DESPITE the emergence of new poetic forms in the Philippine literary scene, an “Old World” poet is still bent on making waves.

A Feast of Origins (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2004) by Prof. Dinah Roma, of the Literature Department of De La Salle University, relives the tasteful elegance of traditional Philippine poetry in English without giving the impression of imitating its predecessors. 50 poems strong, it is a collection of highly personal musings on life, despair, and philosophy. It starts with “Unseen Photograph”, a meditation on love’s anxiety and eventual affirmation. From that point, Roma continues her poetic journey through different terrains, both physical and imagined.

The collection is divided into three parts. The first part, “A Reveller’s Song”, paints “the mortal struggle to deal with human desolation,” as written by poetess Marjorie Evasco in the book’s foreword, “Original Grace”. Roma illustrated this in “My Brother Soldier”, a beautifully poignant story of a brother soldier who lost a comrade and is trying to find solace in remembering the happiness of family life. She writes thus: Deep ravines enclose your words/ echoing summers when/ you ran about the house/errand-bound for Mama/little Lingling propped on your shoulders/ proud of childhood grown overnight.

The second part, “The Solace of Fruition”, celebrates new discoveries. Most of the poems in this part were influenced by the poet’s five-year stay in Japan as a Monbu-sho scholar of Comparative Culture.

In “Tsukimi” (Moon Viewing), a sensual poem showing the outpourings of a female passion, the poet employs a subtle, honestly sad, yet more colorful technique characteristic of the Buddhist mono no aware.

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The third part, “Pure Cadence Pulsating”, brings the poetry back to the poet’s homeland in Samar. The poems in this part are once again sad, but with affirmation and philosophy gathered from resignation to faith.

In “The Linens”, the poet is given to simple remembrances of her mothers love as embodied in fresh linens brought out to welcome returning family members. The poem lingers in the mother’s funeral only to zoom back to the lightness f childhood days of hanging linens out to dry.

Roma’s poetry has a Zen-like meditation to it. One gets the feeling that Roma, after seeing an object, closes her eyes and paints the picture all-over again in her perspective – with crisp technical perfection.

“Her images swoop and soar, her rhythm firmly sustained,” says literary matriarch Ophelia Dimalanta in the back cover. The poems are served lush, free-spirited, and wide-ranging in philosophy. The down-to-earth demeanor gives it a distinctly provincial flavor.

The entire volume is a pleasurable read except for a few drawbacks that may not appeal to the modern reader. Roma’s poetry is not a body of word designed to be rapidly consumed. Such excitement is reserved for volumes like Arvin Abejo Mangohig’s The Gaze (UP Press, 2003), or Wilfredo Pascua Sanchez’ New and Later Poems (UP Press, 2003). The writing all throughout the collection is subtle, safe, and rarely reaches a disturbing volume, a trend that seems so popular in the poetic hub these days. The uniform length and tone of the poems may also leave the average reader hungry for variety of movement.

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From doctors...

A Feast of Origins luxuriates in easy grace and soft blows of passion that invites you to go back to it after some time that it has been put away. It is a book that will have a prime space in the shelf, one that the reader will occasionally come home to, making us glad, for once, that traditions are kept. Czeriza Shennile S. Valencia

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