About the book

The flesh of blood and memory populates the world of BE, a collection of poems that stubbornly seek human identity in an increasingly inhumane world. In micropoetic narratives, the collective I says, “I am here,” and proceeds to explore the insular and peculiar ways language, emotion, and truth-telling scour the painful moments of vision that lurk beneath calm and unknown depths.

There are things one cannot ever hope to understand. Does existence precede essence even if essence was available? In a collage of disparate images, the BE poems spin together individual and collective states of feelings to examine the fragments of the human condition in little existences. Picture the man and woman wandering forlornly through an abandoned universe or what happens to some of the people in the villages, in the feudal backwaters where inhabitants become stupefied, brutalized and spiritually impoverished yet to the outside world appear to suffer a quiet, gentle contentment and peace. Or how we all live by pushing rocks up slopes, or as in some of the poet’s characters, by bottling the ashes of a once-dormant-now-live volcano for hawking to tourists as souvenirs.

Brooding. Teasing. Questioning. Doubting. Discovering. The quest could be tragic or comic, but the endeavour could stretch the most ordinary things into new shapes and meanings. As an assemblage, BE proves that it is possible to recover a semblance of reality, if not truth itself, through inferences that quite closely resemble it.

About the author

Rivera, Patria

Patria Rivera’s first poetry collection, Puti/White, was shortlisted for the 2006 Trillium Book Award for Poetry. She has also published The Bride Anthology and co-authored Weathering: An Exchange of Poems. Her poetry is featured in Perspectives in Ideology, and in Elana Wolff’s Implicate me: short essays on reading contemporary poems. She has received fellowships from the Writers’ Union of Canada, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Hawthornden Castle Writers’ Retreat. Rivera holds a journalism degree from the University of the Phillipines, and has taken media studies in Australia and Germany. She lives with her family in Toronto’s east end.

Excerpt

A way before
  
She loved to sleep
and wake up when she’d slept
around the corner, too.
Near the cop station
on Saturday as usual.
Sometimes she’d
have had three winks
and might have been
dozing when she dreamt
all the way, trying to sleep
on Friday and wake up
on Sunday morning but didn’t.
She was still beautiful
while she slept scraping
the wall behind the bed
with her knuckles—
not actually remembering that—
the only place she could go
for as long as she wanted. It
might have been the same
night she stretched
and yawned and pulled
down the blinds and woke up
on a Monday twenty-six
years later.
 

 
Afterwards
 
Maybe because the mass of old trees
was not visible from the house
The only signs of life
flourished in the modest flower
of my imagination
 
The old house    run-down and peeling
stirred uncomfortably like a restless bird
in the heat-exhausted sky
The minutes shut in their concentration
the table returning
to tree with my profuse admiration
 
Most of the melody would go
in the height of that stumbled-across summer
All the wrong shoes and sandals
the accepted offer of a ride
the abandoned furniture
Not even a fan or photographs
on the table to overcome my embarrassment
The hurts came
at night    one after the other
not just along with the crazy mail
which did no harm
when the season changed
 
And we drank the evening lying
in that solitude   united
by the full length of our denials
because    unlike the tears
when the pilgrims reached their destination
afterwards the house opened inside
 


 
Countdown
 
1
Heavy clouds sail low through the raging battle
in that ancient place sighted from the hills.
Time parcelling old fires
carries what remains of the disputed order.
 
The seasons sit pure in their extremes.
Variations of folded nights,
object and image transporting significance—
nothing will pass through the darkening radiance
 
Too late to uncrumple the world of silences,
shifts of discord,
the quiet lies waving at a distance.
In the morning burning sands will reveal
the imagined diminishing surface of water.
 
 
 
2
Watch out for the moon.
Expect bad weather.
Fish scales foretell a bad storm.
Moods— like pressure-system winds—
may last for days.
 
An old backing wind
shapes earth and expected news
as buoyant water hangs unsteady in midair.
Most wisdom never navigates backwards
but moves clockwise on the odd day.
 
Rivers run regnant with shiver,
skim through squall and inconstant billows,
stay inside the solace of a sudden stir,
seek harbour from the gathering runt.
 
3
Every salt-laden tree
can sting cheeks,
like the subtle teasing stress
of touching grasses or green surf.
 
 
 
4
History is a witch that turned—
stopped and hastened,
enticed—
beckoned memory.
Later, it said, not then, not now,
turning the moment over and over.
 
Here, it offers blare and spill,
a flood of canvas.
The willing that looks like belonging.
The story of someone—
some people—
climbing out of a pit,
bare arms and feet clawing into effaced rock,
sliding over probability.

Reviews

Two new bright literary lights.... The other bright light in the expat literary firmament is Patria C. Rivera, or “Patty” when she was our colleague at the Economic Information Staff of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) ages ago.… >>

— Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. The Philippine Star

Filipino-Canadian poet Patria Rivera of Toronto is a late bloomer: she did not write poetry until the early 1990s, after she was done parenting her brood of four girls — Rani, Kim, Isobel and Jenny. Rivera — Patty to family… >>

— Jun Medina The Manila Times


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