Tag Archives: Filipino poetry in English

A Ramble on the Randomness of Numbers: 13, 2017, 77, 7, 8, 48, 30, 31, 1… and don’t forget the over 6,000 and growing

almonds

Whether we like it or not, numbers seem to take over our lives – or at least they refuse to be ignored even as we desperately try to turn our backs on them. So here are a few that I’ve noticed and taken note of in the past few days.

13 – Today, as I begin to write this, it is midday on the first Friday the 13th of this by-now-not-so-new 2017. Again, another number that, if you really think about it, is really arbitrary. Just as someone said at some point that Friday the 13th was unlucky, someone else said, “Right, from today we start counting the years like so and so.” “Amen,” responded nearly everyone since then, and, through the years as more and more nodded in agreement, we have ended up with 2017.

77 – If there was an agency that certified people with green thumbs, my name would certainly be rejected. Apparently I tend to kill plants that fall under my shadow. But today, with plastic watering cans in either hand, I remembered to check on our remaining almond trees. I can’t recall how many we originally planted, but three we still have. Two of them had almonds ready for picking. Some of the nuts were already on the ground because of the winds we’ve had these days that have driven the various fires in the Cape out of control. I tried to stuff them in my pockets – luckily I had those baggy shorts with multiple expanding pockets! So the unexpected harvest of +/- 77 almond nuts (that still need to be shelled)!

7 – Yesterday, with the slightest touch they fell into my cupped hands, seven cherry tomatoes. Funny that we are getting a nearly daily supply from something I never really planted. About two months ago I just noticed seedlings sprouting about in the garden where I used to pour the water we save from washing vegetables and fruit in the kitchen – I guess sometimes bits of seeds somehow end up in the same bucket. I moved those seedlings into pots, with a vague hope that they at least grow, if not bear some tomatoes one day.

7 is also the number of poetry books under my name. But in a few more weeks another one will join my paper children. Wings of Smoke will be released soon by The Onslaught Press, an independent UK-based publisher. A proper post for that new baby soon, I hope, as it officially becomes poetry book number 8!

48 – I’m not so sure I should be sharing that number. But what the heck. This year I turn that many years on this planet (although I believe in other cultures they start counting your age the day you are conceived instead of when you are born).

30 – I’ve read at Off the Wall in Observatory before, both times after being asked by the organizer. This year I acted like Hermione and raised my hand, so to speak, and said “Pick me! Pick me!” for Thursday the 30th of March. I was thinking I might as well own up to having this new paper child, Wings of Smoke, and go all-out to promote it. It will be my first book that will be made available in South Africa largely through me and one other distributor until some arrangement can be made with interested bookshops. For now people can contact me through this blog or my Facebook page (search for Jim Pascual Agustin, in case you don’t know who you’re reading here right now hahaha). My publisher will put up online orders through Amazon. Signed copies through me. 🙂

31 – The last day of March is my birthday. There. It’s out. That’s why I chose something close to that date for the reading at Off the Wall. There’s also a conference in Cape Town I’m supposed to attend. I hope to read before a hopefully big enough audience and sell some copies of Wings of Smoke. I’m going to try to line up other dates and venues, but I’m practically on my own here, so any help  or suggestions are very welcome. Looking for reviewers linked with South African journals or papers/ezines perhaps anywhere in the world? Thanks in advance.

1 – Unless someone one day thinks my worldly shreds are worth replicating/cloning, I’m all there is of me. And the one thing I cannot live without (aside from the obvious, of course) is writing, also the one thing that I hope makes me unique. Since I cannot put a stop to writing, I might as well try to share it. My paper children (or their digital version, as Wings of Smoke will have – if things fall into place) is one way, doing readings is another. Without meaning to, I find that through my writing I let others know what catches my attention, what bothers me, what will not let go of me whatever I do until I wrestle with it and try to pin it down on the ground for some kind of blessing or curse. I don’t have grand dreams of changing the world, but I do what I can in my own small way.

6,000 + – The number that I really hate to be keeping track of. The ever-growing number of murdered in my country of birth in the name of the so-called war on drugs. If one examines closely, it is a war on the poor – at least for now. Extrajudicial killing or EJK is the worst calamity to fall upon the Philippines in the past six months. I intend to keep mentioning this wherever I am invited to read until the madness stops.

End of ramble.

PS It’s taken me longer than I thought to finish this post due to so many distractions or tasks I’ve had to do. It’s already the 14th! And being a Saturday, it’s less likely to be read. Surprise me. Last thing. I’m playing with the idea of an emailing list for those interested in knowing more about my literary (or not) activities that I don’t want to post on this blog. If you think it’s a good idea, please do send me a message here or on my Facebook page (Jim Pascual Agustin, in case you don’t know who you’re reading hahaha).

Thanks for hanging around.


Sympathy for the Doomed – NoiseMedium publishes my winning poem, “To be an Orc”

orcs lord of the rings

A frame from “The Lord of the Rings” movie directed by Peter Jackson

 

This isn’t a sob story. I hate those. This is just a statement of facts. Almost.

No one ever read to me as a kid. The image of a child being tucked in bed with a night lamp close by and his/her parent(s) reading while the child looks up in enchantment was entirely foreign. My overworked parents were government employees – my mother was a teacher who was given too many students and after-school tasks to handle (including possibly risking her life during turbulent elections as part of the underpaid voting staff), and my father was a soldier who got called and posted somewhere during the years of Martial Law. My grandmother spoke a local dialect I didn’t know well enough to understand.

I didn’t even have a single children’s book to read on my own and fall asleep with, let alone what others might call a family library. Aside from school textbooks and local comic books that I saved up my weekly allowance for, I read nothing else. Oh, yes, my parents eventually put aside some of their earnings so they could buy me and my three sisters the 1981 edition (I think) of the Encyclopedia Britannica. (That huge set was destroyed by the floods of Ondoy in 2009, along with my small collection of books from university days.)

With the state-controlled media swamped by US media, I was only exposed to the generally loud and garish images of Looney Tunes and Disney. And then, for a time until the dictator Ferdinand Marcos shut them all down, the robots of Japanese anime series (a separate post on that one day).

So elves and fairies I knew were fluffy and cute thanks to Disney. Dwarves were adorable as they sang and whistled happy melodies while digging.

Orcs I didn’t read about until high school when my closest friend, Arman, introduced me to the world of Tolkien. He got me to take up membership at the British Council in Manila. There I devoured all that I could get my hands on, not just of Middle Earth (illustrated accompanying books included), but of authors I’d never heard of. It was there that I “met” Craig Raine and the late Elizabeth Bartlett (whom I really, really “met” by traditional mail – I received letters and books from her!).

I was both awed and disappointed with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings years later. Oddly, I felt some sympathy for the orcs. Or rather, the actors who portrayed the orcs.

On 5 August 2014 (I enter dates when I start and finish a piece), I began a poem called “To be an Orc.” It has taken a long time for it to find a home. So when I was informed it was not only seeing publication for the first time, but on top of that it had actually won something, my first reaction was “What? Am I dreaming?”

I wish to thank NoiseMedium for finding my work worthwhile of publication. I hope you all visit their amazing website and read “To be an Orc” as well as all else that they have lovingly gathered there.

An aside. I wish to express my strongest objection to the extra-judicial killings supported by the new leadership of my country of birth, the Philippines. I urge you to read, sign, and share THIS PETITION with all your friends, family, social media circle, as well as anyone who you think might might help put out this urgent matter. Thank you.

 

 

 


Eclectica Magazine publishes “Tekla at the Grand Parade”

I have far too many things on my mind these days, more troubles than joys. But one poem just got published by Eclectica Magazine, and so I’ll take that as a blessing.

Thank you to the kind editors for giving space for my work.

Please read the poem “Tekla at the Grand Parade” and the others featured by this long-running online journal.

tekla at the grand parade eclectica magazine image


Burying a Dictator

My country of birth has an incoming president who won by garnering less than 40% of the votes. It can be said that over 60% of the voting population did not choose him, and when he gains control of the country this many people will be watching his every move, hoping all their fears be proven wrong. More than a month away from being sworn in, he mouths the same things during his notorious campaign. The ghosts of those killed by the so-called Davao Death Squads (documented by international agency Human Rights Watch and the country’s own Commission on Human Rights) will continue to haunt him until justice is done.
One thing that seems to have forced even his own supporters to declare disagreement with him even this early has to do with the remains of the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. The incoming president apparently sees him as worthy of being buried at the Heroes’ Cemetery. The public – perhaps more aware of that dark part of the country’s history – has started various campaigns to fight this utter disrespect for the countless victims of Martial Law. One of the campaigns is on Change.org. Here is the LINK. Please consider signing it and then sharing the petition link.
In showing my support, I am posting this poem which appeared in my book ALIEN TO ANY SKIN (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2011). My poem is nothing compared to what the people of the Philippines suffered under the rule of the dictator, his family, and various cronies.
 

Tracks on Grasslands

It begins with that one step. A boot
on the slenderest blade
of grass. The faintest
crunch of bright green veins
nearly invisible to your eye.

But it happens. That breaking.

It happens again and again
as you move on, forcing down
other blades of grass,
leaving your tracks,
making a path of near
silent destruction
to somewhere
you think is yours
to claim.

And when you encounter
thicker grass that dare
to keep you out,
you make them sing
with that sharpened edge.

You do this in the dark.
You do this mostly in the dark.

October 2007
-o-


Knife Cut on Leather gets featured on Cha

Cha: an Asian Literary Journal has picked up another one of my pieces.
I wrote “Knife Cut on Leather” some years ago and didn’t quite know what it was or where I could send it. So it lay in hibernation until I joined a private online discussion group whose generous but critical members (critical and supportive in the best way I can imagine) told me to forget what to call the piece. It was apparently complete as it was and I should let readers decide what to make of it.
Please read and tell me what you think of the piece.

HERE IS THE LINK to Cha.

Copy of leather


Born on the 2nd of July: A THOUSAND EYES

cover design by John Marin Flores

cover design by John Marin Flores

My new paper child, A Thousand Eyes, has finally been born. I was in a bit of a mood when I wrote about it (in Filipino, translation later maybe) and posted the rambling as a Note on Facebook.

Copies of the book may for the meantime only be ordered via my Manila publisher, University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. Try contacting them on their Facebook page or email them here: ustph.info@gmail.com or publishing@mnl.ust.edu.ph

I hope to be able to help with the distribution in the next few months. Meanwhile all I can do is try to promote it. I came up with a novel idea of asking friends to send me their readings, doodles, and photographs in response to some of the poems from the book. If you are interested in taking a creative trip with me, drop me a line here and I’ll send you the sampler. If I think we can make it work, I’ll ask your permission before I share it with others.

Thank you, dear readers, for staying with me.

HERE IS THE GOODREADS.COM LINK TO THE BOOK.


Kung Bubuuin, May Darating (haha… kung alam mo ang pinagmulan niyan, ngingiti o ngingiwi ka ba?)

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.

KaLaman at DayuHanNgayong 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”).