We are excited to once again join Poetry Friday in the coming weeks (having been ‘absent’ for the past two Fridays). This week’s host is The Poem Farm – so drop by and share a bit of love to other Poetry Friday contributors. We are also very honored to introduce our featured poet for September and October, Professor Gemino Abad otherwise known as Jimmy Abad to his students, friends, followers, fans.
We have a guest posting today from a former student of mine in Psychology, Dakila “Dax” Cutab, who is also a celebrated ‘balagtasero’ or ‘poet’ who performs verbal jousting.
Dax was instrumental in making our feature of Prof. Abad in GatheringBooks’ Poet’s Sanctum happen. It seemed fitting, then, for him to provide the introductions.
By Dakila ‘Dax’ Cutab:
Gémino H. Abad or Jimmy will always address his colleagues and students as kaibigan (friend).
Before he became a poet, he shared that he wanted to be a farmer (his words: “Just like Robert Frost; a farmer and a poet.”). He studied at the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture, now University of the Philippines in Los Baños. Unfortunately, during an operation, he accidentally killed his chicken. He then realized that agriculture was not his muse. However, I will not dwell on Sir Jimmy’s biography. I just wanted to share a little trivia about GatheringBooks’ Featured Poet (for more info about Sir Jimmy, visit this website).
In 2006, I took Contemporary Literature as one of my elective subjects in BA Psychology. Our class was tasked to read 10 novels (Rosca’s State of War, Camus’ The Stranger, Coetzee’s Disgrace, among others), 2 collections of poetry (my personal favourite, Neruda’s Extravagario) and we have to write a book review about every book we read. That semester, I met the soft-spoken and one of the pillars of Filipino Poets in English, Gémino H. Abad.
It was not in our class, though, that Sir Jimmy and I became friends. In 2009, when I started doing performance poetry and Balagtasan (Filipino verbal jousting) at Mag:Net Café (Katipunan Ave., Quezon City, Phils.), I had an opportunity to share the stage with Sir Jimmy. That was when I learned that Sir Jimmy doesn’t just write or read poems—he performs it! He memorized every line of every poem he would be performing. He said that he read an article that memorizing poems will help prevent Alzheimer’s to aging people, and according to his colleague-poet Alfred “Krip” Yuson, “He doesn’t want to have it.”.
Last September 2, 2011, we launched the Under the Storm: An Anthology of Contemporary Philippine Poetry (edited by Joel M. Toledo and Khavn de la Cruz).
My friend, Sue Prado (indie actress who translated the poem I submitted to the anthology in English) and I hosted the book launch event. After Sir Jimmy recited the piece that he contributed to the anthology, That Space of Writing, I asked him if he can recite another poem. He willingly obliged saying, “I will take this opportunity to commemorate my dear friend, Edith Tiempo. This is her poem, Bonsai.”
All that I love
I fold over once
And once again
And keep in a box
Or a slit in a hollow post
Or in my shoe.
All that I love?
Why, yes, but for the moment-
And for all time, both.
Something that folds and keeps easy,
Son’s note or Dad’s one gaudy tie,
A roto picture of a queen,
A blue Indian shawl, even
A money bill.
It’s utter sublimation,
A feat, this heart’s control
Moment to moment
To scale all love down
To a cupped hand’s size
Till seashells are broken pieces
From God’s own bright teeth,
And life and love are real
Things you can run and
Breathless hand over
To the merest child.
Edith L. Tiempo
National Artist for Literature
(April 22, 1919 – August 21, 2011)
That night, I knew that Sir Jimmy will always cherish the memories of his kaibigan (‘friend’). I am grateful and privileged that I am a student and a kaibigan of Gémino H. Abad.
Among his collection of poems, my favourite is Sestina for the Imp (In Ordinary Time, 2004) because it is one of the most difficult and complex of the various forms of poetry and the fact that ‘sestina’ is meant for performing. But for Poetry Friday this week, we are sharing with you:
‘The Book of Embraces’I’m vexed with myself tonight that I, fitful tiller of words, cannot write you a poem, warm as your ironing-board, well-shaped like your finest vase, which should tell everlastingly your truth clear like any ordinary morning when the smog lifts to wide-open skies. What is your truth, or what is love? Where you move without ripple in my blood, there the clods of deep little hurts – oh, forgiven, nameless in memory, and yet, without my conscious intent, let to grow like thorny touch-me-nots and rankly creep with tiny purple eyes to demean me darkly in my sight. How their bramble cut my soul where I would not look to save myself! Why do I struggle toward your truth? Where words and words swirl about, dust in my speech, without power to trace their meaning in my blood, I coax like a conscientious gardener from dead clods their hurtful bloom, then look upon my soul’s wildness that you had loved, and strain from our days’ erasure of worship, syllable by syllable, the struck bliss and dazzle of our secret ‘book of embraces.’