It is sweet to be in one’s own country. It is comforting, and calm. We think it as simple, yet, we do not imagine ourselves without it.
Cherished are the moments that we spend with the ones we love; the ones we are familiar with. We love how the trees shade us, resting, in the midst of summer breeze. We love how the rain drops, noisily.
With fond admiration, we remember the childhood and love we’ve had. The quiet and peaceful embrace of a relationship secured us. Our innocence stapled us with happiness, but we imprint it in our memory lest it is forgotten.
Exile: a word. It is not just political, according to the visiting Palanca Awardee Fidelito Cortes in his lecture entitled “The country that is my country is in no geography”: Poets and the Language of Exile held last July 25 at the Silliman University Library. The lecture, which lasted from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., focused on the works of poets in exile: a state which is more than physical. By showcasing the works of these poets, Cortes’ lecture provided an avenue to present the “language of exile” and the emotions it imposes upon the readers. Cortes discussed poems such as “The Art of Losing” by Elizabeth Bishop, “Paris, October 1936” by César Vallejo, “St. John in Chicago on Holy Saturday” by Dominador Ilio, “Trails” by Ed Maranan, an untitled poem by Ricky de Ungria, “The Country That Is My Country” by José Garcia Villa, and ended with a part of Nazim Hikmet’s poem, “Things I Didn’t Know I Loved.” Not only were the readers taken into account, as the poems were dissected and their backstories discovered.
As the lecture went on, Cortes revealed different types of exile: Bishop’s loss of her properties, or even the sources of her happiness; Maranan’s sadness, almost dread, as he remembers home from a foreign setting; Hikmet’s untimely realizations which he contemplates with his old age; Ilio’s struggle as he finds his Filipino outlook of Black Saturday distorted by a western setting; and Vallejo’s almost forced departure to many things. The lecture also entertained inquiries, answered by Cortes, in the context of the language of exile.
At the very end, the lecture reminded everyone of the struggle of exile: the struggle of a person against alienation. As such, words in whatever language have the ability to transcend sadness. Life is a loop, and whatever we’ve had will come back albeit through exile.
Dulce et decorum est…