Award-Winning poet's sanctum Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday: Gemino Abad’s In Ordinary Time (and the much coveted Premio Feronia Award in 2009)

I always look forward to Fridays – not just because it marks the end of the work-week, but primarily because I can indulge and live and breathe poetry once again! This week’s host is Anastasia Suen at Picture Book of the Day. I am sure that I would have another soul-enriching evening just blog-hopping away and seeing fellow bookbloggers’ featured poems.

Today, I have the pleasure of sharing with you two poems from our Featured Poet this September and October, Professor Jimmy Abad’s book In Ordinary Time: Poems, Parables, Poetics (1973-2003). 

This book is immensely special since it won him the Premio Feronia Award, Italy’s top Literary Prize for Foreign Authors in 2009.

Photos shared with permission from Sir Jimmy

In the letter written by the Committee President of the Prize Premio Feronia – Città di Fiano 2009, Filippo Bettini (source here) – it clearly indicated that in contrast to other major literary awards which are tied to “marketing strategies of dominant publishing houses” – this award giving body is different in the sense that they have a much wider range and that they practice open-door official meetings to guarantee the highest form of integrity in their final selections.

Prof Abad with Roberto Piperno at the Castle where the awarding took place (photos shared with permission from Sir Jimmy).

The Prize was conferred to Sir Jimmy on the 11th of July 2009 at the Castle of Fiano Romano. Aside from receiving a cash amount of 3,600 euros (who says poets are doomed to be starving artists and pitiful writers?) he was also privileged to attend the Italian Festival ‘Mediterranea’ in Rome.

The Castle of Fiano Romano in Italy

In this Manila Bulletin Article written by Vim Nadera in 2009, he detailed the list of past Feronia Prize winners over the years:

Poets Adonis and Natan Zach from Israel; poet/playwright Amiri Baraka (formerly known as LeRoi Jones) from the United States; playwright Alfonso Sastre from Spain; writer Predrag Matvejevic from Bosnia-Herzegovina; writer Michel Butor from France; writer/novelist Ismail Kadare from Albania; poet/critic Roberto Fernandez Retamar from Cuba; poet/author Mahmoud Darwish from Lebanon; fictionist Yvonne Vera from Zimbabwe; writer/literary scholar Dubravka Ugresic from Croatia; poet/author Saadi Yousef from Iraq; poet Kunwar Narain from India; poet Muhammad Benis from Morocco; and novelist Agotha Kristof from Hungary.

With the Mistress of Ceremonies, the beautiful Italian actress Paola Pitagora who read Sir Jimmy's translated works in Italian.
Stage of the Castle with the stars and the brilliant blazing blue sky providing the perfect backdrop for the awarding ceremony.
Gezim Hajdari shared a commentary on Prof Abad's poetry which he translated into Italian

It brings us such great honor then to share with you a few of Sir Jimmy’s poems from this lovely book. As I was immersing myself in Sir Jimmy’s words, I realized that it would be very difficult for me to choose only two of my favorites. Thus, I would extend our feature of In Ordinary Time until next Friday where I would once again share with you a few of his verse which moved me. He was also extremely generous in sharing the photos he had on his Facebook account for feature here in GatheringBooks – and most of those lovely pictures (particularly the actual awarding ceremony) I shall save for next week.

For today’s feature, I choose The Darkness of Books because it speaks to the bibliophile in me: the young bright-eyed, awe-inspired child who thirsts, hungers for words words words on the page. Sir Jimmy was able to capture that childlike exhilaration and irrepressible pleasure of turning over a new page, and again, and yet again.

The Darkness of Books by Gemino H Abad
Ai! what grey must and silence and mold –
books and journals, journals and dust,
notes without texts, texts without alphabet.
What tomes, what files accumulated,
the greater half unread, or not read again.
At night I hear them murmur
their tales and softly complain about
the silverfish with his bristly tail
who eats their words and leaves slime
of stardust between their virgin sheets.
I keep the lights on to make them suppose
that I, being still awake, might need
their readiness to hand, lest the silence
that leaks outside their speech
decompose my dreamless flesh.
With what remote sensing shall I find
the trail back to shimmer of their thought?
What lost syllable to sound my mind?
Was what I had imagined at first meeting
will-o’-the-dream to my youth’s seeking?
Tonight I read their titles with sorrow,
breathe shyly the musk of their secrets –
breadth and glimmer of their sense I miss,
I have passed to other thoughts
without spoor of their provident speech.
I know if I open to their pages now,
it will be like meeting a childhood friend
and having nothing to say as we yearn,
no word ever able to pass between
each our tongue-tied darkness.

The second poem I chose from his collection of poetics and parables is entitled Where No Words Break. Somehow, its refrain seems to ring in my ears – reminding me that unlike tangible objects that can be shattered in a million fragments – words – and the enormous power they yield – are suspended in time and space where it can not, shall not break. I also ache for its truth because there exists odd layers of conjured moments – when words written and whispered in space may be your only form of imagined reality giving your heart its wings and your soul its freedom, and you pray for that fragment of forever Where No Words Break:

                                     Where no words break
                                    I thirst no longer for truth,
                                    Am very still, at peace.
                                                Time was
                                    The truth was future perfect;
                                    But I no longer seek,
                                    all my pieces I have collected
                                                            and let no words break
                                    Where no words break
                                    my thirst is quenched
                                    by every spring,
                                    the spring is everywhere.
                                                Time was
                                    I strove for truth,
                                    the passion grew,
                                    but words could not appease.
                                    Truth had no bounds
                                                            and let no words break
                                    The president whose State was a Lie,      
                                    the soldier who did not fire,
                                    people shouting, words dying …
                                                Or fruit of achiote,
                                    snails after, things swarming …
                                    Once these were truth’s sundries,
                                    its daily exhibits,
                                    but did not make a book
                                                            where no words break
                                    I thirst no longer for truth,
                                    am, without words composed.
                                    Our ticks have lost their itch,
                                    the tocks of doom have grown serene.
                                    I no longer even roam
                                                            where no words break

17 comments on “Poetry Friday: Gemino Abad’s In Ordinary Time (and the much coveted Premio Feronia Award in 2009)

  1. Thanks for introducing me to this poet. I can see that “silverfish with his bristly tail.” It’s true that you can re-read a favorite book, but never repeat the experience of that wonderful first reading.


    • Hi Laura, thanks for dropping by. I love that line too. I hardly do a re-reading, I’m afraid. Too many books in my TBR stack. 😦 Maybe a few years from now, I shall relish doing that – when things are less hectic.


  2. Thanks for participating in Poetry Friday this week, Myra!

    🙂 Anastasia


  3. It’s intimidating to even try to comment on these beautiful poems. I enjoyed so many of the words, especially in the first poem, ‘slime of starlight’ and those final two lines of the fourth verse. Thank for sharing this poet. I’m looking forward to more next week! And thank you for the heads up about my incorrect link, and your comment. I gave a correction in the comments & tried to change it, but Linksky wouldn’t allow.


    • Aww, I always feel that anyone who has the heart for poetry should enjoy and relish Sir Jimmy’s lovely words.

      Too bad about Mr Linksky – inevitable bugs/kinks with the linkies. 🙂


  4. Beautiful photos from Italy! A couple of my favorite lines:

    Our ticks have lost their itch,
    the tocks of doom have grown serene.

    Have a great weekend, Myra!


  5. Thank you for the introduction to this poet. Where no words break was especially moving.


  6. Thank you for introducing us to this fine poet.

    And thank you for the pictures. I imagine myself sitting there, under the stars, listening to Paola Pitagora reciting those magical words. And even though I speak no Italian, on that night I will be fluent in this beautiful language.


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  8. Thank you, Myra, for another rich and thoughtful post! “What lost syllable to sound my mind?” – wow. The photographs are wonderful. Looking forward to more in this series.


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  10. Hi Myra,can you post the poem “And what are words?”and it’s meaning.Just trying to research but I couldn’t find more about it.Thanks


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