Uploaded January 24, 2015
LANGUID POWWOWS (a diskurso.com interview-with-artists series)
Vince Dioquino: A realm beyond the rulers
Text by Jojo Soria de Veyra
Interview by de Veyra and Marcel Antonio
In this second edition of Languid Powwows, we---I and diskurso.com creative director Marcel Antonio---talked to a budding young poet we thought everybody should watch from this day forward.
JANUARY 10. University of Santo Tomas Philosophy-program dropout Vince A. Dioquino launched his first chapbook consisting of seven poems (12 pages worth of poetic text) at The Warrior Poet Art Café in Cubao Expo. Dioquino assembled the chapbook himself using cords. The café offered the venue to the poet for free, perhaps as a way of highlighting its being a venue for art and poetry events.
PART 1 OF 5: POLITICAL INTENT
Upon the recommendation of friend artist Jeho Bitancor, we texted Dioquino to honor us with an interview and suggested a venue. He agreed.
Mid-afternoon, Wednesday, January 21, outside Christina Chanco's Art Circle Café on the eastern side of the Bahay ng Alumni of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, one of diskurso.com's core staff's favorite hangouts. When Dioquino arrived, we started the conversation around light topic, mostly talking in Filipino.
First, Dioquino discussed the printing cost of his 100-edition chapbook (₱30 per piece), the time it took to look for the right paper (the 100 grams per square metre textured paper for the inside pages, the carbon black construction paper flyleaf, and the 200 gsm ivory-colored cardstock cover), and the time it took to select with precision the seven pieces for his first outing from five years worth of writing. His exacting selection process looked upon his poetry pieces as wine that ought not to be unripe for selling and wine that ought to be just right for the dinner concept. In short, his other pieces would have to find their right chapbook units to belong to on the bar shelf at their right time. At this moment in the planet's location, it's presumably ripe or right for Nameless Horizons, the title of Dioquino's neat little lyric project, to come forward and shine.
"Kung ang writing ay outward na gesture, do'n siya nagkakaroon ng dalawang bagay: ang ethics and politics ng writing, na hindi ka nagsusulat in a vaccuum, di ka rin nagsusulat para sa sarili mo."
Quickly we hopped to the topic of language. For here was Dioquino, a masses-friendly anarcho-communist of a soul, who nevertheless chose to launch his poetic "career" with a product written in English, supposedly the language of the educated elite in our part of the globe. Bowing to the Gemino Abad-popularized concept of Filipino writers' writing "from English" (in Abad's book A Native Clearing), Dioquino articulated his own Marxist expansion on the matter and threw back a question about the supposedly recurrent subjunctive mood in a Philippine English.
Then we started talking about the politics in his poems. At first, Dioquino established a reluctance, citing a diminished value for a poem's self-sustenance when exposed to a reductionist approach by any political reading, especially when such readings are extracted from the author himself. Quickly, however, he decided to divulge the politics behind certain presentation choices: why his book was produced to be affordable to the reader at ₱99 each, why it's copylefted instead of copyrighted, why it declined to use the "conceit" of a foreword or introduction or afterword and especially of blurbs and of name-dropped publications (qua institutions) where three of the pieces here first appeared. He even refused to display his name on the cover. He said this is the right moment for him to come out with this book with this very concept because of the absence of credentials attached to his person: awards, institutional workshop attendance, and so on, despite unofficial word-of-mouth and social media accolades.
Dioquino explains that another creative concept behind the chapbook is the presentation of that lyric mode in/from his voice, a voice that has unrestrainedly explored other modes of expression. The lyric mode manifests itself not merely in each piece but also in the size of the book (thickness- and width-wise). I failed to ask, Can one claim to be lyrical while presenting his lyricism via a cathedral of a volume? I suspect Dioquino would have answered in the negative.
Then I dived into the oft-debated issue of creating poetry for poetry, as a priority, whereby one's politics must be relegated to the role of a prop (the theme as mere tool for art-making). It is here that Dioquino started talking about his belief in the absence of such a delineation, presenting his artmaking as a product of his outward political and social urges and art itself as an outward political and social act, self-reflexive rather than self-reflective, wherein its politics or sociology cannot be relegated to any background role without consigning the whole of art/artmaking itself to a background or insignificant social or psychological role. To Dioquino, there is no distance between art and politics, for art is itself politics.
But since Dioquino's pieces are not outrightly political, at least at first glance, I challenged him to regard those who might not see any political signifier whatsoever in his pieces, and he agreed with me as per Marxist criticism's view that there are various reading procedures that produce their own political statements, whether these procedures deny or fail to see the political significance of their own statements, or whether these deny or fail to see the politics and/or economics behind the production of those very statements (as bourgeois words airborne, or commodified words on paid-for printed paper).
Here's that first part of the interview:
". . . ang isip mo o yung identity mo bilang Pilipino ay maaari mong mahanap sa loob ng English."
PART 2 OF 5: "SELF-PUBLISHING"
Then we talked about his possible contribution to Philippine poetry in English as a young poet, and again he mentioned turning his back to the tradition of name-dropping or leaning on any institutional authority. He may have failed to get a slot at the Silliman University Summer Writers Workshop, but I presented him the fact that his sort of rebellion against designated authority has been around since the time of Jose Garcia Villa. He acknowledged awareness of this. . . . Then, after I presented him the concept of self-publishing as being more universal in our parts than he may be aware of, the difference must be established that---unlike Dioquino---many a poet would not be touting that reality, in fact might even sport a seeming denial of the fact, manifest in his/her embarrassment over the idea of self-promotion that goes with the territory of self-publishing. Dioquino then averred that his self-publishing is arguably worse/better or more independent than the usual mere monetary outlay of the lazy poet. We then talked about a similar denial of the Palanca "Awards"' being a contest, a contest that requires entry fees. Fortunately, again, Dioquino acknowledged the vanguardist view that the contest is itself a form of kneeling down to existing authority.
We moved to the topic of the future of Philippine poetry. Dioquino seemed to lament the waning desire to create poetry, but he also recognizes the poetry in all sorts of artforms and regards the written lyric as merely one among many forms of expressing the mind's poetic juices, citing the graffiti art of Frenchman Blek le Rat as one example of laudable visual poetry happening in the streets. He did claim a possible uniqueness in his writing, but he (as I) would perhaps leave that to reviewers to investigate. Suffice to say that he looks beyond established notions on "the true poem" and absorbs an inter-artform openness to possibilities that are not merely modernist in intent but spiritually communal. Indeed, I share his belief that the fear of the demise of poetry disappears when its snobbery disappears into the ocean of artistic community. Only in that approach to the artform might it continue to live, not as its own sacred artform but as one mere option among many.
". . . di nga lang alam ng nakararami na meron talagang kind of writing na finifavor."
PART 3 OF 5: POETRY AND THE DEMOS
We tackled further the snobbery of written poetry. Dioquino denied such snobbery in his person, mentioning a socialist belief in everyone's potential to lyricize. On the other hand, by saying this he was not necessarily allowing a concept about Everyman's ready lyrical skills, for, after all, poetry is an art and all art require craft. He dismissed the idea of a born-talented poet and emphasized the honing of skills as itself worthy of recognition more than the witnessed end-skill.
Despite denying the presence of poetry figures in his chapbook (except for two names in his epigraph page), Dioquino clarified that he is not anti-tradition or anti-history (e.g. Frank O'Hara), and in fact---as Marcel Antonio testified---recently posted the name of Fernando Pessoa on his Facebook wall. He admitted to a multitude of influences, especially in the area of sonorousness.
Having said that, does Dioquino cater to the ideal of a recitable poem (read: a poem you can read for a radio listenership)? He acknowledged variants of this recitability; slam poetry, for instance, for being recited poem in the first place and not written and memorized for recitation. He likewise argued against a simplistic nod towards this idealism, alluding to a recognition of a relationship between written poetry and whispered reflective philosophy, as well as a tug-of-war relationship between philosophizing (musing) and theater (musing aloud).
Marcel then asked Dioquino whether his creative process is more informed by a romanticist or a theoretical urge. Dioquino also dismissed that divide between the heart and the mind as a false dichotomy, defending theory as a product of both the wounded heart and of restrained measure.
We then moved to a discussion of his anarchist politics, the Philippine Anarchist Forum community page on Facebook, and his study in progress concerning this field.
"Minsan, ganun; ako . . . na-o-offend ako 'pagka sasabihin, 'o, ang galing mo naman'."
PART 4 OF 5: "ANALYSIS NG URI"
Dioquino's book on anarchism will seek to suggest a more appropriate anarchist form for Philippine adoption. It definitely won't be a dogmatic tract, he said, in the same way that he would abhor poetic dogmas. Which led me to ask about his approach toward "competitor poets" or the superiority complex of some living poets, while Marcel was led to ask about peer pressure on his own elevated Poet image among his peers. He admitted he has yet to experience aversions toward his works as he mentioned peers and mentors who have had a more constructive effect on his person.
I then introduced a picture of a community of poets happily immersed in the divergence of their voices in convergence upon given themes. Then I asked him about what he has that other poets hereabouts don't have. He merely pointed to his being young, absorbing the older ones' conflicts as points to learn from, not necessarily having to do with poem-making but with managing a "career," so to speak, in poetry. His own conflict is more with a truth he has been going after instead of with certain aesthetic schools and what not. Thus his reservation towards themes or subjects given by others, his themes and subjects being part of his struggle that informs his creativity. On the other hand, there are subjects that appeal to him that would not necessarily demand a consistent Dioquino style, if there is ever such a thing; rather, it would be the spirit of the subject/theme that would inspire a form for him to work with. Furthermore, an influencing figure around him may likewise inspire a form, but with an awareness of one's own struggles that may explain the logic of the influence or attraction that in turn would inspire a variation from the influencer's original motivation.
We then went back to our multicultural metropolis' various languages or dialects and how these divisions are tangential to the social classes' divide. He averred that that stratification can be subverted. Is English bourgeois? And if it is, can a deviation be made? Can a class' Marxist analysis subvert any such claim to any symbol? Must a class allow that social stratification itself to act as a fence for the classes to stay where they are? Must that social stratification qua structure be denied access to our knowledge so as to show the universal, the "human"? Is social stratification itself a plutocratic tool for cultural fencing and must thus be dissolved for true democratization?
This concern for the "human" need not necessarily derive from an anthropocentric view of the planet and the ecology but may derive from an Oriental view. To Marcel's questions Dioquino stated that his poetic process is more ontological than epistemological and that he sees no conflict between this approach and his politics, for now at least. He posited the ideal that perhaps the seeming contradictions between dreaminess and sonority on the one hand and political awareness on the other may actually concoct a working together in order to produce a new intellection. He read the Derridean epigram in his chapbook's first page which went thus: "No poem without accident, no poem that does not open itself like a wound, but no poem that is not also just as wounding." He explained that this line definitely talks about the ontology of wounding as well as the epistemology of its demographics. That wounding itself implies an epistemology of wounding back (which is in turn ontological by itself). He turned us back to the lyric form as by itself both ontological and epistemological.
"Meron akong gustong habulin . . . na . . . pagse-synthesize ng mga yun, na yung mga kontradiksyon puwede mag-work for each other despite the differences."
PART 5 OF 5: COMMUNICATING
We went back to political intent, and I introduced this as intent through poetry. Dioquino promptly defined the difference between the politics in a poem and politics through a poem, without discounting the promise of the latter. Is a poem too abstract or formal or aesthetical as to be removed from experience in the present? Is it saturated with too much immersion in experience that may result in materialist myopia? Dioquino positions the poetic practice as an exercise of freedom more than for truth, even if truth-seeking has to be a part of it.
Does aesthetics get in the way of politics?---Marcel extended the matter. Dioquino was quick to answer that aesthetics and politics, like art and politics, are inseparable, with each informing the other, the one being an organ to the other's body (or vice versa). He also dismissed the concept of an ideal reader and pointed to the familiar voice as the poet's better guide. This guide can only exude sincerity towards the poet's dreaming.
How difficult is it to compartmentalize intuition in a bilingual direction?---Marcel asked. Dioquino's Marxist perspective offered that although Taglish, say, may be the mode for political poetry to more effectively communicate, the language (like all languages) has its own idiosyncrasies informed by a contaminating ideological apparatus. Working within a people's language habits is not necessarily being on the people's side and with the people's interest. One might have to discard the habits while working within the language, any language. One might have to introduce new things to justify the lyrical noise, the break from silence. One might have to break from conventional semantics itself. And if one turns out esoteric in one's linguistic ways, so be it, for sincerity must precede realist truth. Again, freedom more than truth.
As for the difficulty of practicing esoteric sincerity while handling the communication tool called Metaphors, Dioquino explained that metaphors are limited by intent. In his case, he said, he allows the poem to take him instead of him taking the poem out to dinner. It's only later in the date with the poem, in the editing stage, that he inserts himself in the poem as the communicator. But the "magic" has already happened, and he can only touch it as much qua witness to a phenomenon. Theory and principles guide the poet as to where his witnessed words may be leading towards, but his sincerity must restrain literary policing.
As for the failure of certain ironies, Dioquino felt that those failures are more with the sender of the irony than with the receiver, and that many of these communication failures are by the cultural divide between what might be termed "worldly humor" and those by the more earthly elements of our society. Dioquino optimistically or positively proposed that a citizen's failure to appreciate an irony at the outset is only at the outset.
Well, there you go. That last statement alone from Vince Dioquino should already earn him your respeto. And perhaps your ₱99 for a copy of his chapbook?
Now, listen to our last interview-audio file. [ d ]
"Gusto kong . . . i-bridge yung gap na . . . paangat lang ba siya pero hindi siya nakaapak sa karanasan, o . . . masyado siyang immersed sa karanasan na nagiging saturated ang pagtingin sa mga bagay na . . . nagiging myopic tayo?"
to owe nobody no nothing, no thing owned, no body owed
that is, that Cerberus tightens no figure, no place
here where her name is not her, where, her name is, not her
but to behold, perhaps witness: tragedy without location
spheres of constant struggle, worlds without border
an archipelago without the arché, without fixation
for loss, equidistant failure, history without place
a withoutness without, trees, the breeze, this
noontime cup of coffee, or a locution of tongue, herd
nonsense. to capture the subjunctive flex flex flex, muscle
against skin, skin against bone. violent commas, equilibriums.
points, confessions. circumventions. vents, the sky, a machine
observations. shoes. coins. the withdrawal after we both came
at a party somewhere either we were too drunk to remember
or too afraid to concoct. poison the river because it is red
cite a receipt, binaries, exact change. forlorn lovers embedded
against a sunken garden whose lattice precedes word, object
partition, form. extended because real. entanglements, bus tickets
pre-ordered from a website whose hunger is. because to breathe
Jojo Soria de Veyra is also a poet who has self-published online books of poems. He is the editor of diskurso.com.
Marcel is a painter of ontological-cum-epistemological narrative or anti-narrative oils and acrylics on canvas. He is the creative director of diskurso.com.
Interview article text © 2015 Vicente Ignacio S. de Veyra III. All rights reserved.
All black-and-white photos © 2015 Marcel Antonio. All rights reserved.
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diskurso is an independent, Philippines-based online magazine on art aiming to veer away from a present mental landscape replete with the customary peacock and weasel words that continue to service the art industry.