Thursday, March 19, 2015
SULEIMAN AT THE GATES OF VIENNA: Reflections on CHARLIE VERIC'S HISTORIES
by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.
A provocative original voice enters the archive of Philippine writing in English with Charlie Veric's Histories. Time unfolds in places that catalyze imagination. From New Haven to Gaza, Diliman, Alexandria, New York, Vienna, Escolta, and everywhere, this Filipino artificer of words interrogates life-histories in specific locales that bear common indices: solitudes, dreams, desires. He deploys in urbane global English what used to be called "international style" coeval with the cosmopolitanized market of the imperial bourgeoisie (as Marx and Engels noted). Veric succeeds wonderfully in giving us a savor of this style without budging from our seats, in real time.
As expected in our intellectual/academic milieu, the poet resists our daily disappearance into "the mill of Robinson's Place." He protests against the varied locales of commodified life that ironically swallows difference. Representing the multitude of alienated "others," the poet cries out for recognition of individualities, for singularity, for freedom: "I write, therefore I am free from rote life." It is the classic predicament of Villa, Kafka, Dostoevsky, Joyce, etc. The poet's anguish springs from the modernist impulse of defying Cartesian clocktime with "nonsynchronicities," sometimes with the postmodern pastiche or baroque now a universal poetic idiom. He strives to fuse the now and the eternal into one epiphanic moment of recognition; the traditional metaphor used is Dante's vision of Beatrice. Who is Beatrice in the last poem of the book, Vita Nova?
The last poem is an intriguing sign of a promise that I am sure Veric (always true to his name) will make good in his next work. Walter Benjamin once said that the self is the most powerful opium we suck everytime we are lonely. And so we are provoked to query: Is solitude a sign of freedom? In my reading, it is a symptom or allegory of that market-centered history the poet rejects in so many nuanced images and tones. We share his anguish in making multiple "histories" to resist a homogenizing, monolithic narrative of our human condition.
For the common reader to freely appreciate this book, she needs to discover meanings in Veric's expressive gestures and communicate them. Such communication is premised on a solidarity of linked backgrounds, shared understandings. Solitude is thus released from its monadic framework, the ego-centered discourse of modernity. The poet's motive is, I surmise, to create this planetary platform for conviviality. Based on my acquaintance with his work, Veric seeks to be a planetary poet. We might then place this book in the milieu of world literature, first conceived by the romantic Goethe, where national context is pre-requisite for there to be free, equal articulation among languages and cultures.
And so our task as readers is geopolitical triangulation: Where can we locate Veric's eloquent "histories" in our quotidian lives, "histories" traversing regional boundaries but speaking a cosmopolitan idiom now standard for postmodern verses in the Global North? How can the silenced histories of the poet and his readers/translators be excavated in so many points of transit in his passage from Aklan in neocolonial clocktime to the present global era of 9/11 terrorism, U.S. imperial wars in Afghanistan and Syria, drone warfare, Mamasapano carnage, and the interminable OFW diaspora? This book-launching is thus an occasion for exchange, translation, and playing convivial language-games (as Wittgenstein envisaged it) for our newly-emerging lives.--###
Posted by Sonny San Juan at 7:05 PM