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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Poems and other impieties

Everything and anything can be a poet’s playground. A word, a phrase, an image, a memory, a person, or another poem — any of these elements can inspire Zaldy Dandan to pen a verse. Hence a motley collection of “poems and other impieties” that form his newly released book, “We Will Kiss Like It’s Air and We’re Running Out of It.”

Published on by Padayon Books, “We Will Kiss Like It’s Air” is filled with 39 poems that are rendered accessible by their candor and vivid imagery popping out of metaphors.

The collection includes vignettes of uninhibited characters such as a teenage prostitute who seeks to justify her chore (“I am needed Lord. I minister to pressing needs”); a flower vendor with “distant eyes” that reveal the “sketch of a life;” and the inconspicuous motel room attendant, who is tasked to “tend to privileged passion” and eliminate the “artifacts of desires.” And there is an infant whose mother has small breasts and nipples that makes feeding feel like “chewing dry rug and tasting air.”

Proving the unpredictability of its themes, the collection also includes historical accounts — a triptych of the Philippine revolution, in which the poet reveals cynicism over the 19th century events and a lack of fondness for the players that made them happen. “From beyond their graves our saviors taunt us with their infuriating haloes of greatness and we can no longer kill them.”

In the philosophical piece, “Lawyerly Truth,” Dandan employs tangible representations to illustrate the relativity of truth. “Our quarrels are never about truths/but what we want to be real,” he writes. “Truths are numbers on a roulette wheel/and we are the hands that spin it/after placing our bets and complain/ that the house always wins.”

Dandan is the editor of Marianas Variety and long-time Saipan resident. He studied broadcast journalism at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Manila and wrote for Philippine publications including the Philippine Daily Globe, Manila Standard and The Manila Times. He was named Best Editorial Writer by the Society of Professional Journalists and a recipient of the Northern Marianas Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism.

Dandan has been awarded fellowships to national writing workshops in the Philippines. “I've been reading, writing, dreaming and thinking about poetry since stumbling into John Ciardi's How Does a Poem Mean (1959) in my early 20s,” he said. “I would later find out that Ciardi was an airman--a gunner on a B-29, who was stationed on Saipan during WWII.”

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