I AM A performer, poet. What I write doesn’t necessarily reflect how I feel at a certain time. Me, angry? That could be a put on. Did I break my heart? Or just pissed that my internet is faltering? I ghostwrote love letters when I was 14, though I hadn’t the slightest idea what love was…
LITERATURE and art should not be aesthetically elitist or intellectually distant. I write to communicate what I couldn’t articulate with my spoken words. My work needs to be accessible, easy, penetrable… If people couldn’t understand what I just wrote, then I failed… I don’t conform with some poets who construct words and images like surreal craftwork—avant garde symbolism and esoteric metaphors… Poetry are words said in special, distinct way, but still—it is human language meant to communicate.
THE HARDEST part in the writing process is—how to consistently organize ideas and thoughts that continuously stream through my mind. Organization is focus, discipline. Research comes naturally as I live my life… Writing flows as it should—words happen… that is if I’ve organized myself fine.
I AM one of few writers who could write amidst noisy or chaotic surroundings, ie open markets, political rallies, ongoing rock festivals. As a journalist, I used to bang at the typewriter in honky-tonk newsrooms—smoke fog all over the room, people clattering in and out. On the contrary, I couldn’t write when it’s very quiet and still… I usually switch on the TV, play a Led Zeppelin disc, or watch traffic out the window. I am more bothered by strange vibes or contrary energies in a room than a loud “disturbance.”
I WAS 14 when I had my first pro reporter’s gig. I interviewed a convicted murderer in a city jail. My first question: “Have you had dinner yet?” Last year, I interviewed a (Filipino) senator in an LA restaurant. My first question: “Do you eat raw oysters?” Weird, I always start an interview with silly food talk.
WITH THEIR ease and facility with words, writers open cracks off their chest and show us their insides. With their mastery of colors and shades, artists alter the tone and texture of sorrow and joy. It’s sweet torment… They feel beyond flesh, pore through cracks—and get in and stay there. They are naked witness to life and love’s agony and bliss and let all of these enter their soul. Many times, words and colors don’t suffice; sometimes they couldn’t find the apt words. It’s torture—but if they cease to write, life ceases.
I PLAY possum with my own writing madness... Who knows when it’s coming—the kick or hook to write, the inspiration, motivation. And, will that flow be sustained? In journalism, it’s more manageable. Get the facts double-checked, and then the news story takes shape by itself—almost automatic. In “creative” writing, the “facts” are still there—then reality gets entangled with fiction and make-believe. Sometimes, I don’t even know if I’d believe or not believe what I’ve just written.
THE SHEER urge to write as human need distracts the very process of writing as physical endeavor. The moment I scribble a line or two—another set of thoughts fall down from the sky like rain or snow, or ideas come rushing in like insistent wind.
WHAT we writers and poets write—that are seemingly narcissistic or quixotic—are also our standards of universal cool. Like homeless dudes and wealthy bitches, we all squirm around imperfections and try to be good, our way. My words guide me, I am also struggling to be nice and awesome or pleasant… Many times, after sometime, when I revisit what I wrote—I ask myself, “Did I write those?” When I write, it’s like an assume a superconscious persona, then I wake up trying to figure out how to implement or put to action, on my conscious state, what I actually wrote.
SINCE I was child, it seemed like my life’s destiny has been set—to write and travel, to travel and write. The fascinating urgency and sublime value of documenting earth’s pristine beauty contradicted by life’s piercing agony were like insistent fire within that had to let go. It wakes me up at the dead of night, it pushes me out the door—there are so many things to say, so many truths to ponder. I knew I couldn’t fully express what I feel deep inside when speaking, so I had to write. It was a need more than a calling…
MY WRITINGS are ushered by reality. I was trained as a journalist during turbulent sociopolitical times. I write what my senses react to. My emotional proddings evolve from life experiences; these take shape in my poetry and other literary/artistic expressions. It’s impossible to write what I couldn’t physicalize.
AS A WRITER, the best compliment—is when a stranger comes to me and say, “Your words made me feel good.” Good money from a 400-word article published in a reputable magazine? Or a mere handshake for a 3-minute reading of my poem in an obscure café? I am “cheap,” I get “paid” with a smile.
MOST of my childhood, I wasn’t allowed to explain my case or follow through a nagging question in my head. But I’ve always been observing, listening, watching… The world is replete with motivations and provocations to write, so I write a lot. I need more rooms to write for—so I publish…
WHAT if there are no nighttimes? No dark to relieve light? Then, there’ll be no reasons to wish upon a star, or appreciate a random spark in a child’s bashful eyes. Poets will be obsolete and dreamers will melt under the glare of midday sun. We will all be exposed, as nakedness loses its pristine glory.
IN JOURNALISM, all I need are facts, then the story takes shape. Easy. In literature, it’s hard. I’d stare at my laptop for hours, days—alone in the woods. Not a word comes out of my vein. Or I’d be trapped in a Chinatown market or New York subway—then 4,000 words flow out of my soul… It just happens.
WHEN MISSING home, how do I cheer myself up? Two things: I cook, I cook like I’m feeding a thousand grasshoppers with dragon appetites. Then I listen to music—music that reminds me of those days when songs were enough to cushion the onslaught of misery and instigate dancing and laughters.
WRITING PER SE is not the problem. Getting into a consistent writing groove—in a ferociously fluid and insanely undistracted manner is the harder part in the writing process. Consistency, focus, grip: How to get a handle of the many thoughts and ideas that march in my head in eccentric cadence—that’s the issue. Once I get started with one story, there go 15 other stories piercing in my mind, even in my sleep. I don’t have any problem with a subject matter; my problem is there’re so many subject matters to write about…
POETRY mirrors my contradictions—that, in some weird way, secures my inner calm. Poetry is both my uninhibited nakedness and my protected shell. Poetry reflects the bleeding honesty of my deepest personal truths: no qualms, no blurs, no chasers in between. Yet, poetry also reassures me that my mysteries remain hidden: I only offer hints and clues between the lines. Now you see me, now you don’t. I am attached yet detached… I am able to love humanity with all my heart’s passion without compromising my wandering spirit…
COOKING is an endearing gesture of connectedness, a sublime intimacy that is anchored to a strong feeling of family. It connects me to my family oceans away. But these days, cooking and dining at home—with mom, dad, sons, daughters, and pets present—has almost become a forgotten facet of family bliss… Everybody has an important task to finish, or an electronic bauble to play with… So I cook. I cook for friends like I am cooking for the spirits of my past—both excited and enthralled what sort of culinary magic I’d come up with for dinnertime.
LONG time ago, cooking was spontaneous—a daily task, 3 meals with some snacks in between. Food recipes are public domain. People have their own individual treatment or personal style or “secret” about how to cook a certain dish. Stews, casseroles, grills, soups and broths, baked dishes, stuff fowls etc. Cooking was a transcendent art form—it feeds both the body and spirit. Most of the know-how that I employ in cooking I get it from memory, observations on diverse cooking styles by my grandmother, my dad (mom didn’t cook much)—and many people I met in my travels. No recipes, no written instructions—no fancy gadgets, no expensive cooking machines whatsoever… It’s all instinct and feel.
I MISS those days when typewriters keep me focused on deadlines, barber shop banter and tea on the porch meant community, and “snail mails” assure me letters are signed, sealed, delivered. We have been surging ahead from smoke signals to Blackberry upgrades, believing that it’d be easier to interact that way... Last night, my laptop froze. It both terrified and mystified me that suddenly, I felt so alone and isolated. But that’s also the moment, the beautiful moment, when the presence of a human being or two beside me—matters so much, so deeply.
THE QUIET urgency, the intense need to keep on writing—is so strong… I feel like time is fleeting away like driftwood, wafting like snow that was there once, cold but peaceful, but it’s slowly melting away… I have covered so many lives, lands, loves and longings—so now is the time to remember and redeem. I don’t want to leave life without handing over a body of work to those who know me—to dig in, scrounge about, ponder along, and hopefully, salvage some wisdom somewhere.
THEN and now—as a writer... Insistent typewriter keys that rumble through the dead of night, mute wastebaskets of 101 drafts, no cellphone ringtones middling about, no Food Network, no Facebook. No internet at all. But there was a Hemingway and Atwood and Neruda… These days, I could interview a monk in Tibet or a senator in the Philippines or a flamenco guitarist in Cordoba without leaving the cool couch or writing deck. One click on my PJs! Does it matter then and now, actually? If a writer isn’t inspired or motivated, there’s no work to show…
WITH THEIR ease and facility with words, writers open cracks off their chest and show us their insides. With their mastery of colors and shades, artists alter the tone and texture of sorrow and joy. They feel beyond flesh, pore through crevices of human emotions—and get in and stay there. They are naked witness to life and love’s agony and bliss and let all of these enter their soul. Many times, words and colors don’t suffice; sometimes they couldn’t find the apt words. It’s torture—but if they cease to write, life pauses. How will they ever be able to let go off the astounding load that they willingly took in inside their being—if they don’t let these flow out of their system? It takes a lot of love to be able to excise such sweet agony.
WRITING love poetry is aligned with writing about butterflies and bees, children frolicking amidst rainfall, or earthquake victims caught in twisted rubbles of concrete. It’s all about sensitivity to the human condition or flow of life… The emotional ignition could be awe, anger, confusion, wonderment—that reaches denouement as poetry. The initial calm that I derive from my feelings for her, whether she’s still here or gone, keeps my Muse alive. The first shudder, the sweet ache inside—the moment I first felt that feeling—it keeps flowing. Then it settles down, and stays within. That same depth translates to how I tackle other subjects: politics, immigration, children, darkness, pain. The same love, the same sensitivity.
POETRY floating on wine glass, roses falling off a full moon, butterflies dancing with snow flurries, rainfall that enflame bonfires, purple swans swimming on mushroom broth, smoke signals sent out by blue turtles… The human mind doesn’t see these ethereal madnesses that defy reason and logic unless the heart opens its eyes. Happiness is when you are able to share these with at least one other human being. When you do, then you survive life—like a child who easily derive joy from seeing things that adults couldn’t or wouldn’t.
COOKING is personal—it’s like poetry, like sexual intimacy. Cooking flows from your inner self and into the stove. It is about smell, taste, sight, hearing. Sensitivity. Touch and feel. When you feel like writing, write; want to cook, cook; feel like making love, do it—these are the best moments to flow… Sexual intimacy or the cooking process—it’s communication between you and your senses, sensuality/sensitivity channeled to your partner. If you don’t know your inner truths—it’s not possible to project it, or derive pleasure from sharing it.
WHAT we writers and poets write—that are seemingly narcissistic or quixotic—are also our standards of universal cool. Like homeless dudes and wealthy bitches, we all squirm around imperfections and try to be good, our way. My words guide me, I am also struggling to be nice and awesome or pleasant… Many times, my actions contradict my intent… Many times, after sometime, when I revisit what I wrote—I ask myself, “Did I write those?” When I write, it’s like I assume a superconscious persona, then I wake up trying to figure out how to implement or put to action, on my conscious state, what I actually wrote.
THERE’s ALWAYS mystery that shrouds a writer’s life… They live a life that is traditionally labeled as nomadic or “outside the frame.” A choice or consequence more than a reality. A perennial need to explore life and humanity—and throwing themselves right in the mouth of the dragon, out there, seems to be their thing. That’s the only way to know life, deeper. Hence, they are often misread and misjudged. They are not ordinary human beings.
AS I CONTINUALLY struggle to finish work as a writer, I come to accept that there is no such thing as “love-inspired.” Inspiration refers to an unconscious burst of creative energy. It has its origins in mythology. The Greeks believed that inspiration came from the muses. So “inspiration” is a myth. Let me say, I am MOTIVATED to write because of a tangible reason, a need to write—not just to please my muse but to satisfy an inner force to give something to a collective entity other than an individual. Inspiration floats; motivation has a deadline.
LIKE a phantom in life’s opera, the raven on window’s ledge—writers woo, coax, persuade, flirt, inspire, convince an audience with words. Without an audience, writers cease to be. Writers tend to operate like actors on a stage: they project a certain persona beyond their calling. What they write doesn’t necessarily mean what they are—one has to scrape through layers to be able to get through the writer’s heart and soul beneath the words.
WHEN I cook, and friends say they loved it; when I write, and readers say, they enjoyed them; when I read poems, and someone from the audience shakes my hand… I feel my existence has been validated. I feel worthy, hence—happy. I always wish that people recognize my cool humanity with the beautiful things that I could do—beyond flashing an accommodating smile and being sociable. I know I am not that bad…
NOT easy to be a poet or an artist… When we feel awkward, we choose to shake hands, share the world’s beauty and blessings of life—in words, music, or shapes on canvas. That’s how we extend our spirit. When we are silent, we are not rude; when we are moving, we are not inactive. It breaks our hearts that we are often judged as distant and disrespectful just because we are not what most people are.
I AM not good at following printed recipes. I learned cooking by watching my grandmothers cook, and how chefs from different cultures work in the kitchen—most traditional cooks don’t read instructions, they just cook. I rely so much on smell, touch, feel, taste, texture… very basic knowledge of spices, herbs, ingredients. It’s pretty much like playing music or painting or writing poetry—instinct based on gut reflex matters a lot.
WHEN I write love poems, my flow seems unaffected, freefalling, easy. The creative moondance isn’t so constrained, guarded, or pondered so deeply—like my usual high-handed, mostly politically-charged, sermonizing writings. It’s relatively hard to judge a love poem as incorrect or self-righteous, judgmental or condescending (like what I usually get when I discuss/argue a sociopolitical discourse). Love poems are very private and personal yet they easily, effortlessly cut across a wider audience—irrelevant of cultural background, ideological leaning, sexual orientation, or age level. Everybody can freely own them… And I like my work to always tread that wavelength—so that I can reach more humanity…
COOKING is thrilling and exciting to me. Why? Like writing, acceptance or admiration is very personal, individual. When I cook, I am trying to please an individual taste. That’s not easy… No two persons share the same tastebuds for a long time. How to please 10 people with one dish is the endless challenge of cooking. Cooking, for me—is not fastfood or TV dinner. It’s art, it’s cerebral—but it’s a kind of thinking dude’s gig that is also fun.
I WAS an angry young man. All my past work were reflections of anger. Love wasn’t real, it was fleeting—like a flash of lightning or candle in the wind. So at this time of my life, I want to heal myself. Hence, my love poems heal me—like vertical rays of the sun that mend cracks on a wounded earth.
COLOR progressions in art, or note structures in music have been laid out years ago. Cooking/food recipes have already been tried before… The thrill in art, music and cooking is on how we craft new variations to the same theme, new spice mixes to oft-prepared menus, new creative layers.
POETS dream of blue skies, soldiers feel the black earth—both desire peace… I am thankful that I evolved into a poet than a warrior. Life’s reality stings like a deadly scorpion—yet I dream that I could defang the scorpion without killing it. Without dreams, humanity will be as cold as death.
WRITING is not a passing hobby or a romantic distraction from living’s mundane gigs. Writing is life—replete with hardships but warmed by wisdom—like raising kids from infancy to adulthood, like nurturing a simple thought into a gargantuan ideology, like struggling to keep a flawed relationship alive with love.
The WRITING mood condones procrastination. As a journalist, I could write in crowded places like open markets or rowdy bars; yet it doesn’t mean I could finish a poem in a monastery. It’s not the “noise” that bothers me, it’s the vibe of a place. If I like the people around me, I can write just like that—that is why I could churn out volumes of work in a café of my choice, but not usually when I am alone.
COOKING is personal, it’s like poetry. Cooking flows from your inner self and into the stove. I learned to cook by watching my grandma cooked, then by observing others cook. It’s about smell, taste, sight, hearing… When you feel like cooking, cook. Follow that feel, that’s the best moment to cook.
POETRY is not just writing… It is the accumulation of all my reflex and responses to life and living. All other forms of writing are almost formulaic, learned, and acquired. Poetry is born with humanity—it is sensitivity and sensibility, motion and emotion, passion and lust. I NEED poetry to live and love.