Saturday, July 19, 2008



An Maupay ha mga Waray ug iba pa nga mga siday (Waray poems with English translations) by Voltaire Oyzon
(Univ. of the Philippines Visayas Creative Writing Workshop and the National Commission on Culture and Arts, 2008)

An Maupay ha mga Waray

I am not an avid poetry reader but when my spouse gifted me with The Breath of Parted Lips: Voices from the Robert Frost Place, Volume One, I became a fan of Pattian Rogers' "The Hummingbird: a Seduction":
Then when you came down to me, I would call you
My own spinning bloom of ruby sage, my funneling
Storm of sunlit sperm and pollen, my only breathless
Piece of scarlet sky, and I would bless the base
Of each of your feathers and touch the tine
Of string muscles binding your wings and taste
The odor of your glistening oils and hunt
The honey in your crimson flare
And I would take you and take you and take you
Deep into any kind of nest you ever wanted.

I find that piece so lovely--it transports me upward into the heavens, a higher place of inspiration for me.

And now, for evoking the same feeling I got from Pattiann Rogers' poem, I have become a fan of Voltaire Oyzon. Through his collection of poems--unlike a poet-scholar's introduction which exhorted me "we should be glad about this collection of poems" and constricted the space to be who I am as I read the poems--this poet allowed me to be who I am as I got transformed by the emotions he expressed in each.

I learned to appreciate the "heartsongs" of this poetry book. I can still hear the surfacing of the heartsongs as the heart rids itself of the memories of a failed relationship, as if such memories were just like laundry being wood paddled next to the river to rinse out the stench or the smell; yet the mind seems to sear these sad memories intact. Oyzon's poems hold the intense rage of a downpour, but he must have pruned them as one does the roots of a bonsai as the poems are "no longer a pure rage"--the author reveals worry instead, which for me, is a mere mental construct, an archival ruins of the past, preventing one from appreciating what is in the now, what is love at the present.

That is sometimes who we are, as the poet reveals in many of his pieces--"Bonsai", "Sprouted Mung Bean", " Dansoy's Letter to Tipay "--clinging to unrequited loves of the past, producing a more melancholic "Me", instead of relating and embracing the "We", the Waray We in all of us, as this poet meticulously expresses in this collection of poetry.

I love the contrast of sounds conveyed by two poems, "Poetry or those times when I go crazy" and "Our Every Breath". In "Poetry or those times when I go crazy", Oyzon captures the awe he feels as he describes how one is assaulted from one's sleep by the sounds of urban life: "relay of fowl and prayerless dogs howling"--not unlike what I have experienced in urban settings: sounds of the tricycle, the diesel halting sounds of waiting jeepneys, the early calls of the balut vendor.

In "Our every breath" this poet invites us to consider that every breath in and out is a quest for eternity; but for me, being still, experiencing the breath itself in and out is the now, the present moment, not the past, not the future and is eternity within each of us, waiting for us to feel it deeply. I love these two pieces as it invites me to integrate my own experiences and allows me to even transpose myself farther than suggested by the poet. He has intensified not just the emotions conveyed in these pieces, but now has triggered a deeper appreciation for the life that is Waray.

But, my favorite is "Love Curve" and for those with a background in science, or the latent scientist in all of us, the love curve, the descending love curve expresses with precision and accuracy the death of a love, the death of a relationship, by our own distance and lack of connection with the loved one. Yes, this is also a very wise poem as it teaches us to change that curve upward, to be more human, to reach out and be the love we want to see in others, and if we do, we recapture the "waray" in us, the loving embers of our hearts. "Our Every Breath" becomes eternity if we simply become the "waray " We hold deep in us the "tagnok" as Merlie Alunan describes in her introduction: "the pesky little insect smaller than a mosquito...bites quickly and leaves a red itchy welt". But, rather than the sting, how about the warmth of a connection, as the implied opposite of the love curve?

While I love all the translations and I felt that the voice of the poet was consistently and constantly preserved, two translations stuck out as divergent and substituted the resonance of the poet's voice: "Kabatok" and "This Pathway" do not reflect the poet's voice which I sense to be "warm, close, near, feeling, and loving", fort the translations convey a poet's voice that is distant, cold and unfeeling. I believe these two pieces' translations have to be revisited.

But, to the new Waray fan or to the new Waray poetic itch in all of us, this book of poetry is transformative and invites us to revisit how we live our daily lives--is it about a descending love curve, like a tagnok that bites, or is it about an ascending one where one hears the heartsongs as lullabies rocking another gently to sleep or to experience one's warmth and company just for the moment, a breath at a time?

"I am a Thief" did not resonate with me as it accepts a cultured corruption of one's spirit amongst a few, not applicable for the majority Filipinos whose spirits are still imaginative, active and conscious in directing their lives. I also find that one's culture does not equate to one's identity, although perhaps the attempt of this poet to write poetry in native Waray validates his attempt to transcends his acknowledged culture and transforms himself by cultivating his luminous spirit through the art of creating poetry.

Another poem I just love is "Our Virtue as Warays", a depiction of the drunkards and drinking as an addiction, a corruption of one' s inner soul, of someone literally self-destructive and "pissing on his spirit", and powerfully depicted by the use of the metaphor of "empty half-gallon jug by his side". The reader is left to imagine the strong decaying aroma of the stench and the drunk's way of life of escaping reality, of escaping past memories instead of excavating them to make room for the now, for the new, for the luminous shine of one's own inner spirit and solitude.

And what a brilliant contrast of positioning and locating two different poetry pieces: "Changing Mothers to Glory Be" and "Spider ". The first illustrates the colonized identities or lack thereof, and the banishment of one's indigenous roots, banishing one's facility of imagination and fluidity of self-expression, in the form of banished use of Waray, and how the once-revered "nanay" is now transmuted to a forgotten, a more distant memorialized version of a "mommy". The second is how a spider's web characterizes the formation and rebuilding of a community, sometimes broken down by its streak of negativity patterns or a critical habit of the mind, inherited perhaps from colonial masters of focusing only on the lack of, or what is lacking, forgetting to take a step back to see the totality of the picture, acquiring a perspective perhaps and the tenacity of community builders within all of us, if allowed to shine, in the form of the image of a spider to recreate, to rebuild a web of communities.

And the brilliance of this poetry called "Prayer after receiving alms" depicts the fullness one feels in cultivating a fuller measure of gratitude from within, a grateful spirit that says "it is enough and am thankful" and for that, I too am grateful for being blessed with the opportunity to do a critical review of this collected works of imagination, of excavating one's DNA of artistic brilliance and believing in one's authentic voice! Thank you and am enough!


Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz stumbled upon writing, post-retirement from a public health agency, thanks to her mentors: Enrique Delacruz, Carlo Delacruz, NVM Gonzalez, Peter Bacho, Michael Gonzalez, Russell Leong, Judy SooHoo, Marilen Abesamis, Ofelia Barretto, Mas Hori and Susan Rosal. Her works have appeared in Taliba, Los Angeles Times, Amerasia Journal, and peer-reviewed works of FDC published by Quality Press. She recently completed a book that is under review by Quality Press for publication, called "Even the Rainbow Has a Body", a title shared by her mentor NVM.

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