Tag Archives: human rights

Human Rights Day, the Gabo Prize, Danica Mae and the murderers who go unpunished

10 December is International Human Rights Day. In the same week the Philippine Congress has been busy trying to bring back the death penalty. It is not simply a step back for the country of my birth – more like running backwards down a dark alley littered with shattered rocks and corpses, wearing no helmet and blindfolded. Since the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, came to power the country has been gripped with a madness that his most blind supporters continue to embrace.

I wrote “Danica Mae” in response to the state-sanctioned killings that have summarily ended the lives of nearly 6,000 people as of this writing. I wish it wasn’t necessary to write it. The translation – or re-vision – in English, along with two other poems I originally wrote in Filipino many years ago, got the attention of Mark Statman, the judge for the Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation and Multi-Lingual Texts. He says

“There is something beautifully and sadly dense about these poems, which the poet, Jim Pascual Agustin, himself has translated. I found myself returning to them because I found them at once mysterious and ordinary, describing what I can only think of as tragic events (in “Danica Mae,” the actual death of one child, in “Standing in Tagatay,” the learned careless callousness in the life of another). The final short poem, “The Long and Brief History of the Bald Old Man and the Busted Pot,¨ presents the reader with a different kind of tragedy, a view of a long life at its unhappy end. Not easy to want to read, these poems nonetheless demand it. That demand is what I think I want most from a poem.”

Lunch Ticket has featured the winning work in its latest issue, Winter/Spring 2017, edited by Arielle Silver. Here is a link to the Filipino version that I posted on this blog earlier.

gabo-prize-danica-mae-lunch-ticket

Please read the issue, leave a note to the editor, express your reaction somewhere, anywhere, should you find resonance in what is plaguing my country of birth today.

Some links for those who might wish to know more about what has been happening:

ABS-CBN NEWS ITEM

NEW YORK TIMES photo essay

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY OF PROTEST

NEVER AGAIN

iDefend

My hope is that you share this post far and wide. Perhaps those in power may read it and respond. Perhaps those who feel they have little power to change this tragic course may find courage and learn that they actually do wield something that no violator of rights can ever take away.


It was never a landslide: a poem that accompanies an interview

I was interviewed by Bookwatch, the National Book Development Board’s publication. The print issue was meant for release at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The online version may be read HERE. At the end of the interview is a poem with a rather long title. For those who know little about what’s been happening in my country of birth, you could maybe do an online search on the following phrases: EJK, extrajudicial killing, war on drugs, Duterte.

Here’s a screen grab from the issue. Hope you read the whole interview and those of other Filipino writers currently writing and living in other parts of the world. I would love to hear what you think of the poem and the interview. Thank you in advance.

bookwatch-2016


Aiza Seguerra, you will never meet Danica Mae

Thank you to Rappler for convincing Aiza Seguerra, newly-appointed by Philippine President Duterte as National Youth Commission Secretary, to read with much delight my rather old poem, “Litel Mis Pilipings.” I’m still working on the translation of the poem for a wider audience. I performed the poem myself many times way back in the early 1990s, to the disbelief and huge amusement of the various audiences who were (un?)fortunate enough be there. I’ll try and post an audio recording of my recent attempt to recreate those times. Or maybe not.

HERE IS A LINK to Aiza’s readingAIZA litel mis pilipings

Aiza has an interesting background, including ending up as a runner-up in the very contest I tackle in the poem.

(UPDATE: I posted on SOUNDCLOUD a scratchy recording of my own reading I did today.)

Aiza, if you happen to read this blog post, I hope you find the following poem I have just written, “Danica May,” worth your while.

 

Danica May eyes bnw manipulated

Danica Mae

Hindi kailanman lalapag malapit sa iyong barangay
ang helikopter ng Presidente. Hindi siya kailanman
maglalakad patungo sa bahay ng iyong ina, o magpapagpag
ng alikabok sa sapatos bago humakbang papasok ng pintuan.

Hindi kailanman hahagurin ng kanyang tingin kung saan mo
dating itinatabi ang iyong mga laruan. Hindi magmamabagal
ang kanyang mga mata pagtanaw sa mga damit mong nakasabit o tiklop na nakahimlay, ngayon ay hiwalay sa labada ng pamilya. Hindi niya tatanungin

kung ano ang pleybor ng paborito mong ays krim,
o kung paano ka humawak ng krayola,
o kung tinatakpan mo ng palad
ang iyong bibig tuwing matatawa.

Walang halaga ang ano pa man na aking sabihin,
lalo na sa iyo. Kahit pa man tukuyin kong hindi mga bala
ang kumitil sa iyong buhay, kundi mga salita.
Mumunting piraso lamang ng bakal

ang mga bala na maaari sanang naging pintuan
ng laruan mong kotse, o mga butones
ng damit na hindi mo na maisusuot
mula sa araw na ito.

-o-

LINK TO A HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH article

LINK TO A RELATED PIECE ON MATANGMANOK

 


Sinking the ship you’re in so you can build a new one

 

That seems to be the only logic behind Zuma’s axing of Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister. From the broken pieces of this ship he’s surely sinking, Zuma promises to build a new South Africa – perhaps with China cheering him on.

The announcement came just as the so-called 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Children was coming to a dismal closure (from 25 November to 10 December, Human Rights Day). Zuma tells us to take his word for it, to trust him though he fails to explain why someone who has stood to fight corruption by taking on the untouchable Dudu Myeni is being shown the back door with the lights turned off down a dark alley. Maybe Nene is just one more obstacle removed so the Russian nuclear deal can push through. Will there be anyone bold enough to take on the shady dealings with petroleum corporations (led by Shell) and the proposed (already approved under the table?) fracking of the Karoo?

Zuma, even before he stepped into those big shoes Mandela left (and Mbeki who was ordered to go barefoot), set the local newspapers (and got international coverage, too!) on fire for months with the story of an alleged rape of a friend’s daughter. One has to remember he took a shower. Then there was the Schabir Shaik trial which magically left Zuma unscathed and apparently even revitalized, no, emboldened. The blood from Marikana miners didn’t seem to taint him either. The famed firepool of Nkandla must have some magical powers (interesting links here).

Is it just us who are mad to imagine there is even a sinking ship? All along we’ve witnessed things that were too hard to believe. Yet they keep happening.

My very good friend who showed me around Durban back in November, a day after the 2015 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award, said Zuma is considered by his countless supporters to be a prophet. Perhaps there is no crisis. Only non-believers.


Mass Murderer on World Tour

This article, if it is indeed based on facts, should be a good starting point for the UN and the ICC to take this man down. Save us.

Tony Blair’s insatiable greed exposed by his secret deal with Saudi Arabia


Israeli Soldiers Use Palestinian Civilians as Human Shields

The lies that the IDF and the Israeli propaganda machinery try desperately to force-feed to major media outlets can only be countered by the accounts of their victims.

Watch THIS VIDEO.


Three poems from Sound Before Water featured in Dead Snakes

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.