Saturday, September 02, 2006

Evaluation of Dato’s Poetry



It is difficult for a poet to criticize and evaluate his own poetry. He is apt to be subjective and partial rather than objective and impartial. To any poet, his poems are masterpieces with not one word to be changed, not even one punctuation mark. However, I will try to be as objective and impartial as possible.
I am not a poet prodigy like Rizal, George Meredith, Thomas Hardy and others who began writing poetry as early as the age of three. I wrote my first poem in 1922 when I was 16. This is quite early, however, for a Filipino, considering that he is writing in English, a borrowed language. My first published poem appeared in the Naga Tribune in 1922, published in Naga, Camarines Sur (now Naga City). The editor was the late Juan Reyes, later to become Governor of Sorsogon, and older brother of Dr. Jose Reyes, former Dean of U.P. Cebu Junior College. My other early poems were published in Juan dela Cruz and Bicolandia, which newspapers stopped publication in 1930’s. Copies of these early published poems are now probably lost. But I remember through the mists of memory after a lapse of 50 years, one of these early published poems. It runs, as follows:

“Shades of night slowly falling,
All along my way,
I’m to life’s illusion calling,
Calling all the day.”
Lover’s voice I’m faintly hearing,
Not at last I hear,
And please God, I see her nearing,
She, my life, my dear!”

In 1929 at the age of 23, I wrote a complete Bikol version of the Bikol Pasion which I entitled “Life of Christ.” Book I was published in the Bicolandia during the Lent season of that year in weekly installments. The installments without duplicates were sent to the Bicolandia direct from our typewriter.
Book II could not be published after the end of the Lenten season and, therefore, remained among my papers and preserved for publication (in the Bicol Examiner in 1947 and the Bicol Star in 1952).
When World War II broke out, my file copies of the Bicolandia were lost, so also were the file copies of the newspapers in the possession of the Late Joaquin de San Agustin, Bicolandia editor who moved to manila where he became Secretary of the Senate. Other file copies of the Bicolandia owned by typesetters of the newspaper were also lost because according to one of them, Mr. Panoy, he used as cigarette wrapper during the Japanese occupation.
About 20 others of my poems have been lost in the course of the long passage of time, especially during the evacuations of the Japanese occupation and the melees of the liberation. Some 40 sonnets in “The Brown Goddess” were lost in typhoon Sening.

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