The togetherness in writing: reflections after ‘hearing’ Adam David and Miguel Syjuco’s ‘ongoing conversation’

I haven’t finished reading this, but you can read this man here, and you might share his optimism. I did

Adam David and Miguel Syjuco’s conversation, as published by Ateneo’s Kritika Kultura, more than an unexpected yummy treat not exactly for aspiring writers but for ongoing-writers, is also a heartwarming exchange between two literatis that could make us realize the specialness of the act of writing vis-à-vis the calloused and complex lives lived in today’s society. In this exchange, the two actively engaged in a discussion of issues revolving the literary scene mainly in the Philippines but also in the international context. Issues such as the arguably persisting crab mentality within the “little kings and queens of Pinoy lit” as opposed to the characteristically Pinoy bayanihan unfelt within this same exclusive circle; the common ground between the long-standing divergence of art for art’s sake and art for man’s sake, however too general and simplified these terms might sound; and the problems of incorporating both local and international flavors and reaching for both these kinds of audiences were touched on.

This exchange appears to be a really stimulating one, exemplifying the kind of engagements, of communication, that is highly valuable for and between humans in this universe, in this society that recent documentations have said to be more and more alienating, despairing and apocalyptically self-defeating. It appeared as an unadulterated kind of passing of thoughts between each other, not much hampered by ideological or personal predilections or motivations, but made almost visibly vibrant by the willing meeting of the minds of learned and experienced individuals. David would recall his getting out of the Malikhaing Pagsulat program of UP while Syjuco would perhaps bittersweetly retell his early struggles not just to get published but more significantly, to survive day after day abroad. Less firsthand and concrete than these, though certainly not less acute and relevant is David citing Marianne Robinson or Sjyuco endlessly harking back on his (readerly) engagements with Bolaño. It is less of a debate with a tacit aim of declaring a winning side than a dialogue where judgments are provisional and ideas are put forth for its own and the others’ morphing into something less uncertain, something more tenable and worthwhile to keep.

What I find most endearing though, most afflatus-lifting, uplifting, is Syjuco’s insistence on the priority of literature, and hence, a necessary push for its diligent and prolific and demanding production. The question and scrutiny of the quality of these products shall come afterwards, when there are enough literary products already distilled after a painstaking and painful process of drafting and redrafting and revising and revisiting.

At first, this statement by Syjuco passed off to me as somewhat exorbitant with its impressions, but a closer reckoning made me imbibe the sense of goading the statement may have been originally intended to effect:

“All of us have much to do. But what’s the priority? Everything else, or literature?

Syjuco would downplay all the others, the ‘everything else,’ in favor of the pushing for, the crusade for literature, even one of the usually mentioned determining forces in the activities not just of writers but all of us – economics. Said Syjuco further, “I really don’t think it’s economics, because economics is an issue everywhere. I think it’s just getting out and spending the time and patience necessary to make the work work.”

Definitely, this is not a haphazard, outright bypassing of this important influence of the economics, as some hasty (non-)readers might make out of the above statement. I think, I believe, following Syjuco’s insistence on and for the utmost importance of literature, this statement on economics is merely his implication that in spite of the vastness of this economic factor, literature can trample it on, can hurdle it and more ahead towards its triumph.

And what do I think is this triumph of literature? I think it is not just being merely there, written movementless on the page, transcribed challengers-less in the minds of geniuses and tramps and artist – the triumph of literature shall constitute an endless movement, almost a cycle, a coming-and-going towards further development of the letters that we write and bleed for and whose shapes and postures we have culled from our everyday faring in the waves of traffic and human interactions and conversations, sunbathing and smoke-inhaling/exhaling, and after these again, painful and painstaking processes of transcribing, shall be read to others, shall be made to be read, or listened to by others, for the trickiest of their interpretations, for the most provisional of their judgments, for the wisdom of their evaluations, or we do not know, for the benefit or detriment of their actions.

See, literature is on the one hand produced, and on the other, received. In its production, there shall be an unrelenting will to forge ahead despite circumstances and impinging of the economic, or of the circumstantial or of the meticulously cosmic, to produce literature, to devote eons of time for it in the cubicle, in the streets, in the ruptures in the evening made by the moonlights, in the waiting areas of malls, in the often charming stillness of aftersex. There should be time for it as there is time for eating and pooping and buying the groceries. And there should be discipline too, there should be structure in it too as there is discipline and structure, at least ideally, in our diet and in our studies, in our lives.

In its reception, there shall be an openness and respect to the diversity of voices and opinions and impressions and the frankness to butcher letters, praise letters, recommend things to letters for their own sharpening and expanding. We should be writing literature, and we should be reading literature. Hell we care with belles-lettres and literary institutions and their teachings of the literary, if people are writing crap from our standards, if they are reading Precious Hearts and Tom Clancy, let us sulk and scorn a little and be more willing to engage them. Like David said, we need to work together; like Syjuco implied, there need not be a monopoly of the discourse, everyone should be encouraged to pitch in with their several-cents of thoughts; like the both of them performed in this conversation, writing and literature should be an ongoing engagement, where people will occasionally meet and sit down and discuss together after writing their lives in the wor(l)dpad of the universe separately and who knows, maybe afterwards, they will not just sit down and talk together, they will also do and then write down things in and about and for the world, together.


Something like a teary-eyed post for the Chicago Bulls

Last season’s and this year’s playoffs for the Chicago Bulls are marked by interesting semblances and contrasts. It is the contrasts however that prove to be more dramatic to the somewhat same, eerily wounded Chicago Bulls team.

Last year, they opened the playoffs with a win against the 76ers but lost their MVP pint guard to an injury and decisively turned the result of that first round match. After six games and crucial heartbreaking lapses in Game 6, they eventually bowed to the 76ers. This year, they opened the playoffs just like they closed the previous one, without Derrick Rose and with a loss. They were routed by the Brooklyn Nets in their home court and suddenly, at least for me, their chances are casted with a bleaky pall.

The next three games however, one of which was still played in Brooklyn and the two played in their home at Chicago, characteristically showed the kind of team this bunch of Chicago Bulls is and what they could achieve with their famed discipline and character. They limited the Nets to their worst shooting games of the entire season in Games 2 and 3 in order to seize a 2-1 lead. Once again, it proved that defense, on top of controlling the boards, is an effective weapon for the team-oriented Bulls who works together to pester their opponent’s rhythm in offense. Then in that one-of-a-kind Game 4, the Bulls erratically won by turning to their offense and specifically turning to perhaps their most erratic player, Nate Robinson. They went back from 14 down with less than three minutes on a scoring rampage by Robinson and then went in to force overtime. It took three overtimes before they eventually claim the victory with good defensive efforts and a key offensive board and putback by Nazr Mohammed off a Carlos Boozer free throw miss needed to finally pull away from the tough Brooklyn Nets. After that point, the Bulls had a seemingly comfortable 3-1 lead in the series and needing to win only one game out of the three remaining possible games to advance to the conference semifinals. But the Nets obviously had other plans. They won both Games 5 and 6, the latter just by a single possession, to force a do-or-die Game 7 on their home court. Notably, Kirk Hinrich sat out on Game 5 due to an injury, effectively eliminating an able defender to Deron Williams, one fot eh Nets’ top players. Worse, Luol Deng was also not able to play Game 6 because of another injury and so the Bulls were left not just without Derrick Rose, but also Hinrich, his backup and a vital cog in the Bulls’ defensive rotation, and Deng, another All-Star.

So Game 7 at Brooklyn, where Chicago will make a case against sheer talent being the most significant criterion in winning a basketball game , not to say a basketball playoff series, not to say a championship. With Rose, Hinrich and Deng out and with Taj Gibson and Nate Robinson suffering from illnesses but still playing through them, the Bulls wagered on the enormity of their hearts and their wills to secure the victory and finally advance to the conference semifinals against the Heat. The NBA announcer even called this Bulls team ‘the walking medical ward’ and yet they showed no signs of being fazed. Joakim Noah recording that double-double plus a play0ff career0high sic blocks; Marco Bellinelli rising to the occasion and stepping up in the absence of key players with his team-high 24 points; Jimmy Butler finally showing to get past the playoff jittery stage and playing for the entire 48 minutes of the game; and this entire Bulls team, covering and running after the Nets’ shooters, hustling for loose balls, deflecting passes and tipping in baskets or tapping the ball out for offensive boards.

On a Game 7, you discount talent. That should be a given for the case of both teams who have slugged out a heck of a series that needed a deciding game to see who advances and who does not. On a Game 7, what matters is heart and grit and determination and how well do you put those into court when the game begins until it ends.

Last Saturday, against the Nets, it was the Bulls who came out more passionate, more determined to extend not just their wonderful season highlighted by the precariousness brought by injuries, not to mention THAT injury nursed and being recovered from by Rose, but also their playoff stint where they continue to prove that winning can be done by a team who works and plays together and not rely on flashy superstars who make flashy moves.

So in anticipation of their semifinal series with the defending champion Heat (which actually already begun and which they won again, scoring an early upset), I continue to believe that this scrappy, gritty and team-oriented kind of play can stand a decent chance against the superstar-filled, ostentatious play of the Miami Heat. As we close out the sharp contrasts between the first rounds of the Bulls’ playoff stints last year and this year, we can move on and look forward to another good series against their brewing archenemy in Miami Heat. The operation of contrasts will be at the foreground again: it is Lebron, Wade and Bosh and their superstar statuses and capabilities versus the entire Chicago Bulls team willing to dive for loose balls, chase down shooters and pass the ball for open teammates and play together towards victory.

The Bulls are definitely the underdogs, just like they were against the Nets, and they are not far from stealing another against the Heat.

Poetry, and language, and sense, and the material

That is quite a charming phrase actually, “language’s resilience against sense,” coming from the collection of my poet-friend and which is difficult to lead astray from the memory of the signifier-signified. Ironically, the earlier Charles Peirce, once transposed well into the contemporary time, provides a necessary extension of the more famous ideas of Ferdinand de Saussure, particularly the latter’s signifier-signified dichotomy. Peirce already formulated the needed inclusion of the ‘interpretant’ that shall mediate between the representation (‘tanda’ o ‘signos’) and the object, what I read as roughly corresponding to the Saussurean signifier and signified. This third term, the ‘interpretant’ is essential for it gives a material grounding to the signifier-signified pair whose analyses mainly revolves within the realms of language and thought (‘sense,’ in Janine’s author’s note). And the expansion of the horizon where poetry (first as thought or sense, and then as language) dwells and springs is complicated when we recall a key facet of its existence: the more material facet of the tangible, breathable world, more closely, the poet who wields the pen, who thinks and who utilizes language.

Hence, I suggest that poetry is more than the already gallant task of prodding language’s ‘resilience against sense,’ notwithstanding how charmingly we put into words such insights. Poetry, with all its encapsulating the poet and her thoughts and faculty and manipulation of language, anticipates attrition and then revival from its perpetuated engagement with the material world. This engagement does not exactly signify language’s resurgence against the material (the world), but its keeping at pace with this material unfolding, either through representing it, or challenging it, or transforming it.

Mula ito sa Adivay
Mula ito sa Adivay