Friday, July 17, 2009

MUSIC TO OUR EARS ] Joel Toledo's second book is destined to startle

His poetry breaks our heart, but in a way we wouldn't mind having it broken again and again. TheSwankStyle does a little Q&A with the poet Joel Toledo who is launching his second collection of poems, The Long Lost Startle (UP Press), this Monday at the Happy Mondays night at Magnet Katipunan.

When did you first recognize that you can be a poet. Or when did you tell yourself, 'Uy, this is not so bad.'
I think the idea of trying out poetry started during my national workshop years. But I was only a fellow for poetry once (fiction otherwise), so the confidence came from the comments of writer friends. Of course, the first Palanca really boosted it further.

Is there an ideal setting/time/mood for you for writing?I'm an uber-nocturnal homebody so it would have to be in the wee hours of the morning in front of the PC at home. Occasionally while I'm out with friends and we do little poetry exercises.

Meron ka bang mga rituals before/during/after writing a piece? Music? What kind?None, really. But it does feel really good when you've written something you think has potential. It's not of course the final version so my usual ritual would have to be to have the poem workshopped.

People (meaning me) say there is a very strong female voice in the way you write, the language. Do you recognize this? Where do you think this comes from?Haha. i'm not really sure. I do remember Juaniyo Arcellana saying the same thing when he wrote about his Palanca shortlist years ago and my collection was mentioned. He said to the effect that it was written by an "obviously lady poet". I guess the sincerity of tone and the prevalent nature strain in my poems are not usually associated with masculinity in poetry.

Name a favorite Filipino poem you know by heart and write down a paragraph here.Here's the final couplet from the last stanza of Carlos Angeles' Landscape II: "I touch your absence here/Remembering the speeches of your hair."

You're a teacher and host of Happy Mondays poetry night at Magnet. Anong sinasabi mo sa mga nagpapakita sayo ng tula at talaga namang hindi mo nagustuhan? I would usually workshop poems with a constructive mindset naman. If I don't like a line/image/insight I would challenge the writer to revise. Most of the people who do approach me for comments know the dictates of revision so I try to be open as well to a poem's potential.

Anong kinaibahan ng bagong libro sa una? Iba rin ba ang state of mind mo habang binubuo ang koleksyon?
Most of the poems in this book are written during my NCCA Writers Prize grant and i think they are generally less personal and more craft-driven. There are more experimentations with form and the themes are more universal. This collection are made up of poems from 2006 to 2008, so i guess i was also conscious of experimenting with the voice and the musicality in the verses' syntax.

Can you share a poem from the book?
Here's the title poem from the collection, a poem that experiments with half rhymes and a staccato beat:

The Long Lost Startle

Oh my, the familiar, the face of grandfather
the clock declaring its singular point, the hour,
the now again it is midnight, full minute of it,
fulfilled and finishing. It has never been
a matter of fact; even the initial shudder
passes, pauses permitted by the pendulum,
the slow, slow sway then ending, hands resting
again on his forehead, as in prayer. And,
finding nothing to fear, you lean back into
the silence that comes next: the lack of clock,
the rest.

We love Joel.

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