Angelo Suarez was 19 when The Nymph of MTV first came out, the product of a young poet already comfortable with wordplay and surreality and the enviable assurance that what he has to say will be heard. His debut certainly made a splash, garnering praises from the likes of Ophelia Dimalanta (who wrote the foreword for Nymph) and Cirilo Bautista, giants of Filipino poetry–this collection inevitably won a Palanca Award. More than technical brilliance, however, Suarez’s poems exhibit a deep accessibility of feeling and a sensuality that belies any assumption of inexperience.
Many of the poems are incantatory in nature, inviting the reader to mouth or even shout the words out loud, engage in the sensory pleasure of speaking words and phrases. I feel similarly when I read Siken’s dense verses. There’s not only a great deal of irreverence and humor here, but also earnestness, a well from which anyone who was once young, once in love, once enthralled by the streets of UST-adjacent streets of Manila can tap. The strongest poems for me are the ones about love, with Suarez making connections between body parts and heavenly bodies. Not terribly original, sure, but very poignant in the way he employs them here. An example:
i’ve seen the moon change
phase to the form of your eyelid
a drowsy brow, or the sleek contour
of your cheek–now waxing full
to the pale of your nape, your
shoulder’s shape, your face
a lotus on an ocean of muck.
I’m not very experienced in critiquing poetry in the least but I really respond to Suarez’s poetry. One of my favorites is “Constellations,” where Suarez uses unusual typography in a way that I feel transcends the surface gimmickry. I also love the constant invocation of rain and flood because really, that is a conceit any poet from Manila (and UST at that!) should mine. If you’re looking for a good to introduce yourself to Filipino poetry in English, I think The Nymph of MTV is a good way to go.
*On a more trivial thing, I really REALLY love the book design. The orange of the cover really pops, and the photos used on the cover embodies the elements in the poems. The typography is also fantastic across the board.
(I wrote this review back in August for a challenge hosted by the Filipinos Group at Goodreads.)