Understanding

Paul Valery in The Art of Poetry says, “Whereas the painter, the sculptor, and the musician may reach a foreign public, may be understood far beyond the boundaries of their own country, create an international work, a poet is never profoundly, intimately, and completely understood and felt but by his own people: he is inseparable from the speech of his nation.”

In this country, in the past, probably. Or until EDSA of 1986, when people would sing Jose Corazon de Jesus’ “Bayan Ko” because they found meaning in its lines. But after that—are there people who still listen to, much more read, Filipino poetry, except for poets themselves, and a handful of critics (and perhaps, a number of college students obliged by their curricula to go over the Philippine literary canon), and feel it, understand that it’s profoundly necessary? Being called a poet myself, this is a painful truth: most contemporary poems no longer connect with the people. (Or is it our idea of the poet that becomes outdated?) And so this is what happens: we no longer understand each other, ourselves. And when understanding fails, everything we hear is nothing but noise.