Tiger, Tiger by Tala Roque
Early in the second quarter of 2006, a high school Fil-Am student in the U.S. by the name of Gabrielle Molina wrote me, asking questions about my poetry. Since she never bothered to answer back after I had answered all her questions, I may as well share these answers with the world. Here it is:
Gabrielle, your teacher replied promptly, but I haven't had the time to answer your questions till now.
Let me answer your first and third questions first:
Why do I write? I write poems out of emotional need, essays out of a desire to share ideas, and short stories out of an urge to explain the phenomenon of life vis-a-vis people. My training in literature has taught me to focus on the particular and specific, at the same time drawing universal lessons from them. As you may have seen, I have written more poems than essays, and short stories least of all. But I hope to write more short stories someday.
As you can see from the list of my favorite poems [see links below], though I write socio-political poems, my favorites have nothing to do with content, but rather with poetic style, with a preference for the lyrical.
Now, that brings me to your second question. What are my favorite techniques, you ask? Maybe I don't use my favorite techniques too often, eh? My belief is that poetry boils down to three inextricably-linked properties: sound (or rhythm), imagery, and tension. Poetic sound, to me, comes not only from rhythm, but from assonance, alliteration, as well as internal and external rhyme, with a preference for internal rhyme. Those are the techniques I use in my poetry. Of course, I don't always manage to pull it off, but there.
For a longer exposition on my poetics, you may want to read Pinoy Poetics, edited by Nick Carbo. I have an essay there entitled "The Poetics of Clarita Roja."
The "period poems" (blue, red, purple and plain period) are from my collection Journey: An Autobiography in Verse (1964-1995) published in 1996 by the University of the Philippines Press.
This collection of poems from 1995 to 2003 has 101 poems in it. Isagani Cruz, noted Filipino critic, wrote the Preface. Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature, as well as Lilia Quindoza-Santiago, feminist critic, wrote the afterthoughts.
It was published in 2012 by Popular Bookstore and Apple's iBookstore. For the print edition, go to Popular at 350 Morato Avenue, Quezon City or Solidaridad at Padre Faura.
Chronicle is available at the UK iBookstore as well as other EU iBookstores, and in Japan and Latin America as well.
The second poem can also be found in the blog I maintain for my students. I had 31 poems in this collection as of May 27, 2006 but in April, 2013 I already had 92! And now, October 17, 2013, I only have two more to go to make my target of 110 poems. Having thought I might entitle the whole collection Poetry as Prophecy, I'm having second thoughts. Too presumptuous. Maybe I'll settle for In the Last Days.