vrijdag 6 maart 2009

For the love of poets and poetry

Here's the latest book I've ordered from Amazon.

Luisa Igloria is an award-winning poet, born and raised in the Philippines, she is an associate professor in the MFA creative writing program at the Old Dominion University. I interviewed Luisa Igloria a couple of years ago when her prize-winning collection, Trill and Mordent came out. Trill and Mordent has been picked as the book of the month for April poetry readers. There's a lovely audio review of it over at Luisa's blog. And yes, everything the reviewer says about the book is true.

In support of Filipino poets and their poetry, I am giving away a free copy of either Trill and Mordent or Juan Luna's Revolver. Leave your comment either here or at my livejournal to take part in this lottery. Results at the end of the month.

woensdag 4 maart 2009

I've decided to come back to using this blog as a notebook for my thoughts (just as I used the other blog to map out my thoughts pre-Hope away from Home).

I'm thinking of a lot of things, and as this blog is less visited than lj, I think this is an ideal place to wrestle with issues that are important to me as a person and as a writer.


There's something funny about this evolution thing as a writer. I've been reading Kelley Eskridge's work and I was just so moved by her story Dangerous Space which is nominated for the Nebula. If you visit Kelley's website, there is a link to a number of insightful essays on gender, fiction, and her love story. I've gone ahead and ordered myself a copy of Kelley's short story collection. I want to read her novel too, but will probably have to wait a bit before ordering that, as Amazon informs me they do not deliver this product to my country.

I've also been reading John Kessel's "The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and other stories". The book is free-t0-download from Small Beer Press, but I chose to buy myself a hard copy as I love my hard copy. Also, I think it's good to support small presses. I really do. John Kessel's "Stories for Men" is an amazing read, and it's no wonder to me that this story won the James Tiptree Jr. Award. John Kessel's "Pride and Prometheus" is also nominated for the Nebula's.

Ruth Nestvold is also up for the Nebula's. Her story, Mars: A Traveller's Guide is in the list of final nominations. Mars is a very clever story. It's engaging and entertaining and I enjoyed reading it a lot.

Here's a link to the final ballot for the Nebula Award.


Now that above shout-out is done, I want to write about how reading the works of this various authors have influenced me. In particular, I found myself very much affected by Eskridge's "Dangerous Space", Kessel's "Stories for Men", and Nestvold's "Looking Through Lace". Looking at these three stories, what binds them together is not only the way in which they question and look at gender, but also the emotional depth and the way in which they open up their characters and in this way open up themselves and allow their vulnerability to show.

There's plenty of food for thought there as I reconnect with a lot of things that I allowed myself to shelve away. I think that John Kessel is very right when he says that we should write what we like and think about publication later.
There's this clip of a Ryan Cayabyab song that's lingered in my mind all these years:


I was in highschool when I started working in slum areas. At first, I joined experienced outreach workers who gathered children together in a central place within the slum area to teach them songs, and tell them stories. Later, I had my own area where I taught children. This place was called "Paraiso".

In Paraiso, there was a little girl called Marilag. Marilag was a thalidomide baby. She was born with stumps for legs and her arms and fingers were deformed. She was the most beautiful little girl in Paraiso.

Marilag's mother was a hard-working woman. She washed and ironed clothes for a living. She was also very strict and it took time before I gained her trust. I guess, she was afraid for her daughter. With good reason. Even today, I still remember Marilag. She had the most beautiful smile. She always sat in the door of their house and when I arrived in the street, she would shout: Here comes Ate Chie. (Ate meaning older sister). I would carry her in my arms to our gathering place. Each year, she grew heavier.

The last time I saw Marilag, she was in her teens. I had gotten married and I wanted to see her before I left The Philippines. They were still living in one of the small streets crowded with houses made out of plywood and corrugated iron. She showed me clippings of an actor whom she admired. She was happy because she'd gotten prosthetic legs from the orthopedic hospital, and she was learning to walk on them. She dreamed of someday getting married and having children of her own.

When I went back home a couple of years ago, I heard that they'd moved back to the province. They didn't leave a forwarding address.

I am still looking for Marilag.


When you have been to a place like Paraiso, there are things you will never forget. Each man, each woman, each child has a story. That's a story that we can't romanticize or bagatellize. It just is that way.