In Cebu, the literary scene is an odd but interesting spectrum of young and old writers. Besides the established literary cliques such as the predominantly male Bathalad Inc and its counterpart WILA (Women in Literary Arts), a loose group of young writers—the Nomads—proves that “the young, the cool, the sexy, and the hot” are not just serious about partying, but about their poetry, too.
In this cosmpolitan city, a month does not pass by without an artistic endeavor going on. Cebu opened the year 2013 with a cornucopia of literary pursuits: January was for Bathalad Inc’s e-book launching, Wawart Art Exhibit, and “Home Is a Fable,” a poetry reading with Lawrence Ypil (a Palanca awardee who is now with University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, and Nikay Paredes (a second year MFA candidate in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence College), February for the Nomad’s “Lovebug/Labhag” (the latter a Cebuano for “Welt”) and WILA’s Gugma ug Pasalig (Love and Promise); and March for WILA’s International Women’s Day reading and e-book launching, and the Nomads’ “Firsts.”
These pursuits feed the Cebuanos’ communal love for art and literature.
But if you remain unconvinced, here are some of the reasons why you should catch a poetry reading session next time you happen to be in Cebu.
1. For the guys, beautiful and sexy women do write and read poems
“It is the best place to look for a girlfriend,” says Erik Tuban, a man in his late 20s and one of the perpetrators of the poetry reading targeting the younger generation. Indeed, the first installment of the Nomads’ poetry reading—days before Valentine’s—was a huge success. Quite a number of attractive single women shared their pieces with the eager audience. But it is not just their sophisticated or stylish looks that proved to be their most attractive asset but their wit and knack for stringing words together.
2. For the girls, poets are cool and smart
For girls who dig brains and random conversations about books and writers, this is the place. Poets can talk about Charles Bukowski, Butch Bandillo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Michael Ondaatje, James Tate, Charles Simic, Marcel Navarra, and NBA in no end. They deify the Beatles, the Smiths, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, John Lennon, Alex Turner, and their cohorts.
They read women writers and poets too, say, Toni Morrison, Mary Oliver, Wislawa Szymborska, and Anne Sexton. But if you can’t handle the maleness and obsoleteness of their choices, poets—especially the young ones— are very open to the works and artists of your choosing, say, Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray, or Nicki Minaj or Taylor Swift. They would even encourage you to share a quote or two from the book you are reading. Poets are not snobbish. Or let’s hope they are not.
3. La Belle Aurore: An intimate and artistic venue
Remember those days where your favorite writers gathered in a coffee shop and talked about their passion? La Belle Aurore—the home of the Nomads’ poetry reading—reminds me of such place. There is something romantic about reading a poem aloud in the presence of books and book lovers. Quite intimate and small, the home of preloved treasure does not reek of the clinical and commercial neatness common among bookstores. Rather it looks and feels like a personal library with curious touches found on its walls and corners. On top of that, Resil Mojares—yes, the elusive Resil Mojares—drops by once in a while and even shares some precious titles of his collection at La Belle’s reading corner.
On the other hand, Bathlad Inc now has their readings at Handuraw Lahug—a pizza place that supports the local literary and music scenes. On the other hand, the Cathedral Museum of Cebu has been collaborating with Women in Literary Arts for the past two months. Their latest reading was under the tambis tree (a macopa variety). Poetry is an old form, and somehow it is comforting to read while being surrounded with things gleaned from the past.
4. Expressing one’s secret without the public realizing it
Poetry is—in many ways—confessional. There is always that line—if not the entire poem—that alludes to oneself, to a lover present or past, to a moment that actualized yesterday or ten years ago. Poetry reading is a collective confession, readers mirroring their pitfalls, happiness, or woes. Yes, it is the place for the brokenhearted, the happy, the sad, the confused, the weary, the wary. Poetry is for feelings. Poetry reading is the place—as Louise Gluck put it—to “speak because [you are] shattered.”