Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tonight I can write the saddest lines


Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write for example, "The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance."

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. Like my kisses before.
Her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

- translated by W.S. Merwin from the Spanish original
written by Pablo Neruda, 1971 Nobel Prize Winner

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

For 3CA3 (Literature 103)

Answer in essay form the following questions (50 points total):
(Remember that ARTICULATION is what matters most.)

1. (a) In "Poem on Returning to Dwell in the Country", what is the meaning of Tao's observation that "the life of man is like a shadow-play"? (b) What details in the poem support this observation?

2. (a) In "I Built My House Near Where Others Dwell", why is it paradoxical, or apparently self-contradictory, that though the persona lives near other people he does not hear the "clamor of carriages and horses"? (b) How does he explain this paradox?

3. (a) What does the persona of "To the Assistant Prefect Chang" mean when he says that he plans to "unlearn"? (b) What is the significance of his loosening his robe?

4. (a) How would you describe the mood of "The Hill"? (b) What emotions does the poem evoke?

5. How do the final two lines of "On an Autumn Evening in the Mountains" tie the rest of the poem together?

Note: Submit your computer-printed or typewritten essays on July 25, 2008, during the first hour of our class period: 3:00-4:00 PM. I will not accept late papers, nor handwritten answers.

For 3CA2, 3JRN1, 3ECO1 (Literature 103)

Answer in essay form the following questions (50 points total):
(Remember that ARTICULATION is what matters most.)

1. (a) In Song 24 ("I Beg of You, Chung Tzu") what is the persona's relationship with Chung Tzu? Support your answer. (b) What internal struggle is the speaker experiencing?

2. (a) In which season is Song 34 ("Thick Grow the Rush Leaves") set? (b) How do the seasons and the natural images relate to the persona's emotions?

3. (a) In "Poem on Returning to Dwell in the Country", what is the meaning of Tao's observation that "the life of man is like a shadow-play"? (b) What details in the poem support this observation?

4. (a) In "I Built My House Near Where Others Dwell", why is it paradoxical, or apparently self-contradictory, that though the persona lives near other people he does not hear the "clamor of carriages and horses"? (b) How does he explain this paradox?

5. (a) What does the persona of "To the Assistant Prefect Chang" mean when he says that he plans to "unlearn"? (b) What is the significance of his loosening his robe?

Note: Submit your computer-printed or typewritten essays on July 23, 2008, during the first hour of our class period: 11:00-12:00 AM (3CA2); 3:00-4:00 (3JRN2); 6:00-7:00 (3ECO1). I will not accept late papers, nor handwritten answers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

For 1BES1, 1ECO2, 1JRN2 (Literature 101)

Summary of the Novel Like Water for Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate)

from SparkNotes

In a style that is epic in scope yet intensely personal in focus, Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate tells the story of Tita dela Garza, the youngest daughter in a family living in Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. Through twelve chapters, each marked as a "monthly installment" and thus labeled with the months of the year, we learn of Tita's struggle to pursue true love and claim her independence. Each installment features a recipe to begin each chapter. The structure of Like Water for Chocolate is wholly dependent on these recipes, as the main episodes of each chapter generally involve the preparation or consumption of the dishes that these recipes yield. The details of additional secondary recipes are woven throughout the narrative.

Like Water for Chocolate tells the story of Tita dela Garza, the youngest daughter in a family living in Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. Tita's love, Pedro Muzquiz, comes to the family's ranch to ask for Tita's hand in marriage. Because Tita is the youngest daughter she is forbidden by a family tradition upheld by her tyrannical mother, Mama Elena, to marry. Pedro marries Tita's oldest sister, Rosaura, instead, but declares to his father that he has only married Rosaura to remain close to Tita. Rosaura and Pedro live on the family ranch, offering Pedro contact with Tita. When Tita cooks a special meal with the petals of a rose given to her by Pedro, the still-fiery force of their love (transmitted through the food) has an intense effect on Mama Elena's second daughter, Gertrudis, who is whipped into a lustful state and flees the ranch in the arms of a revolutionary soldier. Meanwhile, Rosaura gives birth to a son, who is delivered by Tita. Tita treats her nephew, Roberto, as if he were her own child, to the point that she is able to produce breast milk to feed him while her sister is dry.

Sensing that Roberto is drawing Pedro and Tita closer together, Mama Elena arranges for Rosaura's family to move to San Antonio. This separation devastates Tita. A short time later, news arrives that Roberto has died, most likely due to his removal from Tita's care. The death of her nephew causes Tita to have a breakdown, and Mama Elena sends her to an asylum. Dr. John Brown, a local American doctor, takes pity on Tita and brings her to live in his house. He patiently nurses Tita back to health, caring for her physical ailments and trying to revive her broken spirit. After some time, Tita is nearly well, and she decides never to return to the ranch. No sooner has she made this choice than Mama Elena is injured in a raid by rebel soldiers, forcing Tita to return. Tita hopes to care for her mother, but Mama Elena bitterly rejects Tita's good will. She refuses Tita's cooking, claiming that it is poisoned. Not long after, Mama Elena is found dead from an overdose of a strong emetic she consumed for fear of poisoning.

The death of Mama Elena frees Tita from the curse of her birthright and she accepts an engagement proposal from John Brown, with whom she has fallen in love. In the meantime, Rosaura and Pedro have returned to the ranch and have produced a second child, Esperanza. Immediately, Pedro's presence throws into question Tita's love for John. The night that John officially asks Pedro to bless the marriage, Pedro corners Tita in a hidden room and makes love to her, taking her virginity. Soon after, Tita is certain that she is pregnant and knows that she will have to end her engagement to John. The affair between Pedro and Tita prompts the return of Mama Elena, who comes in spirit form to curse Tita and her unborn child. Tita is distraught and has no one in whom she can confide.

In the midst of Tita's despair, the long-lost Gertrudis returns to the ranch as a general in the revolutionary army, at the helm of a regiment of fifty men. Tita is overjoyed at the return of Gertrudis, who is just the companion she seeks. Gertrudis forces Tita to tell Pedro about the pregnancy. He is gladdened at the news, and he drunkenly serenades Tita from below her window. Outraged, Mama Elena's ghost returns, violently threatening Tita and declaring that she must leave the ranch. For the first time, Tita stands up to Mama Elena and, in forceful words, declares her autonomy, banishing her mother's spirit, which shrinks from an imposing presence into a tiny fiery light. As she expels the ghost, Tita is simultaneously relieved of all her symptoms of pregnancy. The light from Mama Elena's ghost bursts through Tita's window and onto the patio below where Pedro still sits, setting fire to his entire body. After rescuing Pedro, Tita is consumed with caring for him and helping him recover. John Brown returns from a trip to the United States and Tita confesses to him her relations with Pedro. John replies that he still wishes to marry her but that she must decide for herself with whom she wishes to spend her life.

Years pass, and the ranch focuses its attention on another wedding, this time between Esperanza and Alex, the son of John Brown. Rosaura has died, freeing her only daughter, Esperanza, from the stricture that had previously forbidden her, as it had Tita, from marrying. With Rosaura dead and Esperanza married, Tita and Pedro are finally free to express their love in the open. On their first night together, Tita and Pedro experience love so intense that both are led to a tunnel that will carry them to the afterlife. Tita turns back, wanting to continue in life and in love with Pedro. Once she does, she realizes that Pedro has already crossed over. Wanting desperately to be with him, Tita attempts to ignite her inner fire by eating the candles that had lit the room until they extinguished themselves at the moment of Pedro's death. When she succeeds in recreating the climate of true passion, she reenters the luminous tunnel and meets Pedro in the spirit world. The final union of their bodies and spirits sets fire to the entire ranch, and the only remnant left of their love is the recipe book in which Tita recorded her wisdom.

Answer in essay form the following questions (40 points total):
(Remember that ARTICULATION is what matters most.)

1. Discuss the role of tradition in the novel and the impact it has on the characters' lives. What does the novel tell us about the domestic life of Mexican women? Elaborate. (10 points)

2. The three dela Garza sisters possess different personalities. By tracing their trajectories through the course of the novel, discuss the way each sister embodies a female stereotype. What statement might the author be making through these types about options in the lives of Mexican women? Expound on your answer. (20 points)

3. In your opinion, is Tita a strong female figure? A feminist character? Explain why or why not. (10 points)

Note:Submit your computer-printed or typewritten essays on July 22, 2008, during our class period: 8:30-10:00 AM (1BES1); 10-11:30 (1ECO2); 1:30-3:00 (1JRN2). I will not accept late papers, nor handwritten answers.

Use the extra time you have on Thursday after the film viewing to form discussion groups, so that your answers to the questions will be deep rather than shallow.

Monday, July 14, 2008

For 1LM2 (Literature 101)

Summary of the Movie Dead Poets Society

by Jessica See

Dead Poets Society explores the conflict between realism and romanticism as these contrasting ideals are presented to the students at an all boys preparatory school. Welton Academy is founded on tradition and excellence and is bent on providing strict structured lessons prescribed by the realist, anti-youth administration. With the dawning of each new semester, hundreds of parents abandon their sons, leaving them in the tried hands of Welton staff in hopes that they will raise doctors and lawyers. When a replacement English teacher arrives, who happens to be a Welton alumnus, he brings with him a passion for teaching romanticism, thus opening a never-before-seen world to his students.

The story is predominantly viewed through the eyes of Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), a newcomer to Welton, and his roommate Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard). Todd is painfully shy and terrified that what he might say is insignificant and meaningless. This is particularly disturbing to him since he is repeatedly told that he has "big shoes to fill" being the younger brother of a former valedictorian. Neil, on the other hand, is bright and full of ambition, which is unfortunately squelched by his overbearing, controlling father. Mr. Perry dictates every detail of his son's life including extra curricular activities, future plans, and specifically what others think of him.

The new English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) begins his teachings with a fervent lecture on their imminent deaths, explaining to the students that their lives are fleeting so they should seize the day to make their lives count, to leave a legacy of "carpe diem." He continues his teaching by instructing the class to rip out the pages of their books which describe a scientific way to determine the greatness of poetry. He teaches them the works of the romantic poets such as Thoreau and Lord Byron and employs outdoor exercises to warn them of the dangers of conformity and the power of sports as a way which human beings push each other to excel.

Amidst these eccentric activities, the students, intrigued with their new teacher, learn that he was a member of the Dead Poets Society. When asked, Keating describes glorious moments of creating gods, but warns them to forget about the idea. Nevertheless, they repeatedly sneak off campus to convene their own version of the Dead Poets Society. Todd is allowed to attend as an exception: since he does not want to read aloud, he keeps minutes of the meetings. Throughout these meetings, each character is able to develop his own romantic or realist nature.

The shocking clash between realism and romanticism begins to unfold when Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen) prints an obnoxious article in the school news in the name of the Dead Poets. The administration is appalled and begins an investigation. Meanwhile, Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles) fall madly in love with a girl who is practically engaged to the son of his parent's friends. He pursues her relentlessly, driven by romantic ideals, in the face of the threats on his life by her boyfriend. Neil realizes that his real passion in life is acting and proceeds to land the role of Puck in a Midsummer Night's Dream at the local theater. He begins to weave a tangled web of deception by failing to inform his father, then lying to Mr. Keating when his father finds out and demands he quit the play. Feeling trapped, after his final performance and a standing ovation, he takes his own life.

This horrible outrage echoes through the hallowed halls of Welton, applying even greater pressure to the Dead Poets Society. When Mr. and Mrs. Perry demand a thorough investigation, Welton administration links the Dead Poets Society, which they determined as the cause for the upheaval, to Mr. Keating. Each member is called before the administration and their parents to sign a confession statement indicating that Mr. Keating filled their minds with these lofty ideals ultimately leading to Neil's suicide. Richard Cameron (Dylan Kussman), ultimately a realist concerned most with doing what is already determined to be right, signs the statement and encourages the rest of them to do the same. Knowing full well that Keating was not responsible, Cameron lets him take the rap to free himself.

Angered by this betrayal, Dalton punches Cameron in an impulsive fit displaying his final romantic act, only to be expelled. The last to sign, though unwillingly, is Todd, thus removing John Keating from his treasured position. In one final scene, displaying the beauty of a balance between the two ideals, Todd is able to cry out to Mr. Keating, who stopped by the class to collect his belongings, "O Captain, my Captain!" Todd, who previously had no identity, contributed his verse to mankind, climbing to the top of his desk to salute his fallen teacher, who changed his life.


Answer in essay form the following questions (20 points each):
(Remember that ARTICULATION is what matters most.)

1. In John Keating's romantic philosphy, why it important to seize the day, "to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"?

2. Explain why women should also practice carpe diem in relation to the poem "To the Virgins, to make much of Time", the most famous piece written by the Cavalier poet Robert Herrick.

by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying,
And this same flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
and while ye may, go marry;
For having lost just once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

Note: Submit your computer-printed or typewritten essays on July 21, 2008, during our class period (9:00-10:00 AM). I will not accept late papers, nor handwritten answers.

For 1LM1 (Literature 101)

Movie Analysis of Moulin Rouge

by Yazmin Ghonaim

Moulin Rouge (2001) brings to the screen the visual and aural spectacle associated with the famed music hall (inaugurated in Paris in 1889), the home of the exuberant cancan dancers often described as "the most exotic sex market in Paris". Focusing on the bohemian art and lifestyle of the Montmartre-based entertainment center, director Baz Lurhmann (William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet; Strictly Ballroom) employs what he terms the "Red Curtain" style of filmmaking, where the film viewer sees the Moulin Rouge's celebrated stage as the exalted mise en scène of a simple love story.

When the Moulin's most desirable entertainer and courtesan, Satine (Nicole Kidman: Eyes Wide Shut), mistakenly identifies penniless writer Christian (Ewan McGregor: Eye of the Beholder; Velvet Goldmine) as a wealthy suitor and her highest bidder for that evening, the misinformation tricks her into wanting to seduce the lucky lad. Unaware of the misunderstanding and dumfounded by her beauty and her eagerness to please him, Christian fails to deliver the expected performance, yet manages to enrapture Satine with an inspiring song about his genuine love and poetic sensibilities. Soon, however, the appearance of the destined client, the powerful Duke of Worcester (Richard Roxburgh), shatters the enchantment. The ambitious Satine dismisses Christian and decides to clear her mind of the ethereal sentiment he inspired. Yet her heart, as if captured by the artist's saving virtue, would henceforth send the material girl conflicting counsel.

Moulin Rouge invests vastly in depicting the picturesque quality of the world that its characters inhabit. Impressive set designs house the adequately costumed characters, while choreography, color, sound, impatient editing and an active camera capture the extravaganza of the time and the place. Moulin Rouge slightly furthers its raison d'être by insinuating the artistic and social revolution that prompted a democratization of leisure (or a "leveling of enjoyments" where all classes merged) and that lay the foundation for the 20th century's production of mass culture. Appropriately, Moulin Rouge includes artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (played by John Leguizamo), who is known for immortalizing the subjects of brothels, bars and dance halls in his paintings, prints and posters. (In the film, Lautrec is defined as the carrier of the bohemian maxim of "Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love".) Yet what prevents Moulin Rouge from being classified as simply an amusing representation of the historical setting is its surprisingly effective application of modern songs (by artists that range from the Beatles to Elton John, Madonna to U2). Some memorable songs such as "All You Need Is Love" and Elton John's "Your Song" are interpreted by Kidman and McGregor, whose imperfect voices --rather than categorize the actors as mediocre singers-- seem to express their characters' inherent humility toward their aggrandized notions of love. Furthermore, the new versions of these classic songs refresh the words and accentuate the harmony of their meaning. Although Kidman's personification of the struggling starlet is more convincing than that of the voluptuous cabaret performer, all of Moulin Rouge's players manage to transcend their theatrical persona to embody --within their cinematic reality-- their true identities.


Answer in essay form the following questions (20 points each):
(Remember that ARTICULATION is what matters most.)

1. Plato and Aristotle agree that Art is an imitation of Nature, since both classical Greek philosophers subscribe to the Mimetic Theory of Art, which means that all works of art closely resemble life and reality. Pastiche, on the other hand, is a dramatic, literary or musical piece openly imitating the previous works of other artists, often with satirical intent. In Moulin Rouge, does art imitate life or does life imitate art, or does the movie embody both tendencies? Elaborate on your chosen answer as best as you can.

2. The play within the play is an effective literary device in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. How effective is the deployment of "Spectacular, Spectacular" (the play within the movie) in enhancing and emphasizing the doomed love between Christian and Satine, which becomes the main storyline of the film? Elaborate on your chosen answer as best as you can.

Note: Submit your computer-printed or typewritten essays on July 21, 2008, during our class period (10:00-11:00 AM). I will not accept late papers, nor handwritten answers.

Love Woman Triumphant


by Ralph Semino Galán

Like her four previous collections, Love Woman (Manila: UST Press, 1998, 107 pages) is replete with exquisitely-felt, expertly-crafted poems, thus, affirming once again her status as one of the best Filipino poets writing in English past or present regardless of gender. Her fifth book of poems, which derives its "metaphorical center" from Doris Lessing's novel Love Again, is divided into four parts. "Love Woman," the first section, contains 19 poems on a variety of themes seen from the perspective(s) of a woman's constantly compassionate heart and ever expansive mind: love in its various shapes and shades, the social malaise of poverty, abortion, the Ozone Disco disaster, ars poetica, music, and the sheer exuberance of amorous experience.

In "A Matter of Choice," a poem divided into two parts, she tackles with great sense and sensitivity the controversial issue of abortion. Dimalanta’s poetic perception is never myopic as she convincingly presents both sides of the proverbial coin with her characteristic flair for verbal dexterity (notice the wordplay: "all the ugly/uns of this world… my too young/ un of my luckless undelivering womb.) ---

This is pure bereavement./ A cipher with its host/ of the
never-should-have-beens,/ here where life begins and
ends/ in a spate of blood, spite, unfaith,/ unhope, unlove
and all the ugly/ uns of this world, so where,/ where is
there life?/ What has been withdrawn, disjected?/
Nothing but the ugly uns/ you have been spared, my too
young/ un of my luckless undelivering womb.//

("A Gift of Unlife")

Confined within a mayfly’s lifespan no matter/ you will
live forever, oh, yes.../ yes... yes... it is good,/ this air,
this sun, this rhythm/ of grass counterpointing/ your
every breath, His Finger/ tracing diverse designs, like
you,/ Pure Song, lifework, schemed/ for in a world rife
with salvaged/ graces, wombed in a cell,/ as cosmic and
expansive/ as your young beginning dreams.//

("Of Life")

She employs the same ambivalent angle of vision in "A Mountain's Passing," a paean/lament, eulogy/elegy on the closure of the gigantic garbage dump site better known to the layman as Smokey Mountain:

…soon he would be/ standing, looking up, not knowing/
after this mountain's rite of passing,/whether to hymn
or cry.

In “What Poetry Does Not Say,” she reiterates her belief that the subject matter of poetry is best expressed paradoxically by the most careful of non-expression:

For poetry never says;/ it unsays. To say/ is to confine,
contain,/ to unsay explore the/ vaguely all-hovering./
Presence of the unseen,/ deliberately left out...

Poetry or the meaning/fulness of poetry, therefore, for her is something elusive, evasive and equivocal, like love. It is quite similar to poet-critic Gémino H. Abad's definition of insight as "illumination of a thought that no idea expresses, a radiance of feeling that no thought catches."

But in "Perhaps a Few Poets" she is also cognizant of the fact that poets in this day and age are an obsolete breed, a somber choir of "ineffectual angel(s)." At best, they are mere "apologist(s) and rhapsodist(s)/ for ancient and dying faiths," for poets cannot solve through metaphors the more practical problems of the real world.

The last three poems of the first section, along with "Waiting Game," "Slidings," "It is in Her Eyes" and "Romancing the Lake," are investigations on “the precious rhetorics of love.” “Love Woman 1,” a poem dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales, interprets in another light the surrounding circumstances of the car crash that nipped in the bud the life of England’s Rose:

this final private fling,/ this binge of anonymity,/ this silken
intimacy,/ white heat of pain’s intensest peaking/ caught
raw shorn of royal trappings,/ one instant dredging/ of the
body’s last reserves/ from those hurt places of the past/ in
one last heightened rewind,/ in a tight desperate grip of
present,/ the heart’s leap/ out of its crook/ into blazing,
brazing space.

"Love Woman 2" is a nameless, abstracted, almost archetypal female who avers that "love is elision/ perpetually sliding into new/ faces, new syntax, nothing/if not something else." And for this "lovely freak of nature," time and space are her only adversaries, as she offers herself to the growing sphere of her affection, "her far-flung provenance."

"Love, Lie Still…" is a painfully delicious and delicate piece about the "necessary fictions" of true love. The persona-lover and the beloved-other are in bed, physical or metaphysical it does not matter, where "bland breasts/ inevitably resting upon mindless/ hands… just there, serenely/ dreaming, so naturally together.//" But dreams are bound to end like all forms of romantic love, so how maintain the illusion/collusion to keep the flames alive?

The solution provided by the poem is deceivingly simple "to lie still," but the phrase is loaded with a good number of possible semiotic readings. The two most plausible are: to be immobile and let the wave of disillusionment pass, or to keep on churning falsehoods to retain a semblance of truth. Love as illumined by these three poems does not seem to exist without its concomitant deprivations, through "various subterfuges, "imaginary space(s)" and "lost possibilities."

On the other hand, "Turkish Resonances," the second part of the collection, recounts a weeklong sojourn she has taken with a group of fellow Thomasians in Asia Minor. Introduced by a journal entry, the nine travel poems are like impressionistic snapshots and philosophical postcards of the various places and spaces she has visited in Istanbul, Ephesus, Delphi, and Athens, the shimmering gem in the crown of Hellenic Civilization.

"Along the Bosphorus" recreates the experience of being ferried across the throat-shaped body of water that unites the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, the same strait that separates Europe from Asia:

This ferry furrowing through the/ Bosphorus straddling
between/ heart and mind pulling us/ from one continent
to another/ in a pulsating wavelike dancing/ in a matter
of minutes…

"The Parthenon Seen and Shot from Hotel Aphrodite" transforms a fiasco into a poetic contemplation of the subject-object dichotomy. The persona and a you (whose identity is not revealed in the text) took snapshots of each other with the famous Greek edifice serving as the background. The resulting photographs were dismal, to say the least, but the poet’s inner vision redeems them from the trash can of the real world and transmutes them into the metaphorical realm of poetry:

Not quite worthless shots, really./ See there?/ Excavate
deeper/ into the stony sites/ of the receiving mind...//
The Parthenon and you,/ I and the Parthenon,/ Subject-
Object,/ One repressed the other/ played up alternately
both,// Contemplator and text,/ Singer and Song,/
Separate and One.//

Reminiscent of William Butler Yeat's often-quoted poem, "Flying to Byzantium" is a contemporary, if not postmodern, rendition of the quest for the transcendental. But unlike Yeats whose search for eternity is through art and artifice, Dimalanta pursues “sites/ for ruined dreams to sit on/ long after golden birds/ on golden boughs/ have run out of songs.” Her poetic persona therefore is more world-weary, aware as she is that nothing really remains of human monuments but ruins and memories.

Dimalanta's transit poems are never purely descriptive, for her journeys are both inward and outward oriented. She seldom catalogues scenes and scenarios for their own sake. More often than not, she examines her travel experiences from a philosophical or aesthetic vantage point. As a result of her constant confabulations, landscapes become inscapes, not only mere routes of escape, and random sights and sounds become the sources of specific poetic insights: “from mythology to the/ mundaneness of moods…” [“Delphic Capers], “Enchantment is in retrospect.” [“Along the Arcadian Way”], “And to fathom this mystery/ we have ourselves to be/ unfathomable…” [“Meryam Ana at Ephesus”].

In keeping with the spirit of the Philippine Centennial, the third section, subtitled “Our Voices, Our Zones,” verbalizes in a series of character sketches and dramatic monologues the patriotic feelings and ruminations of six women associated with the Revolution of 1896: Teodora Alonso, the mother of Jose Rizal; Josephine Bracken, Pepe’s girlfriend who became his wife two hours before his execution; Patrocinio Gamboa y Villareal, a Jaro heroine; Tandang Sora, the famous katipunera; Gregoria de Jesus, Andres Bonifacio’s wife and “comrade-at-arms;” and Teresa Magbanua Ferraris, another female fighter from the Visayas.

The six poems are quite interesting as socio-political commentaries, for they provide us with possible portraits of these women warriors, heroines whose contribution to the Revolution have often been ignored or effaced by the patriarchal chroniclers of history. Taken in this context, the six poems can be considered as alternative versions of certain historical events, a herstory of the Revolution, écriture féminine counteracting phallogocentric writing. Hear their heroic female voices rise above the totalizing din of male discourse:

Coming home, it seems she really/ has not left home at all./
Home is in the heart’s lush country... and her own/ gentle
hovering and insinuating/ female voice in subtle shades
rising/ as passions in the dark and spreading/ in the
nascent light of faith like/ white confettis in the night.//

("Tandang Sora: Confettis at Pugad Lawin")

Certainly soon, God would will/ to have this woman voice/
take a leap into the elements,/coming out naked in its
wounding/ under a shower of blazing meteors,/ to claim
despite the onus/ of her sex and the curse of her time,/
what godfully is hers alone.//

("Gregoria de Jesus: Beloved Comrade-at-arms")

Nay Isa fought not only with a skill/ akin to or even
excelling man's/ but also with the grit and heat/ and heart
of one woman's being/ ignited in a body text of rage/
and leonine grace and feriocity.//

("Teresa Magbanua Ferraris: Not for Nothing, Brothers")

Reprinted from Flowing On, her third collection of poems, "Other Voices, Other Zones," the fourth and last section, articulates in a sequence of dramatic monologues the sentiments of four heroines from distant lands. Winnie Mandela, Benazir Bhutto, Laila Abou Saif, and Sisulu are polyester women, whose participation in politics, sexual or otherwise, do not diminish the silkiness of their sensibilities. Listen, for the instance, to the voice of Benazir Bhutto:

shahid, i bear your vision/ in my womb like a foetus/ i
shall deliver and send forth/ into the thickest nights,/
wide into the farthest/ reaches of the country’s core...

Or the more feminist utterance of Laila Abou Saif:

sisters of all colors/ and calling, under this skin/ flows
the same blood with/ one intensity and power,/
sputtering forth the same/ sparks, in anger, in need...

Dimalanta’s fifth volume of poetry focuses on love in all its multifarious guises and disguises: romantic love, erotic love, love for the poor and the disenfranchised, love for her dearly departed writer-friends Bienvenido Santos and Edilberto Tiempo, the love of words and the wonderful worlds they create, the love of music, Wanderlust, the love of country, and womanly love for her “gentle,/ loving, long chafing brood.” Love Woman recognizes the fact that in the final analysis, everything essential, whether ephemeral or eternal, is a manifestation of the four-letter word, the Tetragrammaton that defies definition and the constraining cage of language.

Dimalanta’s poetic voice is sui generis; no other poet, nor poetess for that matter, composes poetry the way she does. Thus, her liguistic stamp, being both distinct and distinctive, and the difficult themes she has chosen to tackle make her fifth collection of poems a singular contribution to contemporary Philippine Poetry in English. For in this her latest offering, she has transcended the traditional paradigm of feminine/feminist by becoming what Josephine Acosta Pasricha calls "the true female... reconciling the maternal cyclical structures with the linear time of history and contemporary politics, thus, understanding herstory (sic) and the future of man/womankind."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

For 2LIT (Poetry)


Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence - this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word "woods."

Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they'll never let her get away.

Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

They forget that what's here isn't life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof's full stop.

Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?

The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

- Wislawa Szymborska

Answer in a 3-5 page essay the guide question below (maximum score is 50 points):
(Remember that ARTICULATION is what matters most.)

Compare and contrast the different functions of writing in the movie "Atonement" and in the poem "The Joy of Writing" by Polish Nobel Prize for Literature winner Wislawa Szymborska.

Note: Submit your computer-printed or typewritten essays on July 22, 2008, during the first hour of our class period: 2:30-3:30. I will not accept late papers, nor handwritten answers.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


(after Walt Disney's "The Little Mermaid")

under the piscean sea
of feelings, i live
princess of the deep.
my love is a turbulence
breaking near the water's

since what i long for
is an earthly prince
dry yet fertile like land
far yet warm as the sun
shimmering on the sea's
surface from my vision

but this watery love
like the sea spray
is doomed, for i am
a mermaid forever caught
in the ocean's overwhelming

My Kind


I have no oven large enough,
Dear Sylvia, to roast
my head like a lamb for dinner.

Nor a brand-new car parked
in a garage, Dear Anne,
to etherize my soul.

Nor stones heavy with sin,
Dear Virginia, and a river deep
as forgetting to drown myself in.

Nor do I live in a building,
so high like the bluest
of skies, Dearest Maningning.

Sisters in rhyme, in crime,
how then shall I make my quick
and extraordinary exit?

Or shall I kill myself slowly
with beer and cigarettes,
bit by bit?