my first talk on poetry

The door to the conference room at Alphaland in Makati where I gave my first talk on poetry

The door to the conference room at Alphaland in Makati where I gave my first talk on poetry

Last Saturday, I gave my first talk on poetry. I’ve been giving a lot of HIV talks since I became public with my status in 2008 and the objective of those talks are very different. Yes, they are both personal and they are both done in the hopes that people’s lives will be enriched; but while my HIV talks are meant to make people take their lives and their health more seriously, calling them to action to being smarter and more safe with their choices in regards to sex; my talk on poetry is aimed towards showing the wonders and beauty of poetry; to bring it away from the pedestal that it’s on and bring it down to a personal, individual level.

I was invited by COKID to give a short talk on “The Power of Poems.” They had a one day workshop and forum for mothers and teachers with the aim to encourage them to get children to fall in love with reading again. I was super excited. I went online to find children’s poems that were in the public domain that I could use as an example and found riddles too. I set up my whole talk to show how useful and powerful poetry can be if children were taught to like it at an early age.

I was so happy to do it. After five years of talking about my sex life, life with HIV, and the lessons I learned from this thing that I did to myself; I was so happy to have been able to be asked to talk about something else and something that I really, really love. Poetry has become my source. It’s how I truly identify myself now. It has become who I am and what I am most proud of.

To be able to share that with others and why I love it and why I think mothers and teachers should share poetry with children is just an amazing experience for me. The wonderful people at COKID told me later in the day of the talk that I got very good feedback from the participants. They enjoyed my talk, they got so much from it, and they wanted to look for children’s poems and share it with their kids.

From Toffer Lorenzana of COKID's Instagram. Me talking at the Reading Revolution workshop of COKID last Saturday. (Toffer Lorenzana's Instagram is @tofferocious)

From Toffer Lorenzana of COKID’s Instagram. Me talking at the Reading Revolution workshop of COKID last Saturday. (Toffer Lorenzana’s Instagram is @tofferocious)

I was like a little kid, telling the ladies and gentlemen in the room about some new discovery but it wasn’t new. It was poetry and it’s been around for such a long time. But I told them how my love for poetry, since I was a kid, helped spark wonder and a love for words and language. It made me think and it made me see the connections in everything. The power of the metaphor. The power that comes with evoking and provoking thought, rather than just giving it straight on and spoon-feeding it. I didn’t know that this was happening back then but when I had to prepare my talk, this is what I realised poetry did for me as a kid.

It helped me understand things in a not literal way. It made me want to always dig deeper and find out what things really meant. It was instrumental for my constantly inquisitive mind and for making sure that everything was said in a clear manner because things can be misinterpreted. I would read a poem and think I understand what it means and then several days later, figured out it meant something else entirely. The words never changed, I did. My understanding changed. And it helped me learn to write prose with more clarity and to appreciate poetry in the largeness of the scope of its language.

At the end of my talk, they asked for questions and I only got one request. One of the participants asked if I could read one of my own works. I was so embarrassed (but thrilled nonetheless). So I read my poem, The Garden, for them. I felt so wonderful afterwards. It was amazing.

My Tita Beaulah Taguiwalo, an accomplished and award winning children's book illustrator and writer, also gave a talk on rediscovering the love of reading

My Tita Beaulah Taguiwalo, an accomplished and award winning children’s book illustrator and writer, also gave a talk on rediscovering the love of reading

On June, I’m helping out another NGO by giving a poetry workshop for them. It would be my first time to teach basic poetics and helping young people without any real background in writing and poetry to start using poetry as a means for self-expression. I’m doubly excited. This time, it’s not just talking about poetry, it’s teaching it. I’m nervous and excited and thrilled.

I love writing and I find that this is an added facet to my writing. Sharing what I know in order for more beautiful things to come out in the world. If not beautiful, at the very least thought-provoking. Hopefully, it will inspire more people to use words for truth and to build connections. It’s a lofty goal but it’s what I find necessary in this world where everyone is just getting dumber and chasing after the accessible and the easy. People are afraid to think and because of that, poetry becomes completely foreign and alien to them.

This is the life I want for myself. To write and to share writing and reading with everyone. I hope I can do just this for the rest of my life.

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