Looking Through the Lines

“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words”, said the late American poet, Edgar Allan Poe. Poetry is a difficult art – and not everyone may be good at it. Not everyone can appreciate the beauty in words.

Luis Francia, an award-winning Fil-Am poet, journalist, and nonfiction writer, is one who has mastered the art of poetry.

Francia visited Silliman University last June 24 and gave a lecture on the poetic process through three of his poems: “Double Vision” (from the book “Tattered Boat”), “At the Dance”, and “Zen Fishing”.

He chose those three poems because “they are very different from each other so he wanted to give the audience an idea of the different processes he as a poet undergoes.”

Starting Poetry

Francia started writing poems when he was a college freshman. His first step was sitting down and grabbing a piece of paper. Sometimes he would write lines on his notebook and start with that. If he did not prepare any lines, he would use a word that he liked and explored on it.

“For instance, in the first poem [Double Vision] I discussed mood and doom, so I saw two words with the same letters, so I start [sic] with that,” he said.

The poet added that there are different ways that trigger him to write a poem.

“… Just one word, a line, an image, or nothing at all. So you just wait, you write, even if it is nonsense just keep writing until something emerges,” he added.

Francia’s inspiration to write poetry is not his feelings but the words themselves. He said that it usually starts with an unclear feeling that makes him want to explore and analyze it through words.

“Once I started exploring, the feeling becomes clear. In some ways, the writing creates the feeling. It starts out with some kind of feeling or thought that’s not so clear and I want to see what it’s all about and that’s how I start writing,” Francia said.

Poetic Standards

According to Francia, a “good” poem “has to have music, has to be metaphorical, magical, and cannot be narrative-driven.”

The Fil-Am poet also emphasized the importance of knowing the difference between poetry and prose as it may affect the work of the writer.

“There are a lot of people who write poems that are just prose lines divided into lines. A lot of poems don’t work because the writer doesn’t know the difference between prose and poetry. They’re confusing prose and poetry. So since they don’t know the difference, they think if they break it up into lines it makes it a poem, which is nonsense,” he said.

Francia also added that it is important that writers have fellow writer friends for them to critique your work. “I have a couple of friends. We look at each other’s works and critique. It’s an important part of being a writer; you need to have fellow writers.”

Even if he has mastered the art of poetry, Francia, just like any other writer, also suffers from the “Writer’s Block” (the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing).

“It’s like a virus. You just have to bear it, be patient, wait, and do exercises. That’s actually very important when you have a writer’s block. You still need to do exercises,” he said.

Wise Words

Francia would love to be read.  “… It’s kind of frustrating if you don’t have people reading [your work]. It’s like being a chef, you cook wonderful meals and nobody eats them. I do want to be read.”

His advice for aspiring poets is to “just keep writing. Write, read, and write some more. Even if you don’t get read, you have to keep the faith.”

For the award-winning poet, writing poetry is “like believing. It is believing in something and if you believe in it than you have to show your devotion and belief by worshipping – the altar is the page, and the words are your homage.”

“So keep writing and reading, and just not give up, because poetry’s difficult. It’s one of the loneliest arts in the world, and you have to be strong and keep at it,” Francia concluded.

By: Andrea Dawn E. Boycillo

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