Tag Archives: Jim Pascual Agustin

Hope and Memory

On 18 September, 10am ET, the online Zoom event for the announcement of the manuscript that would win the 2022 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize started. The organisers of the prize, Singapore Unbound and Gaudy Boy Press, are based in New York.

It was 4pm in Cape Town, South Africa where I was, half a world away from my country of birth, the Philippines which is six hours ahead. By the time I was about to read, the son and namesake of the former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, was landing in New Jersey. It was his first time to return to the USA where numerous legal cases had been filed against him and his family. But he was untouchable, having gained diplomatic immunity as the supposed president of the Philippines in the recent elections which “failed to meet the international standard of a free, honest and fair election” according to the International Observer Mission.

On 21 September 1972, the late dictator announced martial law in the country. His regime was brought to a dramatic end when the people chased his family out of the presidential palace in 1986. Now the Marcos family appears to be back in power, propped up by the brutal legacy of the Duterte regime. They are once again flaunting their excesses without a hint of remorse for all those years of tormenting a people.

So on that day, as part of the five shortlisted poets for the Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize, I decided to highlight particular poems from my manuscript, Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight, that hoped to revisit the martial law years. With my voice quaking, I read from a prepared text:

This September marks the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines by the late deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The lies that continue to be spread by Cambridge Analytica-trained social media handlers of the Marcoses will keep trying to decimate the memory of those who fought the regime.

My manuscript doesn’t just tackle martial law, but I chose these particular poems today to highlight the anniversary of the declaration.

I did not think my manuscript would win. For many years my country of birth, sad to say, never really took to my work as I had hoped. I have had more recognition in South Africa and elsewhere. I was told not just a few times to consider stopping putting out books, for who reads them anyway?

Days after the announcement, sometimes even when I’m driving, I would still suddenly be struck by a surge of emotion not unlike when I momentarily remembered a loved one who had just died. But this time, instead of tremendous grief, it was of overflowing joy.

I will have to keep reading this press release to remind myself that maybe I should keep writing no matter what happens:

What presence, what exquisite sensitivity. Such perspicacity of mind and heart illuminates Jim Pascual Agustin’s crystalline poems. Masterfully observed, shone through with Zen penetration, these songs of innocence and experience divine a universe of complex lives lived, torn asunder, celebrated, and mended. You are enveloped in these entirely believable scenarios filled with people and creatures finding themselves in everyday moments, and extraordinary circumstances. With a few deft strokes, many of the poems here range far and delve inwards. Politics, nationality, identity, family, laws of nature – everything everywhere all at once, yet intimately, pulsatingly at home.
Prize Citation by judge Yeow Kai Chai

Thank you, Yeow Kai Chai, for finding something worthy in my work. Thank you, Jee Leong Koh and the wonderful team behind the Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize.

Books by Jim Pascual Agustin

Bloodred Dragonflies (Deep South, 2022/San Anselmo Publications, 2022)

Crocodiles in Belfast & other poems (San Anselmo Publications, 2020)

How to Make a Salagubang Helicopter & other poems (San Anselmo Publications, 2019)

Wings of Smoke (The Onslaught Press, 2017)

Sanga sa Basang Lupa at iba pang kuwento (University of Sto. Tomas Publishing House, 2016)

A Thousand Eyes (USTPH, 2015)

Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran (USTPH, 2013)

Sound Before Water (USTPH, 2013)

Baha-bahagdang Karupukan (USTPH, 2011)

Alien to Any Skin (USTPH, 2011)

Salimbayan (Publikasyong Sipat, 1994)

Beneath an Angry Star (Anvil Publishing, 1992)


Injured in the Night – a poem for Joel Pablo Salud

Here is part of what I said during the Zoom event (watch it on YouTube) for the announcement of the winning manuscript for the 2022 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize:

This September marks the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines by the late deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The lies that continue to be spread by Cambridge Analytica-trained social media handlers of the Marcoses will keep trying to decimate the memory of those who fought the regime.

My manuscript  doesn’t just tackle martial law, but I chose these particular poems today to highlight the anniversary of the declaration.

There are four sections – Bound by Wood, The Belly of a Termite, Something in Its Grip, and Resonate. The first three sections deal with nature, politics, and departures respectively. The fourth has all three, but the themes are bound together by a single line from a song by Icelandic musician Bjork, a line “misheard” in different ways becomes the title of each poem in the final section.

“Injured in the Night” is among the poems I read, written for Joel Pablo Salud who has many interesting stories about those martial law years.

Injured in the Night
for Joel Pablo Salud


September is a war of memories
in the home country. Roads and alleys,
unmarked cemeteries. Billboards
are nothing but metal skeletons hiding
behind the clash of colours on tarpaulin.
The promise of whiter skin looms
over the patchwork maze of shacks.

No one mends a bullet-ridden car.
It becomes fodder to the crunching jaws
of scrap machinery, not a piece of evidence.

Who will remember those injured
in the night, the disappeared?
Are we only here to scavenge
a landscape where smoke coils
long after the last burning?

-o-


2022 GAUDY BOY POETRY BOOK PRIZE!


Photo by South African poet and photographer Ken Barris

A few years ago, when my book How to Make a Salagubang Helicopter & other poems was about to be published, my publisher asked me to contact a professional photographer so there can be a portrait of me in the book. I hate being photographed – not really camera-friendly, haha – but my publisher insisted. I got hold of SA poet and photographer Ken Barris. He took a number of shots – he was very patient with me. I should have had a proper sleep the night before. Anyway, this was the best of the lot, or so I’m told.

The organisers of the 2022 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize required me to send a photo for their social media posts for the upcoming awarding event which will be on Zoom.

I get to read to strangers!


The news I mentioned a few days ago… Finalists of 2022 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize 🔥

The news I teased about the other day can now be revealed… My manuscript, “Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight” has been selected as a finalist for the 2022 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize!!!


Something about a snail

From 4.30am ET on 30 August 2022 I will be allowed to share some good news. It is an unexpected and welcome gift – yes, I prefer to see it as a gift – that gives comfort and hope for the act and journey of writing that is often solitary and unrecognised.

So until tomorrow then. For now I shall share this photo of a snail that escaped being crushed by my large and clumsy feet.


Ang Nakalimutang Banggitin ni Gojo

Nakikita ko lang siya
Lagi sa telebisyon.
Nagsasalita na parang tatay.
“Uuwi na si Lolo” ni Genaro Ruiz Gojo Cruz

Sa hiram na tinig ng apo,
pinadaloy mo ang mga salitang hindi naiiba
sa daigdig ng karaniwang bata

karaniwang pagkauhaw sa kalinga
karaniwang pagkasabik sa pag-uwi at muling pagkikita
karaniwang pagnanais na huwag nang mawalay pa.

Halos malunod sa sabik
ang iyong piniling tinig.

Ngunit saang lungga mo hinugot
ang musmos na ito?
Sa kanyang kunwaring daigdig
na may telebisyon
walang inilublob sa pighati
walang minamahal na hindi na mayayakap
walang batang hindi na muling maririnig
ang tinig ng magulang.

Gojo, may sariling mga mata
kahit ang musmos. Alam niya
ang kulay ng dugo hindi man
sa sariling sugat bumulwak.

Hindi karaniwang lolo
ang pinakahihintay na umuwi
sa iyong kunwa-tula-pambata.
Ang lolong ito ay mamamatay-tao.

-o-


Bloodred Dragonflies on video attempts

I’ve been fiddling with a free video app to try and share my work. The results may not be effective – and are definitely far from perfect. But hey, without a budget and much experience, whatever comes out of the exercise will have to suffice for now.

I’ve created a playlist that should have more as I go along. It’s on YouTube. Care to subscribe? I won’t get anything out of this. Hahaha. Not by a long shot.

The playlist should be updated automatically as I add more videos.


Grabbed from The Schooner Newsletter

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Dear Schooner Newsletter Readers,
Exciting news! We are officially back on schedule. During these last few months, as we’ve reformulated the look of the newsletter and updated how we go about bringing it to life, one thing has remained constant… we’ve given you a sampling of intriguing new poetry book releases from every single calendar month. We’re excited to be bringing you, before May comes to an end, a list of fifteen excellent May releases that we think are worth checking out. Enjoy! And, as always, please feel free to send any questions or comments to schooner.litmag@gmail.com!
Best,The Schooner Newsletter Team
cover_preview.jpegJim Pascual Agustin‘s Bloodred Dragonflies, translated from the Filipino by the author, is out this month from Deep South. Click here to read an interview with Agustin critiquing United States-based publishers for failing to put out global titles and click here to listen to Agustin read his poem “The Breath of Sparrows” on the Dr. Ahmed’s Poetry Reading Hub YouTube channel.
Click Here to Buy

A new version of The Sound Before Water

I wrote this poem many years ago. I thought I was finished with it. Then Robert Berold of Deep South Books worked on it again with me. So a new version was born and included in Bloodred Dragonflies. We’re launching the book on 3 May 2022 at 7pm at The Book Shoppe, 3 Arts Village, Plumstead, Cape Town.

I can take orders from South African readers or they can order the book through their local book shops. In the Philippines the book will be released by San Anselmo Publications – contact them on their Facebook page. International orders and the Ebook version are available through the African Books Collective Website.

I hope to have more readings in the coming weeks/months…

Here is the reborn version of The Sound Before Water which you can also listen to on Soundcloud.

#BloodredDragonflies

#TheSoundBeforeWater

#RobertBerold

#DeepSouthBooks

#WritingCommunity

#Filipino-SouthAfricanPoet