poet's sanctum Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday: Persona by Joel M. Toledo

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by one of our blogging idols Book Aunt. We are in awe of her reviews and the work that she has done for kidlit. Do visit the round-up for today and take a moment as well to check out Book Aunt’s archive – it’s a veritable treasury of lovely book reviews.

** Before we share our Poetry offering today, I would like to invite everyone to join our 2012 Award-Winning-Book Reading Challenge. Click on the widget to be taken to the announcement post and sign up! Monthly book prizes would be given away. Open internationally. **

Now back to regular programming, we are privileged to have received more poems from our featured Poet, Professor Joel M. Toledo, for the rest of December. There is always something magical about receiving poems in your inbox – it just makes the day glow even brighter. The poem that I selected this week comes from Joel’s book The Long Lost Startle with the Introduction written by our Featured Poet for the months of September/October: Professor Gemino H. Abad.

This particular poem, entitled Persona spoke to me – perhaps because I am a psychologist and I discuss this particular concept in class. Over and above that, I also chose this poem because it reminded me of a photo I took of my daughter and which I also edited using Photoshop. December is her birthday month, and while the poem does not really match her ‘persona’ – I felt that it would be a fitting image to Joel M. Toledo’s poetry. I hope you enjoy both the poem and the image.

My daughter's face is a labyrinth of make believe tales and enchantment. She is turning ten in five days time.
Persona by Joel M. Toledo
I am turning into some animal.
Notice the lines on my face extending to whiskers,
notice the hand becoming a paw. That keening sound beyond—
past the new wrecks of our bodies, down where the crickets
mutter their terrors, where the occasional tenor of frogs
disturbs the silence—that voice is mine. 
Pay no mind to the speaker: it is not me
digging, pulling at roots all day. The day is long
and the branches above sway unimportantly.
Why do you take so long as if
I don’t matter? Now you are calling me;
a strange tail swishes, instinctive.
And if I startle you, it is because I am speaking in the plural,
the humanly exclusive, shedding another point of view.
Suddenly I understand everything: the birds saying something
about sadness, the dogs discussing sunlight.
And now you toss me a bone? Foolish man,
the joke isn’t funny and my teeth are sharp.
Allow me to introduce you to my other selves. 

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).

25 comments on “Poetry Friday: Persona by Joel M. Toledo

  1. Can’t decide which I like better, the poem or the photo!


  2. At first I couldn’t tell who was speaking, but then I looked again and found a woman speaking, and it means something to me-at least. I love the final lines with ‘sharp teeth’. Interesting. And you make me want to get photoshop immediately-great photo rendering of your daughter, and with the poem, with all the selves!


    • Interesting to take note of the hidden creatures within all of us. 🙂 the dragon with the claws, the beast with the fiery tail, and the green-eyed dryads with fairy wings. 🙂


  3. Cool photo!

    Once again, you introduce me to another amazing poet. I’m thinking of the many layers of personality, how much of who we are is sublimated, repressed. The last two stanzas are powerful and surprising.


  4. Oh, I LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing, Myra. And what a gorgeous, intriguing picture! Please give your lovely dauther happy birthday tidings from well wishers in the poetry realm. And now to greet the day with flash of teeth and twitch of tail….


  5. Ah, I have two ten-year-old grandchildren. Their whole beings are like enchanting labyrinths! Beautiful photo. I’m showing this to my photographer husband for inspiration. Toledo captures the moment when one claims the new voice that has been forming, unrecognized until this moment.

    That keening sound beyond—
    past the new wrecks of our bodies, down where the crickets
    mutter their terrors, where the occasional tenor of frogs
    disturbs the silence—that voice is mine.


  6. Love the duality of voices..and that photograph is gorgeous. However did you do that?!


    • Hi Tara, it’s been a little over a year since this photo was taken and edited. I can not for the life of me recall how I managed to do it. One thing I learned about photoshop – if you don’t practice it, you’d totally forget everything. I use iPhoto more often nowadays and I rarely have a need for photoshop – so everything I studied (I attended several workshops courtesy of the university) have flown out the window.


  7. Oh my! That poem is powerful, Myra.

    And the picture equally so.

    My Happy Birthday wishes to your daughter on turning a wonderful ten years old.


    • Many thanks, Maria. 🙂 She already has a wish list of the stuff she ‘hopes’ to have for her birthday. Googled it, downloaded the images, and emailed it to her father. Kids nowadays – we have no excuse now, don’t we? She has even researched the stores that have the stuff she likes. And gave us the googlemaps/addresses. Quite thorough, really.


  8. Our internet is on the fritz, so I’m counting myself lucky to be able to tour the PF offerings at all, but I’m definitely going to have to come back to see the picture of your daughter! I’m intrigued!

    Love the title of his book, THE LONG LOST STARTLE. I’ll try to remember to be amazed by the world today!


  9. I have to agree with what everyone else has said! A visually and verbally-rich post. Happy birthday to your daughter!


  10. Much thanks, Ma’am Myra. Happy Birthday to your daughter and Happy Holidays as well!


  11. And thanks for the generous comments, everyone. Have a wonderful Christmas po.


  12. Oooooh, great poem! I love the Billy Joel song, “The Stranger” (We all have a face, that we hide away from strangers, and we take them out and show ourselves, when everyone has gone), and this reminded me of that. Not in language but in meaning. This is just gorgeous. My favorite parts are “past the new wrecks of our bodies” and that ending!

    Glorious collage, too! I wish I could do that. Happy happy birthday to your joyous daughter!


  13. Pingback: World Poetry Day! | Reading In Between

  14. What is your interpretation with this poem?


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