Monday, June 18, 2007


I am grateful to Ariadne for a review HERE of my Dusie chap, THE SINGER And Others (which will be available online this summer).
I encourage you to read the review since it compliments me (wink). But in this blog post, I will skip over the compliments to address something I find as interesting as praise -- what Ariadne notes about my use of "fishing" and "scumbling" as poetic techniques. If you read the lower half of Ariadne's review, you'll note that Ariadne references Craig Perez's take (in a Galatea Resurrects review) on how Paolo Javier did the "fishing" technique for his book '60 lv bo(e)mbs', as in this excerpt:

[Paolo Javier] then quotes Vicente Rafael’s Contracting Colonialism:

‘for whom the priest's words rouse in [them] other thoughts that have only the most tenuous connections to what he is actually saying. It is as if they saw other possibilities in those words, possibilities that served to mitigate the interminable verbal assaults being hurled from the pulpit. To the extent that such random possibilities occur, the native listeners manage to find another place from which to confront colonial authority.’

Javier suggests an analogy: the way in which he “fishes” Neruda’s Spanish to find and construct variable possibilities parallels the native congregations’ “fishing” the Spanish sermons. To me, this is a barely tenable analogy considering that Neruda’s Spanish is not being hurled at Javier from any pulpit; nor is he assaulted, linguistically, in as desperately strange a situation as the “native listeners.” We should also question Rafael’s “as if” in “as if they saw other possibilities,” which overly romanticizes native resistance (it seems less romantic that the native listeners just didn’t listen).

Perhaps I would be more convinced of this analogy if Javier chose an actual Spanish sermon to translate, or some other Spanish document relating to the colonization of the Philippines....


In her review of my chap, Ariadne seems to agree with Craig's take above as she notes that something similar can be assessed in my case. Now, I'm one of those who are reluctant to address my reviews (except to praise those who got it right by simply lauding me -- wink again; boy, are my eyelids busy today!). But I guess I feel compelled now to respond publicly because I would hesitate for Craig's take to become some sort of *official* touchstone on what exactly is the significance of a contemporary English-language Filipino poet "fishing" to write poems -- and this seems to be a possibility in that another critic is referring to Craig's post, giving Craig's interpretation a semblance of authority with which I guess I am not comfortable.

That is, I consider Craig to be a wonderful reader and able critic of poetry -- he has written many wonderful reviews. But this time, I think his perspective as regards Paolo's use of "fishing" is, um, a tad terms of thinking that Paolo's fishing technique isn't really tenable because Paolo wasn't in the same position as Filipino "native listeners" being hectored by Spanish friars back when the Philippines was Spain's colony centuries ago. If the obvious subtext to Paolo's use of fishing is dissing colonialism, there's no reason why Paolo (or anyone else) can't do so by working in the aftermath of the colonial act, and centuries later, update the context of response (so that, for example, what's moved forward in time is the impetus behind vs the specific narratives of the original situation.

When I did the fishing technique partly to write THE SINGER And Others, I was probably even more at a remove since I wasn't concerned with homophonic translations. But I was operating -- as I sense Paolo was on one level -- in addressing colonialism's legacy. Neither Paolo or I or any 21st century Filipino poet need to have been the ones directly feeling the whip of the Spanish invaders 3 centuries ago to have that part of ancestral history affect the work we do today. I mean, think of what can affect poetic sensibility -- surely that can't be bound by temporal terms...? (And I speak, of course, as someone who's channeled Enheduanna, born 2300 BCE...)

So, I thought I'd share that...and the matter is interesting to me, too, as regards its implications as regards authenticity in poetry, isn't it?

And again, such sharing has nothing to do with disputing Ariadne's review (which after all is positive). It's really to note that colonialism's influence is not something that disappears automatically with the inevitable passage of time (witness what Filipinos call "colonial mentality" for example, which seems to me to be strongly existent still even if we're at least two generations away from U.S. colonialism in the Philiippines).

Anyway, for now, nuff said here because in order to say more about this topic without pissing of a heck of a lot of people, I'd have to have more time to revisit this matter and shape a coherent argument to blog and, at the moment, I don't. C'est la vie.