SYMBOLS, POEMS AND DETAILS – When poetic language merges with everyday life

Edith Tiempo, the mother of Philippine literature

In 1962, she and her husband founded the Silliman National Writers Workshop in Dumaguete City, an initiative that helped bring out the best writers of the Philippines. Her poems are transfigurations of significant experiences. Born in Bayombong in April 1919, Edith Tiempo was a Filipino poet who received the 1999 National Artist Award for Literature and the Carlos Palanca Memorial Prize for Literature. Her descriptive language was constantly illuminated by meticulous detail. For her literary work, she paid attention to social problems, considering them evolving structures suitable for the exploration of the contemporary world. In her view, what the mind forgets the scars keep remembering.

She has scaled all the love down to the size of a cupped hand. Everything she loved she folded up again, and again. For reasons related to her father’s work, during her childhood, Edith Tiempo‘s family had to move from a province. She attended high school in Bayombong and law school at the University of the Philippines, graduating from Silliman University. At the State University of Lowa you participated in a creative writing workshop. After receiving a scholarship, she earned a PhD in English from the University of Denver, Colorado. The Philippine Postal Corporation has issued a commemorative stamp commemorating the centennial of her birth.

Exploring the variegated series of relationships between women and men, she investigated female situations of her time, enucleating women prisoners of their conditions. As a narrator she used a descriptive language scrupulously immersed in everyday reality. With works characterized by a fusion of masterfully intuitive means of expression, she has created poems that draw nourishment from meaningful experiences. She was one of the best Filipino writers in the English language. Edith Tiempo passed away in August 2011 of a heart attack. Among her published works, we recommend at least reading the novel A Blade of Fern and the collection of poems The Tracks of Babylon and Other Poems.

BONSAI – Everything I love I fold it up again and again, and keep it in a box, or in a slot in an empty post, or in my shoe. All that I love? Why, yes, but for now and forever, both. Something that folds and holds easily, a note from son or dad’s one flashy tie, a rounded picture of a queen, a blue Indian shawl, even a banknote. It is an absolute sublimation, a feat, the control of this heart moment by moment, scaling all love down to the size of a cupped hand, until the shells are broken pieces by God’s bright teeth, and life and love are real things you can run and breathlessly deliver to the youngest child.


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