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).
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.