The Katig-uban han mga Magsusurat ha Sinirangan Bisayas or the Katig Writers Network, Inc., an organization of practising writers in Eastern Visayas, and the University of the Philippines in the Visayas-Tacloban College (UPVTC) through its Gender and Development Office and its Humanities Division is set to launch multi-awarded poet, Merlie M. Alunan’s first poetry collection in Cebuano, Pagdakop sa Bulalakaw ug uban pang mga balak, on March 15, 2013 at the UPVTC Multipurpose Hall.
Published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press, Pagdakop sa Bulalakaw contains poems Alunan wrote in the course of ten years of finding her way back to Cebuano, the language she learned as a child shuttling between the different islands of the Visayas.
Of her collection, poet, fictionist, and critic, Jaime An Lim writes: “To read the Cebuano poetry of Merlie Alunan is to be amazed, again and again, by her extraordinary power to bring to life the riches of her native traditions, experiences, and sensibility. The voice speaking in her poetry moves in a rhythm that is familiar and authentic, about simple ordinary things that matter to the honest heart. This marvelous mind-opening collection is eloquent proof that one can indeed reclaim a language and make it sing. But only if you are Merlie.”
This reclamation of a landscape resonates in this present poetry collection, breathed into life by the poet’s intimacy with the language of her dreams and of poetry. “In the world of Alunan, speech,” in the words of Palanca Award-winning poet and critic Lawrence Lacambra Ypil, “becomes the language of the land. Fruit becomes story, moon becomes tale, a piece of stone carried in the hand over seas becomes memory. Love, here, is found in a stack of firewood. History, in a head of lice. Drought and its attendant hungers beget a poet in this breviary of names that is Alunan’s poetry, names of faces and towns, rivers and places, all on the brink of being created or erased, a landscape many of us have hardly remembered, almost forgotten, returns. It is in this painful and glorious reclamation of this land and its bodies that these poems are written from and toward. If they seem to speak from elsewhere, then it means we’ve been lost. If they sound too familiar, then we haven’t listened.”
The collection also includes Alunan’s translations of her poems into English, appended with an essay on her translation practice.
Her English translations are by itself literary works in their own right. Fictionist and literary scholar, Rosario Cruz-Lucero, remarks that “because the English translation can stand on its own merit without need for reference to the original, the book’s inclusion into world literature is guaranteed.”
In the same light, poet and critic, Marjorie M. Evasco observes: “Originally written in Cebuano Binisaya, Alunan’s poems in English translation show her mastery of her poetics, soundly based on a well-tuned ear for the differences between the cultural nuances of English and Cebuano Binisaya. This collection, as she says in her essay, is about crossing borders and coming home. And we heartily welcome the seeker of the firebird who sings of such a wondrous quest.”
Merlie Alunan is Professor Emeritus of the UPVTC and teaches in its Humanities Division. She has three poetry collections to her name: Hearthstone, Sacred Tree (Anvil Publishing, 1993), Amina Among the Angels (University of the Philippines Press, 1998), and more recently, Tales of the Spiderwoman (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2010).