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‘Poetry cures the curse in me’

/ 01:10 AM November 24, 2015
ILLUSTRATION BY STEPH BRAVO

ILLUSTRATION BY STEPH BRAVO

Public speaking is one of my worst phobias ever. I swear you could make me eat fire or walk a tightrope but not speak in front of a crowd.

But when I was invited to read poetry at De La Salle University, I knew I had to face my fear.

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Being bipolar is a gift from God, I always tell myself. I see it as a blessing not only to do “sweet lemoning” but to help me accept my condition.

I believe it helps me form my philosophies in life. I accept reality and reality accepts me wholeheartedly.

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Embracing this illness is not easy. It took me years to finally accept who I am.

Poetry reading at La Salle during the Mental Health Awareness Forum taught me to be myself, to embrace fully my condition and not to pretend that everything is OK when I really feel bad about myself or to pretend that I am an archangel sent from above.

Delusions and hallucinations still haunt me even though I am recovering from my bipolar disorder. I used to see big wings on my back and I used to treasure a photograph of me with a halo.

That was what made me think I was an archangel. My former psychologist never dared question it though she made me accept the reality that I am a homo sapien, not an archangel.

My poem in La Salle was a renaissance, a rebirth of confessional poetry. Well, it was not really confessional poetry. Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath would probably rise from the grave if I said so.

I just came out of my shell; I was no longer an island. The experience helped me become one with myself.

Reading poetry in front of a crowd scared me a lot but I was glad I did it. It was not a fiasco, as I feared, but was even a success. How’s that for an amateur poetess?

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Like Rizal

I started writing poetry at age 8 with the hope of being the next Jose Rizal since the national hero began writing poetry also at that early age.

I hoped to follow in his footsteps. I did not intend to be shot in Bagumbayan for heroism. I only wanted to be a

poetess.

I know many do not believe Rizal really wrote “Sa Aking Mga Kababata,” but I think that is not the real issue.

Whether or not Rizal wrote it, the poem is about loving one’s native tongue and that is all that matters.

As I started to read my poem in La Salle, I was really nervous and anxious. There was no turning back.

I wrote an English free verse and a Filipino sestina. Much has been said about free verse but I want to add that free verse is really the most difficult poetry ever.

Sestina is one of the longest poems with rhyme and meter, and also one of the most difficult to write. I learned how to write sestinas at a poetry workshop I attended in 2010.

This is the first stanza of my free verse:

The world is a witness how I tame the Black Dog,

how I befriend it at night when the stars connive

with the moon to devise a plot against me,

seeking revenge that insomnia accompanies me

as I become intoxicated with a passion

greater then Romeo and Juliet’s or Antony

and Cleopatra’s; I inhale sadness each morning

when the tug of war between reluctance

and my medicines, Valpros and Risperidone,

is the only setting in my mind, sometimes,

I forget to take a bath or brush my teeth for days

just as I forget telephone numbers or birthdays,

I juggle six jobs at a moment or do nothing at all,

staring at the ceiling with a constellation of dust

to taste the sourgraping from my parents.

Mental health

I wrote this poem while I was still working for a local government. When I resigned, I also resigned from writing creative pieces like this poem. But now, I am back writing poetry. I am now an advocate of the mental health act and I want to promote it through my poetry.

In four years, I have published and self-published three poetry collections outside the country. In four years, my poems appeared in numerous publications in the United States, Canada, Romania, India, Japan, United Kingdom and the Philippines.

In four years, my poems have been translated into Crimean Tatar and Filipino. In four years, I have been nominated and been a finalist in international and local poetry competitions.

In a year, my poem “E-Martial Law” was broadcast over the

IndoPacific Radio station. In a year, I have worked as an associate editor at Toe Good Poetry.

I say this not to boast but to inspire, motivate other people and show them that we can make it. If I can do it, so can you. This illness will not hinder you from aspiring and achieving your dreams in life.

Poetry cures me. Well, I believe it does. I know that my illness will never be cured but is treated and there is hope. With faith in God, proper medication, support from family, friends and doctors, I believe that we can be fully functional and be part of society.

I used to believe that bipolar disorder was a curse but now I view it as a blessing. I believe that through poetry, I am cured and I am a survivor.

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TAGS: Learning, poetry, public speaking
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