Sunday, February 27, 2005

Crit anyone? 

I have always theorized (or maybe I was told in school, I forgot) that any criticism of a an artwork is correct as long as the one making the crit is successful in putting all the elements together. In this way, i would liken criticism as builing up a jigwaw puzzle. You know you don't have a complete picture when one or more of the elements don't fit. Anyway, a few posts below, I posted a poem entitled Big Mac has left his burger Read it first here

I believe this is my first attempt at a cryptic poem. It is understandable that none of my American friends would understand it but I was surprised that even my new pinoy friends wouldn't, considering that it talks about a recent historical event that happened about some 14 years ago. So, you can understand my jubilation when finally, someone (Kai Alaba) did get the poem. I am reproducing it here.

[KAI: I like the title kasi kakaiba sya. Very inviting sa mga
mambabasa. Big Mac is commonly known as a burger from McDonald's but
your title gives it a twist kaagad implying it otherwise kaya
nahihikayat ang tao basahin ang tula. Sino si Big Mac? At bakit iniwan
ang burger? Anong klaseng burger ang iniwan? Big Mac din ba? With
cheese or without cheese? =) Hehe]
> He would not have done so
> in spite of the vote for his ouster.
> But a mountain shall explode you see
> and so he had to, and did!
[KAI: In the first stanza, cryptic na kaagad ang tula. Your title
gives an image of burger and a "he" (Ronald McDonald perhaps as the
Big Mac) who left it. Then your first two lines give a political image
through the words "vote" and "ouster". And then you have the "mountain
[that] shall explode". At this point pa lang, mixed na agad ang images
mo. Although kung dehins mo isipin yung title, medyo plausible pa
magsama ang mga images dito kasi puwede naman idevelop sa following
> A little juvenile,
> for his departure,
> I could not decide
> if the meat was raw
> or overdone.
[KAI: The construction is kinda awkward. Di ko gets which/who is
juvenile - the departure itself or the "I" persona. If it's the
former, "juvenile" seems inappropriate a word to describe an untimely
departure. Aside from that, the word refers to a youthful
characteristic or something lacking in maturity and by using this
word, you introduce yet another image, that of youth. With this
stanza, though, the reader is given the images of leaving and the meat
being cooked so narerelate ang mga ito sa title.]
> I didn't know how many
> calories he left behind.
> Explosive ammunitions
> for the heart
> and too much catsup
> spoiled the taste
[KAI: At this point, you introduce another image, "Explosive
ammunitions", and this seems out of place among other images of this
stanza -- "calories" bad for the "heart", "catsu" spoiling the taste
of the burger. I think you want to denote that among those left in
the burger were stuff that could kill you but "Explosive ammunitions"
give one the images of guns and weapons and they don't really go along
well with the images of food.]
> So next time I partake
> of Big Mac's burger
> remind me that I don't have to
> because I cook a lean, mean meal, too. [KAI: I like this last line!]

A poem, to work on a metaphorical level, should also work on a literal
level. On a literal plane, this poem's "dramatic situation" is that of
Big Mac leaving the burger he cooked [cooking inferred from the second
stanza] to the "I" persona at apparently the wrong time because the
latter could not tell whether the meat/burger was "raw or overdone".
The burger Big Mac left with too much fat [fat inferred from the
calories and in opposition to the poem's last line] and too much
catsup tasted so bad that the "I" persona wanted to be reminded that
he can cook "a lean, mean meal" himself.
I find the first stanza negotiable because it does not work really
well in its part of the whole in the literal level. Too many questions
are left unanswered that the poem becomes a riddle --- Big Mac
wouldn't have left even if there was a vote for his ouster but why?
Who are these people who voted as such? Who are they to have such
authority? What is this mountain? Why would it explode? Is it a
volcano? How is its explosion connected to Big Mac leaving?
Be that as it may, the first stanza was actually the key to the
"metaphorical level" of the poem. The words "vote" and "ouster" led me
to believe that the poem presents an analogy to the state of the
Philippines when the US bases left -- Big Mac as Uncle Sam; meat as
the Philippines and/or its development; cooking the meat raw or
overdone as US departing early or having overstayed already; calories,
explosive ammunitions, and too much catsup as the toxic wastes and
other bad stuff left by the US.
Ang nakikita ko dito, you intended to present the analogy by bringing
into the literal plane parts of the event that is actually the object
of your analogy, i.e. you intended to use the Big Mac leaving a
bad-tasting burger as an analogy to the US Bases leaving the
Philippines in a bad state or in such a mess, but to introduce this
analogy, you had to use images that literally happened -- the vote for
[his] oust and the mountain about to explode (though di ko sure ano
actually ang konek ng pinatubo sa pag-alis ng US) -- in the very
object of your analogy. May pagkamadaya ang dating sakn nun. I hope
you get what I mean kasi medyo malabo ata ang pagka-explain ko nito.

Overall, gusto ko yung tula. Satirical ang dating. Consistency lang of
the images ang hinahanap ko. Main suggestion ko is to rethink your
first stanza. Try rephrasing it in such a way that even if your
reader will not be able to perceive your intended metaphorical level
(Not all will be able to naman talaga since not everyone in the world
knows about the US Bases issue in the Phil), the reader is still
presented with a literal level that is somewhat universal.

Ayun lang po. I hope medyo may sense itong mga sinabi ko.


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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Baptism 

I wrote this piece in 2000 when I was just beginning to write poetry. It's inspired by Edwin Markham's "Man with a Hoe" which in turn was inspired by a Millet painting. This poem was edited mostly by Bob Wands. It was part of the Writersvillage
exhibit for our first poetry month exhibit. hope you like it.

The Baptism

Waiting for the ceremony to begin
my future godchild on his mother's lap
I sit silently, entrapped
among the pews at center aisle
in front, a bruised and battered Christ
dies, passive on the cross

I can see His face
a crux of faith bestowed upon my clan
a gift from Spain's conquistadores led by a Portugese
I have memorized the sight
crowned with brambles, broken nose and jaws
religion of the white man we embraced
plagued us with guilt, restrained our ways,
forked our tongues, made us forget our names.

Around n,
stained glass windows, stylized cubic images
stuccoed walls
festooned with marble icons, floral delights
people flashing diamond earrings,
bracelets of gold, paisley brooches
Rolex watches, Gucci bags.

In my mind, a man stands stooped
thick fingers curled on a hoe
stymied by circumstance, stoic gaze
thralled to til for tithe.

The day will come
when he replaces hoe with sickle
not to reap his crops but bathe he land
with rich men's blood
this man will wake a giant,
not from remnants of an intellect
that never died, but of the strong
and this land where my forebears lie
coffin of my father's corpse
where nothing rests but skull and bones
shall perish.

Two images converge
one born among the manger's beasts
to die between two thieves,
the other, a man in squalor, fists clenched
feet soiled, torso wet with
sweat and blood.

Bell sounds wake me from my musings
people rise in salutation, light
from the gilded window
burnishes a rail adorned
with golden leaves
yes, this is a rich man's church and
these people did not come to worship.

The priest in stately white
long stola wrapped around his neck
pours water in a welcoming to faith
my godchild cries.

rolly delos santos

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