Filipino's manuscript with martial law poems wins NY book prize

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2022 06:41 AM | Updated as of Sep 21 2022 07:41 PM

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MANILA -- A New York-based literary nonprofit recently gave an award to a Filipino poet living in South Africa.

Jim Pascual Agustin received the 2022 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize from Singapore Unbound for his manuscript titled "Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight."

He bested four other shortlisted candidates for the award.

Agustin's manuscript includes poems about Martial Law in the Philippines. He said this is his response to the spread of disinformation about the dark chapter in the country's history.

"This September marks the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by the late deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The lies that continue to be spread by Cambridge Analytica-trained social media handlers of the Marcoses will keep trying to decimate the memory of those who fought the regime," he said.

The winning manuscript was chosen by Yeow Kai Chai, a poet, journalist and editor and former director of the Singapore Writers Festival.

The judge noted that Agustin's work has an "exquisite sensitivity" that is both specific and universal. 

"Such perspicacity of mind and heart illuminates Jim Pascual Agustin's crystalline poems," Chai said in the prize citation that he read during the announcement. 

"Masterfully observed, shone through with Zen penetration, these songs of innocence and experience divine a universe of complex lives lived, torn asunder, celebrated, and mended. You are enveloped in these entirely believable scenarios filled with people and creatures finding themselves in everyday moments, and extraordinary circumstances," he added.

"With a few deft strokes, many of the poems here range far and delve inwards. Politics, nationality, identity, family, laws of nature – everything everywhere all at once, yet intimately, pulsatingly at home."

The Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize is awarded every year to an unpublished manuscript of original Anglophone poetry by an author of Asian heritage. The winner also receives $1,500 and book publication in the United States and Singapore.

Agustin's latest achievement comes at the heels of the release of "Bloodred Dragonflies," his first book published in South Africa. It is available in the Philippines via the Facebook and Shopee pages of San Anselmo Press.

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