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New book reimagines biblical themes

HIDDEN CODEXfrontcoverA new book of poems has been released by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House (USTPH), titled HIDDEN CODEX: Fictive Scriptures, a reimagining of biblical themes and characters.

HIDDEN CODEX: Fictive Scriptures is the second book of longtime editor and writer Jose Marte A. Abueg, whose first poetry collection, Bird Lands, River Nights, and Other Melancholies, was awarded the Gawad Likhaan: The University of the Philippines Centennial Literary Prize.

Eminent poet and critic Dr. Gemino H. Abad writes of the new book: “A writer’s work is part, too, of his country’s sacred writ — a people’s memory. In HIDDEN CODEX: Fictive Scriptures we have a collection that is remarkable for its sensitive rereading of biblical themes, its clarity and depth of moral insight, and its vigor of poetic voice and language.”

The author says the collection follows a kind of storyline — “Biblical characters as literary characters: Adam inventing the names of things (in what may be the biblical origin of words); Eve contemplating the Fall; ‘wise men from the East’ in journey and dialogue, with a young Balthassar asking the questions; a questioning, tormented Judas and an innocent, young John in conversation; … Thomas in sorrowful contemplation of wounds …. Across the varied, variegated moments, a series of poems — narrative, lyric, prose, and combinations — follows a thin, elementary thread from character to character, from fiction to fiction. In the end, one who was at the beginning has changed his path and finds simplicity and innocence.”

In a prose poem, Eve says of their fall: “No tempter, perhaps, was necessary. The moment would have come naturally — a gradual, silent urge or a gentle, mutual persuasion to touch, to awaken the spirit of seeking and finding; there would have been our true beginning.”

A section of the book revolves around Mary of Magdala as she encounters multiple temptations. In one poem, the Magdalene herself says: “But prostitute I was not.” Yet, another poem points out: “Mary, your close will be as a solitary/Cloud, a slight, weak wind, an isolated/ Heart, in some strange foreign land a/ Yellowed leaf, and then ash from a finally/ Exhausted fire — a story left unread.”

One of the poems explores the possible origin of the word sadness, which it describes as “most un-paradisiacal, now nearly omnipresent.” It says: “…Perhaps it derived, together with/ Sorrow and grief, but not with pain,/ From the murky, stygian core/ Of punishment — hard, immediate/ Upon the fall, immeasurable —/ And on cursed dust-covered ground/ Away from the now-hidden lucent waters/ It grew and multiplied….”

Jose Marte A. Abueg’s poems have appeared in Under the Storm: An Anthology of Contemporary Philippine Poetry; Querida: An Anthology; the Aniliterary journal published by the Cultural Center of the Philippines; Philippines Free Press, Philippine Graphic, Sunday Inquirer Magazine, Sunday Times Magazine; on http://www.panitikan.com.ph, Google Books, and other websites.

For more information, please call Ms. Ailil Alvarez, USTPH Deputy Director, at 7313522. You may also visit the UST Publishing House Facebook page:http://www.facebook.com/USTPublishingHouse.

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