New Poems: "Beauty Hankering for Memory"

My recent work has been mainly in the so-called ekphrastic poetry—poems on, about, or inspired by the non-verbal arts like painting, sculpture, music, or in our time, photography. Like any schoolboy, I could draw before I could write, and my first love was art. I always thought I would be a painter someday because my eldest brother drew for a Manila comic book company for a time. I did not. These recent group of works (started here in there in the first three of my books) are thus a compensation of sorts. The poems are mainly on Filipino art (although I couldn't ignore foreign or classical works I've always loved), because Filipino art has always been a rich and exciting sphere, and perhaps few from elsewhere know the excellence being produced by our artists, some of whom are my friends. Here, then, are some from, for, and about Jose Honorato Lozano, Luna, and Hidalgo, and up to the latest National Artist for the Visual Arts, Benedicto "Bencab" Cabrera, among others.


And what possibilities for poetry! You won't know how much I enjoyed (or agonized) writing the poems. Leonardo da Vinci (who was a also critic, like most Renaissance artists could have any one or two or more things to say, or practice, about art), called this part of rhetoric the enargia, the powerful description that vividly recreates something or someone, from the Greek for "visible, palpable, manifest." It sounds so much like our modern word energy, which is what the two arts, in the case of ekphrasis, the visual and the verbal, exchange in their encounter, collision, or collusion (the agon or struggle). As I contemplated these paintings, with the energy of enchantment and delight (encanto y delicia), and pleasure and agony, I thought they were offering me these "verbal possibilities" that I had to realize. And if words are the incarnation of thought (the Word made clay), the paintings embodied "beauty hankering for memory." 


Consider this section a sneak preview for the new book I hope to complete from the poems.




A collage of Filipino art. Left column from top: Jose Honorato Lozano, Juan Luna, Gus Albor (leftmost), Santi Bose, Alfredo Roces, Dante Perez; right column from top: Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, F.V.Coching, Ang Kiukok, Pancho Villanueva, Julie Lluch (sculpture). And there are more. In the next pages, some of my poems based on some of these pieces.