JUST BECAUSE I have my newspapers in Iloilo since 2000, I’m really not excited about publishing in other newspapers and magazines, however national they claim to be.
If I’m not published in the literary pages of national papers and magazines, that’s because I do not submit my works to them.
Why should I?
I’m not publication hungry.
I had my own first book when I was 24!
Granted that present-day authors publish their own, and so they also have their own books before they’re twenty, they cannot claim my royal dignity of having been published by a traditional publishing company in my early 20s.
New Day Publishers is a much-respected publishing house in the Philippines in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.
I still think New Day is even until now.
But I also recognize that it’s probably overtaken by the mushrooming university presses, which are subsidized by the government and/or students.
Anyway, to be published by the prestigious New Day was a big deal back then.
Because New Day has history, clout, strong marketing arm, and it is a traditional publishing house!
Complete with editorial boards, beta readers, book editors, designers, etc.
Unlike self-published books, they got paid people to read your work first, like it so much to recommend it for publication, then another set of people to edit it, make it perfect, design it better based on what has been published before, or what’s in the current market, and so on.
I mean, that process doesn’t happen with self-publication so you get these garbage books that are poorly written, poorly edited, poorly designed, poorly marketed.
My first book has a print run of 3,000 copies.
Ask New Day.
Can self-published books brag a thing like that?
I know for a fact that many self-published books have print runs of 300 or fewer, sometimes even a mere 150 copies.
And the 150 copies are sold hard to family and friends.
So, calm down.
I’m not against self-publication.
Are you kidding me?
I fathered the self-publication trend in Western Visayas in 2000!
But that was after being traditionally published for seven years since 1993.
I already had three books with New Day, and six titles with Giraffe Books, by then.
And two Palanca Awards, and the Philippine Centennial Literary Prize, a CCP grant, and an NCCA poetry prize!
Meaning, I knew I was a good writer (and the awards show it, and the confidence of traditional publishing houses show it), before I started self-publishing!
So, anyway, this is not where I wanted to go with this article.
I only meant to say that I didn’t submit to national literary magazines and journals because I wasn’t really impressed by them.
So, anyway, I paved my own way to literary celebrity status—
By winning awards, winning writing grants, publishing traditionally at first, and self-publishing when I realized I’ve already established my own brand.
And by maintaining my newspaper columns in Ilonggo newspapers—nineteen years now, and counting!
Because of my track record, I became an online personality.
And that’s how Sharjah International Book Fair discovered me—and honored me to be the first Filipino author (and so far the only) to be ever invited as a guest of the book fair in the UAE.
And that’s how Samtiden, the Norwegian journal, discovered me for their global issue.
And that’s how International Gallerie, a literary magazine in India, discovered me.
I’m not against submitting to international magazines.
I’m not necessarily impressed by them.
But because they invited me —and that’s the key word there, “invited”, I responded.
So, anyway, I was again recently invited to contribute something to an international magazine.
(I can’t reveal the name yet, lest doing so will jinx it.)
They called for poetry in English on the socio-political-economic realities of my country.
Probably not my strongest suit.
But because I was asked nicely, I complied.
Here are the two poems I submitted, and the biographical note that accompanied them.
I’m sharing the poems because I think they’re good.
And because I think you can’t afford the international magazine. Haha!
WHAT THE SUN SAW
Where did the eagles fly to take cover / When your mother wailed her heart out? / Where did the deer run to escape / When your sister screamed out her lungs? / Where did the scared bats hide in the morning / You were found naked in a ditch, covered / With purple bruises and wounds that spoke / Of torture, of whacking and murderous blows? / Curious eyes feasted on you like flies / Accusing, suspecting, presuming guilt / They said, they thought, you were / But nobody can pronounce for certain— / Were you a drug pusher, a political opponent / An anti-government guerilla fighter? / Your wife cried her eyes out but / Where did righteous Justice stand? / Your baby bellowed to high heavens but / Where did brave and honest Truth land? / At dusk, where will the sun hide its face / The sun that saw everything— / All the just and unjust happenings / In this our sad and pitiful country / And sadder, more miserable world?
THE CREATION OF HELL
And these all are interconnected— / Greed, covetousness, rapacity, and / The selfish fear of falling from power / Of losing the office they have betrayed / By stealing from the poor who in their poverty / Cannot even protect their own wretchedness. / With great power comes great… opportunity / And it happens that others are changed / By the power of chance and occasion / The seduction of greed, the glitter of gold; / They forget the promises they have made / Their original vision and good intentions— / And to protect the throne of power and might / They turn mad and wild with violence. / Corrupt and drunk with power, the thieves / Change the rules so that greed and selfishness / Could come out and parade in the noonday sun / And brutality and death become commonplace; / Until everything around us is numbing red / The angry sky is red, the suffering earth is red / The trees in the distance are red, where we kneel / And where our family and friends lay dead is red / We see only red, we watch as if not part of any of it / We accept these injustices and lawlessness / And we become boldly indifferent.
PETER SOLIS NERY is a multi-awarded Filipino writer and a polymath with degrees in Biology, Nursing, Education, and Philosophy. A Hall of Famer of the Carlos Palanca Awards—the Philippine version of the Pulitzer Prize, he also holds the distinction as the first Filipino author ever invited to the Sharjah International Book Fair in the United Arab Emirates in 2015. Visit his website www.petersolisnery.com or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter./PN