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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On this day in 2005

The following poem was reviewed by Simon DeDeo (on his blog Rhubard is Susan). Check the podcast posts to listen to the audiocast.

Swansong of the Sea

that night i heard the swansong of the sea
the erolalias of nameless lovers
stealing a heaven and eternity

there was a crysong of a pilgrim bird
that punctuated the silence of the night
but the winds and the waves whispered a hush

i waited for the waking of the day
feeling the breathing of the earth beneath
the palpitations of the Milky Way

then Atlas moved a finger and it came
the gyrations and the sudden trembling
O the sea had wings of a tsunami!

death came without warning or a reason
to those who heard the psalms of oblivion

and then i heard the swansong of the sea...
and the crysongs of those who went away


This poem rests uneasily between memorial and epic (I exhort you to go to Villafania's piece, from which this is an excerpt.) As a poem standing at the beginning of a longer piece, it exudes history and tradition, and, in particular, the invocation of the muse which is, for Villafania, going to be one of both destruction and transcendence: a kind of Christian paradox of life through death, or perhaps one of those Virgilian prefigurations.

What really stuns about Villafania's piece, however, is just the lyricism, completely unashamed good-sounding words strung together on a line, the exacting choices he makes so that the hard p and growling g come after the vowely "crysong" to rescue it from sentimentality. This is a piece whose excellence comes from making the difficult look simple.

There is more to be said about Villafania's epic reach, the way in which his narrative can effortlessly encompass both Atlas and the "palpitations of the Milky Way" (look at how that palpitation reduces down our galaxy to a little throbbing thing, a kind of toy for the poem to play with, a counter, almost on a checkerboard.) The way, in particular, a kind of circumlocution, a kind of epithet, merges seamlessly into the language: "stealing a heaven and eternity."

The theme of death as listening, death as coming to those who have paid attention, is just one aspect of the paradoxes that simmer just under the melifluous prosody here; one of the sharper points to notice is the way in which only the speaker himself emerges unscathed, Ishmael-like to tell the story having heard the "psalms of oblivion."

Source: Rhubard is Susan (April 25, 2005)

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A Tao 道 Sign

Le poèt de Pangasinan

Santiago B. Villafania, a bilingual Filipino poet who writes in English and in his native language of Pangasinan, is the author of poetry collections Bonsaic Verses (2012), Pinabli and Other Poems (2012), Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles (2007), and Balikas na Caboloan (Voices from Caboloan, 2005) published by the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) under its UBOD New Authors Series. He has been published in several countries and translated into several languages. Villafania is one of the 11 Outstanding Pangasinan conferred with the 2010 ASNA Award for the Arts and Culture (literature) during the first Agew na Pangasinan and also the 430th Foundation Day of the province on April 2010. He is a member of Philippine PEN writes a regular weekly column for the Sunday Punch.



A collection of ghazals in Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com

A collection of haiku, senryu, tanka, haiga, and other poems in English and Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com

“Santiago Villafania is a searcher with a seemingly insatiable curiosity and endurance. His quest has brought him to explore world poetry from points East and West. He is no stranger to sophisticated verse forms such the Sapphic strophe nor to the diverse permutations of the Japanese haiku. But he is not a formalist, he has daringly explored Asian and Western cultures in a very personal way and writes his mind with a daring, invigorating, aesthetically pleasing ease. In his poetry Villafania displays not only a breadth, but it feels very much like a breath of fresh air.” – Ute Margaret Saine, poet, critic, translator, past president of PEN Orange County and the former editor of the California Poetry Quarterly

“Villafania’s emergence as a poet is a fine moment to celebrate. Another voice from the regions augurs a richer body of writing that Filipinos can hold up as a mirror of our native culture.” – Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature

The Beloved Idiom | A Reading of Villafania’s ‘Pinabli & other poems’ by Dennis Andrew S. Aguinaldo

LCCN.: 2010338612

Order your copy now at CreateSpace or Amazon.com :)

"The publication of Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles by Santiago B. Villafania should be a source of rejoicing for readers of regional literatures. This second book by Pangasinan's leading poet today is impressive in both form and substance. Villafania has created 300 sonnets and 50 villanelles in his own language that attempt to reflect the primacy of native culture and return the poet to the central stage of social life."A Boost to Pangasinan Literature from Breaking Signs by Cirilo F. Bautista (Philippine Panorama, 16 Dec. 2007, pp.25-26)

"Villafania is not only a visionary poet, he is a linguistic philosopher who codifies the origin of language and culture, dissects the myths and the common beliefs of the people against the urban legends, juxtaposes the literary tradition against the modern influences by dialectically infusing them in his poetic revelation of truth."Poetic Revelation in Language and Culture by Danny C. Sillada (Manila Bulletin, 12 May 2008, pp. F1-F2)

Photos: Book Launching at the Pearl Manila Hotel, 5 Feb. 2008

"Santiago Villafania's Balikas ed Caboloan certainly has reinvigorated the anlong tradition of Pangasinan that for a long period of time suffered silence from the hands of writers more attuned to English writing. Characteristically anacbanua, Villafania's poetry echoes his predecessors and presages a promising era for young writers in Pangasinan." – Dr. Marot Nelmida-Flores

Thesis: Bilay ed Caboloan - Reconfiguration of Space using a New Historicist Lens by Ayesah Tecson

from Pangasinan 'Anlong': Oral tradition into the 21st century published in Manila Times / Sunday Magazine, March 13 & 20, 2011.

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Today in Literature

Quote of the Day

In Many Tongues

Translations of Sonnet To A Pilgrim Soul in different languages.

Translations of Erolalia in German, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Bulgarian, and Hindi language. And here is the 1st version of the poem published in The Sunday Times (Manila Times, 11.23.2003).

Six of my poems translated into Arabic by Prof. Abdul-Settar Abdul-Latif (English Dept., College of Education, University of Basrah, Iraq) and have been published in TEXT - the Cultural Monthly Journal, Issue No.13

Swansong of the sea with translations in Italian, Arabic, Hindi, and Spanish.

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