Companions of our youth
KRIPOTKIN - Alfred A. Yuson (The Philippine Star) - October 21, 2013 - 12:00am

We must urge book lovers, especially those who appreciate and abide by Philippine poetry, to attend an important book launch this Thursday, Oct. 24, starting at 6 p.m. on the 33rd Floor of Malayan Plaza on ADB Ave., Ortigas Center.

The collectible to be launched is a limited commemorative edition of Companionable Voices: Five Filipino Poets, from Quincunx Publishing, featuring “Poetry from a Lost Generation” — that is, a collection of 76 poems by Juan Jose Jolico Cuadra, Cesar Ruiz Aquino, Recah Trinidad, Erwin Castillo, and Wilfredo Pascua Sanchez.

Evidently significant is this literary anthology, since it brings together the voices of a band of brothers whose camaraderie, loyalty, love and support for one another date back to the 1960s, spanning arenas of faith and combat from the UP Diliman campus to Cubao and Mandaluyong, San Juan to Ermita-Malate, Quiapo, Project 4, indeed all of what has now become Metro Manila and then some, all the way to Zamboanga, Dumaguete, Iowa, Chicago and New York.

For half a century, these poets have nurtured and nourished one another, their initial bond and common source of strength being the wondrous fact that they have been no less than beautiful, angelic boys, singly and together. Why, with the marvel of synergy, they overtook even handsomeness. Altogether, they were “well-made, imposing, and of obvious quality.”

They also preferred to operate literarily under the radar, so to speak, which now validates the claim that this first title from Quincunx favors the historic works of “off-mainstream” poets, albeit all are Palanca Prize winners.

Oh, Aquino has several books to his own name: poetry, short fiction, and essay collections, the latest having been Caesurae: 150 New Poems (UST Publishing House), launched last May in Dumaguete.

Castillo’s fiction and poetry have been widely anthologized, and his first novel, The Firewalkers (Anvil Publishing), came out in 1992. He is close to completing his second novel.  

Ditto the peerless pedigree with Sanchez, who moved to the USA over four decades ago, but has kept in touch as a macho man of letters. His poems, translations and critiques have appeared in innumerable anthologies. In 2003, UP Press published his scintillating New & Later Poems.

Last May also saw the launching of popular sportswriter Recah Trinidad’s Tales from My Lost River (Merryland Publishing Corporation). A previous book was Pacific Storm: Dispatches on Pacquiao of the Philippines (2006, Anvil Publishing).

Only Cuadra had not authored a book, but then that was true to his calling as a prime provocateur as poet, art critic, and philosopher. And to his credit now, after he passed away last April, must go the inception for this collection.

Quincunx publisher Willybog Sanchez, who’s still based in Chicago, acknowledges that Juan Jose Jolicco Cuadra or A.Z. Jolicco Cuadra (the second C in Jolicco added for numerological reasons), is “the true catalyst for this book” — which is dedicated to him and honors his dear memory.

“Wing hard, white-stallioned time:/ The whirlwind sun upride/ Where no sheerer/ The crude bird dies./ Hanged in the mind’s eye…” These are some of his driven lines divine which we read last July at an international poetry festival — in our own way of tribute to our compañero.

Cuadra leads off the Companionable Voices collection with an untitled 1040-line monologue that Sanchez says is “centered on the mythopoeic hero Jose Rizal.” More from Sanchez: “For a poet known for his formal brevity, it is uncharacteristically long and open-ended.” We look forward to this long poem, which is said to end with a comma. So Jolico/Jolicco.

Cesar Ruiz Aquino, a.k.a. Sawi to generations of dementees he has inspired in half-a-dozen campuses from Baguio to Mindanao, is represented by 29 poems, including the lengthy “Eyoter” which Willybog acclaims as a “bizarre masterwork.” Expect revised early poems from Dr. Sawi, whose revisions are as original as the word “reloaded.”

As with “She Comes with Horns and Tail”: “She comes with horns and tail/ in nightmare made of air/ yet on film such lissomeness./ She carries heaven when she walks,/ on all fours she is/ the metamorphosis/ hair done or undone,/ true to the touch/ and true only to her looks/ till she comes with horns the moon/ and tail the comet/ someone no woman has met/ unless her/ in the mirror” (by “Cezaruis of 2013”)

Among the 17 poems that are Recah Trinidad’s contribution, he extracts “My Lost River” from his recent prose book: “Farewell my dear Pasig/ My Mother River/ The only river/ You cannot live again/ We’ll never meet again/ Thank you Dear Mother/ Blessed Virgin of Fatima/ For a slice of Paradise/ Thank you for Being there/ For the hope in my heart/ To sing is to believe.”

From Sanchez’s acute exegesis — of the poet from Mandaluyong who recharges himself annually in Quiapo’s Black Nazarene rite of passage — we can expect “a dagger at the heart of his poetry, wrapped in Nazarene cloth.”

Erwin E. Castillo characteristically delights with 16 poems, from “pure song” to “highly visualized narrative poems,” and “painterly vignettes (written) with scorching precision,” per Sanchez. We can only agree. Here is evidence, a section excerpted from “The Lord Iolikos at Lakeside” (which Erwin wrote upon Jolico’s demise):

“By evening’s light, our lord summons/ Us unfold the cloak of jamboangan,/ Unsheathe the gilt katana from within:/ This is the sword of the heroes.//

 â€œGo now, the Lord Iolikos whispers,/ And cast our sword the farthest,/ The deepest that you can, then tell me/ What you see when you return.//

“It was full darkness we trudged back/ The waning moon our light/ We said, Lord, the deed you asked is done/ The sword of the heroes in the deep.//    

“Radiant with fire, the young girl in the water/ The same, she claimed, that invested/ You, the katana she bore back from whence it came/ She said, for when next you need it.//

“And hearing this, a great cheer inspires/ Us, we proceed though moonset:/ Some great event portends — rain at last/ Sweeping in from great distance//

“But Holy Lord Iolikos knows there was no girl,/ Knows the sword we stole we hid,/ Knows the only way to be released/ Is to turn the blade inward into self.”

Then there’s the poet/publisher, taking up the rear as he is Willy-wont to, starting off with a remake of “Adarna” which also began his 2004 book. “Satirical and parodistic” — he pledges about some of his poems here, plus exquisite cerebral sonnets, one “phantasy of subjection,” and the long last poem titled “Eman Spelled Backwards” — which is intriguingly described as “a superior muddle of a tour de force, a ferocious assault on conventional thinking” that “tracks the evolution of the poet Eman Lacaba…”

We look forward to the odds-on gambling man in Sanchez in this poem, where he “makes everybody an object of his savage satire, including himself,” with no less than “brutal fluency” — such as what creates the line: “Everything comes back to the quixotic eschatology of balut.”

The book cover features Sonny Yñiguez’s painting of hunters titled “Salo-Salo Sa Batida.” Designed by Benjo Laygo, the original green background was changed to mourning black upon the recommendation of the painter, who was also a good friend of Cuadra. Coming back recently from a long vacation in the U.S., Sonny issued a reminder that both Rolls Royce and Sturn-Ruger had changed colors to black on the death of a partner.

Attendees at the launch wll also be rewarded with readings by the poets present, as well as music performed live by soprano Aileen Espinosa Cura and the rock band Sandwich. Those who can’t make it are still rabidly enjoined to acquire a copy, details on which you may cull by following Quincunx in Facebook and Twitter. Or checking out Publishing/149821831890232.

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