Reading and Such

Quiet poetry to put you in meditative mood

The retired judge of Talisay, Cebu, on a steady pace

Simeon Dumdum: Good spirits of Talisay, Cebu (From Simeon Dumdum Facebook)

PORTABLE MAGIC

‘Book Haul’ by Cecil Robin Singalaoa, watercolor on cotton rag paper, 2020, 4×6 inches

We are one couple that reads to live and lives to read. Our contracted family budget, now that we are empty nesters, goes to these priorities: food, which must be of a certain quality (we being certified gourmands), maintenance medicines for our co-morbidities (hypertension, diabetes, among others) and, last but not least, books. As far as the latter is concerned, we sometimes go on a spending spree, shelling out more in one month and curbing our reading appetite the following month as a way of balancing things.

We are retired, he from journalism, she from teaching high school. We live in Baguio where the climate is conducive to reading, writing, editing—the activities that have fueled our imaginative (we cringe at calling it “intellectual”) lives. We have the quarantine and lockdown to thank for allowing us more time to pursue our passion for books. Author Stephen King correctly said that books possess “portable magic.”

Cover of Dumdum’s latest book of poems

She says: Since December, I’ve read on and off the latest poems of Simeon Dumdum, Jr., who I still insist on addressing as “Judge” even after his retirement from the trial court. His small, slender (108 pages), elegantly packaged collection, Why Keanu Reeves Is Lonely and Why the World Goes On As It Does (Milflores Publishing, Inc.), has a place beside my bed like a prayer book. I take it down to read at night, not in the day, for the poet’s voice has that shushed quality. It doesn’t lull me to sleep, but puts me in a meditative mood.

Why Keanu Reeves…also features a colophon at the end of the book, where the book’s typeface and its history are described. This is rare among Filipino books. The colophon is usually overlooked.

There’s also a colophon at the end of the book, where the typeface and its history are described. This is rare among Filipino books

In her introduction, Withstanding the Annunciation, Marjorie Evasco notes the Judge’s “steady pace of…poetic production.” Judge has a dozen poetry volumes to his name. We have most of them, with Partly Cloudy (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House) being a personal favorite because of its definition of a poem. He quotes Hildegard of Bingen: “a feather on the breath of God.”

Evasco quotes the Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz as saying that “poems should be written rarely and reluctantly, / under unbearable duress and only with the hope / that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.” Dumdum writes with much frequency—almost a book a year, whether prose or poetry—but guided by the good spirits of his town in Talisay, Cebu, where he and poet-wife-muse Milagros like to sit in a cafe while gazing out its picture window at ships sailing by.

Milagros deserves a feature on her own, and I will do one on another occasion. For now, let us listen (for his musicality is better heard than read) to the Judge giving us his verdict on one such view:

VISTA GRANDE

From a road on a hill I see the ocean.
The boats that disappear into its wide
Nothingness sail as though they have no motion,
But how fast sea and feeling coincide.
I know that soon I must return inside.
Tell me if in fact I could bear that vastness,
They have the same beginning, sea and sadness.

Simeon Dumdum, Jr.’s books available through www.milflorespublishing.com


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