Mannahatta Mahal: Collected Expatriate Poems (by Luis Cabalquinto)

bakit ko ito nire-review? kasi nabasa ko siya, talagang fro cover to cover. well, i had to kasi. part of my university rakets–err, admin duties hehe sa UP Press ay to create press releases of books and events and such. ito ang una kong assignment. e sa ganda niya, i decided to review na rin.

bihira akong magbasa ng poetry book from cover to cover. hindi kasi parang fiction or creative nonfiction ang poetry. it’s literally a different animal altogether sa mg apormang nakasanayan kong isulat/gamitin at basahin. kailangan mong namnamin isa-isa ang mga tula, at minsan kailangang mamili ng mga tulang nanamnamin at one time.

but this one is such a treat. i don’t know why exactly. maybe it’s the way the poet crafted short yet succinct lines that capture certain emotions of a particular moment. for instance, i love the connection/disconnection juxtaposition in the poem entitled “Crossing 14th St. & Avenue A” as he states:

I nearly get bumped by a speeding
Red Apple double-decker charter bus
filled to its open top with tourists,
their wide-eyed vacationing faces
melting in the sticky-hot July afternoon.
They all look in my direction. No one
Waves. No one smiles. All is well.

di ba, for a moment he is seemingly connected to the busy-busy goings-on na typical of new york lalo na’t tourist season sa kanila. and then, the disconnection starts kasi dedma lang mga utaw sa kanya, pero siya kinda hindi kasi kumonek siya kahit papaano sa sense ng mga tourist, tapos after that, disconnect again kasi after the incident, dedma na, pero the okay kind of dedma, na disconnect na hindi nega. you get what i’m saying? ah basta parang ganun.

isa siguro ito sa mga strengths ng tula niya: brevity, na sapok agad. at saka isa pa: visual siya. super. i could actually sense the emotions, the happenings, the place, the elements, the people, malinaw siya. using the senses exactly. kaya nakaaliw basahin. hindi ka niya ini-impress ng husto sa mga literary/poetic tactics niya kasi kumbaga innate na ang kagalingan sa parehong fusion ng form and content plus intended consequence (if any) sa bawa’t linya. lam mo yun, walang masyadong arte or hindi siya pa-full of art-e unlike other poets we know…ah basta yun na yun.

kinarir ko ang pagbasa ng tula kasi first time ko rin itong magsulat tungkol sa isang poetry book. i used to write reviews of a lot of things before when i was freelancing, such as novels and anik-anik, like THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES even before it hit these shores (pinabili ko sa canada when it was highly recommended by a barkada baby dyke in the late 90s) and before eve ensler became a kinda household name in metro manila (although under nego na pala nina monique sa new voice pala ito during that time, chika ni baby dyke). i think this is the first time i’m reviewing a straight poetry book, kasi alam ko may na-review na ko noon na combined collection.

saka it’s also rare that i like poetry collections enough to buy them. i buy them sometimes because the poets are my colleagues, teachers or friends hehe so “required” kami bumili (hahaha uuy batu-bato sa langit ha hehe ching!). o kaya this one time na this poet asked for my photographs to be included in her poetry book (a up to this day e wala pang bumalik na royalty chever — asa pa ko di ba?). pasalamat na lang ako at gradweyt ako ng mga national workshops kasi maraming librong pinamimigay sa ganun. dun ko unang nakita rin ang isa sa mga pinakapaborito kong poetry collection of all time, yung BLOOD SACRIFICE ni luisa aguilar carino na ngayon ang screen name na ay luisa igloria. saka yung isang produkto ng goldmine hunting namin ng co-fellows ko sa dumaguete workshop na KUNG DI MAN ni ruth elynia mabanglo. hay buti na lang at hindi nakipag-agawan si allan “book hoarder” popa sa akin sa title na yun no! sayang lang at yung ibang poet na gusto ko ang work e hindi na ko makahanap ng libro nila. out of print na mostly, like tita aida’s poetry.

basta happy ako that i discovered cabalquinto. also refreshing to read poems by a male straight (i think) pinoy (expat or not) poet na walang bahid ng macho shit-ness. well, at least this collection ganun… unlike other poets we know din. hay dami ganyan kasi sa pinas e, mga nakaaway pa nga nina neil dati kasi phobic shit din sila, but i digress… (who says hindi masaya sa mundo ng tulaan? )

at saka…parang nate-tempt akong mag-apply sa cornell bigla hehehe… hm… the next ithaca jologz? following the footsteps of my co-jologz jo&jo hehe…hm…

abangan!

——

and here’s my official PR for the book for UP Press:

Mannahatta Mahal: poet expat’s latest opus from UP Press

The University of the Philippines Press is proud to release award-winning poet Luis Cabalquinto’s latest book of poetry.

Entitled Mannahatta Mahal: Collected Expatriate Poems, the collection boasts of 77 poems describing New York life as livid, lucid, lively, sometimes lonely, and, more importantly, larger than life—as seen through the poetic lenses of a Filipino living and working in the Big Apple.

A poem entitled “September Eleven” decidedly marks the start of the poet’s latest inner and outer journeys, and eventually goes within and beyond that important event in any New Yorker’s life. Here, we see Cabalquinto zoom in on the details of the streets, the people, the stores, the arts, the surroundings, even the birds and bugs that most take for granted on a busy day or active night. But as he points to these things, he pulls out to reveal meditations, ruminations and spirited thoughts about these observations. While there seems to be a default disconnection associated with life in New York, Cabalquinto is quick to point out its opposite, as he tells us of small pleasures one gets from the seemingly simple or mundane that fuels the fires of the soul, such as experiencing an outdoor classical music concert or quick restaurant meetings with dear old friends one has not seen for the longest time.

As another award-winning poet, UP College of Arts and Letters professor emeritus Gemino Abad, says of the collection, “With Cabalquinto, we enter the very heartland of poetry, its revels and revelations—there, a steady hand on the pulse of language, poise and vibrancy of expression, a clear-eyed venture into the heart’s secret wagers, a maturity of insight touched at times with humor and tenderness.”

Born in Magarao, Camarines Sur on January 31, 1935, Cabalquinto earned his BA in Communication at UP Diliman. He pursued further communication studies in Cornell University at Ithaca, New York under a Fulbright-Hays grant in 1968. It was in Cornell where he immersed himself fully in the world of poetry and fiction writing under the tutelage of notable literary writers. Cabalquinto was encouraged to focus on poetry when small press journals in the US began publishing his work. He also received multiple writing fellowships and awards such as the New York University Academy of American Poets poetry prize and the New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship award in poetry.

Since then, Cabalquinto’s works have appeared in local and international publications such as Caracoa, Philippines Free Press, Philippine Graphic, Manoa, Asiaweek, and American Poetry Review, to name a few. He has been published in the U.S., Australia, Hong Kong, France and even in the Czech Republic.

Mannahatta Mahal adds to Cabalquinto’s already impressive list of books which include The Dog-eater and Other Poems (1989), The Ibalon Collection (1990), Dreamwanderer (1991), Bridgeable Shores (2001) and Moon Over Magarao (2003).

In 2006, Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) awarded Cabalquinto the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas for poetry. According to UMPIL, the award is given to “living Filipino writers who have contributed outstanding works in any language currently used in the Philippines and who have dedicated their lives and talents to the development, propagation and promotion of any Philippine literature.”

Indeed, with Mannahatta Mahal, the UP Press continues to support outstanding works by writers like Cabalquinto in its mandate of championing talented Filipino artists.

Mannahatta Mahal is available at the UP Press Bookstores in UP Diliman, Baguio, Cebu and Davao, Popular Bookstore in Tomas Morato Ave., Quezon City and Solidaridad in Padre Faura St., Manila as well as branches of Powerbooks, National Bookstore and Fully Booked.

In the U.S., UP Press titles are distributed by the University of Hawaii Press and the Philippine Expressions Bookshop. For those in America, please contact these establishments for the availability of this book.

//

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~ by leaflens on September 27, 2007.

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