Dios Ti Agngina

Thank you in Ilocano

A gathering place of great ideas, inspiring stories, faith, family, fashion, food (with a slant on CLEAN, healthy Filipino cooking), and much more!  Welcome to Dios Ti Agngina!

New York State Of Mind No More

It’s been about a month ago since I landed in the Philippines. I was recently in New York City for a few months, where I grew up and spent about fifteen of my formative years. I have lived in New York City longer than in the Philippines, my birthplace. This visit was supposed to be a permanent one—but when I got there, I realized I was no longer a New Yorker.

New York City has certainly changed, and it was interesting to mark all the changes. Gentrification is certainly rampant, and everyone seems to be in bars in Brooklyn. I spent my New Year’s Eve arguing loudly in Harlem; I lived in Astoria; I worked in the Flat-Iron Building in Chelsea.

I made sure to visit all the old haunts all over the city. Perhaps my favorite destination in New York City was a last minute find across from my workplace—Gramercy Typewriter Company. They refurbish and sell typewriters in a quaint store on a hidden fourth floor of an old building accessed through the run-down (but fast) elevator. I saw an older version of my very old Royal typewriter, among other seemingly ancient crafts in an Internet world.

I saw a bit of fall in Socrates Park and a bit of spring in Madison Square Park. I saw the trees barebacked and beautiful in Central Park. I saw a few plays on-and-off Broadway, through the kindness of friends.  I even stumbled upon last minute in a famous poet’s Upper West Side apartment. Many of my friends there are fellow upstarting artists—actors, musicians, painters, playwrights, educators, poets. It’s certainly a difficult pool—New York is teeming with artists (and hipsters!) so I admire them for their artwork, their courage and their hustle.

I ate ham and cheese sandwiches in the infamous NYC delis and simple lunches at Indikitch and Chipotle. I tasted every single brand of jalapeno chips possible—but the best is still the very affordable 50 cents version of Wise New York City Deli Jalapeno chips.

I felt very much a Filipina in New York. Occasionally, I would turn around and hear Tagalog being spoken by fellow countrymen at Costco, at the Flat-Iron, in restaurants and cafes, on the sidewalks. I truly missed being home. When some family news reached me, I realized that maybe as much as I possessed an Empire State of Mind, the Empire State was no longer for me. I slowly came to the realization that I knew where home was—a concept I had been confused about for so many years, since leaving the US in 2012 for the Philippines. Suddenly, I knew what I wanted and exactly what to do. And everything somehow worked out around that, coincidentally. The universe has its way of working things out for you when you are on the right path.

Which is why when I came back, I looked for all the Filipino comfort foods as soon as possible…In the past fourteen days, I’ve had my share of fried fish, eggplant, halo-halo, sinigang, and bisteak. No more pasta, burgers and steak. No more potato chips! Filipino food all the way! And I’ve been feeling much lighter and healthier. But it could also be the warm, healing sun of home.

 

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Angela Gabrielle Fabunan is a resident of Olongapo City. She has been published in Eastlit JournalCha Literary Journal, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Maganda Magazine. In 2016, she won Third Prize in Poetry at the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. In 2017, she won Honorable Mention in Poetry at the Amelia Lapena Bonifacio Literary Awards. She graduated with a BA in English from Bowdoin College and attended grad school at the University of the Philippines. She is an avid fan of pop music, a dog-lover, and a tea-drinker. 

Email:  agtfabunan@gmail.com

Facebook:  Angela Gabrielle Fabunan

Instragram:  @poetrymemory

Suddenly, I knew what I wanted and exactly what to do. And everything somehow worked out around that, coincidentally. The universe has its way of working things out for you when you are on the right path.

Fascination With Love Poems

In the plethora of love poems available in books, the internet and beyond, how does anyone write a good love poem at all? Carol Ann Duffy has certainly mastered it, by the way in which she lovingly crafts love poems in her book "Rapture."  She succeeds by always keeping the mystery of love at the reader’s sight—she is both the seductress and the seduced. 

Rapture follows the trajectory of a love affair in thin, compact but beautiful little poems with a huge impact. We follow the lover through their chance meeting, their rendezvous, their bittersweet parting. The first poem, "You" makes an impact of conjuring the beloved -- "so I went to bed, dreaming you hard, hard, woke with your name," and "you sprawled in my gaze, / staring back from anyone's face, from the shape of a cloud, / from the pining, earth-struck moon which gapes at me." She is setting us up already for what ensues.

And what ensues is a loving, a capturing, a grieving, a parting. She uses hyperbole, for what do lovers do best but compare that singular experience to the height of the moon's reach, to "a century's heat in the garden," and the rain's downpour of words. In poems such as "Betrothal" and "Tea" she speaks like a little girl who comes of age as a woman in love. In poems such "Haworth" and "Bridgewater Hall" she is a lover enthralled in both the scenery and the idea of the lover who is absent. The cobblestones are now every word the lover says, as in "Haworth" and the concert hall on the other side of town is the place the lover is leaving with his/her black umbrella, as in "Bridgewater Hall." She even lets the rain speak, in "Bridgewater Hall:"

your black umbrella raised. If rain were words, could talk,
somehow, against your skin, I'd say look up, let it utter
on your face. Now hear my love for you. Now walk.

Yet, Carol Ann Duffy also knows the grief of love. In "The Lovers" she opens by saying "Pity the lovers, who...disembark from their lives" and ends with "Pity the lovers, homeless  with no country to sail to." It's as if she already knows that when something is too good to be true, such as love, we only have it for a short amount of time. In "Ship" she says, "it was nothing more / than the toy boat of a boy" yet she watches it as it arrives and enjoys the moment. Already wise as only foolish lovers are, she knows that grief will come. And when it does come, we have a poem called "Grief," a perfect sonnet. 

One wonderful thing about "Rapture" is that it knows that the means leads to its ends; it is a collection of love poems, and it knows that. Yet, it is also very much aware of the process of turning a love affair into poetry. It is a collection that is self-aware as well as cognizant of the tradition of love poems She talks also about the way that love turns art, in aptly called “Art:” “Art,, the chiselled, chilling marble of our kiss; / locked into soundless stone, our promises, / or fizzled into poems; page print / for the dried flowers of our voice.” She does it again in name, as she depicts saying the name of the beloved out loud: " Its consonants / brushing my mouth / like a kiss," "I see it, / discreet in the alphabet / like a wish." Then she turns to language again and again, of course, to conjure the power of language to captivate the heart:

The last poem in the collection, aptly entitled "Over" proclaims the "death of love." It ends on the imagery of a bird beginning to sing, and ends on the word "memory." It commemorates what was, and what is now gathered together here as the remains of the love affair, these remnants of a great love that now we can hold in our collective memory, as "Rapture."

Angela Gabrielle Fabunan, 28, is a resident of both New York City and Olongapo City. She has been published in Eastlit Journal, Cha Literary Journal, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Maganda Magazine. In 2016, she won Third Prize in Poetry at the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. In 2017, she won Honorable Mention in Poetry at the Amelia Lapena Bonifacio Literary Awards. She graduated with a BA in English from Bowdoin College and attended grad school at the University of the Philippines. She is an avid fan of pop music, a dog-lover, and a tea-drinker. Aside from writing poetry, her goal in life is to find the best jalapeno chips in the world. She has yet to find them, but is open to suggestions.

Email:  agtfabunan@gmail.com

Facebook:  Angela Gabrielle Fabunan

Instragram:  @poetrymemory

In the plethora of love poems available in books, the internet and beyond, how does anyone write a good love poem at all? Carol Ann Duffy has certainly mastered it, by the way in which she lovingly crafts love poems in her book ‘Rapture.’

Introduction To Poetry

I first ran into Billy Collins before I even thought I would get anywhere near poetry. I ran smack into his poem “Introduction to Poetry,” to see him “walk inside the poem’s room / and feel the walls for a light switch.” I saw him “waterski / across the surface of a poem” and “press an ear against its hive.” Then I got to the end and watched as his students “tie[d] the poem to a chair with rope / and torture a confession out of it.” If you haven’t read “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins, once you do, you will never analyze a poem the same way. It’s because poems are meant to breathe, they are meant to reside in the silences of the crevice of book, of the mind. Not to be shredded into an English paper.

Poems make me happy. They do. If there was anything I wished for anyone in this world, it would be to feel the happiness I felt when I read “I’m nobody! Who are you?” by Emily Dickinson, or the first time I came across “Trees” by Philip Larkin, or the beautiful “Musee des Beaux Arts” by W.H. Auden. Poetry isn’t about the poets or belonging to some elite club of poets—a common misconception—it’s about the poems. It’s about the everyday belongingness, inclusiveness, when you read a poem about humanity. Because all poems are about humanity.  

And who more to talk about the life of poetry than the former US laureate and New York State laureate Billy Collins. Even with the above-mentioned poem, “Introduction to Poetry,” and throughout all of his poetry, you can tell he wants to connect with his audience. He isn’t dumbing down poetry, not at all, but he is creating the 21st Century Lyric, one about the daily activities of people. The quiet moments of rapture when we press our ears to the grass, or the memory of childhood in the sight of mouse—all of these become moments of beauty in his poetry.

The very first poem in Billy Collins’ horoscopes for the dead tackles silence. This is something I’ve always wondered about—how to achieve silence in a world so busy with yack, yack, yack. As I write this now at a café, a waitress is serving busy clienteles, and the song overhead is loud and boisterous. Yet, as I read “Grave”:

…Then I rolled over and pressed

my other ear to the ground,

 

the ear my father likes to speak into,

but he would say nothing

and I could not find a silence

    

among the 100 Chinese silences

that would fit the one he created    

even though I was the one

 

who just made up the business

of the 100 Chinese silences—

the Silence of the Night Boat

    

and the Silence of the Lotus,

cousin to the Silence of the Temple Bell

only deeper and softer, like petals, at its farthest edge.

 

I cannot help but feel his silence…about his father, about the power of contemplation, about the power of the imagination that make up silences, about the beauty of the petals. And so ends his first poem that draws me into horoscopes for the dead.

Now for a poetry lesson—I love form, because form resides everywhere. A building is held up by the formation of its foundation. A car by its hood. A shirt by its sleeves. Form is everywhere. Some of the stuff I learned in my fancy schooling about poetic form is that its practically invisible, but if you take a moment to notice, you can see how well the poet builds the poem through its form. The most popular form that the poem takes (if it wants to, because you never know where the poem is going to go) is what we call the sonnet. Now, there are a million different forms a sonnet takes, but there are two typical sonnets, the Italian and the English. The English sonnet, as popularized by Shakespeare in 154 sonnets, is the fourteen-line sonnet. Although Billy Collins’ “The Guest” has abandoned the rhyme scheme, I can spot the form of a sonnet, the beginning observation, the turn in the middle, and the ending with the ironic couplet. It’s a small story, the sonnet, and here, we don’t realize who the guest is until the ending. Marvelous. Here is the complete poem:

 

This is the poet that loves to talk about poetry, and while we are talking about poetry, let’s tackle Billy Collins’ “Memorizing ‘The Sun Rising’ by John Donne.” You don’t need to know anything about John Donne, but if you do, it helps, so here it is. It’s pretty self-explanatory, both poems. But in this one by Collins, the dramatic situation is of memorizing that poem by Donne, and the poem gliding like a “blown-out candle” from the mind. I love the part, though, when he says:

Then, after my circling,

better than the courteous dominion

of her being all states and him all princes,

 

better than love’s power to shrink

the wide world to the size of a bedchamber,

 

and better even than the compression

of all that into the rooms of these three stanzas

 

is how, after hours of stepping up and down the poem

testing the plank of every line,

it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within.

 

I hope I leave you with a little Billy Collins in the pocket of your mind. I hope you enjoyed the poetry. I hope it wasn’t a boring lesson, but a testament to what centuries of writers have loved, little compressed stanzas. And amidst all the busyness of life, I hope you sunk your feet in and enjoyed what little silence this article brought.

 

horoscopes for the dead by Billy Collins

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Angela Gabrielle Fabunan, 28, is a resident of both New York City and Olongapo City. She has been published in Eastlit Journal, Cha Literary Journal, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Maganda Magazine. In 2016, she won Third Prize in Poetry at the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. In 2017, she won Honorable Mention in Poetry at the Amelia Lapena Bonifacio Literary Awards. She graduated with a BA in English from Bowdoin College and attended grad school at the University of the Philippines. She is an avid fan of pop music, a dog-lover, and a tea-drinker. Aside from writing poetry, her goal in life is to find the best jalapeno chips in the world. She has yet to find them, but is open to suggestions.

Email:  agtfabunan@gmail.com

Facebook:  Angela Gabrielle Fabunan

Instragram:  @poetrymemory

If you haven’t read ‘Introduction to Poetry’ by Billy Collins, once you do, you will never analyze a poem the same way. It’s because poems are meant to breathe, they are meant to reside in the silences of the crevice of book, of the mind. Not to be shredded into an English paper.