The Sea That Beckoned, Angela Gabrielle Fabunan
Platypus Press, 2019 £8.50
Place and belonging
Angela Gabrielle Fabunan was ‘born in the Philippines and raised in New York City’. Always interested in place and belonging, I wondered how strong the pull from the past can be, the tug from original roots.
A rhythm flows through these poems from beginning to end, through different forms and patterns created by the poet’s use of white space, often within lines. Her rhythmic voice shares memories, images, thoughts and places while exploring questions of belonging, identity, and home.
I keep returning to ‘The Other Shore’. It flows like a stream of consciousness which helps in ‘pushing aside all / memory of the other shore’, though the other shore and what is ‘waiting’ is always there.
‘Fair Game’, a prose poem, catches the eye. ‘Which country is Mother?’ it asks, though it offers no answer: ‘As an exile I have absorbed both my countries; each a nation / of difference’.
‘Welcome to the Philippines’ marks the move back to ‘this archipelago’ and supplies this collection’s title — ‘it was always the sea that beckoned’.
These lines from ‘Destination i’ — soaked in the essence of place — drew me to the other language (Tagalog) which slips in and out of some poems:
There are only metaphors for becoming.
Only the sibuyas un-peeling its layers
kalachuchi spreading their petals
paruparo emerging from cocoons
events of blossoming, acts of uncovering, of nakedness.
There are no great metaphors for reversal.
Sensory memories bring a strong sense of place, like this lovely evocation in ‘Bansa’:
remembering childhood vacations atop mango trees,
hands sticky from their sap.
These poems are easy to love!
I keep returning to ‘Abó’ which uses place, the ‘Zambales countryside’, to bring together strong memories and emotions in a solid form, too tightly-knit to extract lines from.
‘Cadena de Amor’, which follows, ends ‘show me a word as sweet as bahay’ (home); and a haunting sense of belonging is asserted in the final poem, ‘OO’:
You are your father’s jewel, his religion.
You are your mother’s shadow, her story.
You are a dalagang Filipina.