Filipino poet joins UK Cultural Olympiad

Posted at 07/17/2012 12:51 PM | Updated as of 07/17/2012 12:51 PM

Filipina poet Marjorie Evasco brought Philippine poetry to the international gathering of poets in London

LONDON - A Filipina poet joined over a hundred wordsmiths from around the world at the Poetry Parnassus in Southbank Center, part of the Cultural Olympiad celebrating the London 2012 Games.

Marjorie Evasco, a published author and lecturer at De La Salle University in Manila, represented the Philippines at the largest-ever gathering of poets from across the globe.

“It’s exhilarating, except there is maybe a problem with representation. I don’t think one poet can represent the richness and the variety of Philippine literature and the traditions. I’m lucky that I’m the one, but I wish I could bring more Filipino poets,” she told ABS-CBN Europe before joining a distinguished group of Asian poets at an event hosted by the Asia Literary Review.

A recipient of several Palanca Awards and National Book Awards among others, the award-winning poet brought Philippine poetry to an international audience at various events at the Royal Festival Hall in central London, alongside 104 international poets from countries participating at the London 2012 Olympics.

Exiled artist Jang Jin Seong is a former court poet for the North Korean regime before escaping with his poems

Notable personalities include festival curator Simon Armitage, Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney and Wole Soyinka, and exiled poets Jang Jin Seong from North Korea, and Kosal Khiev from Cambodia.

“It’s extraordinary. Alvin Pang's book ‘When the Barbarians Arrive’ is interesting as a post-colonial thing, because people from all over the world have arrived to show that they are not Barbarians. And when the poets gather at the hotel or at the poetry village, it’s such a cornucopia of talent, intelligence, good humor and heavy drinking. It’s a wonderful community,” said Martin Alexander, Editor-In-Chief of Asia Literary Review.

He added: “The Philippines is the largest English-speaking community in Asia and there are fantastic voices there, from Marjorie Evasco to Miguel Syjuco, among others.”

Indonesian writer Laksmi Pamuntjak, best known for The Jakarta Good Food Guide, also said from the event: “Poetry is something that is really an avenue to lose myself a lot of times. And I really enjoy it. When I’m in my utter despair, I would go to poetry. It’s is a sanctum, a place of solitude.”

Evasco performed public readings of poetry created by fellow Filipino poets, as well as presenting her own work written in English, Spanish and her native language Cebuano.

One of which is “Despedida”, a tribute to American poet Ted Berrigan and Spanish creative Federico Garcia Lorca, written in English and Spanish, and published in the official anthology of the festival, “The World Record”.

Her other work, “Origami”, written in English and Cebuano, also featured at the festival, bringing Filipino language side by side with over 50 languages spoken at the series.

Asia Literary Review Editor-in-Chief Martin Alexander hosted an event showcasing Asian poets

The Poetry Parnassus is part of the Cultural Olympiad taking place across the UK in commemoration of the London Games, running a series of arts programs, from poetry and photography to theatre and art, to complement the biggest sporting event in the planet.

“The Olympics itself is a very noble tradition of prowess, physical as well as mental, because you need your brain to do the sports meaningfully. The Cultural Olympiad is a wonderful idea because it puts the physical activities of the Olympics side by side with the arts,” said Evasco.

The poetry festival also boasted an unusually large proportion of female wordsmiths comprising over 50% of the delegation, bucking the trend of typically male dominated poetry events, according to the organizers.

“I think in a sense the world has changed. There has been a shift in the last few years. While women have been doing their work very quietly, there are festivals like this that showcase the work and it’s fascinating,” observed Evasco, who has been associated with feminism in the Philippines.

She added: “All the stories of struggle are actually of the same pattern but their very personal of course. As we say in feminism, the political is a personal thing, and the personal is political. So when we speak our poems and we write our truths, it’s really confronting issues in our lives, from the private to the public.”

The Cultural Olympiad continues in the UK in conjunction with the London 2012 Olympic, which runs from July 27 to August 12.