Poet marks 10 years of 'Dark Hours' with new edition

By Ivy Jean Vibar, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Nov 17 2014 06:11 PM | Updated as of Nov 18 2014 02:11 AM

Poet marks 10 years of 'Dark Hours' with new edition 1
Chingbee Cruz launches the second edition of poetry book "Dark Hours" almost a decade after it was first published. Photo by Ivy Jean Vibar for ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA – Almost a decade after it was first published, Conchitina Cruz launched last Saturday a new edition of her book "Dark Hours" at Uno Morato in Quezon City.

Centering on life in the city, the pieces in the book explore how it is to be a denizen of a place, which, as Cruz said, “fails you constantly…and constantly think has failed you, as if wala kang kinalaman sa failure niya.”

“[In 10 years], my poetry has changed. Fortunately hindi ko pa siya ikinakahiya. Iyon ang deciding factor kung ire-reprint pa namin,” she said.

Aside from "Dark Hours," she is the also the author of several chapbooks and poetry books, including "Disappear," "elsewhere held and lingered" and "Two or Three Things about Desire."

Originally released by the University of the Philippines Press, the new edition was published by Youth and Beauty Brigade, which Cruz helps run.

“Originally it was published by an academic press, UP Press. They did also nicely ask if I wanted to reprint with them, but I decided to self-publish because there is more artistic freedom with self-publishing,” Cruz said.

Cruz noted that it is possible to disseminate more copies of her book by self-publishing instead of working with a major publisher. “I think that publishing with mainstream publishers, while definitely you get the prestige of the name of the publisher, I don’t think that necessarily assures distribution," she said. “If you’re on top of things, you’re also more involved in the distribution then you can distribute it more.”

This freedom in terms of distribution, Cruz explained, can be helpful, especially as poetry will never be a best-seller in the Philippines.

“It’s never going to have that. I think it has its audience, but it’s never going to be a best-seller to the point that you would want to please your audience,” she said.

For Cruz, it may be more useful to think of poetry readers as an audience instead of a market, because the number is small compared to that of fiction books, for example, which are in line with the mass market’s tastes and also easier to adapt for use in mainstream media.

Recently, works of fiction written by Filipino authors have been made into popular films, such as “Diary ng Panget” and “Talk Back and You’re Dead” starring Nadine Lustre and James Reid; “She's Dating the Gangster” with Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla; and “ABNKKBSNPLAko?!” with Jericho Rosales.

In addition, the form of poetry Cruz writes -- prose -- also poses a challenge. “Strangely enough, this book won a National Book Award when it came out. [But] on more than one occasion I have been told by a member of that board, ‘Pinag-awayan namin iyan kasi prose poetry iyan.’ Sabi ng iba, ‘Tula ba iyan?’”

However, these questions are not necessarily wrong, or dangerous to her craft, Cruz said, as it keeps readers and writers on their toes.

“I think that kind of question is exciting to me because it urges you to rethink what a poem means, which I think keeps poetry alive. If you already know what it does, dead end na iyon,” she said.

Next year, Cruz hopes to put out a new book, called “There Is No Emergency,” so entitled because it is absurd to think there are no emergencies in a place that always encounters crises, sometimes several at once.

“It is a title that is meant to be undermined throughout the book,” she said.