On that fateful day in the office


Read poetry in silence. Read it out loud. Listen to people talk about poetry. Listen to people read it out loud. Spoken. Slam. From the written text to the perfect instrument: your voice.

My remaining months as a graduate student has been revolving close to these poetic affairs. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me to find poetry haunting me even at work. šŸ™‚

Some work buddies expressed their interest in learning more about poetry and trying their hands at it. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. I felt a bit nervous about this whole poetry presentation because there were two sides of the coin. The first side shows me — sharing something I love to my work-buddies. The other side reveals a geeky me — pouringĀ out my geek-iness to unsuspecting people. But the other side — that one who loved to share — won. There’s no going back.

I didn’t really have to wrack my brains and heart to envision how I’m going to do the presentation-slash-workshop. Prior to this “task”, I had had anĀ epiphany… During our training weeks at the office, we we’re required to read tongue twisters real fast. And I, surprisingly, fared well, which was odd. It wasn’t like I’m bad at reading loud or have major pronunciation issues. Perhaps, it was because I listened to rap songs a lot? None of these factors made perfect sense until just recently, I’ve connected some special “dots.” I’ve been reading (silent-in-my-mind kind of reading) poems for years. In this duration, I’ve developed ears for picking rhythm. Perhaps, it was these uncanny combination of stressed and unstressed syllables that paved the way for reading tongue twisters rap-level fast. It might even be the cause behind my better scores at doing poetry scansion during high school. Theories, hypothesis.

So, how am I going to bring this mini-discovery into our poetry presentation?


Palakang Kabkab, kumakalabukab, kaka-kalabukab pa lamang, kumakalabukab na naman.

We’ve picked three work-buddies and asked them to do the tongue twister. The fastest wins and gets a royal treatment from me: a kind of interrogation of which the ulterior motive was to fish out certain keywords like syllable, pattern, or rhythm. Using these keywords, the discussion went on to highlight the “orality” of the text, retrace the roots of oral literature, then revisit the elements of poetry: the rhythm, symbolic transaction, and figurative language. The remaining minutes was spent to let my folks gather their sheer collective juices, and write those verses (which was actually dedicated and served to surprise our team leader..haha!).

InĀ the end, IĀ gave them some of my personal notes on poetry-writing:

  • Writing poetry is an intimate experience. It always is. In my case, it served to become a form of therapy, a way of finding my voice in a world that didn’t listen. Hence, if they ask me and say, “hey Jan, how do I write poems?”, I just have to give the question back and let them figured it out. Because, ultimately, the choice is theirs to make: “how do I express myself?” or “do I want to capture this moment? in verses?”
  • To write poems is to feel. To feel. To feel. To feel. It’s like when you’re on a jeepney, and the rush makes a swooshing sweep through the trees, and you feel the leaves rustle, sing. Or it’s like sitting here in the office, and then hearing that annoying scraping noise made by your work buddy, who loves to scratch that specific spot in the floor, and when you turn to look at those two — the shoes and the floor — in contact, you’re reminded of something or someone. That is feeling. Simply. Utterly. Feeling. Perhaps, it had been convenient for most of us to re-arrange those things that appeal to our senses, and rank them according to priorities, and these fleeting moments got in the bottom. (Why not collect it back, this time, not just as a lingering memory but a poem?)

The presentation was not just fun. It involved an amazing dose of discovery. I’ve learned that most do know how to pen poems, and leaned on the conventional style (of rhyme and structured stanzas). I could already imagine some wooing, with words spilling out from a scratch of paper. šŸ˜€

PS: Here’s the Fred Voss-piece that was read by our beard-y buddy:

I have sweat too long with my arms around a bar of steel to wonder if it is real,
I have smiled from the bottom of my heart too many times
with other men
as a factory quit-work buzzer finally blared
on a Friday to care
if some men think
they have risen above us I have seen
the courage in the eyes of too many old men
over grinding wheels
to ask
if work
is noble I have
seen the look in the eyes of a man on his last unemployment check
too many times
to debate
economics I have the stink
of steel dust and burned brass too deep
in my soul to forget
that the trains
and trucks and gears of this world could not run
without us I have left
the heart of the men who carry the world
on their backs too long
in mine
to listen
to anyone who feels they are less important
than a bottom line.

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