Review of Vim Nadera’s Alit (1993)

ALIT, DALIT, HALIT, MALIT, NGALIT, NGALIT, PALIT, SALIT (CONFLICT, TALK, HATE, RIP, TRANSITION, GRIT, CHANGE, ALTERNATE). Published 1993. Author, V.E. Carmelo Nadera, Jr. Pasig: Anvil Publishing, Inc. 1993. 95 pp.

Nadera combines tradition and experimention in the writing of the Alit poems. The book has seven sections that corresponds one-to-one with the words in the book title. Comprising of forty seven poems, section “Ngalit” has thirteen pieces while section “Malit,” being a transition device, has only a single poem. According to Virgilio S. Almario in his introduction to the book, the poet employs many personas including Quezon provincemate and historical figure Hermano Pule or Apolinario dela Cruz, the religious rebel of the 1830s.

The poet uses apostrophe (character speech) in a series of poems in dalit form (monorhyme octosyllabic quatrains) in the first section. In the poem “Hari ng mga Tagalog” (King of Tagalogs), a Hemano Pule disciple reflects on the good of a spiritual leader who sprang from the ranks of common folk, and realizes that genuine freedom from colonial power was what they experienced in the slope of Mt. Banahaw. In another poem, “(Ugali’t Usapan Lang),” Hermano Pule’s mother delivers a poetic monologue not unlike that spoken by the Virgin Mother in the pasyon, a grieving parent as his son literally becomes a Christ-figure.

Nadera’s literary experimentations also include typographical and language play. In the section “Tularo” (Poetry Play) which can be considered as a mini-collection of concrete poems, the texts directly express their messages or meanings. In “Sinok,” (Hiccup), the letters that comprise the word mimic the act itself, and “Kindat” (Wink) does the same. In another poem, “Nang Sabihin ni John Cage,” (John Gage Says), the word play recalls the repetition in the Modernist poem “Ako Ang Daigdig” (I Am The World) by avantgarde poet Alejandro G. Abadilla; but Nadera overdoes the act, writing eighty repetitive lines, making his piece practically a parody of the original.

The “Salit” section has seven poems about lovers and activists. In “Katoto” (Comrade), the singer, after lamenting the death of a beloved friend who joined the progressive movement, renews the commitment to social justice. In “Biyudang Saudi” (Saudi Widow), the overseas contract worker’s story is narrated in five monorhyme quatrains of fourteen syllables that begins with the father leaving the country, goaded by the promise of a high-paying job, and ends with him coming home empty-handed.

The “Halit” section shows how Nadera’s wit and imagination render social history in poetic forms that are appropriate to the discourse. In the poem “Spes (Haikuno)” “Spes (Quasi-haiku),” to foreground the plight of mestizo children of Filipino-Japanese intermarriages, he deploys the haiku-form: “Anak po akong/urira sa magurang/na di nagsama” (I am a child/an orphan/of parents who never lived together). This is poetically purposive to give the subject an appropriate texture and emphasizes it some more with the use of the Japanese l-r mispronounciation. A similar literary approach is used in “Caritas” (Charity) wherein Nadera employs rap-style language to poeticize the case of AIDS victim Rachelle Reyes.

Alit‘s contributions to Filipino poetry lies mainly in the exploration of the mindsets of historical and contemporary characters, presented in traditional poetry and lyric forms, which lend them a dramatic immediacy and poignancy. The language and typographical play show the author’s wit and humor rooted in the experiential but tempered by a national and collective memory.

Review of Vim Nadera’s Alit (1993)

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