Note: I’ve been asked to write a series of short essays that might serve as a primer for reading poetry, a beginner’s guide of sorts, for the Metakritiko section of Philippine Online Chronicles. What follows is the first of the series. These days it’s hard to think of anything but the elections, and as the old names entrench themselves once more in the positions we had hoped would go to new names with platforms that actually involved serving the people, it seems harder and harder to see what poetry has to do with and what it has at stake in the sorry state of our sad republic. But of course, this wasn’t the spirit in which I wrote the piece that follows. At lagi namang may pag-asa, at lagi namang aandar at kakayod. Nakakapagod lang naman, is all I’m saying.
And so a quote from George Oppen, from one of his daybooks (which explains why the quote is draft): “I think the question asked more frankly would be: is it more important to produce art or to
engage in ^take political action^. Of course I cannot pretend to answer such a question. I could point this out, however, that art and political action are in precise opposition in this regard: that it can always be quite easily shown that political action is going to be valuable; it is difficult to ever prove that it has been in the past ^that political action has been valuable^. Whereas art is precisely the opposite case; it seems always impossible to prove that it is going to be valuable, and yet it is always quite clear that in the past it has been. ^the art of the past has been of value to humanity. I offer it only as a suggestion that art lacks in political action, not action. One does what he is most moved to do.^
And then, on to the essay that has nothing much to do with my note, as it turns out:
To the Beatles I owe a childhood animated by a psychedelic vocabulary and schooled in the sonorous seductions of gibberish—pataphysical and polythene and toejam football and walrus gumboot jabberwocking with obladi-oblada and jai guru deva om and soe-leh-moe-kee-von-tre-byan-awn-sawm; a childhood adrift in a shape-shifting playground at times featuring macabre slapstick, murderous silver hammers clang-clanging and falling on heads, or coded trips assisted by plasticine porters and fixated on the euphemistic Lucy in the sky, or surreal travels at sea, in a yellow submarine, if not an octopus’s garden in the shade, or hyperbolic critiques of taxmen taxing everything and your feet; a childhood of excessive repetition and casual encounters and vivid visuals and non-sequiturs—from so much twisting and shouting to so many hellos and goodbyes, from Lovely Rita to Sexy Sadie to Doctor Robert to Father McKenzie, from words like endless rain into a paper cup to two of us riding nowhere spending someone’s hard-earned pay, from I read the news today, oh boy to I’d love to turn you on; all this effortlessly acquired on slow summer days spent lounging on an itchy red couch or playing dead on the marble floor or obsessively watching the record on the turntable spin, spin, spin, in the company of an ever-changing cast of stray cats and two sisters prancing about, practicing their latest dance moves.
The rest of this piece is available here.