Saturday, July 07, 2007

allow me to undress you

I won first place in the French poetry writing contest of the Alliance Française de Manille last summer. It was in celebration of the Printemps des Poetes (Spring of Poets), an annual international event held in French-speaking countries around world. I don't know exactly why they brought the event here when we're clearly not a francophone country. The only French thing that is popular among the masses here is the French fries. And it's not even French. It's merely an American abomination.

In a simple but elegant event at the lobby of Alliance Française in Makati, I read my poem in front of foreign dignitaries in their designer coats and ties, artists in their faded jeans and shirts, and writers/university professors in their boring plaid shirts and slacks. And of course, my supportive friends were there, too: Michelle, Dax, Dionne, Joven, Jera, Bianco, Oliver, and Riva (thanks so much for coming, I hope you enjoyed the wine). Two long buffet tables held food prepared by the embassies of France, Egypt, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and Cambodia. Wine was overflowing at the bar and the air was thick with snatches of conversation in various languages.

Among those who read their poems were Gérard Chesnel, the French Ambassador to the Philippines; Virgilio S. Almario, National Artist for Literature; Gilles Vigneault, Secretary for Immigration at the Canadian Embassy; Geminio H. Abad, professor emeritus and fictionist at the University of the Philippines; Cesare A.X. Syjuco, multi-awarded multimedia artist; Alfred 'Krip' Yuson, writer and Palanca hall of fame awardee; Virginia R. Morena, playwright; Jaroslav Ludva, Czech Ambassador; Vim Nadera, UP professor and renowned performance poet; and Adrian Cristobal, a distinguished writer.

The program was opened by a kundiman (lyric Filipino love song sung in the classical style) duet by two opera singers. The woman, dressed in a splendid sequined Filipino gown, slowly descended from a long staircase while singing Minamahal Kita (I love you) in a milky soprano voice. The tenor waited onstage, singing his lines in response to the maiden's yearning. Such drama and pageantry can only be pulled off by the French.

In between songs, dances, and gulps of red wine, we read our poems. I have actually written this poem for Anouk, a blogger who interviewed me in this blog a long time ago. She asked me to write a four-line verse in French to woo her. Since the theme of the competition was Lettera Amorosa (Love Letters), I decided to submit it. I just added more lines. It luckily won. Because of my limited knowledge of the language, I tried to keep the poem simple so it sounded kind of amateurish. But what the heck, here it is. A rough English translation follows:

Permets-moi de te deshabiller

Je n’écris pas comme un écrivain très doué,
cueillant des mots lumineux au vent
et les échelonnant pour créer des poèmes
qui vivront après ma mort

Je ne pense pas comme un philosophe
dont âme vole avec les oiseaux perdus
et plonge dans la profondeur de l'océan,
en chassant la vérité qui n'éxiste plus

Je ne sais que je vis dans mon monde,
seule et isolé,
créant mes vérités, dechirant ma foi, bricolant mon idéologie

Mon cerveau raconte n’importe quoi.
Mes mots ne blessent que le vent mourant
Mais je peux te déshabiller et lire ton âme.

Allow me to me undress you

I don't write like a gifted poet,
plucking luminous words from the air
and stringing them to create poems
that will live long after my death

I don't think like a philosopher
whose soul flies with lost birds
and plunges into the depths of the ocean,
chasing a truth that no longer exists.

I only know how to live in my world,
alone and isolated,
creating my truths, destroying my faith, and making up my own ideology
My mind speaks nonsense
My words scathe nothing but the dying wind
But I can undress you and read your soul.

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At 10:54 AM, Blogger Abaniko said...

Hey, congrats! That's real victory. Beating French nationals and other literati in a French poetry contest is nothing but a feat!

At 9:59 PM, Blogger {illyria} said...

hot damn. he's back. kudos on the accomplishment; that was incredible.

and oh, i emailed you.

At 9:50 AM, Blogger sky said...

you're self-deprecating, but it won!

somebody wants to have your babies after reading this poem.

At 12:18 PM, Blogger pat said...

it's nice when people write poetry that's easy on the brain. nicer when people give due recognition. and it's french.


At 3:22 PM, Anonymous muddynights said...

good to see you're back. :)

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anil said...

That was something very special. My French is rusty but it still sounded beautiful and nothing was lost in the translation too.

Oh and congrats! The prize is something to be proud of :)

At 6:52 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

abaniko -- thanks. i didn't beat french nationals. the contest was open only filipinos who can speak french

illyria -- this poem was orginally for you. remember? you interviewed me in this blog ages ago and you asked me to write you a short verse in french.

sky -- having babies, that's a nice thing, especially the process.

pat -- i have a simple take on life, perhaps that's why this is easy on the brain. thanks for dropping by!

muddynights -- thanks. glad to visit your blog again, too. i'll be going back soon

anil -- i'd love to read your french poetry. it must be wonderful. i like how you write in english.

At 9:30 PM, Blogger sojourness said...

Beautiful poem - congratulations!

At 1:39 AM, Blogger Jules said...

salut. tres magnifique.

such wonderful poem.. very gothic.. even the's ethereal...

you ought to publish your entries soon...

At 3:47 AM, Blogger slim whale said...

sojourness -- thanks!

jules -- hey, nice to see you here again! thanks! yeah, i'm thinking about submitting my entries to a publisher that publishes blogs, but i really don't know where to find them.

At 6:35 AM, Blogger rmacapobre said...

bonjour slimwhale. merci pour tes commentaires sur mon blog. je les apprecie. je ne pense pas que quelque'un lisait. ^_^

félicitations! tu l'as merité. je vais prendre des cours à l'alliance française peut-être à la fin de cet an. et puis, j'espere que j'écrirai de beaux poèmes comme toi. ^_^

merci encore slimwhale.

At 7:29 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

rmacapobre -- je suis sure que beaucoup de lecteur visitent ton blog. j'aime lire ce que tu écris car on partage la même idéologie sur la religion.

travailles-tu à Manille maintenant? peut-être je m'inscrirai à l'Alliance Française aussi à la fin d'année. Mais, j'ai l'impression que je n'apprends rien à l'alliance, que je n'améliore pas mon niveau là-bas. Mon grammaire est tojours horrible.

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous bingskee said...

very talented! you wrote from the heart. no pretense.

At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

I see you're back. Great as always Chris. You deserve the win.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger Jap said...

Moving piece of poetry. How can anyone object if you ask oh so nicely =)

I wish I know the language, I bet the French version is better.

thanks for sharing this and congratulations on the well-deserved win.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

bingskee -- thanks. the only way to make it sound real is to write it from the heart.

michael -- thanks so much. i was just lucky that there were no good writers who joined.

jap -- thanks, i guess i should try asking nicely. and if she doesn't fall for it, i can always take off my clothes and get on with it

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Jap said...

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl,
year after year,
running over the same old ground. What have we found?
The same old fears,
wish you were here.
---Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd

Wala lang heheehe your blog reminded me about this song and had to listen to it again today. it's one of my favorites, and quite apt since I just read good poetry. Was in the mood I guess. =) ingatz.

At 1:10 PM, Anonymous annamanila said...

I have been here a few ago ... been rendered breathless ... just didnt have the right words (and time) to post a comment.

Abaniko's post (Idol) just reminded me to come back.

Bravo ... what a lovely poem. You speak/write French well enough to go lyrical with it? Superb.

At 6:14 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

jap -- thanks for the song. i must admit, i don't know that.

annamanila -- hey, thanks for coming back. i don't think i speak it well yet. i have miles to go before that happens.

At 4:50 AM, Blogger ie said...

i am yours, he says, but where does he begin?

i'm sure i'll be impressed even without the translation, even though i don't know french. just the imagined sound of the poem (when read) makes me swoon.

but hey, it's a really nice poem. so i guess it's a double treat. :)

At 2:43 PM, Anonymous everybody said...

everybody LOVES chris!

At 6:16 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

ie -- where indeed do we begin? i don't have the answer either (wink)

everybody -- and I LOVE everybody. hey, can't go to your site. blogger said it can't be found. sad.

At 11:24 AM, Blogger sayong said...

I've been telling Bebot and Jackie that you won in a french poetry writing contest. So, sa ayaw at sa gusto mo, ipapadala ko sa kanila at sa german group and iyung tula :) Pwede rin bamg i-share sa french egroup namin? :) Ang galing mo talaga :) Wish I could write like you :)

08-02-07 11:25am

At 7:54 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

hey, thanks sayong. kind of you to say that. yeah, you can send my poem to the German group.

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous josh said...

Dear saint,

even though i dont know french (though i enjoyed reading ur creation in my own french nasal antics ,hehehe) I just say well done and praise to heavens for d undressing poem!

got ur link from clark cant! +)


At 6:51 PM, Blogger slim whale said...

josh--- thanks. thanks for dropping by, too. clark linked me?

even cursing in french sounds so elegant and romantic that's why i love that language

At 2:37 PM, Blogger danceordropdead said...

Maganda yung tula. Inggit.

At 9:28 PM, Blogger L.Y. said...

I found your blog by accident, but couldn't resist to leave a comment just to let you know how much i enjoyed it. And the poem is truly fabulous. It evokes a mixture of sublime, real, magical feelings. Lovely.

At 3:11 AM, Anonymous eam said...

impressive! a well-earned win!

there are only very few great romantic poems of this generation (or other contemporary writings for that matter) by Filipino authors - this deserves to be up there on the top list!

as if the title does not engage you enough, every line blows you away! there is so much honesty to it, by golly you probably could undress any available woman with it! ;-)

in English, every line is palpable. i can only imagine how it can affect one in French! Excellent!


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