from 'Children of the Snarl & Other Poems'
(Aklat Peskador, 1988)
1987. It was the year after Marcos made his exit and the year before the publication of Children of the Snarl & Other Poems. It was also the third time I joined the Don Carlo s Palanca Memorial Awards Literary Contest. I had won second place the previous year. Rio (Virgilio Almario) gave me a call at my office in Makati, to invite me to lunch to discuss something "important" with Freddie. Rio was then editing Abante, the sister publication of the Independent, of which Freddie was editor-in-chief (the previous year they were both on the editorial board of the Observer). Both newspapers held offices in a building along Quezon Ave., on the floors above Ginza Sauna. So lunch was at La Dianne, a few doors away. (Independent folded up by yearend.) Rio and I, if I remember right, each had half of the famous Chicken a La Dianne, while Freddie, who was famous not only for his poetry and crystal clear prose but also for his heft, consumed one whole chicken. I can't recall if they broke the news during or after lunch, but I drove back to my Makati office floating on air. My entry at Palanca, titled "Portraits, Pictures, Protestestations, Protests" had won first place. Freddie had chaired the judging panel. It was the important thing we were going to discuss. From that entry and two previous ones come the poems in Children of the Snarl. It's my first book, so allow me to reproduce in full the introduction from the late and much-lamented Alfrredo Navarro Salanga. In his inimitable style, it is very generous. And this is also in his memory, on the 2oth anniversary of his death on October 15.
A folk gothic sense pervades Marne's poetry. It is an overpowering sense, such as I have not come across in a long time and which I have not found in many of the poets of his generation who continue to write in English. I say overpowering and not simply powerful. That distinction is crucial in Marne's case because his poems do not, as powerful poems do, hit you in the proverbial gut. His poems hit you in that region reserved for the mystic third eye, slightly above the bridge of one's nose, set directly in front of one's cerebrum. As it should, for this is where the poems ultimately grip the reader as they challenge the intellect.
That folk gothic sense is embedded in the images that he conjures. They are wild and lush and sometimes complex though not filigreed. Neither are they merely vegetative, and here's another crucial distinction. Imagery that is merely vegetative grows without the reader, straddles the borders of one's senses. Marne's images vegetate in the mind, live on in the imagination, latch on to one's consciousness and ultimately adopt a life of their own. Thus overpowering. They are absorbed through the senses, certainly, they provoke the underbellies of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. These are images that are concrete, palpable, alive.
Finally, they are folk gothic in the sense that they stir up what is latent in all of us--the dark, primeval, sensual pre-colonial beings that lurk behind our westernized colonial facades. Being folk gothic in that sense, they disturb us because they open us up to ourselves, make us see what we are deep down inside, the core that we suppress in the name of borrowed good and borrowed honor. Thus subversive. These poems subvert our ordered view of life, the harmony we lull ourselves by.
How Marne has managed this we will never really know. Like the unassuming poet who labored long at Lloyd's of London, he will probably remain as enigmatic. A quiet person whose poems explode. A powerful poet because his poems overpower us. A dangerous poet because his poems subvert our mannered visions of ourselves as quiet fellow travelers on this earth.
Alfrredo Navarro Salanga
1 April 1986
Feast of the Seven Sorrows of
the Blessed Virgin Mary