WHEN and where does love and happiness end, when and where does it begin again?

These are one of the dilemmas presented by Marginal Bliss, Carlomar Arcangel Daoana’s first collection of poems, which is part of the Jubilee Series launched by the University of the Philippines in preparation for the centennial in 2009. It was officially launched last September 8, back-to-back with the re-issue of Gemino Abad’s early poetry collection, Caves and Parables.

Marginal Bliss signals Daoana’s coming of age in the literary world. Daoana, a Literature major and former associate editor of the Varsitarian, tackles familiar subjects such as loving and letting go, keeping relationships and memories, and meeting people in his free-flowing lines and simple, soft-hued images. He lets his sentiments alternately surge and trickle, with just the right combination to entice readers to delve into other hidden secrets and meanings.

Many of Daoana’s poems shuttle between letting go and holding on. In “Preludes to a Sonata,” the persona muses on the loved one’s inevitable parting. ”I will recall the words and their shells of ghost/ back from the brink of an instant already done with./ I shall write them down in my notebook./ And if I am fortunate enough, I may be able/ to speak of you finally in the past tense.“ The same ambivalence rings throughout “The Indigo Box:” “I gave my heart wrapped with those letters,/not wanting to take it back.” Yet in the end the poem concludes that letting go has also its advantages—“…In any form of closure,/fortunately, there is always deliverance.”

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The memory of a departed loved one is always more than enough to make us stay. ”I would have worked my way out of grief/but something in me holds me still.” (“Keeping the Grief”)

Meanwhile, in “Love in Guatemala,“ a love affair is cut short when the guerrilla husband disappears suddenly. The bereaved one, fueled by memories, imagines that the missing loved one is still present, remembering “…the dance,/ the fire that you touched in his body— / spaces, the music that grew into memory,/ the words that shone and fell like stars.” But one must accept the fleeting nature of life and relationships, and realize that there’s no turning back, when “…questions, like things, no longer matter. “(“End”)

Daoana also strikes a common chord when he writes about connection and oneness. In “Between Them,” he describes how “Two bodies walk/push aside/the emptiness/ of the room.” “Sagada” depicts the tranquility of the place that seems to make everything lasting: “Every time the eye/enters this place,/the mountains/do not want/to be transformed…Nothing dies here,/ for dying means/ passing merely/ as the wind,/ slashing through the rocks.”

Being with someone who always seems to be somewhere else is frustrating, as presented in “The Philosopher:”…It is as if half of your body/ were facing somewhere else, a thoroughfare/ blazing with headlights, noisy with dreams.”

In the “Conversation,” the principal characters find something in common and “… choose tragedy/ Because there is nothing else to love.”

Overall, Marginal Blisss asserts that almost everything in this lifetime is enclosed with boundaries. We are only freed when we work hard to seek whatever we want and need outside these boundaries. Marginal Bliss is a definite must-read for those wanting to break go beyond the margins this holiday season.



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