Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 11 April 2011

  • the true color of the sea

    1.

    sages’ gardens, ginger root, and siren
    glow of mist, green tongues of light
    smoke and portents arousing hungers
    magnolia plumed gold moonstone heart
    collecting rain in turtle shell hollows
    of shoals and shelter, of stones that sing
    of coral, of wine, of luminous unnamed

    2.

    cinnamon groves, veil of monsoon
    moonless midnight’s milky stars
    the finest gold dust, tinder, mirror
    of angels’ tears, of devils’ blood
    of cooing doves, a child’s fine bones
    of sugarcane, and fistfuls of salt
    of silk brocade, of laughter, of waiting

    by Barbara Jane Reyes

    From Diwata, by Barbara Jane Reyes. Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010. 'the true color of the sea' is reprinted by permission of BOA Editions.

    Notes courtesy of BOA Editions:

    Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of two previous poetry collections including Poeta en San Francisco which was awarded the 2005 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. She was born in Manila and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works as adjunct professor in Philippine Studies at University of San Francisco. You can read an interview with Barbara Jane Reyes here, and find out more about her from her website, where she frequently updates her blog. Reyes also recently contributed to Harriet, the news blog for the Poetry Foundation, and you can find her entry here. There are a number of recordings of Reyes reading at this site (scroll to the bottom of the page).

    In her book Diwata, from which 'the true color of the sea' comes, Reyes uses such Filipino oral tradition devices as meter, repetition and refrain, call and response, incantatory verses which verge on song, and the pantoum (which has Southeast Asian origins). She frames her poems between the Book of Genesis creation story, and the Tagalog creation myth, placing her work somewhere culturally in between both traditions. Also setting the tone for her stories is the death and large shadow cast by her grandfather, a World War II veteran and Bataan Death March survivor, who has passed on to her the responsibility of remembering. Reyes’ voice is grounded in her community’s traditions and histories, despite war and geographical dislocation.

    BOA Editions, Ltd., a not-for-profit publisher of poetry and other literary works, fosters readership and appreciation of contemporary literature.  By identifying, cultivating, and publishing both new and established poets and selecting authors of unique literary talent, BOA brings high quality literature to the public.  Support for this effort comes from the sale of its publications, grant funding, and private donations.  To find out more about BOA Editions, click here.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.