Monday, March 9, 2015


(This feature is part of TRUCK’s Theme Issue on the List or Catalog Poem. You can go HERE for an Index of the Participating Poets.)

When my mother attended grade school on an American military base in the Philippines, she was ordered to speak and write only English, and was punished if she spoke her native language. This poem memorializes that bit of history by applying constraints upon English. The poem--excepting the title-- must use only letters that are found in a Pilipino (Tagalog) sentence: Sinunod ko nang walang-labis, walang-kulang ang iyong utos (“I carried out your orders to the letter”). A more exact translation might read: “I carried out your orders, no more, no less.” Written in English, the poem must not contain: e, f, r, h, p, z, m, c, q, j, r, v, z. Thus, it is constrained by a Philippine language, albeit using Western letters. The lack of an e omits many pronouns, and an important article, “the.” Of course, the idea that one can write free-of-form is an illusion, an impossibility. If nothing else, the medium applies the constraint, especially if you write poems online, as I have often done; and then there’s the language itself. 
-- Jean Vengua


·      Say nil, lawn, blot
·      Knit sounds:  a _ i o u

·      The knot is: it will not say
·      (it will not stay), but limit

·      _ is abolition, an O
·      to do as bid, not loudly

·      toll, signal, and noun
·      bond and bastion

·      law to bank and kin
·      on a sinking atoll

·      O is a windblown nation
·      a nagging yowl

·      O is a national , a maid
·      gnawing on lint, on slag

·      wanting lib_ _ation

·      and will go downtown
·      and will sit in a station

·      singing an abyss

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