The Twilight Express

Whoo. Issue 3 of RUBRIC, the online creative writing journal of UNSW, is out, with my story “The Twilight Express.” (Yeah, UNSW has two literary journals: RUBRIC and Unsweetened.)

For RUBRIC, I was actually part of the editorial team, which was interesting. If you have a story in yourself, they ask you to leave while they evaluate it and put it into a vote. It was actually pretty nerve-wracking.


Corridor Film Clip

Elizabeth Adams, a 3rd-year media student of the University of New South Wales (UNSW), has interpreted my poem “Corridor” into a film clip (yes, with my permission) for her thesis as part of unsweetened TV. You can find the clip here. I really enjoyed her interpretation because it’s such a polarity from what I had in mind when I had written the poem. My thanks to Elizabeth!

More good news

Whew. It’s been a freak year, 2007.

I’ve just been informed that a poem of mine that I had sent to be published in the University of New South Wales’s (where I studied in Sydney) literary journal, Unsweetened, has just won first prize in the postgraduate poetry category. With it comes a bookstore voucher worth 400 Australian dollars…which I can’t use, of course, because I’m working in Hong Kong now, so I’m having it posted to a friend in Sydney while I figure out what to do with it. But still, the news has made me extremely happy. ^_^ The issue was launched last night in UNSW, and with it the announcement. The judges were a literary reviewer from the Sydney Morning Herald and a professor in UNSW, and the professor even gave a little talk about my poem as well. Really cool. I wish I had been there. Certainly no one’s ever really given a talk about anything I’ve written, LOL.

Wow. Thanking the Big Guy upstairs so much for the Palanca and this.

Rambling Upon Poetry

I’ve never had much interest about English contemporary poetry. I’ve studied it, but just didn’t get the right sort of appeal. It certainly has its good points, which I won’t repeat, since you can pick up any anthology of contemporary poetry and flip through the introduction for all the theory.

It just happens that I have a qualm about it: that it can be pretty easy to imitate. Which means you’ll have to wade through a bigger pile of junk before you can get to the real gems. Consider the form of language poetry. It takes the appearance of seemingly unrelated sentences and sentence fragments to show the materiality of language, to show how language is produced. Ideally, language poetry does come up with fascinating ideas about the way we form and associate words and phrases. But the human factor is always a monkey wrench. The temptation to just mash in randomness, to expect the reader to “collaborate” in extracting meaning out of it when there really is none, is much too overwhelming for the amateur (a problem that plagues minimalism too, I should think). Like throwing paint at a wall and calling it art. Certainly there are people who have thought long and hard about the history of visual art and have come to the conclusion that the next step would be to create something that resembles paint thrown at a wall. But show this to the amateur who hasn’t worked at grasping the history and the thought, the full value behind it, and he’d just as easily get a bucket of paint and started splattering because it’s what “art” looks like. To stop only at form, to only copy what it “looks like,” is fatal.

Content has fallen out of people’s good graces lately. Postmodernism has declared language not a necessary means of expression but merely another construct that we can just as easily revolutionize and play around with, as it has been playing around with us (thanks, Derrida & Company). I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is being overly fascinated with “liberating language” so much so that there is nothing else written BUT self-reflexivity and experimentation, as if a poetic career was one big workshop that never gets serious. It’s interesting at first, quite a novelty, but jokes do wear thin quickly, even if it is a joke on linguistics.

Well. I guess I’m just one of the few who sticks a neck out for content once in a while, since postmodernism has brought in the deferment of meaning (i.e. life is one big dictionary, wherein each entry endlessly refers to another), and made the concept of Meaning with a capital M rather unpopular.

Speaking of which…epistemological caution (e.g. not “I do this” but “I see myself doing this, and did I mention I’m just seeing myself doing this, and I’m not entirely sure I’m actually doing this?”), another characteristic of poetry as of late. Philosophically it makes sense: how certain are we of what we know? A dose of epistemological modesty is always good and keeps you in line. Too much, however, turns Robert Burns’ “O my love is like a red red rose” into “O my love is not altogether unlike a generally red rose” (vide David Dooley’s “The Contemporary Workshop Aesthetic”).

Anyway, I’m as much for the progress of contemporary poetry as the next student; I’m just skeptical about the side effects, since the human factor never makes putting theory into practice easy. I bet I’m sounding like an ad for elitism and snobisme in art right now, but it’s similar to what my aikido teacher once said, when I was still doing undergraduate. Your size shouldn’t matter, theoretically. Aikido is all about defense, so just because you’re smaller doesn’t mean you’re going to get pounded by your opponent. But until you reach your fifth year in aikido, you sure as heck are going to get pretty whupped if you’re smaller. When put to application, size does matter until you reach that level of mastery. So if you’re going to break the traditional rules of art and be avant-garde and experimental, at least go through the years knowing what they’re about in the first place.

If you’ve reached this far down, I’m impressed.

Oh, and we picked up a snail from a wall and made it a pet and called it “Turtle” (don’t ask). I’m still slightly grossed out, especially when cleaning the litter, but it’s pretty cool to have a little fellow to check on when I’m starting to get fidgety with my readings.


Studying on a Saturday night is the pits. Especially when you don’t have to, in the sense that you’re doing advance work. Gosh, undergraduate studies had been so easy, so flippin’ simple. You had more hours of study and more requirements to hand in, but you didn’t have to plan things so much in advance. As opposed to postgrad. Yargh, independent work. No exams to chase your tail, to do your scheduling for you, to spread your grade across. Every effort is thrown into the few (but hugely credited) assessments to be handed on the very last day of semester. Sucks, actually. Everytime I get free time (i.e. Saturday night), I keep thinking if there’s something I have to start working at so I don’t drown by the end of semester. Keep looking for things to do in advance, instead of being comforted by the fact that there’s an exam on Monday and work for this weekend will end there so get cracking will’ya? That was undergraduate life. You knew exactly what to do for the day. Doesn’t help too when you live with undergraduates who know what they have to do (and there’s lots to do) and they’re studying like heck while you’re puttering around your room looking for advance work and feeling pressured to study just as hard when there’s actually not much you can do yet at this stage of the semester. (And variety is an impossibility.)

Not a pleasant feeling, of course. Knowing you should be doing something but not knowing what, and watching in a panic as the hours go by.

Of course life doesn’t get simpler. Of course.

After a Glass of Milk

Did my laundry this morning. I had one white shirt among colors. I didn’t want to wait for more white clothes to come in and spend another $1 for them, so I just hoped for the best and chucked the white shirt in with the rest. Bad choice of course. The shirt colored slightly from the denim pants, and it suddenly has faint black spots all over it, and I didn’t even have any polka-dot clothes. Natch. And it’s one of my favorite shirts too.

(One thing I like about my new room is that it’s close enough to the laundry room so I can hear if someone is using the laundry and I can always poke my head out of the window to see if the dryer’s done with my clothes.)

Classes have started. I’ve begun writing two new stories (unrelated to class, but it might come in handy in the face of an incoming deadline). Noticed that I seem to have been going for very plot movement-centered stories lately, so I wanted to do something more character-oriented. My (perhaps not-so-wise) structure is one of those things where you have two people in a room trying to resolve a conflict, and that’s all you have to work with. It can get pretty painful trying to squeeze out as much as you can from it.

Talking of stories, congratulations to Tim for finishing his manuscript of 15 short stories and having the mind to send them to publishers in Singapore to have it published as a collection of short stories.

As for class, I don’t think I made a very good impression to the lecturer. I was a little dazed and unfocused, from just having dinner and having the blood rushing to my stomach instead of my head, and the impromptu piece I had to write and read out loud was all over the place, to say the best. On a happier point, one of our assessments for that class could come from co-editing Rubric, the UNSW journal of Creative Writing which our lecturer is trying to revive. I’m really looking forward to that.

I’m reading Julian Barnes’ Arthur and George (laaate!) . It’s set in late Victorian England and the author has done away with the booming Dickensian narrator and has opted for a more modern approach to it, both in diction (it can pass for contemporary…or at least the early half of the 1900’s) and style (no chapters at all. It’s just one long novel with intervals of Arthur and George being the objects of the point of view). I like those new approaches to Victorian setting, like Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, which turns the Dickensian narrator on its head. The book itself is actually a personality in the novel and engages the reader to participate in the story, which entails so many possibilities (i.e. the book calls itself “I” and the reader “you,” and tells you to “watch your step,” or something to that effect.) I just read the first chapter of it as an excerpt from my classes last semester; I still have to buy the book.

Truant sun

Been a while, aye? I always do find this hour, when tomorrow becomes today, the most convenient to post something in the midst of fatigue and hunger and the general want to crawl under the bed covers. I don’t know why. I’m weird that way. I’m a hundred million things that are not sensible. I’m cheesecake, I’m pistachio, and only people inside the jokes can understand why. I think it’s because I find these last few minutes before giving up on the research essay for the morning the most appropriate time to do something mundane. “Since I’m here already, might as well.”

Does time move faster in Australia? Is there something in the southern hemisphere that suspends a person in a wormhole while time passes by unnoticed?

“nefandos dividat vastum mare
dirimatque tellus abdita et quisquis sub hoc
in alia versus sidera ac solem avium
dendet orbis alterum ex nobis ferat.”

“Let the vast ocean divide the guilty, let the spaces of the earth yawn between us, bearing away one of us to whatever world hangs beneath this one, looking only at other stars and at a truant sun.”

-Seneca, Oedipus

Mid-session Break

On week-long holiday now. It’s mid-semester break, which I’ve never had in the Philippines.

Tomorrow’s going to be busy. Am going to St. Andrew’s Cathedral in the city for church service, then lunch with a classmate and her housemates in a Chinese restaurant, then going with a College friend to a ferry trip to Paramatta. Going to be back in time for dinner.

Monday, a friend and I should be accompanying another friend to Central where she’ll get a train to her med rural placement. Then we’re going to the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Tuesday, I might be going out with a few friends to catch a train to the Blue Mountains for a hike.

Wednesday, going out with some College people for yum cha. Possibly some shopping afterwards, because I really need spring clothes now.

Thursday, I might be going with a friend for a walk over Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’ll have to give her a ring.

And somewhere among all of this, I’ll have to do work on research and birthday presents.