Half a Year in Fifteen Sentences (Sort of)

Wrote exam one (methods) on theories of aesthetic autonomy vis-à-vis postcolonial literary politics (no. of pages: 25 / no. of theorists: 5 [T. Adorno, J. Rancière, P. Casanova, R. Schwarz, E. Said, C. Dworkin] / no. of hours allotted to write exam: 72 / no. of hours spent worrying about/writing exam: 60).

Blanked out during workweek, braced self for coming weekend and second exam.

Wrote exam two (literature) on relevance of “avant-garde” as aesthetic category to study of poetries from historical avant-gardes to present (no. of pages: 28 / no. of theorists: 3 [P. Burger, M. Calinescu, H. Foster] / no. of poets: 3 [G. Stein, R. Zurita, T. Hak Kyung Cha] / no. of hours allotted to write exam: 72 / no. of hours spent worrying about/writing exam: 57).

Received package from J. Wertz (signed book! signed art!) from A. as reward for enduring written exams.

Passed written exams, celebrated good news over beers in coffee shop, spent weekend expressing more happiness at MoCCA Arts Fest (highlights: panel of A. Spiegelman and J. Swaarte / postcard box + favorite postcard signed by A. Tomine / well-loved book inscribed by M. Fayolle [who drew girl holding string attached to bird] / sighting of comic book artist crush D. Shaw [who signed new comic for A.]).

Blanked out during workweek, braced self for Friday and oral exam.

Took orals (no. of hours: 2 / no. of questions: a lot / no. of examiners/committee members: 4 [E. Keenaghan, P. Joris, P. Stasi, M.J. Ponce] / topics: aesthetics, transnationalism, postcolonialism, cosmopolitanism, culture, diaspora, the avant-garde, language politics, etc.).

Passed exams with distinction (!), happiness+++.

Drove to Amherst with friends to celebrate ABD, visited tombstone and home of E. Dickinson, partook of goods from (very timely) marijuana festival.

Wrapped up teaching in Albany, cleaned office, shipped books, packed up life.

Watched two and a half seasons of Veronica Mars.

Pang of fear over diss., hopped on bus to Boston.

Stayed with friend, spent three days in Harvard, rummaged through J.G. Villa papers for J.G. Villa diss. chapter (highlights: drafts of central poem in diss. chapter / snide letter from J.G.V. to J. Laughlin / lovelorn notebook entry / lists of beautiful/ugly words).

Back in Albany, first round of goodbyes over beers/smores/bonfire, second round of goodbyes over beers and despite noise from trivia night / third round of goodbyes in city, over buffet in K-town, fourth round of goodbyes atop West Village apartment.

Flew home, moved back in with A. and cat, found lovely fourth-floor apartment with view of buildings and crummy rooftops, moved into lovely apartment with A. and cat.

High School Life (oh my high school life)

It suddenly occurred to me as I was editing my prospectus for the nth time (for final submission week after next, the prelude to exams beginning two weeks after, gahhh) that two of the three poets I’m writing my diss on are poets I met in high school (and so probably the first Filipino poets I met). We read Jose Garcia Villa in freshman English class. The poem was “God said, ‘I made a man” and I vaguely remember it being discussed as an illustration of man’s vanity, an example of how one shouldn’t be in the presence of God. Or maybe I’m misremembering. I do remember very clearly this one class when our English teacher, for whatever reason, asked us what we liked in a guy. No one volunteered to respond so she called on my friend P to answer the question. P’s response? What do I like in a guy ba, kamo? Ang sagot ay: hairy chest. Hahaha! Yes, of course, that is what a thirteen-year-old would like in a guy, tanong-tanong ka pa kasi, e. Totally unrelated to Villa, but whatevs. I should remind the old high school crew about this when I see them again.

My encounter with Pete Lacaba was something else. I was a junior (or was I a senior? ack, I suddenly can’t remember) and one day while I was sitting around and being bored in class as usual, I was told by whoever the teacher was to step out because I was officially excused from attending my morning classes. I was met outside by my teacher in third-year English who had requested that I (and a girl from another section) be excused from class. She told us to get in her car because she was taking us somewhere to see something (parang kidnapping lang, haha, but I remember her being vague about where we were going). Turns out, we drove to the nearby museum to attend a talk by two poets: Pete Lacaba and Marra Lanot. I don’t remember much about the talk (the more I write  this, the more I realize how terrible my memory is) but I do remember hearing Lacaba talk about what he went through during martial law and read “Ang mga Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Juan de la Cruz.” I ended up writing my senior term paper on martial law protest poetry. I’m sure I wrote about Lacaba and Chari Lucero (I think I got her poem from the anthology Versus); I know there were others I wrote about but I no longer remember who they are. And now, here I am, ages later, working on a diss with Lacaba in it. The talk I attended at fifteen years old made an impression, to say the least.

A digression (or maybe not): A few years later, in UP, I once again encountered the high school English teacher who took me to see Lacaba and Lanot. She was my Eng 21 (Survey of English Lit) and Eng 122 (Beowulf to Chaucer) professor, and then my roommate when I joined the faculty of UP. Now I consider her one of my few true workplace friends (and my true friend in general, “workplace” qualifier unnecessary!)–the extraordinary book historian May a.k.a. May J a.k.a. PMB a.k.a. Patricia May Jurilla! (You should read her books, such as this and this.) I keep forgetting we go a long way back; I always think of her as my English Dep friend. And then when my high school friends occasionally ask, “How is Ms. Jurilla?” I suddenly remember that gad, she was my high school teacher. Ang losyang lang, haha.

I always think of high school as the time in my life I couldn’t wait to get out of–mostly because I found my ultra-conservative high school absurd–but good things did come out of it. Wala lang. I feel so effing wired right now, like I’ve had five cups of coffee though I’ve only had two. I really should get back to work. Pero makapag-youtube nga muna ng Sharon Cuneta…

Two or Three Things about Desire (The Chinese University Press, 2013)


Thanks to the kindness adrift in the universe which occasionally docks where I happen to be, though more specifically, thanks to a certain Auntie Lorenza (who will be the subject of a post in the near future), I have a new chapbook out, part of a series of chapbooks released by The Chinese University Press in conjunction with International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong 2013. I just got word from Columbia University Press, which distributes for the Chinese University Press in North America, that they are offering the poetry festival anthology, the 18-volume chapbook boxed set, and my chapbook at 30% off to customers in North America.

You can buy Islands or Continents: International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong 2013 (anthology) here. The coupon code is: ISLBEI.

You can buy Islands or Continents: International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong 2013 (eighteen-volume box set) here. The coupon code is: ISLBEI.

You can buy Two or Three Things About Desire here. The coupon code is: TWOCRU.

It’s pretty amazing to see my work in Chinese translation (the English and Chinese versions are side by side in the chapbook). “See” is about right; all I can do is look at the translation since I neither speak nor read Chinese. The translation has turned my work indecipherable to me yet readable to an audience I literally would not know how to write for–a strange situation that grants me a new experience of happiness. Plus to be in a series among such admirable poets, including Adonis and Raul Zurita–who are on my exam lists, my goodness! Sometimes I am truly bewildered by my own luck.

Window Treatment, 6


Watched this icicle grow and turn murderous over a period of a few days spent hibernating with a couple of historical avant-garde manifestos, a couple of foundational postcolonial texts, and a couple of Frankfurt School philosophers. After a day and a half of cancelled classes and a good three feet of snow on the ground, the snow on the roof came crashing down, knocking the icicle off my window. I still look for it first thing when I wake up. I guess I’d become strangely fond of its company.

Hong Kong Postcard, 2

Apparently, when I travel, either I travel with a man or I travel alone. Hong Kong, for some reason, is the exception to my either-or. The two times I visited, I did both–by this I mean I traveled to and from Hong Kong alone, but spent time with a man while I was there. In 2010 I attended a conference with good friend V, who flew in from Singapore (or Manchester?) while I flew in from Manila. Last November, I attended a poetry festival with my plus one A, who flew in from Manila while I flew in from Albany. Consequently, it is with Hong Kong that I associate The Dramatic Airport Scene–well, not really with V, but with A, and by dramatic, I mean one-sided dramatic, since only one of the pair is high strung (sino kaya? haha.). After living in separate countries for months, there’s nothing like the (oh so cosmopolitan) thrill of meeting again in the airport of a third country for a week-long tryst (and work for me too, but it’s ridiculous to call a poetry festival work). And of course, nothing like having to get on separate planes a week later to make you feel like crap.

But Hong Kong itself with a man, i.e., A, was lovely. It’s much easier to be the anxious person that I am when he’s around–the socials (and there were a number) are more bearable, the public speaking tasks less nerve-wracking (one person in the room is surely rooting for you!), and the pressure to comprehend city maps non-existent (I can handle maps if I have to, but to A, plotting routes is sheer joy). Funny, though, how quickly we absorbed Hong Kong into our travel routine of holing up–a routine compatible with beaches and small towns (our travel lineup so far), but not exactly with a huge city. And yet there we were, spent after a half day of flaneur-ing (granted, we also had a lot of “work” events to attend), opting instead to spend the rest of our free time on languid breakfasts in the hotel and long hours lounging and lazing about in our room. We did spend a good amount of time enjoying our view–a combo of mountains, train tracks, skyscrapers, and a culvert! “Ang ganda ng Hong Kong!” we said to each other whenever we looked out the window.

We did meander some. Photo by A, who took all the photos.

We did meander some. Photo by A, who took all the photos.

More flaneur-ing. Wanted to get more of the funny-quote magnets V and I found back in 2010 (i.e., You Are My Love My Angle Don't Treat Me Like Potato), but no luck.

More flaneur-ing. Wanted to get more of the funny-quote magnets V and I found back in 2010 (i.e., You Are My Love My Angle Don’t Treat Me Like Potato), but no luck.

Tambay-tambay sa kuwarto.

Tambay-tambay sa kuwarto.

Tambay pa ulit!

Tambay pa ulit!


Hong Kong Postcard, 1

I met the great Chilean poet Raul Zurita. He was quiet and old, much older in appearance than age. He took his breakfasts alone in the hotel dining hall. He arrived early in the hotel lobby each time our group had to converge for the day’s activities. He sat by himself, smiled often, and said little. He shook when he walked. He struggled with seat belts. But on the night of his reading, when he recited his long poem “El Mar” (“The Sea”), he stood still on the stage and spoke with a voice firm and filled with conviction. I had never felt as moved by an author reading his poetry as I did when I listened to Zurita, an activist who was detained and tortured under the Pinochet dictatorship, and author of the monumental “La Vida Nueva” (“The New Life”), which, in 1982, was literally written by an airplane in the sky of New York City. “I began to feel at one point that in the face of the violence and horror that nature had something permanent. That it existed before and it will exist afterwards,” says Zurita, who has found and ally and irrepressible advocate against atrocity in nature–thus, the large-scale projects of writing poetry in the sky or bulldozing it in the desert or carving it on cliffs facing the sea. Of art, Zurita says that its only purpose “is to make life more humanly livable. In brief, we should keep on proposing Paradise, even if the evidence at hand might indicate that such a pursuit is folly.”
I could hardly say a word to Zurita during the week I was in his company, which easily made me regret not learning Spanish in college. He was kind enough to approach me after my own reading; he smiled at me, applauded, and said “bravo.” On our last day in Hong Kong, by some stroke of luck, Adam and I found ourselves sharing the same car service to the airport with him. At the airport, as I helped Zurita wheel his luggage cart down the ridiculously steep slope of Terminal 1, he once again turned to me, smiled, and said, slowly, “I like your poetry very, very, very much.” To which I responded by crashing the cart against the railing to our right (the luggage was about to topple over and I couldn’t think of any other solution). We then disengaged the cart from the railing and slowly maneuvered our way to the check-in counters.
2013-11-28 16.55.54

BLTX IV A New Beginning

Save the date! This year’s Better Living Through Xeroxography a.k.a. BLTX, a small press expo, is on December 14, Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm at the Lopez Museum, Benpres Building, Ortigas. Check out new (and newish) books, zines, comics, and more from the following participants: Gener Pedrina, Gelo Suarez & Donna Miranda, Ardie Aquino, UP Writers Club, Heritage Conservation Society – Youth, UP UGAT, UP Grail, Carmeldita, Carlocrazy Clemente, KATAGA QC, Elbert Or, Birdhouse Bakers, Staple & Perk, Zigzag Animals, Patrick Rawrr, Rolf Campos, Makoy Dakoykoy & Ungaz Press, Kubori Kikiam, Pulang Lupa Foundation, The Cabinet, Happy Comix & Alternative Print, Kowtow Komiks, Mina Esguerra, Apol Sta Maria, THE Rob Cham, Moar Books!, Flipside, Paper Monster, Saturnino Basilia, Nine Iron, Mazinger Zine, Pinoy Reads Pinoy Books Book Club, Bomba Press feat. Claire Villacorta, Ricardo A. Guiao Jr., and the Youth & Beauty Brigade.

I’m presuming High Chair and hal. are part of the lineup too, though they aren’t signed up yet. See you there!

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