Can one teach poetry?

October 5, 2009 § 6 Comments

In a class where we are taught how to read and write poetry, we did not learn how to seduce words. We were not lectured on how to break in the bend, and to submit ourselves to the power of language, rhetoric, and the intangible. We read the good stuff, but did we read the stuff that we really felt connected to our being? No. A doctor can prescribe any drug any day that can cure a temporary disease, but only a few can cite a perfect drug for long-term asphyxiation.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to teach poetry. It is a lived experience. As an aspiring teacher myself, I do not want the burden of compiling a selection to rest on my shoulders. It’s a Sisyphus kind of thing. Teachers and students alike do not find poetry to fit themselves… It is poetry that finds us, while smoking a cigarette, on our way home, in the everyday. Can you teach a student how to catch an idea when it is flying on top of her head? I’d like to think that you can teach that as a discipline, but how to write, how to see, and how to feel about the idea solely belongs to the student.

We can enroll in so many classes, learn under so many teachers, but the destiny of poetry will always be under our command. The help of others is secondary, but the soul’s thirst for beauty is primary.

Not to say, in a reductionist manner, that poetry is a matter of perspective. It’s so much more than that – and I would be dodging many bullets if I ended this pursuit with an open statement such as “You’ll only get it once you’re there.” I say, poetry is a matter of passion, it is a matter of how much you want something, to the point of destroying it, watching it collapse, and building it again in your own, creative way. The fact that we create the extraordinary out of the ordinary entails that we are closet masochists, finding pleasure in the demise of mundane ideas and turning them into something of our own. This is why I do not mind people saying that poetry is about pain.

Now, going back to my original question. Can you teach poetry? Life teaches us poetry – poetry, actually, teaches us poetry. It is only when we realize beauty that we truly understand what poetry means. Some people say that pain is beautiful. Others say that pleasure is beautiful. We all have our own concepts of beauty, but what separates the poet from the human race is that she is in touch with her concept. You can teach someone how to appreciate beauty, but to mold an idea of beauty, to answer the call of poetry, lies on a lived experience.

Binary opposites in the eye of the storm

October 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

In the aftermath of Ondoy, we find ourselves in a deluge of feelings. Everything seems contradictory from now on – like how I’d want to be happy because finally the sun is out there, and at the same time I find no relief in knowing that there is still a vast number of people displaced. It’s what they call “binary opposites” in literary theory – contradictions in a story that create a certain harmony; an organic unity – the mark of a good story. I’ve come up with reflections about Ondoy that involve binary opposites.

1. Crisis is equal to opportunity.
One cannot cast a shadow without a light. In the past week, an overwhelming number of people have reached out to help. I have not seen so many heroes in one day! Everyone stood up in their own ways and did what the government could not do. The past week was an opportunity for us Filipinos to realize – we can show the world what we’re made of, regardless of leadership. A friend of mine brought up the issue that the government does not have enough budget for nation building. I told her that based on what I saw last week, we don’t need it anymore. This crisis has proven that we are not an apathetic bunch. Everyone was rendered useful.

2. Despite being in the losing end, the human race will fight.
Man vs. typhoon is a mismatch. Acts of God plus acts of man (government’s poor urban planning and our litterbug ways) is equal to destruction in huge proportions. The odds are always against the human race; even in a small scale. Why do we still continue to fight, even if we know that we are going to lose? After this week, I realized that it is because of human nature. We weren’t born just to sit around like wounded ducks. God gave us an instinct that makes us rise to the occasion and care. And the thought of losing doesn’t matter when you’re in the battlefield anymore – what matters is that deep down, putting up a fight means we’re winning already. We’re winning over the choice of apathy.

3. The human race will never run out of noble things to do.
It’s amazing how this one works. We live in a world where sources deplete, but when it comes to nobility our outsourcing never ends. We’ve seen it in romantic movies, and now we’re seeing it in the flesh. It’s as if being noble is in the essence of human nature.

4. One cannot say that the future is bright, but she can carry on anyway.

I don’t see the future opening up to us and saying that this is the last test. No, there will be many, many more tests. This is just a wake-up call. We must be aware that after Ondoy, Pepeng battered North Luzon and killed two – we just didn’t feel it. But it doesn’t mean that we’re not affected. And it doesn’t mean that we’re not supposed to help. The future will always be that fickle thing we know of; it can change in the blink of an eye. It’s up to us whether we see the glass half empty or half full. I’d like to look at the brighter side of the fence and say it’s half full, Hopeful.

5. Trusting more with senses failing
I pray everyone maintain such high spirits upon helping each other. I pray volunteerism become the new “in” thing. I pray that leaders will finally become leaders and not mere politicians. I pray that the Filipino people gather, and with the resiliency we have garnered from past heroes, become modern-day heroes – anonymous but proud. I pray that this course of our history will be a stepping-stone to rebuilding the nation, which will take its height in the 2010 elections.

A friend of mine asked – “What happens after Ondoy?” I said, with conviction, “We rebuild this nation.”

Ondoy relief operations day four

October 2, 2009 § Leave a comment

We assembled at around 11am in my friend Chieri’s house to make egg sandwiches. We thought it was going to be our most relaxed day for the whole week, but apparently not! Making egg sandwiches is serious business. We were able to donate around 500 (estimate) sandwiches to Red Cross at around 8pm.

Sham politician is sham

October 2, 2009 § Leave a comment

In trying to put my feelings mildly, I found no comfort upon the process. That millionaire is a son of a bitch who clearly does not know what he’s talking about.

You say you want to “regulate” Facebook and Twitter. By that, you mean censorship of such basic forms of self-expression, or to extend this further, journalism. Your proposition is impractical and, forgive the language – pretty fucking stupid. Blogging owes its popularity to its easy-access characteristic. By easy-access, I mean it empowers every person, gives everyman the right to speak, and the right to be heard. Sorry na lang, because we’re not as (supposedly) influential as someone in power, like you. But we bloggers feed off this kind of power, and honestly I am grateful that social networking sites have adopted this characteristic. They show that you don’t really need to be a writer to be heard – you just need to be yourself. Update your status. Say anything. It just so happened that people updating their statuses and saying anything have their guns aimed at you. Face the line of fire. Man up. Don’t be proposing some stupid censorship system just to get your reputation in tact.

Fine, you can deny the allegations, but you can never escape the fact that your acceptance of a leadership position entails a hefty amount of exposure – whether good or bad. It’s a free, one-way ticket to the top of a pedestal. You’re bound to being seen. You’re not invisible, and every move you make is watched. Face it. Don’t divert us to your lawyers. Don’t divert the attention to Facebook being politically incorrect.

Educate yourself. Learn about the ways of the internet. Learn what it means to get trolled because you’re infamous. Learn how to deal with your haters. Don’t be blaming other things.

3 ways to improve your Twitter experience

October 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

So you’ve been hearing about how useful Twitter has been these past few days. Ondoy relief operations have been relying upon the service, through simple and efficient news delivery in 160 characters. Tweets and retweets have raised awareness about different Metro Manila and provincial situations. In order to optimize your Twitter experience, I wrote a simple walkthrough on how to use Twitter with third-party websites and software.

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Download TweetDeck via their website. TweetDeck is an Adobe AIR software that carries a user-friendly interface. Your computer is updated about every two minutes on the average (on default, depending on your settings). Be careful when you’re changing your API settings! If you exceed your # of updates per hour, you won’t be able to update for the rest of the 60 minutes. You might be asking, too – what makes TweetDeck different from other Twitter software such as PowerTwitter and TwitterFox? The latter are Firefox Plug-ins, as compared to TweetDeck, which is a standalone software apart from Firefox. You can only open PowerTwitter and TwitterFox when you’re on Firefox (or any internet browser), while TweetDeck is a whole separate entity.

In order to use TweetDeck, of course, you have to have a Twitter account first. If you still don’t have one, click here to sign up.

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Now here’s the cool part. Notice how when you read some tweets about Ondoy, you see a pound sign (#) before the word “Ondoy?” That’s because these tweets are tagged. In Twitter, it’s highly suggested that you tag posts so that when people search, your tweet automatically appears. Amazing!

1. Using Hashtags, or #TrendingTopics

TweetDeck also automatically recognizes these “tags”  as links, like the ones we click on Firefox. Instead, when you click a tag or a trending topic, TweetDeck creates a column in your table for all tweets that mention the said tag/trending topic in Twitter’s public timeline. FYI, locked tweets DO NOT appear on the public timeline, so if you want to help disseminate information, set your profile to public!

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2. Using ReTweet (RT):

Notice how there are so many updates on the trending topic #Ondoy! Those are the SOS messages that we have to relay. For faster dispersion, TweetDeck has this feature called Re-Tweeting (or RT). To RT, just hover over the desired tweet’s userpic, then click on the box with an arrow to the right. When you do so, the Update Box will automatically copy-paste your desired tweet in the following format: “RT @Username: tweet.” You can also take out the RT and @Username from the Re-Tweet if you need more characters

3. Twitter on your mobile:

Ever wondered why you’re only allowed to tweet 140 characters? That’s because tweeting is blogging on-the-go! In order to update your twitter with your mobile, just pick any of the two websites and register: phTwitters.com, or isip.ph. This feature is very helpful especially when you’re out volunteering and you want to update your friends with what your area needs, et cetera.

If your phone is awesome and it has 3G, just go to Mobile Twitter. The URL is http://m.twitter.com.

I guess that’s it for now. If you have any suggestions, don’t hesitate to comment or email me at marvin.sayson@gmail.com!

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