EVEN poetic license has rules to keep.

Poetry giants Ophelia Dimalanta, Cirilo Bautista and Michael Coroza discussed guidelines on the art of poetry with literature professors in the University in a two-day seminar-workshop titled “A Call for Creativity” last Nov. 23 and 24 at the Faculty of Arts and Letters.

“Poetry is the half-constructed fabric of the imagination,” said Dimalanta, director of the Center for Creative Writing and Studies (CCWS). ”It is a therapy, a release of the writer’s emotions.”

Dimalanta warned of mistaking a persona in a poem for the poet himself, since “a good poet must take on many faces. He is empathic by becoming everybody and yet nobody,” she said. This versatility, according to Bautista, Palanca Hall of Fame member, must be anchored on knowledge of different poetic techniques and subjects. “Poets should familiarize themselves with traditional techniques and forms of poetry,” he said. “Free-verse writing commonly employed today is not the only form of poetry. There is a great imbalance in the learning of traditional and modern poems.”

The selection of a topic is also essential in poetry writing. According to Bautista, there is the proliferation of confessional poems—those that profess love that have become banal but “there should be variety, like writing about the society.”

Bautista also stressed that the poet should consider the concept of intertextuality, a way of presenting poems in a new, innovative way. But he pointed out that the true test of a good poem is in the reading. He commented that many Filipino poems nowadays are “earless,” meaning, they lack the rhyme characteristic of traditional poetry. He said that poems are ideally 10 per cent literal and 90 per cent figurative.

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“A poem is a transaction between the poet and the reader through the mediation of language, and literature in poetry is the language of indirectness,” Bautista said. “The poet extensively uses subtlety in his writing. Beyond that, the reader should be able to see what is not being said by the poet.”

Redefining the makata

Meanwhile, Filipino poetry comes with its own set of peculiarities and requirements.

Coroza, CCWS Junior Associate and a multiple Palanca award-winner, said that imagery in Filipino poems is defined by tradition, influence and innovation. It has its own set of rhyme and measure as seen in the “tanaga,” with its seven-syllable-per-line measure; and the eight-syllable-per-line measure of the “dalit.” These kinds of Filipino poetry have no English counterparts.

Coroza also discussed the Filipino vocabulary that includes “impit” or stress in the intonation of certain vernacular words. An example is how “puti” does not rhyme with “kayumanggi” because of the stress in the latter’s ending syllable. Coroza stressed that poets could only render quality to their Pilipino poems if they have good understanding of the literate tradition they inherited and its predecessor—the oral form. He quoted another poet, Pete Lacaba, as having said, “Tradition gives definition.”

After having mastered the traditional, only then could a poet experiment with his style of writing. The poet, Coroza said, always molds new techniques of constructing his poetry lest his readers get tired of his writing style.

“The end of poetry is to be a good judge of art,” Bautista added. Hershey D. Homol

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