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Philippines: Awit / Tanaga

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Southeast Asian Verse

The Philippine Islands is a Southeast Asia country located in the Western Pacific Ocean. Filipino poetry dates back before colonization and has been an intregal part of the Filipino culture. The earliest Tagalog epics are written in verse.

Blue by Joel Josol A favorite of mine, a modern day, Filippino poet.

Dawn, at the pier, without you,
its blue cast holding tent,
veils the colors of the day.

The sky moves clouds,
bluish grey and half-asleep,
over waters undisturbed in its blueness.

I sit at the platform's edge
with crags, in silhouettes, before me
watching the horizon lift the veil.

The only remnant of the night
is the lamp's light
walking away, an old man.

This beautiful glimpse, this dawn
is short-lived, quickly dispersed
like your glances.

I look down on the waters,
my reflection is all blue.

  • Awit literally means song. This stanzaic form seems very similar to the Tanaga. It is unique in that a stanza should be one complete, grammatically correct, sentence.  The elements of the Awit are:
    1. stanzaic, written in any number of quatrains.
    2. a narrative, it tells a story.
    3. dodecasyllabic, 12 syllables per line, there is usually a pause after the 6th syllable.
    4. rhymed, each stanza mono-rhymed aaaa bbbb cccc etc.
    5. composed with each stanza representing a complete, grammatically correct, sentence.
    6. composed liberally using various figures of speech.
    7. written anonymously.
  • The Tanaga is a Filipino stanzaic form that was originally written in Tagolog which to my ear is one of the more musical of languages. (Kumusta ka? Mabuti salam at) The form dates back to the 16th century and has an oral tradition. The poems are not titled. Each is emotionally charged and asks a question that begs an anwer. This form was found at Kaleidoscope.  The elements of the Tanaga are:
    1. stanzaic, written in any number of quatrains.
    2. syllabic, 7-7-7-7 syllables per line.
    3. rhymed, originally aaaa bbbb cccc etc., modern Tanagas also use aabb ccdd etc or abba cddc etc or any combination rhyme can be used.
    4. composed with the liberal use of metaphor.
    5. untitled.  But in this poetic world we kind of have to title our poems for identity's sake.

      I'd Like to Think, It Knew

      Saintly sentinel stands guard,
      oversees nature's regard.
      St. Francis in my front yard,
      stone statue weathered and scarred.

      The welcome, silent and stead,
      his story of care is widespread.
      A brown bird lights on his head
      to peruse the garden bed.

      Do you think it may have known
      what the ancient priest had sown?
      In Christ he was never alone,
      love for all life he'd intone.
                          ~~Judi Van Gorder

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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