This is for you, son, and to all the sons out there who are trying to find their piece of earth under the scorching sun.
It is late night here in this land of exile and I am supposed to go home and sleep the sleep of the just.
It has been a long day going through the motions of preparing for what could be the biggest gathering of all creative writers, scholars, and academic people from the Philippines, Japan, US, New Zealand, and Canada. It is our Nakem Conference and it is going to be next month and we are all frantic now trying to think clear thoughts about what we have yet to do. For many days, I created poems in my mind, no, I do not stop being a poet even if I do not post the poems in my blog.
I do not begin to be a poet either by thinking of myself as a poet but by looking at life with kind eyes, with caring eyes, with critical eyes.
I see many things anywhere, wherever I am and these that I see are the very stuff of what I write about.
They are all the nuggets of my poems, as in this endless banqueting that I have to attend to in Honolululand where the rule of the game seems to be one where we live to see and be seen, in banquet halls, in hotel halls, in ceremonial halls where self-respect and the act of buying it are also part of the ceaseless ceremony of self-actualizing pursued the wrong, unpoetic way. There are so many causes here, many causes that the people are prone to align themselves with. But many of these causes are the prosaic ones, one attuned to self-promotion, to self-advertisement. I have come from another part of this country, from some part of the Mainland where there, Pinoys do not go through the same motions as they do here but nevertheless eat up each other as well whole and entire. I have heard well-neaning friends say, as a result, and as their warning to me to cure my naivete: "Do not align yourself with these groups that are meant to buy people some sort of cheap self-respect, self-promotion, and self-advertisement."
I must tell you I have learned the hard way as well, and being a writer, in the Mainland and here, has helped me a lot in equipping myself with the skill to distinquish statements that are calculated for some form of argumentum ad populum for selfish reasons. I puke, and I cannot go home unless I am able to write about these to remind you of your duty to write and to write with integrity, honesty, sincerity. Write by not thinking of self-promotion, self-respect, self-advertisement. In effect, write with the humiity of the intellect, the mind, the heart, the soul, the spirit. Write with extra-sensitivity. All the other good things will be yours as a matter of consequence--not as a matter of purpose and motive and hidden intention. The humblest poet and creative writer is still the best poet and creative writer wherever he is. In my writing life, I have tried to follow this as my precept, my dictum, my golden rule.
Here, in Honolulu as in other places, it is the same thing, and it is also different, this foibles of people, writers or no writers. It is one of those universals of frailty, some form of fallenness from grace, if we see the perspective of some of the existentialists whose works you might have read. Ceteris paribus, you can look at redemption with kind eyes. Come to think of it--It is really how you look at the possible poetry of your daily life, one that is rooted in the way we come to terms with the here-and-now.
There is no escaping here, son, except to face head on the challenge of the metaphorical, the symbolic, the relevant, the meaningful. This is what poetic truth is all about, the truth that the person who writes is constantly pursuing.
There is sad poetry in all these that I see and I remind myself always. As I get to see more closely what flimsy fibers Pinoys are made of, I think of the redeeming poem that I can write.
There are writers here who are pretenders, and poets too who are prostitutes of phrases and the way we parse the beautiful and the truthful and thus, they are liars.
This is one thing that I am afraid of, son, when you told me you are going to finally heed the call of the wild, the strange, the unfamiliar--that you will take up the pen and try your hand at writing and take up the road less travelled and be ready to starve. I am afraid you will not have the strength to go hungry for some time. Nor do you have the ability of the stomach to erase the pangs of hunger at will as we struggling writers are wont to do each time we remember that we have yet to take our meal.
Now, I could have gone home to sleep but here I am writing this piece in the hope that you will see in this the duty what I feel about writing as a mission--this duty to write and not because I have taken the complex that says that I have been ordained to write. No, the sooner that you realize that we are just people who have the duty to write and that our identity is that we are a people who happen to write, the better for your soul.
I know you will make if you will try. Just persevere.