Monday, January 28, 2008

When the Column About the Poems that Came Back to Haunt You Also Came Back to Haunt You

While looking for the author of a poem which we wanted included in "Mondo Marcos," I came upon my poetry column in Sun Star five years ago. This was written in Nov 26, 2002:

When your poems come back to haunt you
By Frank Cimatu

LAST Friday, I got a copy of my old poems. These were made more than 10 years ago. Many of these poems I have not seen since sending them to Palanca. I was still using those huge, really floppy disks then and using Wordstar 5. They were killed by primitive viruses and molds. Anyway, my poems looked primitive now with those ribbon printers. Some of the poems I didn't know I submitted.

And the typos! I was surprised these poems won the Palanca. For one, my Filipino poems were titled Desaparacido/Desparadico. It should be "Desaparadico" but in my haste, I forgot the crucial "a." Then looking at them last Friday, I realized it should be "Desaparadiso." How I want to creep into the Palanca office and edit my poems.

Because I have the worst filing system in Baguio, I have no copies of many of these poems and the sight of them is similar to a passage I recalled about an archeologist opening a tomb unopened for centuries. When he opened the lid, the body was intact and right before the archeologist's eyes, the body collapsed upon contact with air, leaving a tempest of dust. It was so Spielberg.

When I saw my early poems, I was so filled with pride seeing those twist of lines and rhymes. And then the air filled these poems as you recall those attempts of revisions filling at least five spiral notebooks. And then you see the grammatical errors, waylaid commas and semicolons, and a line (in one instance, a crucial stanza) that you forgot to put in. How can I be so stupid! How can the judges not see these? Then your poems collapsed in front of you.

In the case of the archeologist, he was left with dust and also, the fine battle uniform and the jewels. At least I have my old poems, that I have to edit and rework until they look fine again. Or until the next long-time-no-see.

I remember Jun Cruz Reyes, the Raymond Carver of Philippine literature, saying that he has some things that some of our great writers would die to retrieve from him. He has their works which they submitted to the UP National Writer's Workshop. Now don't get me wrong! The UP workshop is the most prestigious rite-of-passage in the country and getting there is no easy task. Talent, or even the occasional brilliant flash-in-the-pan is not enough.

Sometimes, I think the panelists bring in some fellows who has some potential but is still not of workshop caliber. Or some of the usual suspects. You know your Sun Tzu - you kill a rooster to scare the monkeys. Bring in a fellow who is really terrible and slaughter him or her in front of the other people. Watch them cringe and swear literature off their bodies for the rest of their lives.

I attended the UP workshop in 1988 (yes, The Great Batch of 1988) and believe me, it was a bloodshed, not like the patronizing ones I observed later.

Philippine literature is looking for those rare ones who rise from the trenches and eventually become the greatest of their generation.

Let us not be ashamed of our juvenilias. Except for a few exceptions, and I assure you it's not the brand of baby milk that made the difference, all of us were terrible ones. Some of us are enfant terribles, others remained terrible and infantile while the rest rose from the ranks.

It's not easy to be a writer. You need your formulas: Three Ps (persistence, patience, peskiness), Three Rs (read, revise and revise again) and others.

You need your muses (Don't marry them. The unrequited ones are more ideal) and your succubi and incubi.. You need to love and fall in love and when you fall, fall down hard. (I remember writing a review on the Eraserheads' Cutterpillow and telling them to find more heartbreaks for your own good. Last year, I got an email from another rocker saying he clipped that review and highlighted that particular advice. Told you I am better than Joe D'Mango).

Release your poems and let them live by themselves. When they come back to you like what some of them did last Friday, you feel like the prodigal father who had to serve a feast for them. That's why I have to pay the bill even if I didn't order what you ate and drank (Tes, Etot, Day, Mary, Vince and Evie), it's because my poems had come home (Thanks, Grace).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi sir! can you please give me a link to where I can find your poem "desaparacido/desparadico. I badly needed it for my daughter's research project. I'm having a difficult time finding a copy of your poem. thank you in advance.

5:54 PM  

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