poet's sanctum Poetry Friday

The Poet’s Sanctum: A Twist to our Poetry Fridays

I had another epiphany after meeting one of the most beautiful women I was privileged to share cake and conversation with while I was in Davao several days back: Tita Agcaoili Lacambra Ayala or Tala for short. I thought that it would be great to feature not only storytellers and illustrators but also Poets in what we would call The Poet’s Sanctum here in GatheringBooks.

While Fats and Iphigene have already featured originals for Poetry Friday, I thought that this is also a great opportunity to have a themed/featured post about a celebrated Poet who has moved our souls and enriched our sensibilities. This would also be done on a bimonthly basis. While we would still post a few originals and books on poetry, we would try as much as we can to share bits and fragments of our Featured Poet’s life through their poems and what has been written about them in books or in shared conversations with them (if we so have that privilege) for Poetry Fridays.

For July and August, we are happy and honored to feature the one and the only 80 year old Tita Lacambra Ayala in GatheringBooks and share with the world a few of her beautiful poems.

Photo taken from Gilbert Yap Tan's website. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

A short biography could be found in this website which I would also share with you here:

Tita Lacambra-Ayala is an acclaimed writer, poet and painter. Born in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, Tita studied at the University of the Philippines, and after a fruitful stint as freelance writer for various major magazines and as  press officer of the UP Los Baños College of Agriculture Extension Office, she eventually settled in Mindanao with her husband painter Jose V. Ayala, Jr. (deceased). She has published four books of poems: Sunflower Poems (Filipino Signatures, Manila, 1960), Orginary Poems (Erehwon Publishing, Manila, 1969), Adventures of a Professional Amateur (prose) (UP Press, 1999), and Friends and Camels in a Time of Olives (UP Press, 1999.) She co-edited the visual and literary arts journal Davao Harvest with Alfredo Salanga, Gimba Magazine, and Etno-Culture. She produced and edited the 30-year-old Road Map Series, a folio of Mindanao artistic works and literary writings.

She won the Palanca in the English Short Story Category “Everything” (Third Prize, 1967), and for Poetry in English “A Filigree of Seasons” (Second Prize). She also garnered the following awards and citations: Gawad Balagtas Awardee for Poetry in English (1991), Manila Critics Circle Special Citation for Road Map Series (1989), Philippine Free Press Awardee for Short Story (1970, Third Prize), Focus Philippines Poetry Awardee, Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas UMPIL Achievement Award (1991), and National Fellow for Poetry, UP Creative Writing Center (1994-95).

Lacambra-Ayala is a founding member of the Davao Writers Guild, and is the mother of famous songwriter-musicians Joey Ayala and Cynthia Alexander and poet Fernando (Pido) Ayala. (source: http://www.oovrag.com)

There is a recently published book (2011) entitled Tala Mundi: The Collected Poems of Tita Agcaoili Lacambra Ayala edited and with critical introduction and guide by Ricardo M. de Ungria.

I bought my own copy of the book as soon as Cynthia Alexander (Tita’s singer-songwriter daughter) told me about it, and I am glad to have found the last copy in Davao. I am deeply moved by this book. Can not stop flipping through the pages. Hopefully I find the energy to review this book as well this July/August for The Poet’s Sanctum or perhaps a more realistic vision would be for me to share a few of my favorites.

For this week’s Poetry Friday, I would like to share the book that Tita herself has generously given to me when I visited her home a few days back in Davao. This is her very first book entitled Sunflower Poems first published in 1960.

My heart is filled to the brim with the gift of this beautiful book.

She called me a bounty-hunter, a treasure-finder. With the cake that I brought for her, I take with me an armful of whispered secrets, longings, and treasured memories wrapped in pages of her books and the leafy strands of her threaded musings. I lovelovelove the dedication that she wrote for me in this beautiful book:

For Myra - who's helping the world get smaller. =)

I would be sharing two of my favorites from the book for Poetry Friday which is being hosted this week by Mary Lee at A Year of Reading. Check out the other links for Poetry Friday as well.

Wedding Song by Tita Lacambra Ayala (initially published in Sunflower Poems, 1960)

The inevitable is true like lily bulbs
         rooting in the case
implicit order of armchairs, tables,
          books, bed
in this occupied room. All sounds waved
          to the seasons
of living and dying pipesmoke
and sardines rotting in the day-old
           garbage can.
Dead geckos have been swept away
wall cracks stopped to divide private silence
            from outward loiterers.
The strong clasp of hours is softened
            only by reluctant sleep.

This is another one of my favorites. I suppose a lot of it has to do with the fact that I have just gone back to visit an old hometown. This is the perfect poem to capture my mood:

Pilgrimage to Antamok by Tita Lacambra Ayala (initially published in Sunflower Poems, 1960)

No longer great and grand and large
requiring three child steps to the stone one
which led up to the hospital and mess hall
in that small mining town. It had shrunk small
or I had grown. Dark-eyed men at the gates
tell me they mine iron now, the gold
must have melted away with heat
from the past war chipping off the stones
from mountain settings drying off
the streams where the gold once was panned;
the children’s faces are a dust gray
not the glow of sunflowers I remember.
The steps are hardly used, the dark eyes say.
We cure our sick now, eat our homegrown meals
right off the hills, live in these handmade shacks
rather than in bunkhouses where lice grow
as thick as children to a family.
                                                       We deal only
with memories after a while, concealing childhood
with tensions meant to break sometime in useless
revisitations like this. But the main irony
is that we keep going back to reconfirm our loss,
what we have gone to find beyond mend and settlement.
Our pilgrimages leave us broken and hungry,
eager to return to whatever present, what we have left.

There was one particular artwork that struck me while I was in Tala’s home:

Painting done by Tita Lacambra Ayala on a tree bark
in close up =) i am amazed by the artistry in something so transient.

I can not explain the gravitational pull that draws me to Tita Lacambra Ayala, but I know that it exists, and I would like to believe that she felt it too. I call her my enchantress. I am smitten by her. After our meeting, I can not stop thinking in verse. I made this  poem for her in memory of our chance encounter:

Poetry writes itself into my skin
whispers incessantly in my ear as i
struggle to bag it, force the words into
a net, lock them in a shake shake bag with cheese on top –
images scribbled furiously in a paper bag tucked neatly in the airplane seat’s backflap..
… and i fell deep deep into the eyes of a
woman who has touched the earth,
fingers clawing for its core,
capturing the fire within the subsoil.
A candle has been lit in my soul,
engulfing me in verse.
I did not capture a photo.
The moment too ephemeral for something so tacky
so commonplace
so banal a gesture as a photograph.
I can not muddy the clear waters of existence and youth
I touched through Tala’s eyes.

9 comments on “The Poet’s Sanctum: A Twist to our Poetry Fridays

  1. Beautiful poem inspired by an extraordinary woman. And what a precious gift.


  2. Wow! What a connection you made!


    • Hi Mary Lee. Thank you for visiting and for hosting this week’s Poetry Friday. I am glad that we have this space in the web to share poetry that has moved our souls. =)


  3. Very moving, Myra! This is such a rich post. Thanks.


  4. Pingback: Poetry Friday – Tita Lacambra Ayala’s Road Map Series |

  5. Pingback: Meet our Graphic Novelist, Featured Academic, and Poet for July and August |

  6. Pingback: Here Comes the End of July: A Round Up |

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