Poetry During Pandemic: Fellows mark workshop completion with poetry performances, book launch

Poetry During Pandemic
“Dinig” is the book compilation of the works of the 2021 LIRA poet-fellows.

On December 18th, 22 poet-fellows will be celebrating their completion of the 6-month 2021 Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA) Poetry Workshop with the LIRA Fellows Night 2021, an online event where they will be performing some of their best poems and launching a book of their collected work.

The book “Dinig” (Heard) is named after the usual greeting of fellows before speaking up during the online workshops: “Dinig po ba ako?” (Can you hear me?). With the onset of the COVID pandemic, this would be the second time that the LIRA workshops have been done through online classes.

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LIRA has conducted its annual poetry workshop for the past 36 years without fail.

More than a hundred poems in Filipino are included in the book, from poet-fellows coming from diverse backgrounds, and due to the workshops being online, diverse locations.

According to the leader of the poet-fellows Rene Boy Abiva, “the event on the 18th will showcase the fruit of 6 months intensive workshop, may mga lumuha at naiyak pa nga (some participants even broke down in tears).”

The challenge of the workshops being conducted online is not lost on LIRA workshop director Abner Dormiendo. “There were some things lost and gained by holding the workshop online: on one hand, some post-workshop rituals, such as dinners and drinking sessions, were lost, or have to be replaced with virtual alternatives. So, part of the challenge is establishing and maintaining rapport among the participants,” he said.

Dormiendo noted that one of the gains is “we get to have fellows, panelists, and speakers from all over the country and the world.” Aldrin Pentero and Ivie Urdas were also with Dormiendo on the workshop committee.

One of the fellows, Albert L. Pincalen attended the online workshops from Surabaya, Indonesia, where he works as a teacher. “It was challenging in the sense that, first, we needed to write based on what the panelist asked us to write, not just into rhyme but for some points to remember in writing a better poem. Second, the internet connection stability, and lastly the uncertain schedule we have, related to our job,” he said.

The workshops, conducted every Saturday since June, covered topics on both traditional and modern Filipino poetry. The lectures included rules on rhyme and meter for traditional poetry, use of persona and dramatic situations, research techniques, history of Filipino poetry, foreign traditional and modern forms, and many more.

The poems presented by the fellows during the workshops were reviewed by a panel that includes award-winning poets Fidel Rillo, Dr. Louie Jon Sanchez, National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, and other LIRA members.

Despite the distance, Pincalen said that having finished the workshop makes 2021 worthy to remember. “The best experience that I may share is to be mentored by renowned and award-winning writers. And to be connected with those writers who are also passionate in telling stories. Because of the workshop, I found home with new friends.”

Abiva added, “This is a big accomplishment for me because it happened in the midst of pandemic and unstable social order both in and outside of the Philippines. This is a big break in my writing career, given the fact that LIRA conducts the longest writers’ workshop in the Philippines, the caliber of those who went through the LIRA workshops cannot be denied.”

Among the renowned writers who have participated with the LIRA workshops in the past are Victor Emmanuel Carmelo Nadera, Romulo Baquiran Jr., Michael M. Coroza, Enrique Villasis, Roberto Añonuevo, Rebecca Añonuevo, Jerry Gracio, Joel Donato Jacob, and Edgar Calabia Samar.

In 2011, LIRA was recognized as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) due to the development work done by its poet-volunteers.

Asked on what to expect from the book Dinig, Abiva said, “The book Dinig is and will be a physical proof of LIRA’s continuous positioning and re-positioning in Philippine literature that even time and space, nor hegemonic control, cannot alter and deter. The book is a concrete representation of poets seeking space and resisting the deadly venom of silence.”

Dormiendo also offered these words of encouragement for the fellows and the public: “I think at the bottom of it, one must believe in the affective powers of writing. As we also encourage active participation in community-building in the midst of socio-political crises, we create because we also believe that the things we make contribute to the transformation of lives, from the individual to the social.”

Another project initiated by the poet-fellows is a Facebook page named Isang Tula Bawat Araw (A Poem a Day). Starting last August, the page features at least one (usually short) poem they have written each day. They have also made the poems available on Twitter and Instagram.

Aside from Abiva and Pincalen, the poet-fellows of the 2021 LIRA Poetry Workshop are: Acel De Castro Martinez, Alpine Christopher Patio Moldez, Anjanette C. Cayabyab, Anthony Sam Christian Lumban, Aris Niño C. Macatangay, Christian Dave C. Loren, Christian Lawrenze E. Empleo, Franco Coralde Sangreo, Imma Patrisse F. Lopez, Jed Nykolle B. Harme, John Brixter Millando Tino, John Paul C. Albiola, Kristine Mae M. Nares, Marites Rogado, Mark Ace Geno C. Pariña, Richell Isaiah S. Flores, Ronel I. Osias, Steven Claude Tubo, Zylyka Mae F. Gendraule and this writer.

You may visit the LIRA Facebook Page or the fellows’ event page for details.

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Edelio P. De los Santos, nicknamed Edsa, is a BPO worker and writer currently residing in Metro Manila. He shares Dad jokes on social media for fun.