pop goes the world: the kawazakan of poetry

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 26 May 2011, Thursday

The Kawazakan of Poetry

Words that sound, echo, scream in your head and heart, words that burn and soothe and quench and turn you inside out, words that tell a story or evoke a gamut of emotions in a few phrases – only a poem gives the writer the form with which to play with words.

And one poet who does this admirably is Allan Pastrana, whose poetry collection Body Haul was launched last May 16 at Ride n’ Roll Diner in Quezon City (also the venue for the “Happy Mondays” poetry reading/music performing event every first and third Monday of the month.)

Allan Pastrana. Photo from .MOV.

Arranged by filmmaker Khavn de la Cruz, a Gawad Urian nominee this year for best director and screenplay, the launch featured writers, musicians, and word lovers of all sorts coming together to read, eat, play music and sing, and buy Allan’s book.

Allan teaches at the University of Sto. Tomas Conservatory of Music, where he graduated with Music Literature and Piano Performance degrees. He is finishing his master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of the Philippines – Diliman.

A Fellow for poetry at the UP and Silliman University national writers workshops, he was a two-time Thomasian Poet of the Year, recipient of the UST Rector’s Literary Award, third placer in the Palanca Awards for essay in 2007, and winner of the grand prize in the English Division of the Maningning Miclat Award for Poetry in 2005. He occasionally writes music reviews for publications.

Here’s an excerpt from Allan’s “Altitude”, that he asked me to read at his book launch: “Four, five a.m. and everything packed/ a kind of immediacy; the velocity/ of each going became so foreign / it got trapped inside my throat./ That day, the phone kept on ringing/ like an insistent, hourly code— /a man’s voice on the other end/ on the line, always shifting timbres. Or, it could be that I /mistook a Bach aria theme, drifting/ like a dry memory, for his dark/ speech. Nothing was spoken/ here that didn’t belong to a/ wreckage—the rest of the variations/ slipping into more erasures…”

Among those who read Allan’s poems at the launch were horror writer and Palanca Award winner Yvette Tan, novelist Clarissa Militante (whose Different Countries was long-listed for the 2009 Man Asia literary prize), poet and professor Genevieve Asenjo, filmmaker John Torres, and activist/poet Axel Pinpin who delivered a spell-binding performance, translating a poem of Allan’s from English to Filipino on-the-spot: his impromptu pagsasalin was not only accurate but also literary in quality. Wazak!

Axel Pinpin. Photo by Gen Asenjo.

Allan says: “The book covers around five years worth of poetry. I chose to represent the different writing styles I adapted, from the time I thought telling stories was simply the whole point of literature, to a more recent and growing predilection for the instability of language (which I believe is what we have at our disposal, almost entirely, as writers), and the joy and rapture that comes with that instability, both painful and liberating in more ways than one.”

What is the relevance of poetry to daily living? Apart from the sheer joy of words that many of us enjoy, a poem captures in a series of phrases or sentences the totality of a human experience for us to derive meaning from.

Says UP literature professor Gemino Abad in the introduction to his poetry collection Care of Light (Anvil, 2010): “The real is the poem. Hence, for the poet…to write is to get real. The real is what we call “our world”. But our world is only our experience of it….What we call reality is only, and forever, a human reality; what we are able to perceive….

“But working our language – soil and fallow of all human thought and feeling, our only ground – we invest our words with a power to evoke, to call forth, to our mind and imagination a meaningfulness that we seem to have grasped in that human event or experience…And in that finished weave of words – the very text – our aim is to apprehend, to understand, the living of it, the full consciousness of the event or experience: its very sensation.”

Allan Pastrana’s Body Haul is available at UST Publishing House and bookstores.

For the poets reading this, Khavn has sent out a call for entries: “There isn’t enough chamomile tea in the world to quell the rage in your heart. Or the poetry in your veins. Send in your most wazak poem for possible inclusion in a Philippine poetry anthology that will be launched this September 2 during the 4th .MOV International Film, Music, & Literature Festival.

Khavn, Yvette, and Genevieve. Image from .MOV.

“There are no hard and fast rules on what’s wazak or what’s a poem. Send in your left foot if you think that qualifies. Please provide the English translation of any poem that is written in Filipino or other Philippine language. Open to all Filipinos in the archipelago or beyond.

“Email your works (maximum of three poems per author) to literature@movfest.org, subject heading “anthology” by or before June 1.

“In the name of the revolution.”  ***

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1 Comment on pop goes the world: the kawazakan of poetry

  1. erik
    30 May 2011 at 7:59 am (2337 days ago)

    hope I have enough time to send entries to mov. kudos.

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