Friday, November 17, 2017

More In Memory

FROM THE ARCHIVES. I am not a fan of Villa, and he did not die this month, but what the heck. Good to see the commas and "The Emperor's New Sonnet" again. And the not-so-Cyclops self-profile. What was that famous quote again from Hamlet when he held that skull-- "Alas, poor Yorick!" or "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark!"?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

In Memory

MY AMERICAN tribute to a Mindoro literary legend who died this month eighteen years ago, with these American editions of three of his books.  I never met the man, but maybe my mother the schoolteacher did; how else will she get a signed copy of the first edition of his book Seven Hills Away (1947) in Manila the year it came off the press 70 years ago. A Bible of sorts when I was in high school, handled to this day with the same reverence and care accorded to the good book. Next is The Bamboo Dancers (1961) from the library of a now-defunct Jesuit seminary in Westchester County, found in an obscure bookshop in the Lower East Side. Last is a copy of Selected Stories (1964), which I don't remember where I got from, maybe a bookstore in San Diego.

NVM Gonzalez, Sept 1915-Nov 1999

And while we're at it, let's get to know this unfamiliar publisher, who also passed away this month, with this brief biography from the Syracuse University Library website:

"Alan Swallow was an American poet, editor, teacher, and publisher. He was born February 11, 1915 in the windswept prairies of Powell, Wyoming. Realizing at an early age that he was not suited to a life of farming and ranching, he entered the University of Wyoming where he received a B.A. degree in literature. He earned a fellowship to Louisiana State University where he received an M.A. degree. At LSU he studied under Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks. He was an instructor at the University of New Mexico  and associate professor of English at Western State College. He then taught at the University of Denver as assistant professor and directed its writing program, later becoming director of its University Press. In 1940, he became the founder, owner, and single employee of his publishing firm, Alan Swallow Publishing, printing high quality yet affordable books. He sought to promote the poetry and fiction of contemporary writers who are often unrecognized by the larger commercial publishers. His list included J.V. Cunningham, Thomas McGrath, Janet Lewis, and the more well known Anais Nin, Yvor Winters and Allen Tate. Swallow has also written and published several books of poems and has edited anthologies of poetry and prose. He lectured at various writers' conferences and was a member of the Western Writers of America, Colorado Authors League, Denver Westerners, and American Civil Liberties Union. His tireless work as an editor and innovative publisher gave him much integrity, while rumors of his marital infidelities and his fondness for fast cars earned him a different notoriety. He died on November 27, 1966 in Denver, Colorado."

Sunday, October 29, 2017

In Memory

I TOOK A COURSE called History of Cultural Minorities under Henry King Ahrens (aka the great William Henry Scott) when I was a student in UP Manila after dropping out of the Ateneo and before moving to Diliman. He wrote me this letter of recommendation for a scholarship in an American university which I did not get, but this document and his gesture were more than enough. His death after what was considered to be routine gall bladder surgery is still baffling.

William Henry Scott, Jul 1921-Oct 1993

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Language Of Special Interest

I DID NOT KNOW when I started working for the Feds that speaking the wika would be a skill that pays. Tagalog is apparently considered by the agency as a "language of special interest" in the mission against terrorism. So around Thanksgiving each year (after the previous fiscal year ends in September), Uncle Sam pays me an easy Black Friday bonus just for employing it to process passengers and interact with cruise and container ships crewmen (90% Pinoy, they offer you food from the galley) when boarding vessels for inspections, Abu Sayyaf or ISIS operatives apprehended or not. The union says this is another program in danger with Trump; enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, October 13, 2017


I WOULD CHANGE some line breaks, but this poem by Zosimo Quibilan (encountered on Vince Gotera's wall) reads well for Pinoy Halloween.


They inhabit these acacia trees like children
playing grownup, cooking with corroded
cans a concoction of things lost
then found. Here, a broken piece of a toy gun,
a fistful of leaves and shorn hair and dead ants
and homemade candies. They would improvise names
to address each other — Hey Lover. Oh, Son. Mother! So soon
a daughter is swaddled in stolen shirts and dirt.
Between their palms they will roll
cigars as tall as stories they will have whispered
to one, then another, to while away
summer nights when neighbors insist
on bringing back the deceased by playing
at least a hand of peculiar cards with bent coins
and peculiar currencies. Some will see this night
darker than others. Silhouettes then become
trees. A movement here, to explain their grief’s origins.
An illusion of light there brims with expectations
like a steward for keeping sigils. Spirits turn
into giant limbs, lingering among intermittent glow points.
They would feel the air collapse in their own
weight. Shush, breathe this thick aroma. Hear
their diabolical laughter, mocking
among other things, our innocence,
our believing without seeing.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

In Memory

"BAPA" ANTOON passed away this month last year in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. He is best known for deciphering the Laguna Copperplate Inscription and for documenting the Hanunoo Mangyan script, notably the poetic form ambahan, verses inscribed on bamboo tubes, which he collected in a book called Treasure of a Minority. Here he was in action with a ballpen in his hut a decade before his death, and another one as a priest long before Anya was born. Proud to have been baptized by this Mindoro legend.

Antoon Postma, Mar 1929-Oct 2016

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Done With Freshman Year

DESPITE THE LONG commute to Manhattan on school days, sometimes with only five hours of sleep, Sara proved she can tackle work at Stuyvesant High School. Good job, babe. Enjoy the summer.