WRITTEN BY CLUTCH Vol. 5 PARTICIPANT, JOANNA DELOS REYES
For the eighth session of Clutch’s scheduled workshop days, we met up with word wizards Shirley Camia, Patrick de Belen and Leonard Cervantes. Len started with a fifteen-minute history lesson--a brave attempt, given the rich history of Filipino creative writers. This was followed up by a question and answer session with Patrick and Shirley. Both working wonders with words, they shared the variety of ways one pursues poetry: Shirley is a page poet and Patrick a slam poet--from warm and personal to something charismatic with a hint of theatrics, or to use Len’s words, "from the page to the stage". They also encouraged us have confidence in the work we've created and as time draws near towards our exhibition in August, it was important to hear those words.
It was not until later in my university career that I was introduced to writing by Audre Lourde and Gloria Andaluza. It was not until Saturday's workshop that I heard about Edith Tiempo and Jose Garcia Villa. It is interesting how the way we write has been effected by colonialism: it effected the way with which words and language can be manipulated and how rhyming was is in fact an entirely western construct.
I have been subjected to the obvious allure of American beatnik writers: the constructed image of their hedonistic, chain smoking, bourbon, gin drinking, love affair kind of ways. If there is one thing I would take out from the day's talk, poetry is more than that. It is more than rhyming schemes and stanzas and unrequited love; it has a history that runs deeper than the westernized history I was exposed to most of my life in the Canadian school system. Seen in the works of Francisco Balagtas and the art of the Balagtasan, poetry can be used as a form of resistance and liberation. I was surprised to learn that Balagtasan was essentially what we would call Filipino free style battles now. This stuff is in our history and in our blood and no matter how timid you are to confess that you’ve written or just wanted to spit out a verse here and there, as humans we have a capacity to communicate and language is one way we do this. With poetry, verse, and song, it brings new life and even meaning to the way we use words.