Nob 27, 2009

Nob 24, 2009

E-mail interview by Leah Barona a year or so ago

1. What do you usually write about, and in what form? What influences your choice of subject?

I tend to be conceptual in my works (and I get my share of flak because of this). An idea will intrigue me. It may come from philosophy, optics, or local history - I find that I can't control these things. In order to "learn" this concept, I need to convert it to verse or story. I tend to deal with the over-all theme of memory and try my best to shy away from love fiction.

2. At what point in your life did you decide that writing is what you wanted/needed/were meant to do?

I've been taking down notes since the day I realized that the pencil is not for sucking. But I pledged to be serious with writing when I began teaching in LB (what was it, five years ago?) because I wanted to impress the people here. By the time I realized that it wasn't working, writing had become too much of a habit to get rid of.

3. How do you 'stay sharp'? Meaning, what do you do to get inspiration or to stay focused?

Drink coffee and listen to passionate people. Caffeine and passion are foreign to my system. But both substances get me writing. Both will kill me someday.

4. Who checks your work? Do you do peer reviews? Whose critique do you value the most? What award (or feedback) has been most affirming?

Friends like Carlos Piocos, Reagan Maiquez, and Emmanuel Dumlao never shrink from telling me the truth about my work. There are editors. Angels come to me in my dreams sometimes, but I can't understand what they're saying. They just keep pointing to my prose and spitting out holy water until the pages burn. Then there are the editors, the elder writers who assess my poems and stories. But I won't name them. They might withdraw the affirmation if I begin pretending to be "close."

Recently, my students gave me their comments and criticism, and I was surprised that I took it quite well (and they "dished it quite well" also). The most valuable criticism comes from my wife. Only one of my stories gave her goose bumps.

5. Name literary figures whose work you admire or use as a standard.

Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, and Gregorio Brilliantes.

6. Any trade secrets you can share?

You don't have to write three hours a day like they told you. You just need to get a clean sheet of paper and stare at it for three hours. Every day. It will eventually make a writer out of you. Try it.

7. Do you feel that you get enough support from the University as faculty members? As artists?

I can't speak for the others, they do sterling work. I'd love to see what work they can do with greater support. As for me, I don't feel entitled to support. If I get support, gracias salamat mucho. If not, I'm okay as long as I get my three hours a day with my clean sheet of paper. I'd rather have readers than supporters. But if the university won't give me readers... there's always family.

8. How would you describe the literary scene at UPLB now? How is it different from, like, five or ten years ago? (In terms of the people who write, what they write about, what form the writing takes…)

Oh dear. I wasn't here five to ten years ago. I'd like to believe it's better now, that people have more (and improved?) writing communities, literary visions, techniques, and third drafts in circulation. Still, it's possible that the only reason I want to believe that now is much better than then is because I am in the now.

9. Do you consider yourself old-fashioned, or are you open to new literary forms or genres, in what you consider legit art forms? What are your thoughts on "electronic literature"?

Critics have the luxury of labeling art as "legit" or "not legit". Writers, strictly speaking, should not care about these labels while they're writing whatever they're writing. But in the latter stages of the process, this becomes an important question. It becomes a matter of being read or not, getting published or not, being loved or ignored. But the question is if I'm old-fashioned, and I am, and I think that writers who say they're "experimenting" ought to use the bunsen burner more often.

I kept a blog as a regimen back when I was having a hard time writing. You get instant feedback there, and that's good. But it works only if you can separate the chaff from the wheat: Is this good writing or bad writing? Did I just get effective criticism or did somebody just want me to reciprocate and check out her site?

Others probably have that capacity. I don't. I only end up losing a lot of time online. Another problem is if the writer becomes obsessed by getting the most number of hits. The tendency is to produce more shock than art. Substance suffers. Heart suffers. We get more of less.

10. Do you keep a blog?

I do: tekstongbopis.blogspot.com. It's been running since November 2001, and it's still up because of sentimental value. I used to keep accounts with multiply and friendster, but they weren't helping. Last week, I lit two candles over the CPU at ILC, then I deleted them both. Maybe I'll pull out tekstongbopis as well.

Nob 21, 2009

Pearls

Left eye got worse. Tears 24/7. Pearls are great until you remember how the oysters make them.

Nob 20, 2009

Duels

The monster that I have to kill every day is realism. The monster who attacks me every day is destruction. Out of these duels come transformation. I have to turn destruction into creation over and over again.

Anais Nin
Diary entry
November 1936


At last we have household help. Now to pay the bills. God how exciting. "Alleluia," they sing to the child. "Ayawayaw," comes the responsorial.

Nob 19, 2009

Paint

To Woolwich, where we found my wife not well, and I out of humour began to dislike her painting, the last things not pleasing me so well as the former: but I blame myself from being so complaisant.

Samuel Pepys
Diary entry
November 19, 1665


First time to bathe under the rain under LB sky. When was the last time, really? Was it then, during the Quisao storm, with a friend whose name I have forgotten but seems to me to start with the letter R, that liquid and battered afternoon 14 or 16 years past? Some time since then, the rain became an occasion for nothing other than coffee and paper. Memories cut in this manner serve to stimulate the mind and impoverish the years.

Nob 18, 2009

Bird

Rather rainy. Went into Baldock but failed to get any rose bushes. Bought a peony root which perhaps I can plant at the corner instead of a rose. Clarke’s say the shortage of grains, or the difficulty of sending them to & fro, is actually much greater than the papers make out. Saw a bird which I think must have been a golden plover, though so far as I know they are not found round here. Slightly larger than a snipe (it was certainly not a snipe), redshank type of flight, but its back was brownish. Too far away to see its beak. The only thing that makes me doubtful is that its belly was almost white.

George Orwell
Diary entry
November 18, 1939


Bum day. I have full strength, my wits about me, but I can't go to work because I don't want others to get the virus off me. My wife just discovered an old game in Facebook, Cafe World. I reactivated my account so we could play together. Still no leads on a new yaya. Maybe we've squeezed our network dry. The child, well what can be said of the child? She somehow learned yet another way to amuse herself at my expense. She'd offer me her bottle, say "Mik?" until I move to receive it from her. Then she'd withdraw it, say "ayawayaw" while flashing them mischievous teeth.

Nob 16, 2009

Barber One

Dussel is very put out, none of us knows why. It began by his keeping his mouth closed upstairs, he didn't utter a word to either Mr.or Mrs. Van Daan. Everyone was struck by it, and when it lasted a couple of days, Mummy took the opportunity of warning him about Mrs. Van Daan, who, if he went on like this, could make things very disagreeable for him.

Dussel said that Mr. Van Daan started the silence, so he was not going to be the one to break it.

Anne Frank
Diary entry
November 17, 1943


Gave the child her first hair cut because her grandmother thought the forelocks irritated her eyes. Handed the lock to my wife who wrapped it in plastic and placed it in Fr. Leo English's dictionary. She did not know it, but it's my favorite dictionary in the house. Its pages are loose and brittle. I would have these bound again, but I think the pages would not survive the process. It's the same reason why I don't want it photocopied. My father gave it to me when I became interested in writing poems in Filipino.

The cut was too close. My wife didn't like it. Child looks like Ben Franklin now.

Chairs

Gonzalo plans to hold a meeting in the houseboat. He and Pablo Neruda are inviting all the Latin Americans to come. Anais, go out and rent chairs for the plotters!

Anais Nin
Diary entry
November 1936


We enjoyed unadulterated Pacquiao yesterday because some mayors and a congressman of Laguna decided to pitch in and buy air time through the community cable company. I watched all the preliminary bouts just to savor the absence of advertisements. Cotto gave good fight, holding out as he did. I heard some of my countrymen died while watching the fight. We, the weak-hearted. Meanwhile, some research has taken my speech to a curious turn. My framework has been effectively challenged by the new data. It seems I have been trying to shield myself from some facts.

Nob 15, 2009

Cold Compress

The son then showed us his works of amateur sculpture and painting (Sivas, Parvatis, Venuses, and apsarases): remarkably good. And on the way home he talked with touching earnestness and feeling of his art. "When I work in clay," he said, "Mother tells me to be careful: I will catch cold from the wet clay. And when I work in stone, Father tells me to be careful, the dust will get in my lungs and I will catch cold."

Joseph Campbell
Diary entry
November 15, 1954


I have been waiting for the day when I would finally wake up to my child's normal face. The red's out of her right eye but it's still a bit smaller than her left eye. So I thought, maybe tomorrow. However, an hour and a half ago she bumped her head against the wall, and though it sounded like her usual contact, half of forehead's quite swollen. Predictably, she rejected the cold compress. My wife brought her to sleep with milk and song. While they both slept, I sneaked in some ice. She was defenseless, and I stopped when the size and color of the swell seemed to me tolerable.

November was not purely cut from misfortune and struggle. A couple of good strokes here and there, and among them the event of my two advisees' first magazine publication. On November 1, Christopher Alonte published his short stories, "A Chase and a Thousand Encounters" as well as "Home." Alonte's a fresh graduate. E- (his critic) and I gave him a proper grade for his thesis, a collection of short stories that included "Home." Alonte thought the grade was a joke.

Angelica Mendoza, Alonte's sparring partner, published her first short story "Lingua Franca (Carmen's Envy)" a week later. Her thesis is still in the works, but I think this story will make the final cut.

Nob 14, 2009

Sore House

We were going to Stuart's performance, but we decided to dye Marci's hair as a prelude, and things went, um, well, slightly wrong.

I'm not sure "wrong" is the right word; depending on your tastes, it could be described as anything from "way cool" to "horrifyingly awful." Marci wanted to dye her hair platinum white, so we hit a local drugstore, realized that dark hair took at least two strong agents to dye white, brought both of them and gave it a try.

Her hair turned bright orange.

I am now dating Ronald McDonald.

We did not go see Stuart perform.

Ken Wilber
Diary entry
November 14, 1997


The circle is closed. No sense dodging now, we've all been shot. The mother also contracted the baby's eyes. What a way to kick off the semester, with all eyes red and swollen. Meanwhile, we're still crippled without household help. I asked E-, the least bourgeois in the faculty, if that's normal or if under the circumstances we ought try to work it out between the three of us. He said an attempt to wing it without help would be ideal but impractical. We were both working and the infant won't quit asking for 24 hours. He's right, I know, we can't risk the child on account of courage or foolhardiness. He's prudent. I'll kiss him on the eyes next week.

Nob 13, 2009

Sore Eyes

Other things, too, made revelry difficult; for, at the gathering of this stupendous harvest, too many of the sowers were not there. Even when you win a war, you cannot forget that you have lost your generation.

Sir Alan 'Tommy' Lascelles
Diary entry
November 13, 1918


My eyes are down as well. I hope I can still squeeze some work out of them.

I'm quite pleased to produce a shorter list of grudges. My students remain safe, of course, as long as I have peers and superiors to take the heat. In that sense I'm glad they crossed me. I'm contagious, and all it takes is a handshake.

This one student. I hope this one student gains entry to the faculty. No obligations or loyalty checks. Just someone decent to have lunch with.

Nob 11, 2009

Feast Day

I lunched with Admiral Kelly who can has come from Ankara. There is a story that he and his brother once had a quarrel and shortly afterwards met in Bond Street. They passed each other silently with their noses in the air but one of them came back, tapped the other on the shoulder and said, 'Excuse me, but am I right in thinking that your Father married my Mother?'

Countess of Ranfurly
Diary entry
November 12, 1943


I am quickly learning the cruelty of the phrase "cutting corners." It's not happy here, standing before the business end of the scissors. Meanwhile, there's a fiesta in the old town. My parents have prepared seven dishes. Can't smell a whiff.

Nob 10, 2009

Downers

And so it was, our unhappy fears were confirmed; when Daddy did the stove the following morning the clip used for fastening was found among the ashes. Not a trace of the gold nib was found. "Must have melted and stuck to some stone or other," Daddy thought.

I have one consolation, although a slender one: my fountain pen was cremated, just what I want later!

Anne Frank
Diary entry
November 11, 1943


Still not out of loserville. Can't deny, can't euphemize. My wife remarked how strange it was that being down was a comfort zone. I've failed so many times. This fact has been a source of anxiety, vanity, and drive. Yet this new experience: to fail as a family. I don't know how to wrap my head around it yet. Even the kid is down! Anyway, I'll meet my classes tomorrow. I'll devote this night to prepping. But if I screw tomorrow up as well, I would not be surprised. That's why it's a comfort zone: when you're down you can humiliate yourself with a straight face. God help my students.

Calling in Sick

Gonzalo's vision is affecting mine. Before I knew Gonzalo, dinner at Maxim's with wealthy people was an aesthetic experience. The place all in red, sensuous plush, exquisite crystals, candles, crockery, the courtesy of waiters, the elegance and beauty of the dresses. I never really saw the people close up. I saw them as one sees a Viennese waltz in a film or on a stage. Crystal chandeliers, music, animation, rhythm. Lyrical moments. This time my eyes opened and I saw their faces, their gestures, saw expressions I had never noticed. The rich and the noveux riches, the aristocrats and the tycoons. I saw irony, arrogance, greed, malice, mockery, self-satisfaction, shallowness. And when I questioned the value of each person at the table as individuals, I could not find any.

Anais Nin
Diary entry
November 1936


I begin the semester with little unspeakable illnesses as well as fresh set of grudges. How is it mathematically possible that, for three years now, I've been shedding friends at a much faster rate than I gain them and yet I still have this good handful left? I can type their names here, it won't take 2 minutes. But I fear that if I do that, I will - by way of word-magic - lose them.

Nob 9, 2009

I, Menial

Walked to my brother's, where my wife is, calling at many churches, and then to the Temple, hearing a bit there too, and observing that in the streets and churches the Sunday is kept in appearance as well as I have known it at any time.

Samuel Pepys
Diary entry
November 9, 1662


Yesterday, the grandmother contracted sore eyes. My family and in-laws went to St. Therese. I stayed home for the chores. My how they still manage to pile up on you despite all the hours you've already put in. Life is not a fool's errand, I reminded myself. Chores are not without satisfaction though. When you've built up enough momentum, you actually want to find more work - any plate or room that needs cleaning up. Steriliza what? Where's a loose screw? The child was asleep when they got home. They said she sang along with everybody else's Alleluia.

Nob 8, 2009

The Old Drum

There happend this Weeke so thick a Mist and fog; that people lost their way in the streetes, it being so exceedingly intense, as no light of Candle, Torches or Lanterns, yielded any or very little direction: I was my selfe in it, and in that extraordinary danger, robberys were committed betwene the very lights which were fixt between Lond: and K[e]nsington on both sides, and whilst Coaches and passengers were travelling: and that was strange, it beginning about 4 in the afternoone was quite gon by 8, without any wind to dissipate it. At Thames they beate drumms, to direct the Watermen to make the shore, no lights being bright enough to penetrate the fogg.

John Evelyn
Diary entry
November 8, 1699


A message from my sister came in yesterday: "While Neneng's ninang is shuttling from clinic to ayala to PGH... I yearn for weekends with blaring band music waking us up. Simpler times."

She was referring to the Sunday mornings of our youth when my father played marches top volume to wake us up. If them horns were not enough, he'd come stomping up to the bedrooms shouting: What do you think you are, pensionados?

Good times, good times. Incidentally, father was asking about his grandchild and I said that she was diagnosed sore eyes, and even with the meds the virus would have to run its course - a week, at most - before she gets better. I told him the tables have turned. The ophtha said we would have to wash our hands after carrying her. She's contagious.

We were relieved. Because of the allergy and the insect bites that had happened recently to that same eye, we were already imagining her blindness.

We had always been on guard, always expecting she'd pick off some germ or fever from us, but this time she's the bully with the virus. And my father rubbed it in, remarked on the beauty of the situation, how funny it would be to see a dad infected by a baby. Now we could laugh it off. Listen, these are the times.

Nob 7, 2009

Matching Type

Sent off some proofs and corrections to Pantheon at 10 A.M. and joined the von Leydens for a visit to their simming-pool club where Westerners and Indians (the latter, mostly Parsees) were sitting around under parasols. At the table next to the one at which we settled there was a company of Hindus, including the young woman who turned out to be the sister of Rama Mehta. When she heard my name she said, "You are a friend of my sister. I am reading your book. It is inscribed, 'To Rama, with love...'!" Apparently Rama and her husband will be coming to Bombay next week.

Joseph Campbell
Diary entry
November 7, 1954


The family was invited to the birthday party of an elder coleague. We had to miss it. We three passed the front of her house, and we probably would've walked much faster if I hadn't been carrying the child at such a slope. The child was mostly the reason why we had to skip the party. Her eyes were sore again and we wanted to make an appointment with the doctor for the weekend, but before that, I felt we had to close the deal with the new household help. We were off to meet the candidate.

Our house is far from tiptop, the electricity needs to be fixed, the child's room hasn't been cleaned for weeks, bulbs busted here and there. The toilet could use a new faucet. It's not a total mess, but we're not comfortable with it. My wife dressed the child up with an ensemble in mind, but because a shoe was missing here and a sock missing there, we had to resort to violet shoes to go with her orange and yellow outfit. We failed to take the wind into account, so when we noticed it, my wife plucked the nearest pair of baby glasses which was pink. The only hat that the child would tolerate (even this only partially, and with some thorough negotiation) was violet and white with a sunflower sewn in. Her bib was green.

She's a baby I know, she'd get away with motley or worse, but since I was never avant-garde nor a practicing clown, I felt like an irresponsible parent. Anyway we met the candidate. I was not sure if she was forthright, but even if she were I didn't think she's a fit. I don't consider myself too meticulous in these types of choices - and with classes opening next week, we can't afford to be - but even then, the things she presented disturbed me.

The child's asleep in the cleanest room. We'll meet the doctor later.

Nob 6, 2009

Mirror

I spent the whole evening sitting before a mirror to keep myself company.

Cesare Pavese
Diary entry
November 6, 1938


Doses of true nostalgia since the sem break began drawing to a close. There's a buildup like you won't believe. I say "true" because we drones of literature have many ways of faking or provoking nostalgia. And when we do succeed, when we do feel something, some of us hesitate to call it the real thing. I don't know. It's just feels more genuine to dream when you're asleep, to cry when you're suddenly hurt, and to be hit by nostalgia when you're unawares.

Semestral breaks are so notorious for nostalgia that it's been sung. Anyway, in my case this year, it's late in coming. I must have avoided it somehow because of the tasks required by the division, the organization, and the child. It still managed to creep in though, from the cold wet soil as it were and sometimes with such violence that I had to hit my temples.

Before the Soul's Day, the child kept us busy, grossly entertained, and exhausted. I texted my father about this. Good, that's the way things should be, he replied.

Nob 5, 2009

Speaking Engagement

Gonzalo has definitely entered into his activities as an agitator, writer, talker, leader of eighty South American intellectuals. He is close to Pablo Neruda, to Jose Bergamin. I heard Neruda read his own poems. Jose Bergamin, a Catholic philosopher, is trying to balance Catholicism on one hand, and Marxism on the other.

Gonzalo's passion about politics, his vehement speeches, his sincerity are not without effect on me. I was won over to his Marxism.

"Strange," said Gonzalo, "that even though you were so far from all this, it was you who urged me to fulfill myself, and brought on my desire for action."

Anais Nin
Diary entry
November

E was showing off his new website. He had time on his hands, he said, he was convalescing during the sem break. It was his birthday two days ago, by the way. I think he's happy that he got an extension for his grant. On the other hand, I want to be done with my book as soon as possible.

For once, we're up before my aunt. We're all up, in fact, the child, my mother, and my wife. They woke up in that order. Last night, I remember noting tears on my wife's face while she was sleeping. It was about a dream, she said. Then she said some more.

I brought home the work of my three advisees. I wish to use these theses as the subject matter of my speech on the 5th of December. I'm preparing this early because the organizers wrote that they expect a full paper. Also, I have to reacquaint myself with the courses I'll be handling this semester. I should hear at least a whisper of this speech in my head before the end of this week. It just occurred to me: December 5, 2009 will be the 2nd death anniversary of my own thesis adviser.

Nob 4, 2009

Patch

In the morn to our own church, where Mr. Mills did begin to nibble at the Common Prayer by saying 'Glory be to the Father,' &c., after he had read the two psalms: but the people had been so little used to it, that they could not tell what to answer. My wife seemed very pretty today, it being the first time I had given her leave to wear a black patch.

Samuel Pepys
Diary entry
November 4, 1660

The wind has stopped, but the chill will descend upon the day one way or another. It's the season. I have been doing a lot of leisure reading on the computer screen. This drains me, probably even the people around me. The justification exists: no reading is leisure in my line of work, each page is necessary. It's thin, but I subscribe to it. I have no alternative to distraction. The child called for me, my wife had just reported. But I heard it. I shall watch the child deal with the bottle.

Nob 3, 2009

Downspout

To give me something new to begin with as well, Daddy askeed Koophuis for a children's Bible so that I could find out something about the New Testament at last. "Do you want to give Anne a Bible for Chanuka?" asked Margot, somewhat perturbed. "Yes--er, I think St. Nicholas Day is a better occasion," answered Daddy; "Jesus just doesn't go with Chanuka."

Anne Frank
Diary entry
November 3, 1943

Lights are on again after most of the weekend dependent on candles. The semestral break has come to a close. It was much too brief for me, but I got to clean the gutters. Mae and Dad left yesterday. We sent Ate off before lunchtime. The child said her Ninang's name 4 hours after she left.