Rey de Vera

emanilapoetry: What draws you to express yourself through poetry and what drew you to poetry in the first place?

Rey: the entry point for me is like waking up in the morning because i teach poetry. but at a certain point i realized that just teaching poetry is not enough. why teach poetry further when i don’t even know how to write a poem in the first place? is just teaching poetry done by those who failed to write poems?

i believe one can teach about poetry better if he/she knows how to write a poem and in fact, enjoys or loves writing it. teaching poetry is not just helping your students how to solve a word puzzle. what is more important is the moment where the teacher, the poet-author, and the student become one in the experience of appreciating a poem, either by being entertained or challenged by the subject poem. the trust that the students confer on a teacher who should have expertise or authority on the matter is part of that big picture of a teacher who is now a poet-author. without that trust, unity is illusive and the teacher has failed to impart the subject well.

emanilapoetry: How do your current posts compare with the first poem you published on emanilapoetry?

Rey: my current posts are more conscious of the poetics that i am trying to infuse on pinoy haiku which i originated in emanilapoetry. at first, i became aware, and has to painfully decide on the mode of expressing myself as a tagalog/filipino poet, as i am an english teacher. the great divide is particularly on the choice of language. should it be in english or tagalog/filipino? while i could make english haiku in 5-7-5 form or free verse, i found later that the filipino poet should first and foremost express himself well in the language of his land. perhaps, this idea is quite a nonsense to others but i feel that sincere poets should be deeply sensitive to the voice of the land, of his place. sa isang makata na ipinanganak sa isang pook na ang salita ay hindi gaanong nabago ng panahon, ng anumang pananakop ng ibang lahi, kahit pa nga binago ang ilang pangalan ng pook, o binago ang kanyang relihiyon, ang kanyang salitang taal ang unang umuugnay sa kanyang katauhan sa lupang tinubuan.

emanilapoetry: As you are so attracted to words, how do you feel about the way language is being used in today’s world?

Rey: i could sum it up in one word: confused. and the filipinos are the most confused people on how to use their language for their advantage. blessed or doomed by the fact that we have more than a hundred language, a lot more including vernaculars and dialects, but if only we can speak in one language much source of confusion will just cease to exist. sad to say, the story of babel is told in a negative light, but the hidden meaning or lesson has post-modern implications. to nations who want to gain world power, they know better than us in dealing with language.

emanilapoetry: One emanilapoetry member once commented: “Pag mas marami ang nahihikayat maging makata sa isang bansa ay mas yumayabong ang kultura ng bansang iyon.” In what way or ways can poetry enrich a nation’s culture?

Rey: ang layunin ng pinoy haiku ay sadyang malibang at matutunan ng higit nakararami ang tumula. noong unang panahon ay sadyang matulain ang mga pilipino. kaya nga at ngayon ay hilig nila ang umawit dahil yaon ay sadyang bunga ng kanilang kulturang luma. ngunit sa pagdaan ng panahon ang pagtula ay lumayo na sa pag-awit. it is the direct result of attraction to free verse or just plain rejection of the discipline on making lyric poetry.

sa mga sinaunang pilipino sabi nila, “kung walang tugma ay walang tula” or they might simply say: your free verse is good, but it is not a poem. so pinoy haiku is a great equalizer, dito sikat ka mang makata o baguhang manunula makikipagtagisan ka lang sa tatlong linya, na may pito, lima at pitong pantig bawat linya. sa rhyme scheme na a-b-a. at para sa ikayayabong ng kultura sa larangan ng wika, mas maganda kung gagamitin ito sa mga wika ng pilipinas o bakit nga ba hindi sa “bahasa pilipinas” kung gagamit pa rin ng mga wikang hinalaw sa wikang bahasa indonesia o bahasa malaysia. ang pinoy haiku ay isang panitikang may layunin. layunin para sa ikahihilom ng nasusugatang kalikasan. to protect the loss of metaphors already found in philippine literature.

paano pa makalilikha ng kahulugan ang bango ng bulaklak ng kapaya kung wala na ang kapaya? kaya’t sa karamihang pilipino, ang tumula lang ng haiku na patungkol sa kalikasan, o maganda nga kung sa pinoy haiku na ukol sa kalikasan ay sapat nang kontribusyon sa ikauunlad ng kulturang pilipino at kaisipang may pagmamalasakit sa kalikasan o pagpuna ukol sa climate change. magaan ngang makakatha ng sinuman at mas madaling mapapalawak kung susulat lang ng tulang pinoy haiku sa fixed form nito na 7-5-7 at a-b-a rhyme scheme dahil hindi gaanong mahirap at matagal kathain. the more one is inclined to write haiku, particularly nature haiku, the culture of respect to living things and their habitat is cultivated. and this value teaches us to love our country more.

emanilapoetry: Any advice you have for those who want to have their hands on poetry?

Rey: start in a small way. start writing haiku or pinoy haiku. i have posted more than enough in emanilapoetry for those who want to know more about pinoy haiku. i hope ust press will publish soon my book on pinoy haiku, so most readers will understand some of the poetics i discussed in the upcoming book.

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