When Poets Become Fascists—or Why Ilokano Creative Writing Needs Redeeming
By Aurelio Solver Agcaoili
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
The worse thing that can ever happen to poets is when they turn into monsters, when little successes get into their heads and their hearts become so swollen they could not longer recognize their wraith-like images.
They forget that they belong to a community of imagination even as they insist they are themselves imagination itself.
They become fascists, declaring to all and sundry that henceforth, they only belong to one and only one gang, one fraternity, one tribe, one closed society of the elite.
A, they murder the metaphors of freedom.
They declare the death of the imagination going wild, untrammeled, unhampered, unrestrained--that imagination that allows the eros to take the hand of thanatus, tame it the way daemons are to be tamed so that the moral life, the good life, the virtuous life can come about.
The poet who is a fascist does not know poetry at all.
His poetry is one of fakery, not knowing where meanings begin and similes end.
And he becomes the charlatan of verses, declaring to all listeners that henceforth, dictatorship is a most virtuous act.
Does this explain why during Martial Law, many of those respectable poets sold their soul to the devil because the devil knows how to pay, and knows exactly how much is the cost of the soul of a poet willing to prostitute his art or what passes for one?
History is not necessarily blind--it just does not rattle off names nor namedrops the compadre and comadre connections--and the literary history of the Ilokano people will one day uncover the corruptions of the pretending poets in their own midst.
One day soon--and we must all understand that history is an unruly master.
We should include here the accounting of literary awards given to those who do not deserve the accolade because (a) one does not have a body of writing to speak of and (b) one does not have the aesthetic resonance to merit a title that insults the intelligence of the ordinary Ilokano writer.
We are in the age of self-redemption and it is high time we redeemed ourselves as a people.
Our minds have been lobotomized by pretenders pretending to be poets but cannot even distinguish a metaphor from a useless rant.
We have allowed so much of this mindlessness in our writing--and it is high time we said, "Enough!"
And if we cannot say, "Enough!” we have no business appending the descriptor to our name and raking in--cornering is the more appropriate term--all the honors that should be given to the more deserving writers and not to those who know how to put on that posturing of being a good writer because one has a powerful padrino in the nook and cranny of Ilokano writing.
We have the past to learn from.
And we must learn quickly and fast.
This lobotomization of our minds by pretending poets raises many questions.
Does this explain why during Martial Law, so many of the Ilokano writers remained mum, unable to see summary killings, for instance, where these killings were to be seen in the light of day?
Does this explain why many of the writers remained beholden to a 'golden age' of illusion and delusion of grandeur?
You are being warned, you poet who know what poetry is all about: This illusion and pretense comes in full circle today, with the prospect of declaring a swearing in and oath-taking ceremony for the elite of poets of our people--the poets who are not necessarily the brilliant ones as they make out themselves to be but just mere second-rate copycats of other second-rate copycats.
The charlatan is back, and in his empty rhetoric is the gangster in his word.
As I write this piece, there is this pang of rage in my heart.
So here we go again, back to the age of illusion and delusion, and some of our writing leaders are not even our best examples of what committed writing is all about.
Ilokano writing as an incestuous, an anomalous, and a compadrazgo relationship continues. Where has that decent and dignified--decent because dignified--Ilokano writing gone?
When can we ever learn?
What are we to do to learn?
What do we do when the poets become themselves the despots?
What do we do when writing becomes a club of people giving awards to each other so that their names would be etched in the memory of the morons and idiots and imbeciles of the land?
What do we do when they begin to arrest our capacity to create tropes to account our broken hearts and equally broken souls?
Let the swearing in come about, like the ceremony of the tribe that knows only of itself and thinking only of itself as the best crap in town.
We can only say our congratulations and send them the facsimile of our sad lines.
No titles for them, please, not even a memory of regret.
And no RSVP for coming in late in the day, for not knowing that dictatorship and despotism can twine with writing, Ilokano or not Ilokano, Ilokano or much, much more.
The road to Damascus has that famous question which we ask now, "Quo vadis, qou vadis, Ilokano writing?"
There is no love lost here--not when poets become fascists.
Add this: they are the Pharisees, the high priests of Ilokano writing, with their penchant for self-righteousness because, well, they have the awards given by their powerful friends.
"What are we in power for?" is no longer the mantra of abusive politicians; it has become the code of misconduct of people whose ambition is to buy respectability through their awards given by their friends in a manner that is reminiscent of feudal values, of tribesmen stroking each other, of courtiers on the lookout for ways to appease their common friends.
But there is no price for respect, much more, self-respect.
All medals not deserved must, therefore, be returned.
More so when poets on the take and thus masquerading as one have turned fascists because they have not learned to turn a phrase into something appealingly poetic.