Literature

My Islands

N.V.M Gonzales

Even as the bough breaks
from the sheer weight of song
so does my heart break with love,
so will my rivers flow
to kiss the sea’s warm eternal breast,
so will my islands poise their hills
against the sun.

My heart is proud
of the faith that keeps the pace
of these dreams and prouder yet my rivers
of the faith that keeps that pace
of tides and moons, and prouder
still my islands of their hills.

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Word Without End

Cesar Ruiz Aquino

 

East, the horizons and all the learning

Lost. Sick for Siquijor or Avalon

O I could for the sheer sight of her throw

Verses away! Let the Virgins carry

 

Virgule widdershins upon the fairy

Earth, the same that on the world’s first morning

Left her traces, her face an eidolon

Of whiteness for the chilled blood to know

 

Or for one word and one word only go

Void as days all misspent for the starry

Echo of a night come without warning

Like a thousand thieves stealing on and on

 

Love, tongue-tied, is my Tetragrammaton

Opening no door, giving leave to no

Vendaval that, priceless, she might tarry

Even as the sands and there’s no turning

Pag-Uwi

Rio Alma

Malungkot sa Japan o Saudi

Wala ka kasi sa sariling bayan.

Panay ang sulat mo ng pangungulila

At lalong nangungulila

Kapag tumanggap ng pangangamusta.

Mas malungkot sa sariling bayan.

Umuwi ka wari

Sa sariling tahanan

At dinatnan ang lahat ng iniwan,

Tulad ng dati’y nagmamahal,

Tulad ng dati’y naghihintay

Kaya walang nagbago

Kundi ikaw.

With Our Arms Joined Together

With Our Arms Joined Together

Gelacio Guillermo

 

With our arms joined together, do you not fear?

There are thousands and thousands of us answering

To the calls of our brothers sworn to one great creed.

Listen and shudder at the anger in our voices!

 

We come from all places where men still lead

Downtrodden lives and die like famished dogs.

We come from the streets and slums of towns

And cities, from the factories that doom our days

 

To dull, mechanical labor, the whole of us silently

Bearing our souls’ anguish; our hearts seethe

With revolt against all forces that drag our creative life

Down the snare of death. We come from the dens of rats.

 

You shall cringe as you watch us unfurl the banner

Of our brotherhood, mark the resolute ring in the army

Of voices joined together in one song, the song

Of the poor workers, the jobless, the starving,

 

The song also of men without homes and without lands

In the country of their birth. With us have come

Our women and our innocent children and the ghosts

Of our fathers and the horde of dead men we have never known!

A Look at the Comma Poem

“I,It,Was,That,Saw”   |     Jose Garcia Villa

I,it,was,that,saw
God,dancing,on,phosphorescent,toes,
Among,the,strawberries.

It,could,have,been,moonlight,or,
Daylight-or,no,light,at,all.
His,feet,cast,light,on,all.

On,phosphorescent,feet
On,phosphorescent,feet,he,danced,
And,His,eyes,we’re,closed.

He,made,strawberries,tremble!
Yet,He,hurt,not,the,littlest,one,
But,gave,them,ripeness,all.

How do you read such a poem? How do you read it aloud, and how do you read its deep structure? Some tell me that to read a comma poem requires pausing between words. The comma represents that pause, and by that pause, each word seems disconnected, so that when we look at the poem, we jump from word to word (paying attention to each individual component). Each word thus is “framed” by the comma.

My suggestion is that the comma does not represent a pause, but rather, a connection between the words. In the traditional poem, each word is separated by an empty space. Distanced by that empty space. The comma provides substance between them, as the words are substance. Kind of like a continuing flow of  energy.

By framing each component, Villa charges each word with energy. He could have just separated the words by line; something like:

I

it

was

that

saw

God

dancing

on

phosphorescent

toes

But of course, the form is spatially inconvenient. And the reading of the poem tends to be much faster than the reading of the comma poem. Villa maintains the structure (three lines per verse) to retain poetic unity, but he also retains the charge of energy to be concentrated on each word, and not on each line. The idea is compositionality: each component has its own meaning (even articles and prepositions that do not have real world referents), and the meanings they have as well as their placement in the line influence the overall meaning of the line, the verse, the entire poem.

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The comma poem is mostly associated with the poet Jose Garcia Villa.