Heights held its second Creative Talk for the year, titled “City Poetry,” exploring the effect of urban spaces on Philippine poetry. The talk was held on October 21,2016, Friday.

In the talk, English Department instructor Vincenz Serrano gave an overview of urban development in Manila, specifically during the Spanish colonial period, American colonial period, and the Marcos era. According to Serrano, it is important to go back to these topics because much of what we go through every day is rooted in these periods.

Serrano explained how Spanish-period Manila’s trade and political economy, the source of which was the Galleon trade, shaped its design and urban planning. Moving on to the American colonial period, he pointed out that those decades were marked by an increase in infrastructure, as well as a wider division between classes.

Serrano also talked about Manila during the Marcos era, referencing to works such as E. San Juan, Jr.’s Encircle the Cities by the Countryside and Neferti X. M. Tadiar’s Things Fall Away. He also mentioned that the flyover was the dominant image of urban development in the 80s and 90s, which bore significance for culture and literature, to an extent. Serrano, himself a writer of city poetry, discussed how different authors used personas to explore urban spaces.

Among the poems he discussed was Adam David’s “Sampung Panuto sa Paglalakad,”of which Serrano highlighted this line: “Gupitin ang mapa sa maraming bahagi. Bumuo ng bagong mapa mula sa mga piraso. Lakarin ang rutang mabubuo. Irekord ang lahat ng makikita.”

“You have to find formal possibilities to cope with the madness of Manila” says Serrano as he further discussed the rest of the poem.

Other poems he underscored were Angelo Suarez’s “Dissonant Umbrellas” and “Here” by Conchita Cruz. Through these examples, Serrano illustrated the ways in which the ‘I’ navigates urban spaces and makes sense of their chaos. Ultimately, Serrano said that one must “separate formal agency and political agency” in the feat of writing city poetry.


Report by Jose Gabriel Amantoy

Photos by Marianne Antonio