Wednesday, March 31, 2004

How modern is modern? 

I am due to post a topic for discussion in my writers group at Writersvillage which is due to start on April 10. The following is what I have come up with.

How modern is modern?

I have always been in a quandary about the term “modernism” in art. I know
that this monicker had started with the turn of the twentieth century. In my readings in college, I learned that in painting, people like Manet, Monet and the other “Impressionists” started to veer away from the linear, studio-type lighting and romantic themes of the past. This may be attributed to the change of perception in life with the onset of the industrial revolution that resulted to the rise of the middle class. As such, painting became accessible to the “can affords” and was no longer confined to the aristocracy. This development made artists concentrate on more personal forms as tastes varied from one patron to another. Hence we see Cesanne and Vincent experimenting on color, Matisse and Picasso in shapes, Seurat with the obliteration of line altogether with his pointillism, etc.

In about the same era, poets like Getrude Stein, Ezra Pound began writing in a new genre which was called “modern”.

For your reading pleasure, I suggest you go to the "The Modernist Revolution:
make it new

What brought about “modernism” at the turn of the century was a new
view of the world that was faster, more efficient, and probably rebellious.
Thus, a new way of thinking followed. The world got to know the works of
Sigmund Freud, the Wright brothers and unfortunately, two world wars.

My question is, since these artists have long been gone, wouldn’t it be
just right to say that modern art is already an anachronism? Corollary to the main question are: If this is so, where is art going? More specifically, where is poetry going? We are starting the 21st century, a brand new age which is even much faster, much more efficient and whatever there will be in the years to come. I think Toffler, author of Future Shock, branded our time as the age of information (of course I am just relying on what I remember and I can be wrong as to the source). So, where do we go now? Will poetry go back to the classics as we seem to have turned full circle? Or do we create a new form for this century just like they did in the past? Where will it be and how will it happen? HAs it started with "rap", "slam" and the other forms emerging from the streets? Or are these just plain "alternatives" that have yet to go to the mainstream? What is the effect of email and computerization as a whole to the written word?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we, as a group, come up with a new form and be known to be the proponents of such? Wishful thinking, huh?

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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Life's Guessing Game

What will it be like
if I die at 92?
Will they mourn for me?
What will they say during
the eulogy?

Most of my friends
will have been gone by then!
my wake will probably be
a party of some sort.

My children will have
been just as old as I, worrying
about their own health,
financial burdens and
family affairs.

My children's children?
Certainly not. For them I will
just be some old
ghost of a past, a forebear
who lost the battle
of life's inconsistencies.

But then, why worry
about that?
I will not live to die
at 92.
It's more likely
to be at 90!


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Monday, March 22, 2004

I am getting the hang of this. I just learned how to put links on my blog. Now, my only problem is editing. I deleted a blog but it keeps on sppearing on my blogspot although it doesn't appear on the "manage posts" button anymore. Maybe I need to publish another one. Hope posting this will solve my problem.

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Sunday, March 21, 2004

I was cleaning the car this morning, (boy, did that car need cleaning or what? When will my children and their friends know how to keep the car clean!) and suddenly, I have been thinking about Rhett's poem I Protest. The poem was prompted by my challenge to write a two part poem, the first of which is about something he detests, then arguing for the other side, on the next one.

Anyway, I was thinking, yes, if I get to be old as say, 90, and wasted, what will my wake look like? Most of my friends have probably been gone. Who will be there to grieve for me? My grandchildren's children? I don't think so! My children? They would have been just as old and worrying about themselves.:-)

This leads me on to another important thing. When is the right time to go? Is there a right time? Whatever it is, I don't really care. If I have to go, I will go. Who knows what God has planned for me? Fatalistic as it may sound, surely, dying is not within my hands. One thing is sure though, there is a poem lurking in there somewhere.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Part of the challenges in my writing group is to have discussions about poetry. This month's discussion is on an article written by
Kayt Davies
entitled "What makes a bad poem?"

Here's what I posted:

I had a hard time writing this after having read your eloquent discussions re the topic. I pondered hard and calculated my words as it seems like I may be alone in my opinions and I may not be able to explain myself well. Nevertheless, I would like to share them with you, with due respect and apologies of course, if they run contrary to yours.

When studying works of art, be it literature or visual, I always try to put myself in the milieu of its creator. I believe that to judge an artwork using one’s own experiences would not only be inaccurate but even wrong in the sense that the artist is confined to his/her own spatio-temporal situation and we cannot take him/her away from that milieu. Without doing this, we may not understand most of what, say, Shakespeare, is talking about. This is the reason why we were always taught poetry together with the biography of the poet in high school. (well, at least that’s how I remember it.) Otherwise, the poem might be unintelligible to me. Having said this, I concur with Ms. Davies when she said: “They (poets) shone brightly because they were written in the medium of the day. The advent of printing made them widely accessible and they were the blockbusters and new releases that had tongues around the city wagging.” Today, with the tv, the movies and all that media hype, these classical poets will really have a hard time getting an audience.

This reminds me of an oral tradition our ancestors practiced before. This oral tradition was in poetry form and was passed on from generation to generation until several scholars of this century decided to write them down. Now, during the early days, this was the form of entertainment. People were gathered probably by the fire while the story teller (mostly narrating epics) was in the middle while he “chanted” the story. Is the epic good or is it bad poetry? I’d say probably both. In terms of the old folks’ standards, they are very good. But if I do not place the story within the context of locus and time when such was being recited, I would say it’s bad. Maybe my children will even laugh at the way the story ended or why the protagonist made such and such decision when he could have done it in a much simpler way. Can I force my children to see that the story is good? Hell, no! They are, as Ms. Davies put it: “Bombarded with the grind of heavy, machinery, traffic, advertisements, sound grabs, a wall of white noise that makes silence an uncanny experience.”

Arguing further, did the classical poets really intend to make their works speak to all generation? I say, your guess is as good as mine. Who can prove intent? My theory is that while they may have been writing “for” a certain audience, viz., their contemporaries, they may probably have not been thinking so much about the future. Why write for something that is unknown? This brings me to what I have been pointing out everytime a discussion like this arises. I believe in the saying that “the universal lies in the particular”. What this means to me is that a poet writes his/her own concept of the world according to his/her limitations. If such work withstands the test of time, then that is what we call good poetry. If, unfortunately, the poet was alone in his/her observation of the world, then noone can empathize with the experience, no one shares the same sentiment, ergo, such may be considered a bad poem, by the reader’s standards.

This brings me to the real context of the article. That there is an emerging concept known as “poetry as therapy”. The crux of the article is that to the generation x’ers, poetry as we know it may have become a relic. However, poetry per se, is not dead. As a matter of fact, it is experiencing a paradigm shift.

Granting in arguendo that this is true, do we consider this as art? When a poem results out of “the muddy subconcious world “ of someone who does not seem to manifest even a “few skills in representation”, is it good or bad art? The argument, when used to poetry, extends to proper syntax, word choices, meter and the like. When we accept this new concept of poetry as art, then we may dispense with some of the rules, is it not? This will surely irritate the purist, the believer of the classical style. However, much to the chagrin (is this the right word?) of the purist, will it matter to our children and our children’s children?

This leads me to the question, what is art? To me, art is the expression of what an individual feels, sees and hears. As such, the artist shares with us his/her perception of the world, or even of what kind of world he lives in. That is why we learned to appreciate painters like Van Gogh, Kline, de Kooning, Picasso, etc. Being more specific, literature to me is sharing “significant” experiences. Take away the word “significant” and that work is just ordinary day talk, the one peddled by rumor mongers. Now, is writing “shit, shit, shit” beautiful? No, beacause, while the writer has given us a glimpse of how he felt at the time of writing, he/she has not shared why such a feeling was felt in the first place. Hence, the reader cannot feel the same pain, the same hatred which to me, is literature’s raison d’etre.

Should art be confined to the knowledgeable, the erudite, or the rich? I believe art should belong to the people. That is the reason why art museums should not be charging huge entrance fees. Thinking like this brings me to another matter -- the message versus the medium. There has been a new opinion that the message is more important than the medium. Would we rather have a well crafted poem but does not show a single emotion or a value laden poem that is not crafted well? I am not going to give an example of bad poetry as I don’t think I’m equipped to do that. There is this poem by Langston Hughes about a telephone conversation the speaker is having with another person and we feel his disappointment and anger. (Sorry I couldn’t find it anymore.) This poem shows authentic jargon which is, as any english teacher would say, grammatically wrong. Do we consider this as good, or bad poetry?


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Sunday, March 14, 2004

This past week was full of activities. First was the arrival of Nina from the States with her American husband, Art. It would have been a very happy reunion with Omi Reyes, his wife Tutit, Arnel, Mayette, Carmel and husband Tog and Don Amorsolo, if not for the sad fact that Nina's mother died on the eve of her arrival.

Our reunion was last Sunday and we all met at Nina's house and proceeded to the funeral parlor thereafter. Her husband is Jewish and I didn't know what to expect. However, I think he is very knowledgeable and very witty. We hit it off immediately and was conversing like we have known each other a long time.

The Seniors had their final exams this week. I am going to miss my class. I seem to have more time to bond with them than I did with my previous class. I think I'm going to miss them a lot.

Friday, we met with Omi's group again for a dinner with Nina and Art at Rockwell. Afterwhich, we played bowling at Starmall. That was fun! Art had a good time. He told me that while he enjoyed the game, he enjoyed the company more. He told me they do not have the same kind of company back home.
Yesterday, I and Omi took him to the GSIS and the Metropolitan museums. Although he was pleased with the artworks, I and Omi were a bit frustrated. The museums are lacking in luster and needs attention. Funny but when we arrived at the GSIS, there was this sculpture piece at the lobby just before the door and Art seems to be impressed. However, when we got out of the museum, we found workers resting on the whole piece, sitting and relaxing like they would with a stump, not knowing how valuable the piece is.

The Metropolitan museum was much better but there were more collections of the "terno" rather than paintings and sculptures. I think they are having a show of famous couturiers.

Today, I and Kim went to Tagaytay with Ollie's family to celebrate Joven's birthday. Too bad I can't go to Hobbit's house to accomodate Omi's invitation. And to think he went out of his way to go with me and Art upon my request.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

This is a letter of appeal I sent the HS principal on an offense allegedly committed by my daughter as issued by the Level Coordinator. What happened was there was this parent of a Grade 6 pupil who came rushing to the school to complain about certain high school students bullying her daughter. It turned out to be Kim and her friends. Anyway, when Nitz and I talked to our daughter, she said all she did was to invite the girl for a discussion for after all, it was a friend of hers who was really having problems with the girl. She and her friends denied in their letter of explanation that they challenged the girl to a fight. Anyway, the letter will speak for herself.
(As the letter was done rather hastily, it has errors which I am correcting now. Too bad I have already sent it to the principal)

08 March 2004

Mr. Alfred S. Sagum
Principal - DLSZ

Dear Mr. Sagum,

My daughter, Keshia Marie, of Freshmen E, was given a PTC by Mr._______ last February 20, 2004 for “bullying that involves intimidation” (whatever that means... obviously, the guy couldn't differentiate one from the other) and was given a Category C penalty for it. I would like to appeal the decision on the following grounds:

1. My daughter does not have any hand in the issue. She merely called the complainant for a brief discussion on a problem that seems to brew between (her friends and the girl in question)them. It has been a time-honored principle for civilized societies to “talk it out” every time a conflict arises. How could this have been “bullying” in the eyes of Mr. _____ is beyond comprehension.

2. Mr. _____ claimed to my wife that Kim challenged the complainant to a fight as alleged by the latter. My daughter denied this. Nowhere in her
letter has she admitted to have done this sort of thing. This made the
case a question of fact. When one is faced with a question of fact, one
should ascertain what, as close as possible, is the truth. Allegations (of)
[to] this nature should be supported by proof as the investigating body was
nowhere near the incident and relies only on the basis of the evidences
presented. (Even the hardest criminal is presumed innocent until proven guilty) This made me, and my wife, believe that Mr. _____ only
listened to one side of the story hence has denied my child justice. His
so-called “investigation” was merely to go through the motions to dispense
with the due process procedure.

3. The penalty should be commensurate with the offense. We like to inform you that Mr. _____’s decision carries with it a suspension of two days, a DP status for one year etc. which I believe is an overkill when a mere
warning should have been sufficient. When asked why he has given a
“bullying that involves intimidation” was given, Mr. _________ said because one of my daughter’s companions is big. He further stated that Kim has a very strong personality unlike Kraiganne, like as if it was wrong. My wife told
him we do not compare our children and let them have their own identities.
Furthermore, I like my children to have a strong character as I believe
that a Filipino’s concept of subservience is misplaced

Lastly, I would like to inform you of some technicalities regarding the
issue(d) [and the] PTC [given that we find to be irregular for future disposal
of the same. These are:

1. The element of time has been too long. Besides, the information did not carry any particulars as to time and place the incident took place.
2. The signature of Mr. _______ did not carry his name.
3. The PTC was issued by the adviser who was not even a party to the
incident. This matters as it may be construed that the incident happened
inside the classroom. What should have been done was for Mr. Laqui to sign
the issuance and left the “noted by” blank.

With these explanations, I hope you understand our dilemma to reconcile Mr.
_______'s decision with our own assessment of the situation. Incidentally, I
was surprised at the turn of events because I would have asked the children
to settle their differences by themselves and end up being friends. None
of this happened which made my daughter tell me that they have seen the
complainant after the incident with a sneer on her face. Now, I ignored
that remark but come to think about it, it’s most likely to happen given
the situation, don’t you think? None of this would have happened had the
situation was given a win-win proposal such as them ending up as friends.
After all, we all live in one single community founded on love and

Thank you very much for your valued time.

Yours sincerely,

Rolly delos Santos

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