Last Saturday, I attended the Words Anonymous anniversary spoken word event, One, as their special guest and was so honoured when they asked me to introduce the group prior to their performance. It was so nice because everything about the show was so professional and thought out. It wasn’t just another monthly spoken word event but a real show. It was so encouraging to see how seriously the Words Anonymous people were about their craft and their audience. I was so proud, if I may be able to be proud, that the spoken word movement has really taken off and that I was invited to be a part of it.
It began with four special guest performers, including myself, and I came last, which is when I introduced Words Anonymous to the eagerly awaiting crowd. I recited The Last Time You Were Beautiful, Frankenstein’s Monster, and In Love Like a Fish, and then I introduced Words Anonymous and said they “were at the forefront of the revival of the Spoken Word movement in the city” and said that they were “only matched in their ability to be truly vulnerable by their sheer proficiency of language.” I said a lot more but I don’t remember it right now.
The nine present members of Words Anonymous stepped out from the back of Sev’s Cafe and recited their group piece Bang, which got the whole room excited. It was a powerful opening and it set the tone for the rest of their three hour set with a vibrant, electric energy that never wavered. It was a three hour set with two breaks with musical guests — the band Just Like Us and Unmute — and each set kept raising the bar.
Highlights included Juan Miguel Severo’s moments on stage, most especially his piece on the second set about walking in Bataan and using the metaphor of tourism, history, and the Death March for heartbreak and loss. It was a powerful piece that excellently weaved in and out of the present time and the past, of the historic and the personal, and set within a tight narrative flow. It was so impressive, more so since it was in Filipino, and I usually miss out on nuances when pieces are in Filipino because my grasp of the language isn’t that good. But I got it, like a bullet to the heart, I got it.
There’s no question and I’m not afraid to play favourites when it comes to Louise Meets. I first heard her perform last June when I judged a poetry slam and I’ve been a fan of hers ever since. She performed her piece Pindrop Silence and I swear you could hear hearts breaking and the audience breath go still. She debuted a new work, a Filipino one, that had just the same effect.
Trevor Villoria performed Reasons Why Pretty Girl Don’t Date Me and it was heart wrenchingly good. The piece benefited from a powerful build up, tempered with a measured performance that brought it were it needed to go and exploded just when it needed to. It was so strong.
Another stand out was Zuelly Herrera, whose first piece breached the realm of theater, with an intricately written poem about holding on, loss, and love. The performance was integral to the piece but together, what at first seemed prosaic turns over its head by the latter part of the poem, the shifting of tone and delivery recreates the whole piece and changes the entire meaning of the first half that the monologue becomes this poem where the mutability of language is left out into the open for everyone to see. It was riveting, and again, it was in Filipino and I caught every inch of its power.
The group pieces showed, not just their craftsmanship at writing fantastic pieces, but their camaraderie and ability to really perform. They obviously rehearsed and it showed that they were a solid group. Love a Woman with Curves opened the second set and Louise Meets, Abby Orbeta, and Michelle Manese just nailed it, sending the audience into a tailspin, making a calculated departure from the intense, passionate, heartbreaking pieces of the first set and opened up a whole new arena that was witty and daring. It was tongue-and-cheek but without losing its power and it was also a challenge and it was electric.
What also needs mentioning is a portion of the third set when Juan Miguel Severo and Louise Meets came up, began one of their poems in its original state and the other came up to finish it, translated from Filipino to English or vice-versa, depending on the piece. Juan Miguel Severo and Louise Meets are extraordinary poets and having them translate each other’s work and performing the translated work was a touch of pure genius because the powerhouse one-two punch of two extraordinary poets and performers doubled the intensity of each individual piece. It was riveting.
It was an intensely enjoyable show and I couldn’t believe how amazing the whole show was but more than that, I was so amazed that the audience had stayed for everything. It was a full-house and a large majority stayed through until the end and the outpouring of love and support that came afterwards made me shiver in happiness for the poets of Words Anonymous. The audience asked for their autographs, hugged them, took selfies with them, and bought their merchandise. You really thought they were rockstars or celebrities and it made me so happy to see that poets have achieved that level of appreciation from their audience.
It is something I’ve always wanted for poets as far back as 15 years ago when I first started to read my poetry in bars and cafe and to see it happen now, to people who are truly deserving of it, makes me overjoyed and so happy. I’m the happiest person alive right now because of what I’ve just witnessed last Saturday.
I’m the happiest person alive. It makes me want to write more poems.