes, it’s basically a popularity contest. They also don’t give voters a lot of time as the deadline is 19 December.
Please go read the poems in competition and decide for yourself if my poem is worth your support.
If you’re still looking for a gift, my most recent book, WINGS OF SMOKE, is available online. It would be nice to hear from readers.
Maraming salamat po.
Sometimes free means free. No strings attached. Here’s an early Christmas gift.
Fixional has made available my special trilogy of poems based on Krzystof Kieslowski’s Three Colours Trilogy of films.
While I’m at it, I’d like to thank the editors of the following websites and journals for publishing my work in the past. I have posted links to some of them previously.
Modern Poetry in Translation
Black Friday Sales are being promoted extensively even here in South Africa. If you pause and think, it’s nothing but a way for shops and online retailers to offload old stock before the Christmas rush of new products to entice consumers. But really, they’re just material things you already have, perhaps newer versions with a few new bells and whistles. How soon after the feelgood rush of the purchase will you be made to crave for the next new iteration?
I don’t see the same when it comes to books, good books that aren’t designed to be replaced in a season. Or at least that’s the hope. So forgive my little sales pitch.
If you are outside of the Philippines, please consider ordering my new book, WINGS OF SMOKE, online via the following (or other decent retailers):
The Onslaught Press
The Book Depository
But if you are in Manila, you’re in luck as https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FUSTPublishingHouse%2Fposts%2F1683897564963264&width=500” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>UST Publishing House has a sale of all my books they’ve published. Get all of them at a great discount!
1 February 2017. Or nearly. As I start writing this it is 23:33 in Cape Town. It is already dawn where I was born. I wonder what it’s like in the UK where my new paper child, Wings of Smoke, has just been born.
A few years ago two books of mine came out at the same time, Alien to Any Skin and Baha-bahagdang Karupukan. I’m still very fond of those books. They broke the more than 10 years of publication silence I underwent. I was terrified what would happen to them, as if they were flesh and blood of mine. So I wrote a poem where I gave them names, Karu and Skin. That poem later appeared in another book, Sound Before Water.
I can’t remember if I’ve posted it here before, but it seems appropriate to share it as Wings of Smoke is born.
May you all find loving homes and eager readers, my paper children, sooner rather than later.
How to Sell a Child Door to Door
for Karu and Skin, my paper children
tell them this child has no parent
and can only bring joy
to its new home
bring light and promise
into the room
as it silently sits
in their hands
even as the world burns
outside the window
tell them everything
they want to hear
that might make them smile
anything just to get
this child’s little foot
in the door
do not bat an eyelid
should the child
gasp at fragments
of moth wings
by the kettle
no one invites sorrow
into their lives
My country of birth just had major national elections. I wasn’t there to participate, to feel all the excitement, the dread, the many and varied hopes that gushed out of people I know and many I will never meet. So it feels almost selfish that I share this bit of personal news. Someone felt my work was worthy of being read and gave me some room to express myself.
I don’t really know what to say most times when asked highly personal questions. Nichole L. Reber threw some really tough ones and I hope I didn’t sound like a tap left running until the bucket overflowed. Please visit the Ploughshares blog and maybe try to leave a message here or there if you have any feedback – complaints, curses, blessings, or whatever reaction you may have.
Mostly I really just want to thank each reader who has given my work a chance. Maraming salalamat, sa inyong lahat. Nichole, I hope I didn’t disappoint with my long-winded answers.
EDIT… In the interview a particular poem was mentioned, “Ghosts of Sweaty Air,” which was originally published in GUD Magazine. The GUD website allows you to read the first few lines. The whole poem is in my book Alien to Any Skin. If you’re interested and nice (hahaha), then leave a note here, I’ll shoot the poem to you.
HERE IS THE LINK TO THE PLOUGHSHARES BLOG
Grief is as sure as love. This poem which is included in SOUND BEFORE WATER (UST Publishing House, 2013) came to mind when I heard of a friend’s loss. Today I decided to take out the final line. In the book it still ends with “Grief is nothing but a shadow.”
She closes her eyes.
A picture book world
propped up by her left foot
against tree bark
landscapes on paper.
on her hair, eyelashes.
There are moments
Her hands trace the damp
skin of trees. Remnants
gone beyond touch.
This post will only be up for the last weekend of January 2016. Congratulations if you managed to read it. The poems are what I intend to read at the Central Library in Cape Town to as yet an unknown number of people (perhaps just the librarian and myself!). If you like any of the poems at all, it would be nice to get some feedback. The reading is at 2pm South African time.
Thanks to all my friends who are in various parts of the world and cannot attend.
UPDATE. 4 February 2016.
I’ve deleted the file. But for those who missed the reading or would like to read the said poems, you may contact me here and I’ll gladly share with you.
Thanks to all those who made the effort to listen to my poetry. I had fun and met some new friends. I’m not gonna lie, I like reading to an audience. Something I really miss since I moved to South Africa. It doesn’t matter whether it is at a formal venue or just with a group of friends. I remember those crazy days back at university with people I may not always agree with but who were nonetheless open to hearing what I had to say. Then years later at various poetry reading venues – small smokey pubs, or at launches and some academic gathering. Or a handful of friends who manage to find time despite work commitments.
I guess I can come out of my shell and look around here where I am now. Making new connections is never easy, but that’s the only way one keeps growing.
Hmmm. I’m not drunk. Just blabbering like I had a few bottles. Sleep deprivation does pretty much the same thing to me. 🙂
Cluster bombs being dropped on Gaza by Israel (image from Wikipedia)
Three poems from Sound Before Water have been posted on Dead Snakes. Please click THIS LINK to read them. Posting a comment (or three) will help encourage the editors to keep up their good work.
Thank you, Stephen, for making room for my work.