28 February 2009

The Waste Land

The most familiar example of a poem using non-mother tongue words is, of course, T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" (1922), which has, among other non-English lines, the famous "'You! hypocrite lecteur! — mon semblable, — mon frère!'" Eliot, as we all know, did not trust his readers to recognize the allusion and, therefore, provided the source of the quote as "V. Baudelaire, Preface to Fleurs du Mal."

Reams have been written about this line (Google lists more than 6,000, though that includes double entries), including learned dissertations about Baudelaire's influence on Eliot, but not much about whether Eliot could have achieved the same effect had he translated the line into English.

Was Eliot just showing off? Was he trying not to infringe on the intellectual property of Baudelaire by not translating without permission? Or was he doing something that he could not do in English? Do we have to be fluent in French to understand this line, or can a French-English dictionary do (since the French words are pretty close to their English equivalents anyway)? Is it too much for a poet to call us readers hypocrites to our face, or does the use of the French words make the insult a bit easier to take? Is he insulting us not just by the literal meaning of the words but by insinuating that we do not know French? Or is he flattering us by assuming that we know French and Baudelaire and poetic irony? Or is it only Stetson who should care? Questions, questions!

27 February 2009

Mayra L. Dole

When a poet writes in a second language, s/he sometimes (I think, often) fails to do what s/he really wants to do. This is obvious from this pair of stanzas done by Afro-Cuban Mayra L. Dole, who translates from Spanish to English, in her poem "Mi Negra Chambelona / My Black Lollipop", published in Cipher Journal:

¡Chiqui-trí Chiqui-trá!/
Ven pa’cá mamá/
De la bemba gorda/
Y la boca colorá/

Chiki-trí Chiki-trá!/
Comeh here choogarsita/
Wit dee plump/
Chehrrry leeps/

The poet clearly wants to rhyme, but cannot in the English version. In the next stanza, she is successful:

Maravilla Chiquitrilla/
Con miel en la rodilla/
Esa tipa está mojá/

Maraveeya Chikitreeya/
Drippin’ honey from dee knee/
Joo drunk-ass can be/

In the rest of the poem, she cannot get the English lines to rhyme, even though she tries. One cannot say that she does not have a good command of English (she has lived in Miami, New York, New Jersey, and Boston, and is published by Harper Collins). What she fails to do can only be attributed to the use of a second language.

26 February 2009

Language of my blood

Here is the first part of the poem "Muted Cry" (late 1930s) by Philippine poet Trinidad Tarrosa-Subido:

They took away the language of my blood,
giving me one "more widely understood."

More widely understood! Now Lips can never
Never with the Soul-in-Me commune:
Moments there are I strain, but futile ever,
To flute my feelings through some native Tune...

Alas, how can I interpret my Mood?
They took away the language of my blood.

If I could speak the language of my blood
My blood would whirl up through resistless space
Swiftly - sure - flight no one can retrace,

And flung against the skyey breast of God,
Its scattered words, charged with passion rare,
With trebel glow would dim the stars now there.

This is a poet's (not a critic's) argument for writing in one's mother tongue, but since it is written in a second language, it is also an argument for writing in a stepmother tongue!

25 February 2009

Antoni Clapes

Catalan poet Antoni Clapés, in an interview by and translated from Spanish into English by Amanda Schoenberg, says:

"Writing poetry in Catalan is something that, for me, has a strict component of naturalness. I think one writes in the language in which one dreams. And my dreams are in Catalan. I don’t think that people can be bilingual or trilingual: no Swiss, for a neutral example, would admit to being trilingual. I think that we are essentially monolingual, and that the acquisition of language is through the first sounds that a child learns from his mother and it is these which configure the basic linguistic universe. Afterwards, from the community, one can learn - and love - other languages, one can dominate them perfectly, including being able to create in them. But I am not sure that one can write poetry in a language different from that which emanates from the most intimate corners of oneself."

Hundreds of Filipino poets, writing in their second or third language (English) despite dreaming in one of 171 native languages, would disagree. As a critic, I agree. I know that some Philippine poems in English are exquisite, but as even rabid English writing defender Gemino H. Abad admits, quoting a Philippine poet writing in English in the early part of the last century, English is not "the language of our blood."

24 February 2009

Remy Ma and Ivy Queen

What can we learn about second-language writing from these lyrics in the rap duet "Bilingual" by Reminisce Smith (Remy Ma) and Martha Ivelisse Pesante (Ivy Queen)?

"what bitch is the baddest
miss remy con la queen
you need fire
tu sabes fuego esta aqui
vete pal carajo
nigga far from me
no es dificil pa' ver
it ain't hard to see
a four clip in the extra
yo soy la mierda tate quieta
this bitch got a bad temper
ustedes puta no pueda joder con nosotras

Would the effect of the lines be the same if every word were in English (or in Spanish)? For one thing, the rhymes wouldn't work (aqui/me/see, ver/temper, extra/quieta/puñeta). I am not sure, however, that bitch and puta need to be in different languages; the change in language does not seem to add much to the meaning. Translating an entire line (no es dificil pa' ver / it ain't hard to see) also seems unnecessary, despite the need to use ver and see for rhyme. One can argue, of course, that rap demands repetition (that's the whole point!), but writing is writing, in whatever form.

23 February 2009

Sex in mother tongue

Is talking about sex less authentic when done in a second language? Check out these lines of the poem "Bilingual" by Jose Nuñez:

"My thighs quiver in anticipation of deep penetration which gets me high
Body rising
Make-up melting
Pulling my hair and
Scratching my back
I get a temporary case of tourettes because all I can say are four letter words in a four octave-range screaming your name

Aye papi
Eres tan grande y tan duro y me lo da tan bueno
Tu eres mi pecado mortal
Cojelo otra vez [You are so big and so hard, you give it to me so good, you are my mortal sin, do it again.]

You fucking me makes me bilingual."

Is this what the New Testament calls speaking in tongues? There is a metaphorical, perhaps literal connection between ecstasy during orgasm and ecstasy during a divine vision.

22 February 2009

Dream of the Red Chamber

In a corpus-based comparative study of Chinese to English translations done by first-language Chinese speakers and texts written by first-language English speakers, Guangsa Jin of Peking University, China, admits that "it is difficult to find comparable material for fictional works usually containing many cultural elements which are unique to a nation. Surely, one cannot find an English novel which is comparable to the Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber (《红楼梦》)." This remark points to a shortcoming of most translation studies: they focus only on the linguistic aspects of translation and not the literary aspects. This shortcoming also works the other way: literary critics that study texts written by second-language speakers often focus on the literary aspects and fail to take into account the linguistic aspects. This gap between linguistics and literary criticism has long existed and makes the work of evaluating second-language literary texts unnecessarily difficult.

21 February 2009

Translations and audience effect

At the Panrehiyong Forum Pangwika [Regional Language Forum] in Legazpi City, Philippines, last Thursday (19 February), teachers of Bicol University read a poem with each line written in or translated into three languages (Spanish, Filipino, and Bicolano). It was not clear to me (listening as a non-Bicolano) which were the original lines and which were the translations, but it was clear from the reading that the mood or tone of the lines changed with the language (of course, it could have been the three interpreters who were reading alternately). A thought: does a translation change the tone of a text? Translations are supposed to produce in the target-language audience the same effects they produce in the source-language or original audience, but perhaps they really don't.

20 February 2009

Abdon M. Balde Jr.

Yesterday (19 February) in Legazpi City, I was with Philippine prizewinning novelist Abdon M. Balde Jr., who writes in Bicolano, as well as in Filipino and English. What is particularly interesting about him is that has written pieces that are in two different dialects of Bicolano (Bicolano, a language spoken in the Western part of the main island of Luzon of the Philippines, has about eight dialects). What he does is similar to what some non-Filipino writers do, which is to play around with dialects, not only with languages. We can't really call this kind of language shifting as second-language writing, because it is still the same language, but it calls for critics that know the dialects and not just the languages involved in the text. Where are these critics? As usually happens in literary history, writers are several steps ahead of critics.

19 February 2009

True bilinguals

According to Christopher Thiery's widely-accepted definition, "a true bilingual is defined as one who in fact possesses two native languages and so is accepted as a native in each culture." Are second-language writers accepted as natives by the readers in their second language? I have in mind the objection of feminists to phrases such as "women poet" and "woman driver"; these phrases imply that poets and drivers are men unless otherwise specified to be women. Such phrases clearly show linguistic discrimination against women. When we say someone is a second-language writer (or an immigrant writer or a bilingual writer, or phrases of that sort), are we discriminating against those not to the language born? On the other hand, if we do not say that someone is writing in a language other than her or his mother tongue, do we not miss the opportunity to include the mother tongue in our literary analysis or even appreciation?

18 February 2009

Second-language writing and emotions

In "In conversation: Cebuano writers on Philippine literature and English" in the recently published Philippine English: Linguistic and Literary Perspectives, edited by Ma. Lourdes S. Bautista and Kingsley Bolton (Hong Kong University Press, 2008), Resil B. Mojares says, "Something else can be said about English - it's a way of distancing yourself from your emotions. Like if I wrote my poems in Cebuano [his mother tongue], I would worry about mawkishness, sentimentality, without the emotional control of the English language. English offered detachment. A foreign language renders things more neutral."

Is this true? Does writing in a second language distance writers from their emotions? (A linguistic take on William Wordsworth's [more likely Samuel Taylor Coleridge's] "emotion recollected in tranquillity"!) Or does writing in a second language falsify those emotions?

17 February 2009

Errors or features?

Here is an excerpt from linguist Andrew Gonzalez's "Distinctive Grammatical Features of Philippine Literature in English: Influencing or Influenced?" in Linguistics and Language Education in the Philippines and Beyond: A Festschrift in Honor of Ma. Lourdes S. Bautista (2005):

"From the point of view of linguistic study, F. Sionil Jose presents unusual features in his sentential and grammatical constructions. For personal reasons, F. Sionil Jose does his own editing and publication of his fiction. Even edited, it exhibits the traits now associated with distinctive grammatical characteristics of Philippine prose writing, which may be summarized as follows: (1) lack of tense sequence within the complex sentence, switching from present to past and vice versa; (2) lack of tense harmony in the whole paragraph (a variation of the above in extended discourse); (3) lack of agreement between subject and predicate especially where a clause is inserted between subject and predicate; (4) non-native American English uses of the article; (5) non-native American uses of modals especially the use of modals in the past tense which usually demand a modal in the present tense; (6) non-native American uses of the perfect tenses (present perfect and past perfect); and (7) non-native uses of two-word verbs or verb plus preposition combinations with participle complementation. In traditional grammar classes in the Philippine classroom, these features would be considered errors."

Gonzalez asks the question (which he asked several times earlier in his too brief lifetime) whether these are really errors or features. He even cites me (referring to the book A Dictionary of Philippine English, that I wrote together with Bautista in 1995) to justify labelling these "errors" as "features." I don't think all of the items he lists are features of Philippine English, particularly the lack of subject-verb agreement and the non-native American English use of the perfect tenses.

16 February 2009

Shakespeare vs. Chaucer

During the Taboan conference, most multilingual writers said that the reason they write in more than one language is that they find any language limited and not able to express what they really want to say. Does this mean that, in theory, everything else being equal, someone writing only in one language cannot express as much as someone writing in two or more languages? I mean by "everything else being equal" the real possibility that one writer has more to say than another and, therefore, is more in need of another language than the other. Speculatively, is Shakespeare as a poet worse than Chaucer whose Canterbury Tales was a combination of (Old) English and French? Btw, it is legitimate to say that one poet or one work is worse than another, because we say that all the time when we judge literary contests, whether small ones or the Nobel.

15 February 2009

Giving up the homeland?

Here are words from Cuba: A Cubano’s Coming-of-Age in America (1995), by Cuban-American writer Gustavo Pérez Firmat: The exile "waits to embark on a new career, to learn the language, to give up his homeland." Do these words ring true? Do writers learning a language give up their homeland? Or is this true only if they actually emigrate to another country? In the case of Filipinos, some writers still living in the Philippines appear to have given up their homeland by, for instance, forgetting that the language (English) they write in is not their mother tongue. These writers fail to exploit their advantage of having two languages to work with, as opposed to linguistically challenged monolingual writers. For example, they insist on following the grammar of American English, instead of the grammar of Philippine English, a variety of English as respectable as American or British English.

14 February 2009

American literature in languages other than English

Here is a 1999 account from the Harvard University Gazette about Werner Sollors, now Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Associate of Pforzheimer House (Director of Graduate Studies) at Harvard University:

"Sollors is among a small cadre of scholars who specialize in American literature written in languages other than English. It is, he says, a field shrugged at by combatants in the canon wars -- which makes it all the more appealing to him. 'There isn't already a whole set of opinions, pro and con,' he said, adding that, although he thinks multilingual literature is a discipline waiting to proliferate, his task is to pursue the texts and bibliography and see what happens."

Has the field of multilingual literary studies expanded since 1999? Is the field still marginalized in the world of literary criticism? Are more American writers now writing in languages other than English? Are more critics (American or not) writing about Americans writing in languages other than English? Calling Sollors or anyone else interested in debunking the notion that American literature is only in English!

13 February 2009

Filipino-ness and other ness-es

Is the novel Ghosts of Manila by James Hamilton-Paterson Filipino even if its author is not Filipino? Does this question even make sense? Avoid it much as we wish, the question still rears its not-so-ugly head: what is Filipino-ness? Since the readers of this blog are not all Filipino, what is Italian-ness? What is Croatian-ness? If the Chinese are still grappling with Chinese-ness and Americans are still grappling with American-ness, what about everyone neither Chinese nor American? We toss about the term "global citizen" but does that really mean anything in the literary sense? It means something in real life, because we need passports to travel. Do we need linguistic or literary passports to travel through world literature?

12 February 2009

Fiipino-ness in the global age

As moderator, I started the discussion on "Filipino-ness in the Global Age" in Taboan: The Philippine International Writers Festival 2009 by reading the following passages:

From Remapping Africanness, by Anouar Majid, 2008:

“To be sure, Africanness is a fiction, or at least a word with a long and changing history. Africa is a place defined less by the skin color of its inhabitants than by the diversity of its cultures and religions. One might say that all Africans – except for the handful of elite who benefit from the schemes of corporate exploitation – are united by the suffering and painful marginalization in the age of globalization. The common theme of African novels written by Muslims in the second half of the 20th century – whether such novels were authored by Moroccan, Senegalese, or Sudanese writers – was their protagonists’ attempts to survive the debilitating effects of European colonialism.”

From On Americanness, London Times Literary Supplement, 1954:

“With Hawthorne the exploration of Americanness, as something mysteriously different from any other national quality, is well under way. Its existence conditions the whole of American literature. The Englishman takes his Englishness for granted; the Frenchman does not constantly have to be looking over his shoulder to see if his Frenchness is still there. The difference is simple – being an American is not something to be inherited so much as something to be achieved.”

From a call for papers for 2009 on How To Be Chinese? Rethinking Chineseness in the Age of Globalization, by Enhua Zhang:

“How to define Chineseness? Is there one homogeneous Chineseness? Is Chineseness naturally ingrained into Chinese culture or culturally formed or even invented (by whom)? How does Chineseness travel and transform from its native land to its diasporic community?”

From "Filipino-ness in Fiction," Penman, by Butch Dalisay, Philippine Star, 2007:

“Anything written by a Filipino should qualify as Filipino literature. It doesn’t matter to me where it’s published, what it contains, or what language it’s written in. This may be a bold statement to make, but I think that writers who know what they’re doing – whether they’re realists or fantasists – don’t worry about Filipino-ness and such, leaving that to readers and critics to discern and to sort out, if it’s all that important to them. It will always be there, in any work that acknowledges or emanates from the writer’s rootedness in a certain place and time.”

From a posted comment on the topic What Makes Fiction Truly Filipino?, 2007:

“Sa totoo lang, umikot ang ulo ko sa usapang ito. Apat na websites na ang binasa ko tungkol dito, pero parang wala pa rin akong sariling opinyon na ipaglalaban ko talaga.” [Truth to tell, my head spins because of this topic. I've visited four websites about this, but I still have no definite idea of what to believe.]

The discussion featured novelist and playwright Leoncio Deriada, novelist and creative nonfiction writer Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, short story writer and historian-critic Resil Mojares, and speculative fiction writer Timothy Montes. After a wide-ranging discussion with a lot of audience participation, I realized that, whatever Filipino-ness is, it does not depend on the language chosen by the writer. Filipino writers writing in various languages are Filipino, not because they hold Filipino citizenship, but because of something that their writings offer. What that something is, we were not really able to pin down.

11 February 2009

International Playwrights Forum

Yesterday (10 February 2009), I was invited to join members of the International Playwrights Forum (IPF) of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) in a roundtable discussion in Manila on the state of playwriting in the world. I asked them if it was too early to suggest that playwrights use Google Docs to collaborate on a multilingual play, which could then be staged simultaneously in several countries. Aside from the expected remark about how playwriting today depends fairly much on production companies being there from Day One (therefore making it an exercise in futility to write a play without any scheduled opening night), there was a comment from a member from Poland that floored me. She said that, in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, playwrights were not usually multilingual. She even said that the Philippine situation was very different (since my country has 171 living languages and every Filipino playwright works with at least two or three languages). There were a number of other Europeans there, but they did not contradict her observation. I thought all the time that Europeans were usually multilingual. Can European writers please enlighten me about the situation in Europe? Do European writers (with the notable exception of those already mentioned in this blog) write only in their mother tongue, even if they speak several languages? Is there a disconnect between speaking and writing?

10 February 2009

Kehinde on Fatoba

Here is the abstract of the article "English and Postcolonial Writers' Burden: Linguistic Innovations in Femi Fatoba's My Older Father and Other Stories" by Ayo Kehinde that appeared in West African Review in 2004:

"In a situation where two or more languages and cultures are in contact, there is bound to be linguistic and cultural interference. This is the situation with African literature of English expression where important socio-cultural habits and traits are expressed in a foreign language. Based primarily on the examples from Femi Fatoba’s My 'Older' Father and Other Stories (1997), this essay attempts to examine how postcolonial writers have appropriated and reconstituted the English language in their texts through some linguistic processes which include loan words, loan coinages, loan blends, pidginization, code switching and the like. Fatoba strives to find a solution to the problem of bilingualism/biculturalism in his text by relying heavily on the domestication of the imported tongue. The essay observes that although Fatoba has deviated from the international literary norms (linguistically), in the text, he has not falsified the tradition he has transformed into the English language. Rather, he has been able to bridge the gap between the local color variety and the appropriate English language diction suitable to the characters and themes he depicts. The essay also contends that linguistic innovations in Fatoba’s stories offer an outlet for creativity in language and put a new life into the imported language. The paper is concluded by suggesting that in this age of globalization, African writers cannot afford to deny their works of wide readership; therefore, they should consider the appropriation and reconstitution of English as a medium of African literature."

Kehinde specifies that "important cultural habits and geo-political phenomena (greetings, abuses, curses, foods, dresses, fauna and florae) are expressed and typified in a non-native tongue (English)."

This kind of linguistic analysis of second-language literature is very welcome, but I wish we had more literary analysis, by which I mean that kind that will take into account not just linguistic areas (such as lexicography and syntax) but literary theoretical areas (ideology, literary devices, etc.).

09 February 2009

Philippine International Writers Festival

There will be a huge meeting of Philippine writers (many of whom write in second languages) this week in Metro Manila. Here are the details:

TABOAN: Philippine International Writers Festival 2009
11 to 13 FEBRUARY 2009
University of the Philippines Diliman (Feb 11)
Ateneo de Manila University (Feb 12)
Cubao Expo (Feb 13)

University of the Philippines
Diliman, Quezon City

Venue: Pulungang Claro M. Recto, Bulwagang Rizal
Welcome Remarks
• UP Diliman Chancellor Sergio S. Cao
• NCCA Chair Vilma L. Labrador
• Festival Director Ricardo M. de Ungria
• Festival Coordinator Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr.

PHILIPPINE LITERATURE TODAY. The keynote address, a synoptic overview of where we’ve been and where we are, taking into account our literature in Filipino, English, and the regional languages; Philippine literature in the 21st century; and Philippine literature in the Asian and global context. To be delivered by National Artist Francisco Sionil Jose.
Venue: Pulungang Claro M. Recto, Bulwagang Rizal, UPD

9:45AM | A TRIBUTE TO EDITH TIEMPO. The tribute to National Artist Edith L. Tiempo is a short poetry reading by Merlie Alunan, Dinah Roma, and Ronald Baytan, who all attended the Dumaguete National Workshop and have been influenced by Tiempo’s poetics. To date, Edith Tiempo is the sole woman National Artist for Literature.
Moderator: Marjorie Evasco
Venue: Pulungang Claro M. Recto, Bulwagang Rizal, UPD

10:30AM | GANITO KAMI NOON: WRITING THROUGH THE DECADES. A plenary panel discussion to set the tone for all other panel discussions. A representative each from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s can talk about the conditions for writing and publishing in their eras and how things have changed, or maybe not. And where do we go from here?
Panelists: Elmer Ordonez (1950s), National Artist Virgilio S. Almario (1960s), José Pete Lacaba (1970s), Marjorie Evasco (1980s), Angelo Lacuesta (1990s)
Moderator: José Y. Dalisay, Jr.
Pulungang Claro M. Recto, Bulwagang Rizal, UPD

1:30PM | ICONS OF THE NEW CENTURY: WRITERS WHOM WRITERS READ. Who are you reading and why? Who's your literary daddy (or mommy)? A discussion of literary influences and how they are shaping contemporary Philippine literature.
Panelists: Rebecca Añonuevo, Franklin Cimatu, Carlos Cortes, Francis Macansantos, Katrina Tuvera
Moderator: Gémino H. Abad
Venue: CAL New Building (CNB), Room 508

WRITING FOR A LIVING. What's writing like as a profession in the Philippines? What writing jobs pay, and how can writers get them? How should writers deal with writing commissions? What about copyrights and contracts? How do we break into the global market and find and deal with agents?
Panelists: Vietnamese writer Nguyen Bao Chan, Tony Enriquez, Kragi Garcia, Luis Katigbak, Charlson Ong, Alfred Yuson
Moderator: José Y. Dalisay, Jr.
Venue: CAL-AVR, 2/F Bulwagang Rizal, UPD

THE CREATIVE WRITING CLASSROOM. The teaching of creative writing, for the teachers among us: challenges, strategies, approaches, tips and tricks in the creative writing classroom.
Penelists: Merlie Alunan, Conchitina Cruz, Jun Cruz Reyes, Macario Tiu, Ricardo de Ungria
Moderator: Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo
Venue: CNB Inquirer Room 201

WORKSHOPPING THE WORKSHOP, ORGANIZING WRITERS. A review of the Dumaguete, Baguio, and Iligan workshops, plus maybe the biggest school-based ones, and how they grew. A sharing of best practices, as well as a discussion of common problems and situations. This panel can also deal with writers’ organizations, centers, institutes, and programs.
Panelists: Vicente Groyon III, Christine Godinez-Ortega, V.E. Carmelo D. Nadera Jr., Benilda Santos, Anthony Tan
Moderator: Lito Zulueta
Venue: CNB Rm 309

3:30 PM | WRITING OFF-CENTER: THE REGIONAL EXPERIENCE. How goes creative writing and literary publishing outside of Metro Manila? Have new centers of literary activity emerged, and what are the keys to their success? What does it take to promote writing from the regions to broader audiences?
Panelists: John Bengan, Jose Jason Chancoco, Rey Duque, David Genotiva, Alice Tan-Gonzales
Moderator: Ricardo de Ungria
Venue: CNB Inquirer Room 201

ATBP: WRITING OFF THE MAINSTREAM. Gay/lesbian literature, chick lit, "spec fic", Chinoy lit , and all that jazz. What alternatives exist to straight, realist, mainstream lit? Is this kind of "pigeonholing" good or bad—or, when is it good, and when is it bad?
Panelists: Dean Francis Alfar, Jhoanna Cruz, J. Neil C. Garcia, Jaime An Lim, Tara FT. Sering
Moderator: Danton Remoto
Venue: CNB Room 309

FILIPINO-NESS IN THE GLOBAL AGE. A perennial hot topic in the blogosphere. How can "Filipino-ness" be defined? Is it an absolute necessity in this age of globalization? Is "nation" even a relevant concept? How can this be manifested in a literary work? Why don’t we seem to see enough of such central elements of Filipino life as crime, sex, and humor in our literature, or is that only in English?
Panelists: Efren Abueg, Leoncio Deriada, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Resil Mojares, Timothy Montes
Moderator: Isagani R. Cruz
Venue: CAL-AVR

Ateneo de Manila University
Loyola Heights, Quezon City

Venue: Leong Hall Auditorium
Opening Remarks, Prof. Ricardo de Ungria, Commissioner for the Arts, NCCA
Welcome Address, Dr. Ma. Luz Vilches, Dean of the School of Humanities
Message, Dr. Antonette Palma-Angeles, Academic Vice-President, AdMU
A Concise History of 150 Years of Ateneo Writing
Open Forum
Tribute Proper
Screen Presentation on Emmanuel S. Torres and Reading of Citation
Screen Presentation on Gregorio C. Brillantes and Reading of Citation
Response of the Honorees
Closing Remarks, Dr. Ma. Luisa Torres Reyes, Chair, Dept. of English

Venue: Leong Hall Roof Deck

1:00 PM | Ateneo Gallery and Library Tour


THE POET-CRITIC. The issue of how art and criticism interface has been
a central topic even in the creative writing curricula of top
universities worldwide. Whether our writers have found the interface
uneasy or comfortable, consciously or unconsciously, it has shaped the
craft and aesthetics of generations of authors in the Philippines.
Panelists: Gemino H. Abad, J. Neil Garcia, Allan Popa, Jun Cruz Reyes,
and Thai fictionist/screenwriter Prabda Yoon
Moderator: D(anilo) Francisco (M) Reyes
Venue: Social Science Conference Rooms 1 & 2

TEXT AND CONTEXT. The encounter between art and politics, writing and
ideology, or aesthetics and social engagement, has been a significant
consideration in countries like the Philippines as it has been said to
make for bad writing and good politics/bad politics and good writing.
Thus, these binary categories have been considered mutually exclusive
practices by some writers, but deemed mutually constitutive
commitments by writers.
Panelists: Isagani R. Cruz, National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera,
Danton Remoto, Roland Tolentino
Moderator: Oscar Campomanes
Venue: Social Science Conference Rooms 3 & 4

PUBLISHING FOR THE FUTURE. No literature can prosper without
publishing, but publishing itself is taking on new forms and
challenges in this new century, such as online publishing and print on
demand. What directions will Philippine literary publishing and
Philippine literature itself take in the foreseeable future? What can
the Philippine academic and commercial publishers do to promote
literature here and abroad? Are there alternatives to mainstream
publishing that can be explored, and can they be commercially viable?
Panelists: Karina Bolasco, Adam David, Antonio Hidalgo, Esther Pacheco,
Rofel Brion
Moderator: Maricor Baytion
Venue: NGF Conference Room, G/F De La Costa Hall



FEMINISM IN OUR MIDST. The question of how women writers write under
conditions quite distinct from men writers has been a source of
dynamism and controversy in both their works and the criticism on
their work. This has been a point of contention in recent literary
history as some women writers organize themselves as women writers,
weaving literature and sharing life.
Panelists: Rica Bolipata-Santos, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Priscilla
Macansantos, Aida F. Santos, Dinah Roma-Sianturi, Hope Yu
Moderator: Benilda Santos
Venue: Social Science Conference Rooms 1 & 2

LITERATURE IN ACTION. Non-canonical texts abound in contexts like the
Philippines in which literature's energies come from places quite
apart from "Literature." Foremost among this type of literary
production is the whole range of performative practices which create
cultural "events" as opposed to literary "art." Most prominent
examples of this range from avant-garde forms to so-called "agit-prop"
art in which visual and/or performance artists and educational and
community theater groups like PETA have been making a splash in the
international art and academic scene since the 80s and 90s.
Panelists: Michael Coroza, Steven Patrick Fernandez, Servando Halili,
Bonifacio P. Ilagan, Glenn Mas
Moderator: Gary Devilles
Venue: Social Science Conference Rooms 3 & 4

CHILDREN'S LITERATURE. In the Philippines, it has been said that the
reading fare of Filipino children continues to be dominated by
Children's literature from the West, as evidenced by the children's
books usually on display in major book shops. Nevertheless, it can be
argued that for decades now, significant headway has been made in
providing alternative reading materials for Filipino children by
publishing houses like Aklat Adarna and noted Filipino authors and
published locally in English, Filipino and other Philippine languages.
What genres have been developed in children?s literature by Filipinos?
Are these genres a mere imitation of the western models? Has the
production been enough to begin to draw up a canon of children?s
literature in the Philippines? What has been the impact of children's
literature on the readers? What role must children's literature play
in the Philippines?
Panelists: Cyan Abad-Jugo, Christine Bellen, Jean Lee Patindol, Ramon
C. Sunico
Moderator: Jerry Respeto
Venue: NGF Conference Room, G/F De La Costa Hall

5:30 PM | DINNER
Venue: Leong Hall Roof Deck
Closing Remarks, Dr. Assunta Cuyegkeng, Vice President, Ateneo de
Manila Univeristy-Loyola Schools

Cubao X, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City

Venue: Cubao X
Hosts: Angelo R. Lacuesta, Festival Coordinator; Joel Toledo, Festival Assistant Coordinator


HOME, ROAM, AND AWAY. Publishing locally versus publishing abroad. How does place of publication—or place of writing—affect or define your audience, or your career or your work? This should also function as a guide for those who seek international publication: what are the challenges and what are the chances?
Panelists: Vicente G. Groyon III, Mookie Katigbak
Moderator: Lourd Ernest De Veyra
Venue: Mogwai 2

THE END OF PRINT. Web-based publishing, traditional print publishing, and print-on-demand: the meaning of publication has multiplied so much these days. Has the meaning of quality, or rigor, or intent changed as well? How has this affected today’s writer? Has he (or must he) achieve convergence, or should there be dividing lines?
Panelists: Roberto Añonuevo, Adam David, Jean Claire Dy, Luis Katigbak, Edgar Samar
Moderator: Dean Francis Alfar
Venue: Pablo

WRITE TO LIFE. Writing to live, or living to write? Many literary writers have commercial writing careers—but what about other lines of work? And what of the lines that divide work and writing? This discussion covers all sorts of jobs writers must take—and the amount of confrontation and compromise writers must endure. It will also cover tips and tricks to avoid burnout and “multitasking hell.”
Panelists: Josua Cabrera, Dominique Cimafranca, Mikael de Lara Co, Ramil Gulle, Victor Dennis T. Nierva
Moderator: Frank Cimatu
Venue: Kolektib 1

LINGO NG WIKA. Language and authenticity in Philippine literary practice—it’s an old argument. So should we be done with it, then? Or shouldn’t we? (This conversation covers all Filipino languages.)
Panelists: Genevieve Asenjo, John Barrios, Jaime Jesus Borlagdan, Jose Jason Changcoco, Jason Laxamana, Glen Mas, Voltaire Oyzon, John Iremil Teodoro
Moderator: Rica Bolipata-Santos
Venue: Kolektib 2

GLOBAL WARMING. A plenary discussion over lunch featuring Asian and Filipino writers who have gone “global.” Our international panelists will discuss the challenges and rewards of writing in their local language and still achieving international recognition and popularity. The panel will also discuss practical tips on international grants, fellowships and exchange programs.
Panelists: Nguyan Bao Chan, Conchitina Cruz, Dinah Roma-Sianturi, Prabda Yoon
Moderator: Angelo R. Lacuesta


PURO FORMA. The formal versus the experimental in poetry—is there a conflict? Young poets discuss the issues (and, inevitably, the non-issues) that abound.
Panelists: Michael Coroza, Conchitina Cruz, J. Neil C. Garcia, Mookie Katigbak, Angelo Suarez
Moderator: Allan Popa
Venue: Mogwai 2

MOVING UP IN THE WORD. Building the literary career—does it still have the same requirements as ten years ago, or are there new ways to get that break? Is the PalancaTM Award still the quickest path to writerhood? Or is that old-school thinking? What’s a literary career anyway?
Panelists: Efmer Agustin, Janice Bagawi, Arifah Jamil, Junley Lazaga, Leonila Lopido, Monica Macansantos, Harold Mercurio
Moderator: Mikael Co
Venue: Pablo

FICTIONAL SHOWDOWN. This is a friendly showdown between the realms speculative fiction and “non-speculative” fiction—its advocates, practitioners and its subject matter. Also up for discussion: attempted definitions, blurred boundaries and common goals.
Panelists: Dean Francis Alfar, Adam David, Jonathan J. Siason, Alvin B. Yapan, Prabda Yoon
Moderator: Ian Casocot
Venue: Kolektib 1


ALL ABOUT MY OTHER. The I versus “otherness” in poetry: how do they figure in your work? Insights, questions, problems and answers on this mind-boggling topic.
Panelists: Ronald Baytan, Kristian S. Cordero, Conchitina Cruz, Larry Ypil
Moderators: Carlomar Daoana, Dinah Roma-Sianturi
Venue: Mogwai 2

UNSCRIPTED. Playwrights, screenwriters and writers in general discuss the difficulties of writing for the stage and screen—from the issue (or non-issue) of language and the challenges of the craft, to the long road to production and the burden of having to win the audience.
Panelists: Jhoanna Cruz, Glen Mas, John Iremil Teodoro
Moderator: Jun Lana
Venue: Pablo

THE YOUNG AND THE LITLESS. Is the Filipino youth worth writing for? In the age of the Internet and digital home entertainment, Filipino children and young adults have so much to see, hear and read—without having to open a book. How does this affect the youngest generation of the Filipino literary audience? How does this affect the Filipino writer?
Panelists: Christine Bellen, Jean Lee Patindol
Moderator: Tara FT Sering
Venue: Kolektib 1

THE STORY OF OUR LIVES. Short story writers and novelists discuss the concerns of today’s fictionist—from language and style to themes and subject matter. Also to be discussed: getting published internationally, and the problem and the burden of writing long-form work.
Panelists: Vincente Groyon III, Arifah Jamil, Luis Katigbak, Januar Yap, Alvin B. Yapan
Moderators: Genevieve Asenjo, John Bengan
Venue: Kolektib 2

6:30PM | PLENARY: DEAR NCCA. What can the NCCA do for the younger or emerging writer? This discussion hopes to come up with a wishlist for the NCCA, covering specific measures of support for the Filipino writer.
Moderators: Angelo R. Lacuesta, Joel Toledo
Venue: Mogwai

• Address, National Artist Virgilio S. Almario
• NCCA Resolutions
• Response and Closing Address, Ricardo de Ungria


08 February 2009

Speaking well does not mean writing well

Ako Essien, studying Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe, The Interpreters by Wole Soyinka, and The Last Imam by Ibrahim Tahir in "Communicative Competence and Dialogue in Bilingual Novels: Three Nigerian Novels as Case Study," in the book Goatskin Bags and Wisdom: New Critical Perspectives on African Literature, edited by Ernest N. Emenyonu (Africa World Press, 2000, pages 183-184), writes: "In an L2 situation, where most of the users (even the highly competent ones) are exposed to only the written form of the language, their communicative competence is likely to be lopsided. This could account for the reason why some Nigerian novelists – Nwapa, Aluko, and Akpan, for instance – are castigated for the stilted conversation their characters engage in (see Lindfors 1971, Osundare 1979, etc.). But a good command of language does not automatically provide the writer with the ability to use language appropriately in character differentiation, even if he/she has been exposed to several varieties."

That reminds me of a famous remark of the late Brother Andrew Gonzalez, FSC (who was both a literature and a language expert), that "Filipinos speak the way they write." Of course, Filipino writers in English are exposed not only to the written form of the language (because they read quite a number of literary texts in English or in English translation), but to the spoken form (at least of Philippine English [which is the variety used every day in schools and business places], if not of American English [since many Filipino writers in English have studied in the United States]). Nevertheless, like that of Nigerian novelists, the communicative competence of Filipino novelists is also likely to be lopsided. Gonzalez gave evidence of this in various lectures.

07 February 2009

Louise Bennett

How do second-language writers colonize the language of a former colonizer? Here is a concrete example:

Yuh will haffi get de Oxford Book
O’ English Verse, an tear
Out Chaucer, Burns, Lady Grizelle
An plenty a Shakespeare!

Wen yuh done kill ‘wit’ and ‘humour’
Wen yuh kill ‘variety’
Yuh will haffi fine a way fi kill

The lines come from Jamaican poet Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley, as quoted in Post-colonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics, by Helen Gilbert and Joanne Tompkins (Routledge, 1996, page 185). Although, strictly speaking, English is not treated here as a second language, but as a mother tongue (as a variety of English, as linguists say), it shows the general idea: poets can force the second language to act in ways mother-tongue poets cannot even imagine. This is one reason we have to value writers writing in second languages: they bring into the second language literary devices not available to monolingual writers.

By the way, Bennett's lines "Jamaica people colonizin / Englan in Reverse" in her famous poem "Colonization in Reverse" echo Filipino critic Gemino H. Abad's equally famous "we [Filipino writers] have colonized the English language."

06 February 2009

Powell's question # 10

Here is my unsolicited answer to the tenth and last question raised by Adam Donaldson Powell:

"Do you have other comments you would like to add to this discussion?"

To this last question, Diane Oatley replied: "Proofreaders charge by the hour. They are not expensive. Use one. It will take a proofreader two hours to get through a 100-page poetry manuscript. For me it is completely irresponsible even self-destructive not to recognize that A WRITER CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT DO EVERYTHING! Any good editor knows this. You create the art; get a second or third opinion from someone qualified on the content and/or language. Keep editing (are you in a hurry? Take the time with your craft!!!). And then hire a proofreader. If you are broke, trade proofreading favours with a colleague."

I'm a very good proofreader of the work of others (I also charge very high), but am a terrible proofreader or even copyeditor of my own work. Too many times, when a work of mine sees print, I find typographical, grammatical, and stylistic errors that make me cringe. When I check my original computer files to see if they were my fault, I almost always find out that I sent them in myself, and my editors, perhaps giving me the benefit of the doubt because they know I have a doctorate in English, have not corrected my misspellings or grammar or references. I commend Diane Oatley for suggesting that writers hire proofreaders (and copyeditors). I also like the idea of saving money by trading such tasks with a colleague, although I'm not sure friendship can survive a debate about which word is better than which other word. I once angrily almost pulled out a book manuscript from a publisher (I was much younger then) because the editor thought I should use whom instead of who in a particular sentence. I might lose a friend if we got engaged in the same heated argument.

Oh, thanks, Adam Donaldson Powell, for allowing me to post answers to your thought-provoking questions, even if you did not ask me to join the discussion.

05 February 2009

Powell question # 9

Here is my unsolicited answer to the ninth question raised by Adam Donaldson Powell:

"Do you feel that most contemporary literary critics and editors are well-enough equipped to properly judge your bilingualism?"

I hate to say it, but my answer is a resounding NO. First of all, I myself as a critic am a total idiot when it comes to checking if Bienvenido Santos's statement that he writes in Capampangan using English words is true or not. I've written quite a number of articles on Santos, but I cannot read Capampangan and, therefore, probably missed the boat altogether. Secondly, my play Josephine, which I consider my best work even if nobody else does and which has lots of lines in Tagalog, Spanish, and English, as well as a line each from several other languages, has never been really understood, despite its having been staged a number of times by different theater groups and its being the subject of some critical studies. Of course, it's very possible that I wrote it so badly that my artistic intentions just were not communicated by the words on the page. On the other hand, if I give myself credit (which, of course, as an egoistic author, I do), it's the fault of literary critics who know only one or two languages.

04 February 2009

Powell question # 8

Here is my unsolicited answer to the eighth question raised by Adam Donaldson Powell:

"Who are your favourite contemporary bilingual/multilingual poets, and why?"

My favorite is Cirilo F. Bautista, who writes in both Tagalog (his mother tongue) and English (his second language). He was won major prizes for his poems in either language. He writes book-length epics (a rarity these days), but also shorter poems. He also writes novels in Tagalog and short stories in English.

Also my favorite is Marjorie Evasco, who writes in both Cebuano (her mother tongue) and English (her second language). She also has won various prizes for her poems and creative nonfiction.

Both Bautista and Evasco are included in international anthologies and encyclopedias.

03 February 2009

Powell's question # 7

Here is my unsolicited answer to the seventh question raised by Adam Donaldson Powell:

"What do you think established large press enterprises think of and look for in bilingual poetry? Are they and/or most literary magazines in your country of residence open to publishing bilingual poetry, or poetry written by persons who have another mother tongue?"

In the Philippines, all publishers publish bilingual poetry, because they all publish books in English. English is a second language in my country, which has more than a hundred indigenous languages, about a dozen of which have long and continuing literary traditions. A paradox, however, is that while linguists in the country (as well as outside the country) recognize and accept the variety of English called "Philippine English," publishers still generally look for the "American English" variety. This is a remnant of colonial days (the country was an American colony during the first half of the last century).

02 February 2009

Powell's question # 6

Here is my unsolicited answer to the sixth question raised by Adam Donaldson Powell:

"How do you react to poetry written in 'poor English', 'poor Spanish' or 'poor French' -- are there certain limits as to what you can accept as a reader and professional, and how much 'artistic license' should be permissible from a bilingual/multilingual poet?"

Of course, it depends on what we mean by "poor." William Wordsworth got it right when he said that "some of the most interesting parts of the best poems will be found to be strictly the language of prose when prose is well written." Most "native" speakers, unfortunately, cannot distinguish good or well-written prose from bad or poor prose; that is why there are school courses on the English language in Britain and the USA. Even at the risk of incurring the ire of my fellow critics, I have to say that there are critics, sad to say, that cannot tell good language from poor language. In any case, poets do have the right, I will even say the responsibility, to push the frontiers of a language, whether that language is their own or only learned later in life. I always say that, when in doubt, it is better to trust the poet than the critic (or any reader). History is full of examples of poets ignored or even maligned during their own times and finding their audience years, decades, or even centuries later.

01 February 2009

Powell's question # 5

Here is my unsolicited answer to the fifth question raised by Adam Donaldson Powell:

"How important is it to publish in English today? What advice do you have for a poet who is writing bilingually, or who is considering writing bilingually?"

It is very important to publish in English today, because English has become, like it or not, the world's lingua franca. The 21st century is sometimes touted to be the century of China (with the US rapidly losing its economic edge and China still adding to the number of its inhabitants and to the number of Chinese living and becoming very influential outside China). Chinese (probably Mandarin, among all the Chinese languages) may yet become the world's lingua franca, replacing English. (As students of language know, linguistic power grows out of economic power.) At some point in this century, we will all have to publish in Mandarin Chinese. But right now, most likely until we all die, English is the language of choice not just of merchants like publishers and, because we all have to earn a living dealing with merchant-publishers, of writers.

Fortunately, there is this thing called english (with the small letter E) or International English, which we all speak and could write in. My advice to poets writing in their own mother tongue and also in English is not to think that the English (the British) or the Americans own English, but that English is as much our language as it is theirs.