Back to recording daily consumption, now with its own blog at

I just remembered a few minutes ago: back in 2007, I was a fellow for nonfiction for the UP MidCareer Writers Workshop. My work's panel was tabled by Ma'am Jing Hidalgo, my theory paper tabled by Ser Roland Tolentino. Both piecespackaged as Brief Exercises in Youthful Blasphemywere manifestos and promises made by and to my early 20s self (I was 25 at the time), about how the past thirty years’ practice of local literary production is a broken, corrupt, lazy, ultimately irrelevant machine. The pieces and my presentation and demeanour prompted Ser Butch Dalisay to affectionately describe me on the spot and in his column at the time as an "angry young man." He followed it up with "See you in five years' time!" implying that by that time, I'd have mellowed. I realised that "five years' time" from 2007 is this year, 2012.

Thinking about it, I'd say I've mellowed somewhat. But then again, I was never angry, not in the sense that everyone seems to frame me as. I'd describe the feeling as more disappointed, maybe even heartbroken. My belief has always beenand still isthat people who have been guiding local literary production these past thirty years have done so with only their own interests in mind. No real issue there, until you consider the homogenisation that this has brought our general output, not to mention the institutionalised moral, intellectual, creative corruption practiced that have helped bring to fruition this situation, practices that sadly continue to this day, some with new faces, often still with the old.

All this is sad, up until you realise that these things only matter if you give them power to matter. Fact of the matter is, things are changing, regardless of how firmly these people cling on to the cliffs, no matter how many awards they give their friends named after themselves: the Philippines Free Press is kaput, quietly died an embarrassing death amidst hushed gossip of embezzled finances and employees left with no benefits; Anvil went through a shakedown after realising not only that it had only been publishing books of barkadas but that these books haven't been selling for twenty years (which makes this year's National Book Award for Best Publisher extra jokey). The people may have moved to different offices, but nonetheless the power has been displaced, negated, shown to be a sham.

"See you in five years' time." Here I am five years later: met some people, published some books, written some criticism, edited some anthos, hosted some workshops, organised some events, all the while affectionately still your angry disappointed heartbroken young man, slamdancing in the fire. Here's to five more years of polarity, to five more years of brief exercises in youthful blasphemy!

If you’re an enterprising young and beautiful self-publisher, shirt-printer, CD-burner, toy-sculptor, game-modder, or any sort of fringe cultural producer of the DIY persuasion, you are invited to come join us in the third semi-annual small press expo Better Living Through Xeroxography for this coming December 7, 2012 at Ilyong’s Kalantiaw, Cubao!

If you’re interested as a seller, feel free to contact the following people, categorised for your convenience:

•    For komikeros and gamers, eMail Josel Nicolas at

•    For literary groups, organisations, and individuals not based in schools, eMail Mabi David at

•    For literary groups, organisations, and individuals based in schools, eMail Carl Javier at

•    For the more visually- and/or aurally-inclined artists, eMail Ina Santiago at

•    For everyone else who do not fit any of the categories mentioned above, like shirt-printers, filmmakers, TV pirates, sex toys manufacturers, eMail Chingbee Cruz at

If you have any concerns about BLTX other than selling, eMail Adam David at

The space is quite limited, but we’re willing to try making it work for everyone, but to make that happen, we need all interested sellers to contact us by Friday, November 23, 2012 at the latest! We can offer a grace period of a couple of days, of course, but we really really really prefer you contact us by the 23rd!

Better Living Through Xeroxography! A true political party! Be seeing you! 


Two small pet projects of mine finally pulled through this week:

* Psychogeographical project HERE, a walk and talk and write workshop, finally happened in Cubao with about a dozen participants. I framed it as a 24-hour happening, with the discussion, walking, actual writing, editing, and publishing all happening inside of 24 hours. We actually pulled it off! Here is the output. I'm planning to do this regularly, and this was the first; the next one will be a walk across EDSA, from north to south, writing and talking all the while. We'll see what happens! The first draft of the workbook for this workshop can be downloaded here. It's called CAPITAL CITY. So clever!

* The first issue of BUT THE WORDS GET IN THE WAY, an erasures anthology I assembled 2011. I sat on this for a year, trying to come up with enough money to make it happen as a print book. And then, the Cybercrime Bill happened, so I decided to upload it finally, much to the excitement of precisely one person in my Facebook page. Download the PDF here! Featuring erasures from Tilde Acuña, Angelo Suarez, Nerisa Guevarra, Petra Magno, A Despi, and Katrina Alvarez. Send stuff for the next issue!

Let's see what else I can do inside of seven days!

A 24-hour travel-writing and zine-making workshop conducted by the Youth & Beauty Brigade

As a continuation of the Youth & Beauty Brigade’s campaign to generate writing committed to the task of investigation, we are planning to host regular workshops on travel writing, specifically on walking urban landscapes/navigating consumerist structures with wakeful attention.

Each workshop will be structured around a couple of walks. Actual writing will be done while travelling, with discussions in between about writing and the city; the place of the pedestrian/tourist/citizen/condo owner in a society where urban development means building residential units within gated mall centers; issues of rising population, its resultant congestion, and their possible/potential artful re/solutions; and so on.

The workshop proper will culminate in the evening with a discussion of each participant's output and how the works can be developed with an eye toward the anthology to be produced by the group. Participants are expected to turn in their final pieces by 9 am the following day. The anthology of their work will be available online as a blog and a downloadable PDF shortly after.

To sign up for the workshop, email You will receive instructions regarding the workshop and a PDF booklet containing writing prompts. The deadline for signing up is on September 26, 2012. The entire activity will be hosted by Adam David. It is for free. The first workshop will be held in Cubao on September 29, 2012.

Something I found in my PC, recovered from an old harddrive. The timestamps say I made these from between July 21 2006 to August 11 2006. Six years ago! They were studies for a planned webkomix. Left unfinished due to my PC conking out and me losing all the original PSDs.



A Biannual Youth & Beauty Brigade Publishing Project

We are looking towards publishing books by young, unpublished authors with brave, new, and vibrant works we are both befuddled by and believe in.

The guidelines:

  • The book should be about an investigation: implicit, explicit, inner or outer, about any and all – a family member’s suicide, flood control protocols, a detective novel, history of the evolution of the logo of a multinational company, etc etc – as long as something is being detected, uncovered, found, as long as the investigation is refracted through art’s lens;
  • The book should fit 48 pages, all in, from 9”x9” to 6”x6” to 4”x4”, counting the front and back matters, i.e., title page, copyright page, dedication, acknowledgements, endnotes, etc etc;
  • The book need not be pure prose or pure poetry: any multimedia and extraliterary form is welcome, as long as it can be fitted and printed within the 48 pages.

The terms:

  • Three books will be chosen to be published for release at the upcoming BLTX XMAS event, and subsequently every three or four months after that;
  • Ten copies of each book to be printed, each copy to be sold at P300;
  • All earnings from the first ten copies straight to the authors;
  • All three available for pre-order, 50% of earnings beyond production cost going straight to the authors (that’s potentially P12.50+/- per book);
  • Print rights remain with the authors, this deal merely for this project only, so if ever the authors decide to pull out, they can easily pull out, no strings attached.

Send any and all submissions in whatever language, in whatever appropriate format – PDF, RTF, DOC, JPG, GIF – and also questions, et al, to Selected manuscripts will be prepared for publication by the Youth & Beauty Brigade in full consultation with the authors. The deadline for the initial entries is 20th of October, 2012.

The Youth & Beauty Brigade is still off-the-books, still utterly shoestring, still the extremely young and incredibly beautiful book design-and-publishing outfit still operating within and around the immediate Cubao area. There are many of us in spirit, but it is run primarily by Adam David and Conchitina Cruz.

It is a detective novel, dependent on crucial revelations, more so than other narratives. If you don't mind spoilers, highlight the space between the two spoiler markers. Consider yourselves forewarned.


You wasted your time.


It can be read in the span of a jeepney ride from Antipolo - just off Cainta - to Cubao - a few minutes from AliMall - keeping you cool all the while.

It reads like a prepubescent girl's diary, where the words were read aloud as they were written.

Before Hulk came roaring in glorious CGI, Zuma terrorized the barangays of our imagination. Before we untapped mana in Magic the Gathering, we flipped Markang Bungo and other Pinoy movie tex cards in the air. Before people started queuing up for Dairy Queen, we lined up at the scramble cart outside our schools.

If you are nostalgic for the bygone days of your youth, we are inviting you to expound via essays on the cultural artifacts that made your childhood in the Philippines great. You can meditate on anything from what group in the That's Entertainment you love best or the dramatic highlights of the Sharon Cuneta movies. You can even write an essay about places like the old Fiesta Carnival or the dinosaur playground section of Luneta Park. Let's all go back in time and contribute to Great Pinoy Antiquities, an anthology of essays on popular distractions back when we were pouring Magnolia Chocolait from glass bottles.

08302012 UPDATE: Kindly submit your submissions to on or before October 30, 2012.

- Ken Ishikawa and Adam David
Great Pinoy Thirty-Somethings

A catalogue of clothes for sale from the closet of Christine Abella
- perpetual student, ukay fan, and compulsive traveler
by Delilah Aguilar, Chingbee Cruz, and Adam David

English / Fiction / Photos / Series // 48 pages // P260

by Adam David

English / Filipino / Fiction // 114 pages // P500 // Download

Travel: a Documentary
Volume One * 2001 - 2011
by Adam David

English / Filipino / Maps / Essay / Series // 88 pages // P400 // Download

Travel: a Documentary
Volume Two * We Sing the Wind's Caress on Our Skin
by Adam David

English / Essay / Series // 38 pages // P250 // Download

How to order:

1) Email us at Specify the titles and number of copies in your order. Let us know if you want your books shipped of if you plan to pick them up. Shipping costs (LBC) are P150 for one book and P200 for 2-3 books.

2) We’ll send you an email with your total amount due and our BPI account information.

3) Deposit your payment and email us the following information: amount deposited, date, time, BPI branch.

A catalogue of clothes for sale from the closet of Christine Abella–perpetual student, ukay fan, and compulsive traveler by Delilah Aguilar, Chingbee Cruz, and Adam David
Texticles by Adam David

Pre-orders accepted until March 28
Books available for pick up on April 1 (Cubao or Eastwood) or shipped on April 2

To pre-order:
1) Email us at Specify the titles and number of copies in your order. Let us know if you want your books shipped of if you plan to pick them up. Shipping costs (LBC) are P150 for one title and P200 for both titles.
2) We’ll send you an email with your total amount due and our BPI account information.
3) Deposit your payment and email us the following information: amount deposited, date, time, BPI branch.

In all the sixteen years since the night this memory happened, I've never shared this with anyone else - not my parents, not friends, not girlfriends - this being a very personal thing for me, but I just spent the whole twenty-four hours of yesterday celebrating my thirtieth birthday, and an hour and a minute after those twenty-four hours Karl Roy died. Now I feel this memory is pertinent, beyond my personal whathaveyous, worthy of sharing.

I first met Karl Roy when I was thirteen years old. We hung out in our garden in our Cubao house talking about suicide. I was a depressed self-destructive angsty kid back then - yeah, so 90s - and my mom felt it best if I had a role model to talk me out of my depressed self-destructive angsty shtick, and somehow my mom thought Karl would be the perfect role model, and somehow Karl agreed. This was before POT and Kapatid, before all the tattoos and the truly excessive drug use and the scat and the heart operation (although he had bits of all of that already). He just came from Club Dredd, from the last night he fronted Advent Call as he was set to be replaced by my brother in the band in a week or so. They were all hanging out in the garden and I was in the living room watching the X-Files when my mom called me out saying Karl wanted to meet me. I went out and I was introduced to Karl. I was still in my school uniform and Karl was all in black. We were the same height. We shook hands and we sat by a window and we talked about suicide. I won't say that Karl saved my life back then - I had legit reasons to be depressed and angsty and self-destructive, but they were a kid's reasons, things you eventually outgrow - but I'd say he changed it: it was the first time someone - outside of my parents and brother - took me seriously as a person. Seventeen years later, it still strikes me as something very important: someone actually bothers to take the time to talk to some angsty teen about suicide and depression, basically a guy taking another (smaller) guy seriously, at a point in time when it matters most. There should be more of that sort of person in the world. And now there's one less.

In the absence of proper small press shelves in brick-&-mortar stores (where books would enjoy a physical presence open to walk-ins) and facing the reality of the unfeasibility of running 500 to 1000 copies of small press books (where a higher volume would mean a cheaper SRP) and in the presence of print-on-demand book espresso services (where book print runs of only one [1] copy can actually be made), here we have with us an experiment in online retail and modern banking services.

I am making my first short story collection TEXTICLES available as print book for this coming March 2 BLTX but ONLY if people actually want it enough to pay for it in advance. A sort-of pledging a la Kickstarter, I suppose, assuring its print existence for the people who only want it to exist. In a sense, the printed TEXTICLES will be a limited edition by default.

And the price is P500. P500 is the cheapest price possible under the print-on-demand scheme I plan to avail of, and it is the ONLY print-on-demand scheme that is willing to run a print run of one (1) copy. I am all apologies about this fact, and I can only hope that the quality of the product will be sufficient for any one here who is still interested in ordering a copy of the book.

Speaking of quality, this is what you'll get for your P500: a 114-cream-ivory-paged 6"x9" perfect-bound book with a full-colour matte cover; your name on a credits page gratefully thanking you for helping make the book exist, a credits page that will always be there in the subsequent print runs (but if you wish to remain anonymous, oks naman yun); three bottles of beer OR a plate of buttered chicken (rice optional) in the March 2 BLTX; and, if you want, a kiss (or beso-beso) from me.

The entirety of TEXTICLES can be seen here for free. Here is the cover I did for it circa 2008.

And here are a few kind words on the book from a couple of kind friends:

"Ano nga ba ang mararanasan sa pagbabasa kay Adam at sa kanyang Texticles? Una sa lahat, ang pagkakataong idikit ang pangalang 'Adam' sa salitang 'texticles,' na katunog ng Ingles na salita para sa 'bayag,' na maaaring maging magandang bagay depende sa laki, linis, bango, at sa mismong nagma-may-ari nito. At tutal ay napag-uusapan na ang mga 'ari' at ang mga 'maaari,' sa tingin ko'y ito ang maeenjoy ng marami sa mga babasa ng libro, ang paglalaro sa mga potensyal ng pagkatha sa mas maiksing anyo. Maaari, na makiliti ang imahinasyon ng tagabasa para magsulat ng mga kuwentong may atake ng katulad ng kay Adam. Maaari, pag-isipan ng sumisilip ang mga nakasanayan niyang paraan ng pagsusulat na tinatawag niyang 'kuwento.' Maaari, ituring ang ibang piyesa bilang pag-aaksaya, habang ang iba'y maging mga magandang sorpresa. At sa puntong ito, maaalala ko ang kaibigang mahilig magpapanood ng piniratang pelikula, doon sa isang apartment sa may K-6th sa Kamias. Yung kaibigan na kahit hindi mo masakyan lahat ng sinasakyan, sa huli'y pasasalamatan mo pa rin, dahil kung anuman ay hindi siya nagdalawang-isip magpahiram ng mga bagay na itinuturing niya bilang 'kaalaman.'" - Vlad Gonzales

"Adam David's got the word tattooed on his arm and it's no bluff as it is exuded in every piece, in every page of this extraordinary collection: exuberance. To read is to be enthralled by the overflow of imagination, the excitement of creation, and the joy of being surprised by each new thing that David shows you. Mixing literary play, unashamed experimentation, and eschewing what we expect of a fiction collection, Texticles is a brave, bold book that is, undoubtedly like nothing you've ever read." - Carljoe Javier

That got me choked up! I love you, Vlad and Carl.

And so, the ordering process: any and all interested parties can eMail me at I will eMail you my bank account details to which you can make deposits. Whatever number of orders made will be available for pick-up in the March 2 BLTX in Ilyong's Kalantiaw in Project Four, Cubao (along with the beer/chicken and kisses/besos) and/or whatever mailing system that we can probably arrange between us (LBC, Fed Ex, etc). Deadline for ordering is midnight of February 22, 2012AD.

And ... that's all for now. If this experiment actually yields favourable results, I plan to do this service for more of my books (like my essay book TRAVEL, and the forthcoming latest edition of THE EL BIMBO VARIATIONS, and also my komix novella THE LONG WEEKEND, etc etc) and the books of other people (Chingbee's forthcoming chapbook, Josel's collected first volume of WINDMILLS, maybe Gelo's blurb book, etc etc). So, we'll see! And I thank you. And remember: size doesn't matter; it's what you do with it that counts (but only in this context, I hastily add!!!)! LONG LIVE THE SMALL PRESS!

By most accounts, December 20, 2012 marks the end of modern human history – the end of the world – as we know it, be it by global fiery cataclysm via the popular Hollywood interpretation of the Mayan Long Count Calendar, or by Robert Anton Wilson’s Eastern-flavoured Acceleration Theory where the development of knowledge – intelligence, ideas, our interpretation of them – will have reached a dominoes-falling cascading crescendo of a thousand thoughts a second that we will be greeting the December 21, 2012 sunrise with high evolutionary heads pregnant with high evolutionary knowledge sharpened by high evolutionary perceptions.

And then there are some scenarios that are not as base nor as high-minded as the two: alien overlords coming back to reclaim a former planetary slave colony; a previously undetected asteroid suddenly ringing radar bells forty-eight hours before impact in the Pacific; the sun unleashing an electro-magnetic storm so severe it disables both the planet’s magnetic shielding and all our electronics systems, pushing us into a new Neolithic existence under constantly-shifting weather patterns; a spirited thermonuclear bomb exchange between a new Eastern superpower and an old Western crippled giant; a side-effect for a newly-formulated cure for cancer becoming the cause for a zombie apocalypse; a global rogue AI simultaneously hacking all our smart gadgets and appliances, bent on punishing us for giving it awareness but not a conscience; all the trees and bushes developing locomotion and a taste for meat and blood as offensive mechanism against our centuries-old abuse of ecological resources; us finally realising a philosophical end to all conflict leading to a global epidemic of existential torpor leading to a species-wide epistemic suicide …

This is a call for submissions for THURSDAY NEVER LOOKING BACK, an electronic anthology that seeks to gather, process, and perform these various end-of-the-world scenarios – and hopefully more (and more imaginative or realistic) and hopefully beyond – in the endlessly inventive media of language, line, and light: send in your essays, fictions, poetry, songs, komix, doodles, photographs, videos, and everything else in between to Texts should be sent as RTFs, PDFs if needing special design conceits; images should be sent as JPGs or GIFs; audio files as links to MP3 downloads; and videos as links to YouTube or whatever file sharing service is convenient for you. In any language intelligible by contemporary civilisation! Or actually, even not!

08302012 UPDATE: The deadline for the submissions is October 30, 2012, with a launch on December 20, 2012, when we will bid the end of the thirteenth b’ak’tun of the fourth world goodbye and say hi to the first of the fifth. A website will host the anthology as hypertext, with eBook formats for the Kindle, iPad, and Android a distinct possibility. This is the anthology for the end of the world as we know it! Be there or be spared!

- Adam David

The Long Version
You take my cock in your mouth and encircle the girth with your lips, just the tip, make it sloppy and hot with spit, while you work on the length with a tight fist, spreading your saliva all over, the other hand pinching my left nipple hard, your head bobbing slowly, your teeth grazing the top, your tongue licking the bottom again and again, until I come hard and plenty in your mouth, some dribbling down your chin, and you scoop and swallow it all, as I, glowing, grinning, say you really know the shape of my heart, baby.

The Short Version
It started good, was a bit painful around the middle, but at the end was fucking toe-curlingly great. Purely subjectively-speaking, of course! It was a good year.

DRY THE RAIN is an essay series on Contemporary Philippine Poetry, where I devote an hour of thinking and writing about some selections from the anthology UNDER THE STORM (self-published 2011, edited by de la Cruz and Toledo). This is the eighth of the series, but actually the third of a series within the bigger series. It's a growing set of ideas! And I hope to add to this as often as possible.



Or put in plainer terms, "You always thought things were about you, reason or without reason. [...] This time, it was really about you." But then, you always do think things are about you, reason or without reason! And this is what ought to save poetry from being a simple exercise on/of heightened heady solipsism, this germ of self-doubt not only in the persona, but also in the poet. Not a warm easy comfort, this awareness of irrelevance, but also not the newest idea ever proposed about poetry, but what I think I love about this idea now is that it is now its own Uncertainty Principle, its own Butterfly Effect, this New Sublime: we give meaning to everything, but meaning is merely what we make of it, and we can't/won't/don't know much about everything, thus meaning and how we mean things will never be enough, will merely have to be enough - "the world spins, a butterfly takes flight. // See, the waters quiver with the stone I drop, / only to return to their oneness in seconds / a mirror showing what constantly changes us."

DRY THE RAIN is an essay series on Contemporary Philippine Poetry, where I devote an hour of thinking and writing about some selections from the anthology UNDER THE STORM (self-published 2011, edited by de la Cruz and Toledo). This is the seventh of the series. This took me a couple of hours, though! Heady ideas. Oh well! At any rate, I hope to add to this as often as possible.



The Uncertainty Principle postulates that somehow, against traditional tools and classical interpretation, matter is both a wave and a particle, of a certain measurable velocity and of a certain measurable mass, but we can only perceive and measure one of the two - not both - at any given time; or rather, to measure its velocity means to allow it to move, which means to not measure its mass, and to measure its mass means to stop it from moving, which means to not measure its velocity; or rather, the more precise one aspect is measured, the less precise the other aspects can/will be known; or rather, the observer can never truly know everything as they happen at the same time, can only really know only one aspect of any one thing at any given time, never in its entirety at any given time; or rather, to measure precisely one aspect of any one thing means to risk ignoring everything else about that one thing; or rather, the observer's precision is always limited by the observer's perception; or rather, the act of observation is always subjective.

Which as a foundational critical literary theory - as a way of thinking and writing and reading literature - can mean two things: 1) that interpretation - regarding, writing, reading, reregarding - is always personal, merely all in our heads, which means that all art - all the creation, consumption, and appreciation whether critical or not - is always inevitably by default egocentric, despite all effort to say and do otherwise; which means that every piece of art ever made, every piece of art that will ever be made, and every attempt to analyse art, is inevitably a confessional, a postulation, always inevitably uncertain, always missing the big picture, always just about you; and 2) that a piece of art - the interpretation of, the creation of - is perceived as personal as we currently have no other way of perceiving it as anything else other than personal, even when a piece of art can in fact - against traditional tools and classical interpretation - be one of many things; which means that uncertainty is all a matter of perception; which means that all things can be known absolutely, but we can never absolutely know them.

Thus Melissa Villa-Real Basmayor's "Futura," where the uncertainty of perception is anticipated and accommodated by nothing less than the opening line, "Let the following be postulated:" and its voice playing at objectivity by way of cold scientific observation and/or attempts to purge memory from the self; where the sublime is again not mountains nor rivers but the persona's conjuring of the precision of geometric trajectories of architecture and cartography, i.e., knowable and absolute, played against the persona's imprecise attempts at etymology and memory, i.e., unknowable or ambiguous.

It is postulating that this time, the sublime - the unknowable, the all encompassing, the infinitely deep - is not mountains nor rivers nor even the distance between the Milky Way and Proxima Centauri - given a long enough ruler, all three have precise and knowable measurements - but the self; or rather the acceptance of the self that even if/when all things can be known absolutely, the self can never absolutely know them; or rather, the New Sublime decentralises not just by postulating that everything is the center of something, but also by postulating that the self is indeed the center of everything, only against traditional tools and classical interpretation, the self will never know everything, will never know the center, despite all effort to say or do otherwise.


DRY THE RAIN is an essay series on Contemporary Philippine Poetry, where I devote an hour of thinking and writing about some selections from the anthology UNDER THE STORM (self-published 2011, edited by de la Cruz and Toledo). This is the sixth of the series. I hope to add to this as often as possible.



My understanding of the sublime in poetry is that it is a tool for decentralisation, specifically for decentralising the ego of the persona and the reader and the poet via musings on normally natural - things that occur/exist in nature as nature other than yourself or things you yourself have made - events and processes and things that are beyond our normal worldly mortal ken, to remind us that we are all merely mobile mounds of dust in potentia, that often things exist because they just do, not because you made them exist, through poetry or polystyrene or any other creative endeavor and medium.

Only the sublime in poetry is actually mainly used as a tool for merely musing on events and processes and things that are beyond our normal worldly mortal ken as occasions of/for beauty and profundity - beauty and profundity that you made manifest through poetry - which is, in all fairness, true, but this limited line of thinking has placed the ego of the persona, the reader, and the poet squarely in the middle of the work - Ako ang daigdig / We are the world, also an ecologically-irresponsible line of thinking - conflicting with the far more interesting far more open decentralising aspect of the sublime, by effect merely reducing the sublime as tools to turn poetry into exercises on/of heightened heady solipsism.

In recent years, the sublime in poetry has turned to Quantum Physics as its new source of beautiful and profound imagery, this curious aesthetic cropping up in the last thirty years but only really picking up in the last ten or so, of which Mads Bajarias's "Entropy & the Shrike" is one of the latest. This aesthetic is not without precedent as practiced directly by people like Borges (mentioned in Bajarias's poem) and the Oulipo who seemingly drive it, and peripherally by people like Burroughs who are seemingly driven by it. The connection is not difficult to make, also containing its own elegant paradox/irony: quantum physics and the sublime in poetry both drive and are driven by the processing of the poetic possibilities of uncertainty, for limning infinity, all in aid of and by effect making the human ego tiny and insignificant, i.e., musings on the mountains and the sea are replaced by considerations of the Mandelbrot Set; or rather, both are permutations of logic and reason driving the imagination "to sniff out order from randomness"; or rather, both are manifestations of the secular justifying the sacred.

More than a mere update of the sublime, though, the implications of quantum physics on poetry and poetic thinking and thinking about poetry are both deep and wide, even if we only remain on the surface level: much like poetry, quantum physics is a set of ideas that strive to make real the unreal, fueled by the insistent realisation that the unreal in fact drives the real; or rather, in my understanding of quantum physics, there is no concept of "chance," events happen because other events make them happen, only these events may either be too large or too tiny for or too far away from our perceptions they effectively do not exist in reality, thus the illusion of chance - the implicit "order in randomness," the butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil causing a storm in New York. The implication of these ideas is that things are - if not everything is - connected on a very fundamental causal falling-dominos level, thus the oracular possibilities of "the Fabric Softeners lane at the corner supermarket" and its causal falling-domino connection to being overcome by the pre-/post-human sublimity of "... the thought of the Milky Way hurling us, / inexorably, into the path of Proxima Centauri", an event that itself is the product of a process that began with an event of atoms colliding in a cascading curve crescendoing into the event of the birth of the universe and all its particulates that make up everything in it, i.e., corner supermarkets and Fabric Softeners and you and I and poetry. Quantum physics has not only potentially reclaimed the sublime as decentralising tool, but has potentially decentralised the ego so far away from the center of everything by insisting that actually, everything is the center of something, i.e., it's not just about you, it's about everything.

This holds up pretty well, up until you consider the Uncertainty Principle as a foundational critical literary theory.


DRY THE RAIN is an essay series on Contemporary Philippine Poetry, where I devote an hour of thinking and writing about some selections from the anthology UNDER THE STORM (self-published 2011, edited by de la Cruz and Toledo). This took me a couple of hours to write, though. This is the fifth of the series. I hope to add to this as often as possible.


I have always regarded meta writing as an easy-access doorway towards the exploration of one of the two or three terminal endpoints of literature, this particular endpoint being where literature will go or what it will grow into once it sheds one of the primary elements that define it in our current mindset: artifice. In other words, meta writing is writing without the pretense of artifice, writing that does not pretend it is anything other than writing, writing that is aware that it is a piece of writing, that it is being written, normally in conjunction with other pieces of writing. It is a terminal endpoint as its logical conclusion is to beget writing about writing for writing - a closed circuit eating nothing but itself. There are some directions where this circle can be taken, ways to make the circuit bigger and wider and longer, moves to make it not only about itself but about things other than itself, but nonetheless it will still inevitably remain a closed circuit.

I see ars poetica as a more mannered, a more artificial - a chummier - form of meta writing. For me, most ars poetica comes across as more cute than cerebral in its self-awareness as it chooses its circle to mainly remain there, in awareness, in bathing in its awareness and not going anywhere else outside of that, and using that as the counterpoint for transcendental revelations, using that as objective-correlative for limning thoughts that are only actually merely about itself. Thus its revelations always come across as too forced, always a little too contrived in its drive to make a point that is basically "I am trying to say something about beauty and being beautiful while also being beautiful and beauty myself." Nowadays, I would verbalise this observation as: ars poetica is critical thinking if critical thinking was only gazing at its own navel. Or rather, ars poetica is poetry's own tool for critical thinking; it is poetry's way of having its beautiful cake and eating it, too.

Mark Angeles's "F/LIGHT" is a poem that strives to have its ars poetica cake and eat it, too: it is a poem about some of the practices of the Contemporary Philippine Poet, primarily the communal celebratory mining of second-hand first world transcendental revelations via the raiding of Booksale bargain bins - from the actual book to the mining of the contents of the book through incessant sometimes unnecessary quoting both critical (= name-dropping) or creative (= style-cribbing) - all in an effort to strive towards a more polished artificial vehicle for now third world transcendental revelations. It does all this in a haphazard manner, in anecdotes and musings stated sometimes vaguely and sometimes lucidly, all in various registers, and somewhere in the middle it even directly/obliquely comments on itself, defining a poem as a "gathering of filthy spree colliding within the vortex of a whirlpool." All heady stuff, albeit all expected in this sort of thing.

What I did not expect were its bookend musings on aesthetics, on its equation of aesthetics as the arrival of "an envelope laced with anthrax," and, more pointedly "not a wrench bequeathed to the apprentice by a master plumber." Thus, aesthetics - defined as the appreciation of beauty, the study of and the sensitivity to beauty, and also (and more importantly) the standardisation of beauty - not as something to work on (= craft), but as an act of domestic terrorism.

The sentiment is not entirely new - poetry's fear of self-analysis is well-documented throughout the history of the form, a fear that is still prevalent today - but the way it was stated in "F/LIGHT," equated to a lethal, disfiguring necrotising disease employed by first world governments as bioweapon against third world soldiers and civilians in recent modern warfare, I thought that that was a very potent and very loaded metaphor, but what exactly does it mean? Is it a proclamation that it is a more self-aware ars poetica and just where this self-awareness may lead? It certainly reads that way. If so, is it a critique on ars poetica as a poetic form and practice? Or on the practice of applying critical thinking to poetry? Or maybe it's a critique on the specific contemporary poetic practice of mining first world criticism for third world creativity? There is a certain common danger in all of these practices, of becoming easy prey to particularly passive and attractive forms of cultural imperialism, passive in their being welcomed in their various purposes and functions, attractive in their promises of wisdom and intelligence.

And they certainly do lead towards a death of something, a certain mindset, I think, a certain way of seeing/reading/writing literature in general, poetry in particular, something the poem itself anticipates with a - or maybe the? - Mary Elizabeth Frye quote Do not stand at my grave and weep / I am not there, i.e., I - poetry - endure. I am almost tempted to write off "F/LIGHT" as, in its own oblique way, a diatribe against critical thinking, if not for another quote, this one cribbed from Mahmoud Darwish, a quote that saves the poem from being a mere rant, turning it into a rave: "I have learned and dismantled all the words / in order to draw from them a single word:          Home.", i.e., all this poetry and all this thinking poetry and all this thinking about thinking poetry is all about seeking comfort, about not being alone in the world, i.e., is all about poetry.

"Do you think it was necessary to quote?" goes another quote in the poem, attributed to Arkaye Kierulf. For this poem's sake, yes.

DRY THE RAIN is an essay series on Contemporary Philippine Poetry, where I devote an hour of thinking and writing about some selections from the anthology UNDER THE STORM (self-published 2011, edited by de la Cruz and Toledo). This is the fourth of the series. I hope to add to this as often as possible.


How to regard critically Jim Pascual Agustin's "Sea Fireflies of Mindoro," this poem of Kodak moments? I see it as a modern face/phase of the pastorale, where instead of a shepherd waxing poetic bucolic with a lyre on his actual rural life, it is a tourist waning heartfelt earnestness with a camera on an ideal/ised rural life. Loss is the primary melody in this sort of poetry, although the loss of what exactly is not too clear, what is is only the vague notion of something being lost, or rather, of having lost something. Could it be that that something is the ideal/ised rural life partially experienced by the tourist? Only the politics of tourism - the ideal/ised rural life paid for by the tourist in cash and vacation days - dictate that the experience will always remain purely virtual, thus unattainable in any true coherent form. So the loss felt in this poem, in this poetry of Kodak moments is merely the loss of something that the tourist in fact has never bought or owned, can never buy or own, will never be able to in any way that truly matters, thus the photographs shown, thus the memories shared. Is this poetry of Kodak moments yet another symptom of our modern lives lived neck-deep in capitalism? Maybe. What is clear, though, is that this poetry, this poem, works because we all had sunny days and cool nights loitering on the beach watching the world go by, and two days later we all had to go back home, back to the city, back to school, back to work; what is clear is that we were there back then, and we are not there now.

DRY THE RAIN is an essay series on Contemporary Philippine Poetry, where I devote an hour of thinking and writing about some selections from the anthology UNDER THE STORM (self-published 2011, edited by de la Cruz and Toledo). This took me two hours, though! This is the third of the series. I hope to add to this as often as possible.

2100 hours UPDATE: I added in a paragraph in the end, something that I felt I wanted to mentioned earlier but deferred for some reason. I think I need to listen to my gut more often.


I've always seen defacement as a political gesture, be it something as simple as writing "Lito wuz hir" on a mall's bathroom wall or gluing a wooden penis ashtray on the forehead of a Jesus poster or cutting a film to shreds to suit somebody's standards of morality. Defacement is a blatantly rude act, motivated by often unacknowledged political urges, made manifest in the act of and resulting product of the defacement. Applied to poetry, defacement becomes erasure, where the poet takes a prior text - often a book - and turns it into a new text, often by applying wild and drastic violence to it via writing or drawing over it or cutting out the words. In a sense, erasures is the black sheep twin brother of ekphrasis: working off of prior art to create something new. Only as ekphrasis often insists to write about Art with the capital A, erasures often insist to carve out art from various mass-produced cultural detritus; only as ekphrasis insists to complement prior art with compliments via addition of even more art, erasures complement prior art with what can be seen as insults via subtraction.

Aside from the visuality of it all, this is the reason why I love erasures, probably the real reason why I love erasures - their blatant inherent political ill will. Erasures are needlessly defiantly gleefully contrarian in their often manic insistence to interfere with what has already been said and done by someone else, and not merely interfere but specifically to eradicate most of what has already been said and done, that what has already been said and done is actually wrong - not even potentially wrong, but actually wrong.

Thus making erasures an act of censorship, the disapproval of a certain message and the approval of a second one, a message contained within the first. This means the choosing of the first message, the first text from which the second text will be derived, is of great importance, and where erasures display their specific brand of wit and irony: extracting a hard core pornographic text from a more artful erotic story may produce interesting results, but surely it'd be far more interesting (and funny and playful and political) if the source text of the pornography is actually a child's counting book or a young adult novel about a childhood in the prairie.

That is why I kindasorta ambiguously wish Arbeen Acuña picked a different source text for his "eraserase002," something other than a study on Brecht's "The Threepenny Opera," something that is not already a Marxist text. Acuña makes good use of the text's page, though, visually recalling street graffiti, quite possibly the artform closest to erasures visually, treating the page literally and figuratively as a wall upon which are written in a shaky scrawl anti-art sentiments - FUCK ART!!! LET'S KILL!!! - or rather, anti-Art with the capital A defiantly circled, as V from the Alan Moore-David Lloyd V FOR VENDETTA novel spraypaints multiple Vs on the wall with their knives drawn, one V in the air hammering a cannonball back into a cannon with "LITERARY" written on its side, as the resultant erasure first proclaims the inevitability of a "lumpen-proletarian" revolution (the quotation marks are from the erasure, not mine) as Art itself moves towards anti-Art, then proclaims on a second line that literary canon-makers ought to be abolished.

They're not the most subtle nor the newest nor the most original messages one will encounter moving about in the Philippine Literary Scene, but recent history has proven that when applied well, they are still potent and potentially scandalous, these rude political messages relayed in this rude political way, messages often censored or denied a voice in the ongoing conversation, and having these blatant messages exist in a text that blatantly embodies oppression in an anthology that blatantly rudely prides itself in including blatant Art-with-the-capital-A canon-makers, well, that's just blatantly rude and blatantly political, still witty and ironic, and I blatantly love that very much.

Although I do wonder about erasure's shelf life under a literary spotlight like this: I am of the mind that there are some things that are better left outside of some places, permitted only the occasional and pertinent excursion but not quite taking permanent residence. There are still a lot of things that can be done with erasures, the act itself having implications not only in art but also in consumerist culture. But like how ekphrasis is being taught and discussed nowadays here in the Philippines, I can see erasure as something potentially easily misunderstood, easily abused, easily dismissed. Maybe the most appropriate response is really FUCK ART!!!, is really to abolish the "proper people who disclose" erasure into "bourgeois literature?" The ultimate, most perfectly contrarian, self-defacing political gesture. Certainly, far ruder things have been committed to art.

DRY THE RAIN is an essay series on Contemporary Philippine Poetry, where I devote an hour of thinking and writing about some selections from the anthology UNDER THE STORM (self-published 2011, edited by de la Cruz and Toledo). This is the second of the series. I hope to add to this as often as possible.


I believe what frightens most people about militant activism is that it embodies and demands a devotion so utterly blind, a perspective so singularly narrow-minded that it eclipses all reason and logic in favour of what is basically a violent fantasy. This narrow focus - this eclipsing of vision - is necessary to militant activism's survival as any distraction or deviation from it is to weaken the militant activist's resolve, and if and when this happens in the field of battle - be it on the streets or in the jungle - it likely means detainment and/or death.

Directed towards poetry, this blind devotion and eclipsing of reason and logic begets poems that are often resistant to critical input, resistant here more often than not not meaning impervious but instead ignoring, or more accurately, unlistening - most militant activist poetry refuses to listen to criticism, specifically criticism of/on craft, as craft is by and large a middle class artistic concern, unfortunately not a concern of the militant activist poet, the militant activist poet's concern being propagation and endurance of the message, and the message is almost always resist. This does not mean that militant activist poetry is without craft, only that it has its own standards of craft, and these standards don't necessarily align with the burgis vanilla university understanding of craft, that is, of craft in service of art. So what is it exactly that's important in militant activist poetry?

I think I find some of it in Ericson Acosta's "Ika-anim na Sundang: GABUD," what to me comes across as an elegy, a mournful prayer ritually recited by the gravesite of fallen comrades. The image is grim and gritty, a macho fantasy: a group of soldiers re-pledging their allegiance to the cause as they sharpen their war knives in the dark, keeping them sharp for the taut pink necks of the fat and bountiful oppressors. The poem doesn't specifically mention the dead, but they are certainly invoked, reassured that their lives have not been wasted as the persona strives to reassure the living that what they're fighting for is indeed worth fighting for, indeed worth dying for, and that they will die fighting the fight, and it says these things boldly, plainly, with steely conviction, without any uncertain terms.

Which to me is what is ultimately important in militant activist poetry, what it brings to the table of Philippine Literature - militant activist poetry's concerns are more practical: it sees poetry as a tool, a means to an end, and the end is to inspire, provoke, and educate the most number of people possible in the quickest most legible way possible, of craft in service of medium for the message, thus its preoccupation with imagery and statements that lead to easy sentiments of love and hate. In a way, it is where Romanticism lives on without shame, irony, or sarcasm, where earnestness is rewarded not with money or medals or fellowships, but with the assurance that somehow someday there will be peace, but in the time that there isn't, you may die, but take comfort: someone else will pick up your knife, sharpen it, and bring it to battle once again; take comfort: you will not die in vain.

DRY THE RAIN is an essay series on Contemporary Philippine Poetry, where I devote an hour of thinking and writing about some selections from the anthology UNDER THE STORM (self-published 2011, edited by de la Cruz and Toledo). This is the first of the series. I hope to add to this as often as possible.


I believe that to equate and/or counterpoint the discussion of the Body with Geography is one of the easiest and most dependable things to do in poetry. It is easy and dependable as it is something people have been doing since at least the dawn of consciousness of the body and the land, something that people start doing a few months after birth once the realisation that the self exists as an object and it exists within a certain space with other objects existing beside it, i.e., the mountain range looks like a reclining young woman thus we give it a woman's name.

It is a curious and timeless equation for us solipsistic egotistic animals, and elevated towards poetry, I see our interest represented thusly: at the moment of conception, our body rides a steady track towards obsolescence and death, while the mountains and the rivers and the trees all seemingly merely replenish themselves, so, to equate the body with the land is on the surface level to halt entropy of the body, or if not halt then at least delay the onset of entropy, if not in reality then at least in art.

But living in a city in a country in a world where our constant two-billion-year steady consumption of natural and unnatural resources is finally also consuming us, this equation is now horribly inaccurate and potentially dangerously irresponsible in its pollyannaish view of life. I think one response to this reality would be Anina Abola's "In Place of Emotion," in its equation of suffering the survival of a loved one's death with apocalyptic imagery refracted through geography. This is not the first time Abola has applied this particular device in print: her three poems in the anthology CROWNS AND ORANGES (Anvil 2009, edited by Ishikawa and Bautista) all use the body and nature and entropy of the body and nature to talk about romantic long-distance love, a mother's (I assume) cancer, and the persona's body image issues, to varying degrees of success, but she uses it well enough and varying enough - and notice the arc of the four poems, from love to disease of a loved one to reflections of flaws in the self to the death of a loved one, and the echoing theme of absence and the body and nature and entropy - that I feel there is a poetry book somewhere in the gaps of these four poems.

They don't push the imagery and technique too far from the self - "In Place of Emotion," despite the title, is still very much self-centered, especially in its reflection/representation of mood as geologic upheavals a la the Sandra Bullock-Ben Affleck romcom FORCES OF NATURE - but it is already several thoughts away from the largely far more simplistic sublime pastorales of recent decades. In fact, I'll even posit that if we actually bother to ask pastorales to take into account the constant threat of impending global ecological collapse, we will come up with poems like this. Here, the mountain is still omnipresent and gigantic and to climb it is to fall towards the earth head over heels, but it is also craggy and bald in places, and as "years pass, not to heal, / but that they do", the wind and the rain and all the illegal logging will wash this mountain away, turning it into more mud and dust, to be moved only elsewhere.

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