PGTW: Verses Typhoon Yolanda

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 22 May 2014, Thursday

Verses Typhoon Yolanda

The aftermath of typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda has left many things undone, questions unanswered, matters unresolved.

Dismal reports of arrant wastage of donations have surfaced, and fingers are being pointed – who’s to blame, who frittered time and money, who made bad decisions, whose fragile egos obstructed those taking action.

While frustration with some government efforts runs rampant, private contributions, which figured heavily in all stages of Yolanda disaster relief, continue to surge.

Among them is a fundraising project from the community of Filipino poets, a poetry collection entitled “Verses Typhoon Yolanda.”

Poet and editor Eileen Tabios conceptualized and edited the anthology of 133 poems, published by her Meritage Press. The book is distributed and printed on demand by, and may be ordered from the publisher at or at the Meritage Press Facebook page.

“By sharing their poems through this anthology,” Tabios says in the book’s introduction, “the Filipino poets were also moved to contribute their efforts towards a fundraising: all book sale profits will be donated to relief organizations helping the survivors of typhoon Yolanda.”

Most of the poems are in English, and the others are in Filipino, Cebuano, Waray, Hiligaynon, and Bisaya, written by poets from the Philippines and from the diaspora – the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and elsewhere.

Poetry as a literary form is particularly effective in conveying the emotion connected with the event that otherwise would be difficult to express.

As Leny Mendoza Strobel says in the foreword, “For this is the loob of our kapwa connecting with our damdamin…You are the mother who had to let go of her child in the raging waters. You are the neighbor who rescued the elder woman next door. You are the father who hoped.”

Palanca Award-winning poet Joel Vega, who has been based in the Netherlands for decades, says about Verses: “The subject matter of this book is tragic, but perhaps poetry may offer a way for readers to go beyond that – and still find some consolation.”

In his own contribution, “Names,” Vega, whose family is from Leyte, writes: “Believe me when I say your name, believe me when I say/that when I hear your footfall I will be by your side./ And the ground shook like a sea bed hungry for the shore, At the stroke of six light on land was as scarce as true courage./ What names will I choose on this list, this long inventory of the missing, the dead, the injured?”

Editor Joel Pablo Salud dedicated his “Lost” to those who had loved ones taken by Yolanda: “The frail in me can only guess/The length of silence on which you sit/Carefully reminiscing faces/ Left to putrefy beyond arm’s reach/In the pitch black of a memory…”

Michelle Bautista anthropomorphized the storm in her “How to Battle a Wind Goddess”: “I hid within the bamboo leaning/to bend and sway in her breeze./ I screamed but she deafened me/ with her howls. She encircled me,/ crushing me in her tornado.”

Says poet and editor Susan M. Schultz, “This is a sprawling book of poems about family, loss, art, economy, greed, love, grief, theft, militarism, colonialism, typhoon tourism, deforestation, stray dogs, survivors, rubble, donations, propaganda, looting, journalists, dead children, helicopters, rain, disembowelment, black bags, conquerors, catastrophe, “the republic of the drowned” (Luisa A. Igloria)… “Aid is art,” writes Simeon Dumdum Jr. Now art will aid survivors of the storm.”

Verses Typhoon Yolanda is a lament, a paean, a rant, a tribute, a reminder. It is a concrete, tangible contribution to the rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts that will bring the storm-wracked areas further along the path of recovery.

It is a message to the survivors of Yolanda that they are not alone in their struggle to survive, rise up, go forward.

Vince Gotera extends the hand of solidarity to the victims of the typhoon in his “Hay(na)ku for the Survivors”:  “We want you to know now/ we are here, we love you,/ we are millions singing for you.”


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