Sunday, December 5, 2010



Traje de Boda: Poems by Aileen Ibardaloza
(Meritage Press, St. Helena & San Francisco, CA 2010)

Traje de Boda: Poems by Aileen Ibardaloza is a big debut poetry collection for its slim size (71 pages).

Fearless in its breadth (themes of historical archetypes, knotted loves, truncated lives, Jungian palinodes, bridled erotica, and an avid exercise of literary pastiche from glossa to hay(na)ku (tongue-in-cheek haiku-variant transformed to “hay(na)ku”, a Filipino interjection akin to bluster sighs of omigod! Good Lord, or simply Oh My!).

This collection is a mosaic shaped into an intriguing tapestry by a fearless literary pasticheuse.

It is mainly a celebration of betrothal, weddings, nuptial habiliments and fashion woven into the context of history (viz., Filipino hero Jose Rizal writing a farewell note to his dulce extranjera -- beloved foreigner -- on his day of execution), remembrances of iconic mothers, fathers-giving-away-daughters-in-weddings, and the ineluctable (also inscrutable) changes of lives from house furnishings to migration exiles.

Ibardaloza is most sensitive to these generational changes in a poem dedicated to her mother, “The Hay(na)ku of the Broken fourth Wall.” Without sounding maudlin, she limns in the hay(na)ku structure (an invention of Philippine-born American poet Eileen Tabios, and also the Meritage Press publisher of this debut collection) the saga of two women -- Ysabel and Cecilia -- who take diverse paths from a genteel colonial past to a ravaged contemporary life of struggle and guile in a gated-mansion that would find itself converted to a bar.

The Philippine-born Ibardaloza, now Northern California based, regales in her use of the new-found hay(na)ku like a student showing her teacher-sensei-maestro, how adept she has become.

Nevertheless, she is at her best when she uses longer lines, her free verse capturing a more lambent spirit, a more urgent voice: In “Palinodes”, she is unafraid of neither erotic images nor recondite allusions. “We regret each other/ ‘s li(v)es./ Particularly the one where/ a phallus rises up/ out of the hearth fire,/ an Etruscan mother-right.” Lies and lives confirmed and denied. The ambiguity is a distinct poetic skill.

She has not, however, mastered the use of the “glossa” in the poetic verve that Canadian poet P.K.Page used it. “Road Trip (A Found Poem)” falls short of the demands of this form which uses quoted lines as ligne donees (given lines) of poems developed from them. This is an equivalent of the Ekphrasis which springs from a picture or a visual image.

In her “After Eileen Tabios’ Footnotes to the Virgin’s Knots by Holly Payne”, the footnoted lines would have served as the given lines whence the poems would spring. This is how the glossa works. Ibardaloza missed that.

Ibardaloza ‘s real voice is what she uses in poems like “Across the lonely beach we flit/ Like shorebirds, lingering. Wind and/ water brush against sand and sky. I / feel the sand beneath me. / You engage the wind. I/ follow until you are unseen to me. / I will wait for you/ here, where waves break toward/ the shore. Hear my call, rare wanderer./ I will love you then.”

A poet who can write a love poem is a poet, indeed. This poet can write love poems (see “For Paul,” and “Eve of St. Francis.”

Ibardaloza might just be missing where her voice is most authentic --
- she seems to be obsessed with her narrative use of the hay(na)ku (a three line stanza that starts with one word, followed by a two-word, and sandwiched by a three-word third line. The classical haiku is made up of three lines with a 7-syllable line enveloped by a first and third lines of 5-syllable each).

A debut collection like Traje de Boda promises an impressive future for a young poet like Iabardaloza, a microbiologist by training, but the caveats of a sustained poetic life still lies in how she matures beyond fascination with “novel” equipment for her aesthetic experiences.

An authentic poetic voice and an achieved aesthetic experience are among these caveats she should heed while she could.


Albert B. Casuga, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. His works include: Summer Suns (short story collection with Cirilo Bautista, Manila UST Press 1962); Narra Poems and Others (poetry collection, San Beda Publications, Manila 1968); Still Points (poetry collection, Flores & Asociates, Manila 1972); In A Sparrow's Time (poetry collection, Infocom, Canada 1990); Songs for my Children (poetry collection, Infocom, Canada 1996); The Aesthetics of Literature (Literary Theory and Criticism, De La Salle University, Manila, 1972); Editor: Man in Search of Meaning: Literature (Humanities Series, Asia Foundation & DLSU Textbook Committee, Manila 1970); Man and His Literary Past: The Classical Tradition (Asia Foundation & DLSU Textbook Committee, Manila 1971); A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Manila, 2009).

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