ONCE again, Palanca winner Ramil Digal Gulle uncovers his poetic self and roots in his second book of poems titled Tracks Without Giants (UST Publishing House, 2001, 94 pp.) Dedicated to the Thomasian Writers’ Guild (TWG), the campus writers group to which Gulle credits his accomplishments as a writer, his latest work includes fond recollections of his old days with TWG and as a Psychology major at the UST College of Science, his marriage, his first Palanca in 1996, among others.

In her introduction to the book, UST Center of Creative Writing and Studies (US-CCWS) director Dr. Ophelia Dimalanta describes Gulle’s work as “unforgettable poetry, perhaps because of this poetry which dares to deviate from the normally accepted…a kind of poetic cheek born not of insolence, but of a mounting self-confidence in his art.” True enough, Gulle takes the reader along in an enriching journey to the past through his prose and poetry. The distinct, colorful images and the subtle interplay of metaphors make it easier for the reader to grasp the force behind the words.

Gulle likens the act of writing these poems to the “excavation of the fossils, a digging out of a part of myself that had flourished in the bygone era of my life with the TWG.” He also considers this experience similar to the process of recovering the dinosaur fossils and footprints, which are “older than our oldest memory,” thus requiring the use of imagination.

The collection starts with “A Cure for Feelings of Being Adrift,” a poem about being involuntarily drawn to a relationship. The intensity of such emotions is displaced in the following lines: “Until her bed becomes a black tide/wrenching her adrift under the cold light of the unknown stars, until she feels/Irrevocably beautiful and lost,/A dead scream in her throat./” Meanwhile, there is also a love poem for his wife titled “Reply,” inspired by his chance meeting with poet Cirilo Bautista and his wife Rosemarie, whose marriage he considers as a model one. He also thanks his mentors, especially Dimalanta: “The beautiful Ophie could/Restore anyone’s virginity with a line/Whispered between a reader’s legs.”

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“Big” gives us insights of his father, primarily as a parent and “natural poet who was very skilled in balak, a spontaneous form, that in his case, did reach the level of poetry especially when he was drunk.” One can almost hear the father’s voice which “…carried through and filled our house, smashed/Through walls and shook dust from the ceiling.”

“Either they will like me/or they will not.” Trepidation is very evident in these first lines of Gulle’s one of his two prose poems, “Deber del Poeta.” Here, he recounts his old fears of writing poetry again after winning his very first Palanca at the young age of 26. The reader is implored to understand this phobia, through the persona of Pablo: “Forgive him for being so clumsy with words, for being a house of so many rooms for so many ghosts.”

Meanwhile, a different kind of forgetting, one which “makes faces, dates/Names and places fly into the void/…a love that erases and obliterates”is discussed in “Forgotten ode.” When one tries, even once in a while, to forget the hectic pace of life and appreciate his existence, he becomes much more than a set of interrelating systems—he really lives.

Then, there is also “Love, a Pre-marital Poem” which was given away as souvenirs to his guests during his wedding. He tries to give love and marriage more concrete forms on paper, though ambivalent as he defines love as “patient…kind…Never keeps company with evil” yet later as a “…betrayer in our beds…the poisoner of friendships.” Nevertheless, he acknowledges its powerful conquest of all: “And so love arrives and snatches us/…And we/Surprisingly/are born.”

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Probably his most interesting poem in this collection is “Semenal, Hymnal,”which he calls “a biology lesson from a poet instead of a biologist.” He skillfully weaves facts of science with his rich poetic imagination. Written after reading Sperm Wars by evolutionary biologist Robin Baker, this poem cum biology lesson gives new life and a touch of adventure to an otherwise dull process of how the sperm and egg cells meet in the process of fertilization. A great deal of colors, shapes, textures, and movements transforms this event, usually explained and illustrated mechanically in biology and physiology books, into something that can be readily visualized and understood. The often bland face of science is made much more exciting: “the egg, a vast orange/planet, covered with wavy,/orange glass blown by wind in a dream” or “the sperm cell, a blind/wriggly thing the color/and translucence/of fresh squid…”

In “Psychodeath Bubblegum Love Suite”, Gulle takes off from his usual style as he alternately rants and rhapsodizes on the throes of a gripping mental illness. The reader is treated to an intimate conversation with the afflicted, whose disgruntled voice wants to disssociate from the real world with its jarring rhythms.

Gulle also tries to explore his very own social consciousness in “280 and More.” Here he effectively brings back the horror and stench of the Payatas tragedy as he paints a vivid picture of the “…black ball of muck that might have been/somebody’s head…Fat hellish pastries or seed-pots ready to burst with death.”

On the whole, Tracks Without Giants successfully accomplishes its purpose—remembrance that makes the soul grow for its own good. We remember, not just because the memories bring back the good times, but also, more important, because we want to learn from the past and move on.

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