Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

Stand-up poet

In poetry on November 24, 2008 at 6:58 am


I never thought I’d do it. But there I was last Saturday, standing in front of the mic before a crowd of thirty inside Wings and Wedges, MTS, telling them (and myself) that I’m going to make a poem on the spot. if I would have been sane at that moment (or perhaps any moment in my life) I would have thought it a  totally unnecessary circumstance to get into. Why would I grill myself on the spot? Why would I push myself into a situation that has a large probability of showering embarassment on myself when I could have just sat down in my seat at the back row of the audience and watched the poetry readings in silence?

I had only intended to drop by, really. Check out a bit of the poetry readings and some of the ol’ guys. Show support to Dominic, my ever-energetic friend and persevering young mover of the local lit scene who organized the poetry reading night with Sir Mac Tiu. But no, just when things turn comfortable, when I’ve spun a nice coccoon about myself, I say “Hey! No time to snuggle. I need some adventure!” So when Ma’am Jhoanna, the emcee, announced the readers and the free spots for reading on stage, I couldn’t help but fidget in my seat, taking out my notepad and pen and thinking maybe I could write a quick poem. I haven’t written a poem in months. I actually haven’t written anything decent in months, but only phrases for shirts and some lines for possible unfinished comic strips. So I told myself, “Scrap it. You can’t write anything now.”

But I still had a bullet in mind. I approached Ma’am Jhoanna and asked her if I could recite a poem on stage. I have one poem that I could recite with all my heart because it was only 5 lines, 16 words-short–Izumi Shikibu’s “Even if I now Saw You”, which at that point I forgot the title.  She happily obliged but asked me if it was my poem or not. I said no and she told me with a smile that I had to read my own poem. So I went back to my seat, laughing at myself and thinking “Try harder, fool.”

Then my adventure genes kicked in (I think I got them from Pippi.) And I thought, “Ok, what the heck. Why don’t I compose a poem right on the stage? I just have to focus on an image, a very potent image, and go from there.” I needed not think long because right then I remembered an image of a painting I saw in a borrowed book which just struck me I would keep looking at it.

This is the image:

Birthscape II, Martina Hoffman, 1988

Birthscape II, Martina Hoffman, 1988

(Pardon me if the scan isn’t so clear. It’s a bit frustrating because the most important detail which are the shots of lighting spurting from the woman’s breasts are only faintly seen in this scan.)

So I just thought about the image and called Ma’am Jhoanna’s attention again and signalled her to fix me a spot.

After several more readings, she called me up (giving me a long introduction which I must have deserved after disappearing from Davao Writers Guild for some time without notice) and I took the stage. I did not feel nervous, only warm. It was the surge of blood going up my head, the surge of excitement and impending embarassment. I couldn’t remember how I introduced my pieces to the audience, only that I was going to recite a short poem first from Izumi Shikibu of which title I forgot and that I was going to improvise a poem in Bisaya (because I felt I wouldn’t have much of a hard-time scrambling for words if I used my first language) since I did not bring any stock poems. And I started.

The Izumi Shikibu piece went fine. The audience were all ears. I saw in their faces they were anticipating the strike of lightning. I said the poem slowly, hoping that they wouldn’t miss a thing and I won’t. I felt like holding my breath while telling the poem. When it was done, I breathed a long sigh of relief as I heard the audience’s polite applause.

What I can remember with my introduction for my improv poem were that I was going to improv one because I didn’t bring stock poems and that I was going to do it in Bisaya (I felt I could better deliver in Bisaya in speech than English). I also could not remember my poem exactly. All I remember is that it was a halting creation. There were times I scrambled for words that they would sound like a question (like I was asking the audience for affirmation if my Bisaya term was right). But I knew its flaws were part of it like all things made. I was pulling it out of thin air and I can’t always expect to pull out something that I needed.

Before going to the reading spot, I had already determined my beginning and ending words. They were “Mama” and “Dugay pa”, respectively. But I knew that the spontaneity of the spot could trample my little plans. I crossed my fingers that I would nevertheless begin and end well no matter the words. I thought, whatever will happen would just be a surprise.

So, my poem (as I remember it):


Naa koy nakit-an ba

nga imahe.

Nindut kaayo!

Unta makit-an pud nimo.

Ang imahe kay usa ka babaye.


ug nakaluhod.

Ang babaye kay nagkaduko,

nagtan-aw sa iyang tutoy

kung asa nag-agas ang gatas

sa wanang (?)

Pero kung tan-awon nimo ug tarong,

makit-an nimo

nga dili diay gatas

ang ninggawas sa iyang tutoy,

kungdi duha ka kidlat.


Unta lagi makit-an gyud to nimo!


nakit-an naman to diay nimo.


dugay pa.