Month: November 2019

Multilingual poem by Merlinda Bobis

Introducing our podcast with Filipino-Australian poet Merlinda Bobis, I mentioned her poem ‘siesta’, an innovative multilingual work. In the podcast, she spoke about her writing in Filipino and English, and the way in which it is mediated by her first language, Bikol. Thanks to Merlinda’s generosity, we are able to reprint her poem ‘siesta’ in this blogpost so that readers can enjoy an example of her multilingual writing.


 take me not
 in mid-winter,
 only to thaw the frost
 of your old bones
 imagining how stallions rear
 in the outback,
 hooves raised to this August light,
 kakaibang liwanag,
 kasimputla’t kasinglamig
 ng hubad na peras.*
 but take me
 on a humid afternoon
 made for siesta,
 when my knees almost ache
 from daydreaming of mangoes,
 and just right,
 at higit sa lahat
 mas matamis, makatas
 kaysa sa unang halik ng mansanas.*
 *‘alien light,
 as  pale and cold
 as a naked pear’
 plucked from my tongue         you have wrapped
 in a plastic bag with the $3 mango 
 from woolworths 
 while i conjured an orchard
 from back home — mangoes gold and not for sale, and
 *‘above all,
 sweeter, more succulent
 than the first  kiss of the apple.’   

From Summer was a Fast Train without Terminals (Spinifex, 1998, 8).

Some thoughts on Merlinda Bobis’ process

Hello poets and readers,

In our recent podcast with poet Merlinda Bobis, she notes that consciousness of process comes about after the fact. While writing, she is too busy leaping from one thought to another to allow for this kind of reflection. Something captures her and makes a poem possible. She describes the initial impetus as an accident –her book title Accidents of Composition reflects this – the poem has to retain an element of surprise. The poem leads her, and further accidents happen as she writes, through associations; the poems seem to compose themselves. Analysing her own text, she remembers what gave rise to it, an act of contextualising how the work happened, and of looking at it as a reader. Even her return to poetry from the novel was accidental. Her writing often begins with strong images; sometimes she takes photos to use as prompts – the sense of ‘something else’ that is in the image becomes the poem.

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