Tuesday, March 18, 2014


"Pastoral" by Angelo R. Lacuesta
in VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA: A Storm of Filipino Poets, Ed. Eileen R. Tabios
(Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, CA, 2014. P. 53)

“Pastoral” by Angelo R. Lacuesta is one of the poems in VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA: A Storm Of Filipino Poets, an anthology put together to raise funds for survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, known as “Yolanda” in the Philippines.  Haiyan is the largest recorded storm on land whose devastation affected over 14 million people who became homeless, widowed, orphaned or saw their beloveds die or themselves died in the onslaught of water and wind. In the anthology, the page featuring "Pastoral" offers Mr. Lacuesta's byline, the poem's title, and the reference "after JGV" beneath the title:

Mr. Lacuesta says, "This piece was quite problematic for me. To start things off, I don't consider myself a poet—the last time I published the odd poem was five or six years ago, and I write a lot of prose now, which I find tends to destroy the frame of mind for poetry. 

"When the call came for poems for Yolanda [anthology], the idea of writing a pastoral immediately came to mind, but I didn't know how to write it. I started with a few lines and images, but felt that no matter what I wrote I could not write anything that could capture the tragedy that had just occurred (and, incredibly, continues today). I placed equal blame on my lack of talent and the sheer scale of the disaster. 

"Eventually, I settled on the present poem, which became the only real way I could speak and write about the tragedy. It is a 'cheap' move, of course. But that 'cheapness' also describes any attempt to write, or publish, or say anything about tragedies like Yolanda and the thousands of lives they end or destroy. Such is the nature of writing, and the nature of tragedy. 

"That is also how some people regard even the original poem I refer to—Jose Garcia Villa's 'The Emperor's New Sonnet' [a poem that is a blank page].  I can't reproduce JGV's poem here for copyright reasons, but as I wrote 'Pastoral' it was funny and weird how even just the title 'The Emperor's New Sonnet' carried so much additional meaning, as the response and rehabilitation efforts after the tragedy exposed so many failures in our government, our culture and in our way of thinking about the tragedy itself."

Angelo R. Lacuesta has won two Philippine National Book Awards, the Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award, the NVM Gonzalez Award and several Palanca and Philippine Graphic Awards for his writing. He has published three collections of fiction and is at work on a fourth. He has been literary editor at the Philippines Free Press and is editor-at-large at Esquire magazine (Philippines).

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