FRANK, vulgar, and in-your-face poetry.

These are the fit descriptions for Filipino-American Fulbright scholar R. Zamora Linmark’s first poetry collection Primetime Apparitions (Hanging Loose Press, 2005), with topics ranging from hilarious English grammar and martial law musings to queer adventures and movie allusions. His poetry is a portal into the mind of a Filipino raised in a foreign country, only to go back to his original hometown and find out that nothing much has changed.

Indeed, change is something that Linmark longs for in his poem, “Manila, My Manila: Wish List For a Day.” Some of these wishes include, “Toilets with seats/ Or toilet seats without beads of piss,” and “the Virgin May to take a day off/ From apparitions and infomercials./ Ave, Ave, Ave Maria,/ Have mercy and free her for a day.”

Linmark also writes poetry based on Filipino’s twisted grammars, as in the poems “ESL, or English as a Sign Language,” and “Slippery When English,” which ends with a paraphrase from the famous remark by a beauty queen struggling with English, “So please, Your Honor, do not judge me./ I am not a book.”

On a more serious note, Linmark tackles the controversy on the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos in “What Some Are Saying About the Body:” “You died with the physique of a triathlete,/ the original Thrilla from Manila, simple as that;/ there are photographs and a museum to prove it./ But they’re fake! some say, fake as/ your World War II medals and Junior Featherweight belts.”

In “Exodus,” the poet writes about the death of N.V.M. Gonzalez: “The man was gifted with/ Words and symbolism: He was cleansing his blood/ Before making his exodus, that cheeky guy.”

Is Philippine TV still Holy Week-friendly?

Most of Linmark’s poems are loud and resounding, as if the words are booming inside the reader’s head, equally full of angst and hilarity. But the writer also knows how to mellow down in “On Days That Break Us.”

The poet makes no consistent writing style. What is constant in Linmark is his irregularity, spontaneity, and unpredictability, that reader may find himself reading either a free verse poem or prose poetry.

However, Linmark sometimes allude to events and people which may confuse readers who are not familiar with the subject, such as in “After Carl Dreyer’s Ordet (The Word),” which speaks of how Dreyer, the Danish film master, found the perfect man to play the role of Johannes in the movie Ordet. Language may also serve as a barrier in “Rhapsody,” in which he uses Hawaiian words that a non-Hawaiian reader may not understand.

Although he employs metaphors and other poetic devices, Linmark’s words are often uncensored, particularly in his queer poems such as “Sensory for Nine” and “Screening Desire.” At the same time, his words speak of fearlessness, for he laughs out loud in the follies of Filipinos, while acknowledging that he is also a Filipino, stuck in the same traffic jam of reviving culture and searching for national identity. His poems about the Philippines pose a question difficult to ignore: Are we contented with a country like this? Whatever the answer, Linmark’s poems will serve as critiques of popular Filipino culture, clear-cut and candid, minus the sugarcoating. Myla Jasmine U. Bantog


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.