Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?
I started writing poetry when I was fifteen years old and was going through what might be the first time I’ve ever felt heartbroken. My entire life was going through such a transitional phase that I needed to find something to help vent in a way that’s harmless and progressive for the healing process. I ended up writing a lot of sad and emotional poetry that I’m glad I didn’t send out to magazines. And as I grew older and saw and learnt more about the world my poetry became more positive, more balanced and something that’s become a huge part of my identity.
Music has actually become more of an inspiration to me than poetry when I started. I wanted to find stories that I could relate to and learn from styles that attracted me, and I found them through pop and underground Filipino music from musicians like June Marieezy, Karylle, Curtismith and Bamboo. Only a couple of years later I found poets that I could connect with.
My favourite poems come from Anthony Anaxagorou, Juan Miguel Severo and Marilyn Monroe. There’s a wonderful poet out there named Robert Eric Shoemaker whose debut collection I had the honour of editing and his style is very, very fluid and colourful. I’m a huge fan of poets that write in a more conversational style and can manipulate wordplay.
How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?
I wish I had a writing schedule to follow because a lot of articles online say that it’s really important for writers and it, at least in my opinion, gives you a better chance of getting more work done, but writing a poem is quite a random process for me.
Either I think of a line or think of an interesting wordplay and then I keep that on my phone for a while or I sit down, open a blank screen and just write whatever it is I’m feeling. When a song or a show hits a nerve in me that I never knew I had, I end up writing something about that or when I want to preserve a personal memory, I work around it and it ends up a poem that I get to keep forever.
Poetry used to be difficult for me to understand and I thought you need to have a degree to sink into it properly but while growing up I realised that it’s just as rough and dirty and rewarding as any other craft out there. You can get really brutal and honest with it and usually that’s where the best ones come out. Now there’s so much diversity in poetry today as well that makes me want to become a part of it even more.
I realised that in order to write a stable of varied poems that people will also connect with I need to live life and to always be in the moment because essentially you’re capturing life through words, something that I thank the craft for every single day.
Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
I have Twitter and a profile page on Facebook just to keep my personal stuff and my writing separate. Being on social media also helps me find journals and websites that have current calls for submissions and some looking for writers and editors so I think social media’s really helpful in that way.
Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?
I’m currently going through a lot of writer groups or classes available around my area because I’d really like to have some feedback from fellow writers. I used to be in a writer’s group when I was back in sixth form but it was short-lived and since then I’ve always wanted to be a part of a community like that.
I’m currently reading Mia Alvar’s In The Country, a collection of short stories about Filipino Overseas Workers all around the world and how being abroad has changed their lives and relationships with people both with them and back in their motherland.
What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?
It’s always an enriching experience to volunteer editing for a magazine or something like that because you get to look at a poem from a different angle and you end up learning more about your own and how you can improve by reading many different kinds of poems.
When submitting work, always find the literary magazine that is a match for your poem; don’t do it the other way around. Follow lots of journals and websites on their social media platforms and subscribe to their mailing list to always be updated with what’s going on with them and if there’s anything that you might be interested in.
And lastly, write about what you feel needs to come out from your system and write what YOU want to write and not what you feel the world wants out there. Remember to not be afraid of getting honest and brutal when you find bits of yourself between the lines; usually your best work lies in poems that you weren’t comfortable writing.