poet's sanctum Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday: Joel Toledo’s ‘Heart’

It is Friday once again! My favorite day of the week. Two days back, we shared the cast of characters for the months of November and December (our featured Storyteller, Academic and Poet). And so we begin our sharing of our featured Poet this Yuletide season, Professor Joel Toledo. This week’s Poetry Friday host is Teaching Authors. Do head on over there to check out other links to delicious poems.

I learned about Joel from a former student of mine, Dax Cutab (who incidentally wrote the introduction to Professor Gemino Abad, our Featured Poet a month ago). Joel and I also have a few mutual friends, so it was not difficult for me to contact him and let him know of our intention to feature his poems here in GatheringBooks.

Joel used to be a former faculty member at the University of the Philippines, Diliman (my alma mater). Currently, he is a Literature Professor at the English Department of Miriam College and Literary Editor of The Philippine Free Press magazine. He is also part of the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa from August to November 2011.

Joel has already published three collections of poetry, namely Chiaroscuro (UST Press, 2008) – finalist for the 2008 National Book Awards for Poetry, The Long Lost Startle (UP Press, 2009), and Ruins and Reconstructions (Anvil, 2011).

Cover of Chiaroscuro. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Unfortunately, I do not have access to Joel’s books here in Singapore. He was kind enough to share a few of his poems, though, which I would now be sharing with all of you for Poetry Friday. Among the selections I’ve read, I was particularly struck with Heart. Made me reflect on the whereabouts of emotions, fleeting feelings, transient tears – where do we find it?

Heart by Joel Toledo
Where is it, exactly?
Not in things hollow.
Nor inside the fist fore-
grounding sky, a bullet
buried in the rotting
carcass. Never in the pulled
tusks, the flowerless vase,
cages. Not in the untended,
unattended. Perhaps in
the looking-away toward
convenient distractions.
Relativity, the manner
by which we express
excuses. The justified right?
Not there. Certainly never
in the nothing-personal;
the literal is the perfect alibi.
Yet it is not hard to find,
really. Just go ask freshly
snapped twigs, the trampled
undergrowth. Dig, dig
in the dark. Moon
not necessary. Dig deeper.
Let this tedious task declare
its whereabouts. Permit
the throbbing pain there,
somewhere left of center.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

14 comments on “Poetry Friday: Joel Toledo’s ‘Heart’

  1. Powerful poem


  2. I love that ‘Dig, dig in the dark. Moon not necessary.’ It’s necessary to search like that, isn’t it?


  3. What a beautiful poem. The last two lines speak to the compassion in the hearts of all living things.


  4. Not in the untended,
    unattended. Perhaps in
    the looking-away toward
    convenient distractions.

    So, so true…thanks or sharing this poet. (PS. you shared – on Tabatha’s blog – that you were in Mumbai. I grew up there! I hope you find it as fascinating a city as I remember it to be.)


    • Hi Tara, I didn’t have a chance to really explore Mumbai – I was essentially cooped up inside the campus where the conference was being held, then I flew off same night that it ended, no chance, really to look around. Only means one thing: I should come back. 🙂


  5. Thank you for sharing this poet and poem, Myra – much to dig into. Safe travels to you!


  6. Lovely. Thought-provoking…


  7. wonderful thought provoking words.. for a second i was trying to feel my heart and its whereabouts.. ❤


  8. Pingback: Highlights of November and Carnival of Children’s Literature |

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