Posts Tagged ‘yvette tan’

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, subject heading “anthology” by or before June 1.

“In the name of the revolution.”  ***

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pop goes the world: poets driven mad by love

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 14 April 2011, Thursday

Poets Driven Mad by Love

Baguio City – Steeped in words, simmered in rhythm, cooked in sound – twelve writers baked in a literary pie serve a taste of Filipino literature at the milestone 50th University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop.

The week-long workshop for writers in mid-career is taking place at AIM-Igorot Lodge, Camp John Hay, April 10-17. It brings together twelve Fellows – six in Filipino, six in English – invited by UP’s Institute of Creative Writing, to receive feedback from their peers about their work, and suggestions where to take their works-in-progress and future projects.

The panelists are a Who’s Who of Philippine literature and academe – National Artist Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, UP-ICW director Dr. Jose Dalisay Jr., workshop director Prof. Jun Cruz Reyes, Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Dr. Gemino Abad, Dr. J. Neil Garcia, Dr. Rolando Tolentino, Dr. Mario Miclat, UP-ICW deputy director Prof. Conchitina Cruz, Prof. Charlson Ong, and Prof. Romulo Baquiran Jr.

According to Dr. Hidalgo, the workshop began many years ago, for beginners. Workshops then burgeoned at different universities after that, so UP decided to up the ante by shifting the National Writers Workshop focus to being a homebase for established writers who might need a little encouragement and direction.

The twelve Fellows for 2011 are: Genevieve Asenjo, Ronald Baytan, Khavn de la Cruz, German Gervacio, Nerisa Guevara, Clarissa Militante, Allan Pastrana, Axel Pinpin, Yvette Tan, John Iremil Teodoro, John Torres, and myself.

50th UP National Writers Workshop Fellows 2011. Axel, Gen, Jie Teodoro, Yvette, JennyO, Clarissa, John Torres, Nerisa, Ronald, German, Khavn, Allan. Image here.

This historic event brings together a diverse collection of souls, whom I would not have met otherwise, nor whose works I would have encountered. My first taste of protest literature is through activist-poet Axel Pinpin’s short story which hides pain behind humor. Gay lit is represented in the prose of Ronald Baytan and poetry of John Iremil Teodoro, who could well be a stand-up comedian.

Clarissa Militante, long-listed for the 2009 Man Asia literary prize for her novel Different Countries (2010), delves into how the philosophical, social, and political are woven inextricably into a person’s journey. Genevieve Asenjo writes prolifically in Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, and Filipino – dense, rich, and thick tapestries.

Filmmakers Khavn de la Cruz and John Torres explore different territories in their scripts. German Gervacio plays with form in his pursuit of the epic; Nerisa Guevara seamlessly blends concepts of father, city, and home to craft lyrical prose-and-poetry. Allan Pastrana, rooted in the semiotic tradition, seeks to redefine the boundaries of poetry by playing with language.

Genre fiction finds a strong, distinctive voice in Yvette Tan’s short stories, which raise the bar for literary quality in Philippine horror fiction. Her “Seek Ye Whore” combines themes of enchantment, desire, love, and gourmet cooking in a lusty tale about alluring mail-order brides sent in pieces to America on installment. “Stars”, her piece for the workshop, is a tour-de-force of references to Lovecraft and ‘70s Eddie Romero B-movies of the schlocky persuasion.

My own work launches from my roots in sports journalism and dives into creative non-fiction via a memoir-in-progress centered on love exchanged and returned, unrequited and unredeemed, but which in itself is its own salvation.

Seven of the Fellows have had their sessions (mine was the first) with the other five scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Comments on the different prose and poetry texts brought up issues of form and structure, meaning and identity, with some panelists grounding their analysis in theory and philosophy, others emphasizing readability and literary quality.

One of the issues that surfaced in the discussions was the difficulty of marketing Philippine books. First, we are not a reading public. Second, local bookstores tend to place less priority on giving Filipino books prime display space. Authors have a sense of being marginalized in their own country; their books, regardless of subject, are crammed together on the Filipiniana shelves.

Why not also put works by Filipino writers on the shelves by topic, with those of foreign writers? If Philippine literature is to develop, the circumstances that will drive that evolution should be laid on a foundation created by the stakeholders in the publishing industry working in concert to create a win-win situation for all.

Meanwhile, still here in Baguio, enveloped by the aromas of pines and fresh-brewed Benguet Arabica, we immerse ourselves in the creative experience, reveling in our power as wordsmiths, our skill wielded deftly as we blaze new ground together.

After dinner last Tuesday night, we all went to Ayuyang Music Bar near Session Road, where over beers and weng-wengs we crafted a renga – a round robin poem. (Strictly speaking, a renga is a genre of Japanese collaborative poetry.) Each person was given only one minute to write a line of free verse, writing one after the other. This is the first time this poem is published. It is as yet untitled.

Our inspirations? Baguio, food, the chill of a summer night, the fire of lust, the thrill of creation, sin, desire, redemption, love unending.

Nangangagat ang malamig na pag-ibig ng Baguio

If then, why not leave the limning?

Nginangatngat ang lamig ng yelo ng lapot ng Baguio Oil

Walang sinasanto, walang pahinga

Walang sinisinta, sintas ng santa-santita

Sintas ng santa-santita, ipinanlatigo ng demonyita…

Ang gusto ko lang naman, magluto

Ang gusto kong laman, magluto

ng sisig. Utak, tenga, nguso, sizzling! sizzling!

Lumiliyab, umaapoy, umaalab  – ito ba’y pag-ibig o gutom?

Kung pag-ibig man o gutom, ang sikreto sa pagnamnam,

eskandalosa o kontemplatiba.

Awitin natin ang kasalanan nitong gabi!

Sing the pining needle to its thread, green, green!

Ganito, ganitong tumula

Ang mga makatang binaliw ng pag-ibig!

*© 50th UP NWW Fellows 2011*

I asked my fellow Fellows for one-word sound bites about the entire experience:

Khavn: “Wasaak!” John Torres: “Sex!” Yvette: “Panalo!” Axel: “Kumpisal.” Clarissa: “Contemplation.” Allan: “O—“ Nerisa: “Sanctuary.” Genevieve: “Resurrection.” John Teodoro: “Vongga!”

Visit the workshop’s live blog at and follow the live Tweets until Sunday at@upworkshop2011. ***

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