Award-winning author Palanca’s fifth collection of poems is an intrepid look at toxic masculinity
ANCX staff | November 26, 2021
In his fifth collection of poems, “College Boy” (Bughaw / Ateneo De Manila Press), Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta inhabits the minds and bodies of different women and men, to paint images of aggression and look at toxic masculinity in the eyes.
Palanca’s poet-laureate says she wasn’t exactly planning on completing a collection that ultimately leaned quite heavily on women’s issues, but she knew she wanted to write about the experiences shared by the women of his life. “I think it happened because some key events that happened in 2020 were emblematic of what it meant to be a political victim,” Lacuesta told ANCX. “On a more personal scale, the same could be said of all the women I write about in the book. ”
“College Boy” is sensual and frightening at the same time, Lacuesta perfectly controlling the right buttons to press and his language of desire. She exploits small moments and private flirtations there to make them sneaky paths to frightening endings (a track called “We All Have One” comes to mind). Poet Benilda Santos calls “College Boy” a “tall, thin book of poems.” “Telling the truth has never sounded more beautiful,” suggests Eugene Gloria. Mikael de Lara Co says of the poet: “She navigates the discourse of desire with skill and precision. “
What does Katigbak-Lacuesta itself have to say? It’s all in the 90 pages, of course – and in her answers to our questions below, where we ask her about the making of this fifth collection, her discoveries during the pandemic, and what keeps her engaged in poetry.
1. You inhabit the minds of different women in this book. Do these women exist in real life?
Most of the women in the book are real people, and some are fictional, but I think all of them exist in real life. I certainly see women I know in some female protagonists of books I read as a child. What made me want to write about them is how they shaped my notion of who women were versus what I was told they should be.
2. But of course, some poems can also be read while you are writing about men. Which would you say is a more difficult exercise?
I think you’re absolutely right – in this particular context, and in this particular collection, I write about women as a way of writing about men.
I think the difficulty in writing poetry isn’t who it’s written but how much the material wants to engage with you.
3. Have you set out to write a collection of poems about women and their problems? And can you tell us about the genesis of the book?
It wasn’t exactly my intention to write a collection on women’s issues, but I wanted to write about the experiences that women in my life told me about, and all of these narratives overlapped in some way. ‘another one. I started writing this book in 2019, and it was supposed to be a completely different collection thematically, but then the pandemic came along, and somehow all the poems that I have. I started to write were written in the same vein. I think it happened because some key events that happened in 2020 were emblematic of what it meant to be a political victim; on a more personal scale, the same could be said of all the women I write about in the book.
4. If you had to describe the poems in this collection, how would you describe them?
There is a poem in the collection called “Women in the Books”, which is based on an essay I once read saying that young heroines have all those dizzying adventures and rich inner lives that make them so completely. themselves – until they grow up and get married, whether for love or convenience. And I think the poems seem to have been written by one of these women in a book who is essentially the same person she was as a headstrong young heroine.
5. Where and when were these poems written? Did your writing process change during the pandemic?
These were all written at home, most during the pandemic. Poetry was an escape from the horrors unfolding outside – but since it was poetry I was writing, there really was no escape from the seriousness of the themes I was writing about. Fortunately, my process did not change during the pandemic.
6. What have you read / who have you read in the past year?
I really read a mixture of books. I have read the work of Lisa Taddeo and Sally Rooney. I am currently reading “Breasts and Eggs” by Mieko Kawakami and OBB by Paolo Javier.
7. Did you discover a new talent / skill during the pandemic?
No, but I discovered K-Dramas, my current obsession. I feel lucky because my watchlist was guided by recommendations from writers I admire, so I enjoyed most of the things I saw.
8. Can you tell us how you started with poetry? What attracted you and what made you choose to get involved?
I come from a family of readers – we’ve always been encouraged to read, but I could only go geeky when it came to reading poetry. I had a very visceral reaction. It was the only kind of writing that gave me goosebumps and broke my heart and fixed it at the same time. That’s why I read and write it again.
9. You thank some of the authors of the book. Is it important for you to have the contribution of other poets?
Feedback is important to me, especially when I hit a wall with my writing, or when I get too close to it and invest myself in making clear decisions on how to proceed. Having said that, I will listen carefully to readers and peers, but I will decide for myself the best thing to do.
10. If someone is new to your poetry, would you suggest that they start with this one?
Yes I would like. Rushdie says every writer should have a worldview, and it’s as close as ever to having one fully formed, instead of something that changes every two years. It makes me think that I have something real to say with this book which comes from a place of real conviction. It was about time too.