Poetry Issue 16

Issue #16 : January-June 2012

      Methodology: “Making Scenes” by Vincenz Serrano

      Description. Participants are encouraged to use a scene from a film as a springboard for writing a poem.

      Objective. To use concrete and specific nouns and verbs to render a scene from cinema.


      1. Before discussing the poem, ask participants to talk about what they understand about the word “scene,” especially in the context of film. Ask participants to provide examples of memorable films, and discuss how particular scenes are pivotal or crucial to the development of the films’ plots and themes.

      2. Discuss “Darna” using the following guide questions.
        1. How does Narda acquire her powers?
        2. What heroic acts does Darna perform in the scene?
        3. How is the anagram used in the “Darna” section, especially in relation to Darna’s heroism?
        4. Comment on the use of words particular to cinema in the development of the “Darna” section.

      3. Discuss “Batch ‘81” using the following guide questions.
        1. Who are the characters in the scene?
        2. What is the tension between the characters?
        3. How is this tension rendered?
        4. Comment on the use of words particular to cinema in the development of the “Batch ‘81” section.

      4. Write a poem using the following steps.
        1. Watch a scene from a film. Some suggestions include:
                 — the death of Elsa in Himala
                 — the beauty pageant scene in Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros
          As an intermediary step prior to writing the poem, instructor might want to lead a discussion on the character, tension, concrete and specific details. To further contextualize the scene, instructor might also prepare a handout outlining the plots of the chosen films.
        2. In a paragraph, describe the scene; make sure that you use active verbs and concrete and specific nouns.

      Note to the instructor. This module touches on a variety of elements and rhetorical devices, namely: concrete and specific language, tone, ekphrasis. If time permits, discuss the “Darna” and “Batch ’81” scenes in relation to the “Making Scenes” introduction.

      Time allotment. One hour and a half, broken down into 30 minutes for discussing the poem and 30 minutes for viewing and discussing the film segments, and 30 minutes for writing.

      Making Scenes
      by Vincenz Serrano

      She and her husband once lived in Sagada, a mountain town half a day away from Manila. The town was so remote not even cellphone signals could reach it. One day, two friends visited. After dinner, they would choose a film and reconstruct it entirely from memory. The husband would describe the opening scene. She would comment on music, then on the transition to the next few scenes. One friend would talk about cinematography. The other friend and the husband would recreate dialogue. Often, they would contest each other: at this point, the camera shows the entire room, not a close up of the lovers’ faces. The mise-en-scene is cramped; the relationship is stifling. That may be so, but silence makes the room seem larger. Why is footage of a housing shortage riot included when most of the action happens in corridors, rooms, kitchens. It was like putting together a cut up map of a city where there is so much rain, and using that map to go through a city where there is so much sunlight.

      Distance makes artifice possible. Someone may mention details—wet empty streets, lampposts—when, in fact, it may have been otherwise. Someone may tilt the angle of her telling too sharply. Someone may impute melancholy when there was none: rain fell as a man and a woman, who may or may not have been lovers, were having noodles in an alley, talking. When she told me this, we were in Manila: it was a sunny day and she sounded happy. Now, she, her husband, and I are elsewhere. It rains all the time. Memories fade like towns in a map folded so many times that their names vanish into the creases. In my room I write them scenes I can remember. Edges of details seem to fit, but the image formed seems inaccurate, as when four people in a room talk about a scene’s angle of light and roughness of noise, while outside, the night is as dark and still as a grand perhaps. Nobody contests me. I produce ghosts to make solitude bearable. Remembering starts with shortage, then ends in perplexity. Memories emerge from, then disappear into, the folds of artifice: long take, depth of field, dissolve.

      Ora Pro Nobis

      After the child was shot, the man carried her in his arms. The crowd in the background did not leer and gawk like extras in a spectacle. No music, only ambient sound. The camera focused on the man carrying the child. Silence was a character imposing itself on the scene. It was as silent as watching a cloud taken apart by wind coming from this direction, then that.

      John en Marsha sa Amerika

      When the policeman chanced upon John, he had already taken a leak. “Hey fellow,” he said, “that’s against the law.” John said, “No, it’s against the wall.” Reverse consonance, by then, had fallen out of fashion, but the policeman was amused and let John go. Passersby kept to themselves and walked along, though if this had not been a comedy, they would gather—at a distance but within earshot—waiting for an arrest to be made.

      Batang West Side

      In a dream, water jars fell one by one from a balcony. A woman walked across the foreground, taking several minutes to cross from end to end. Her dress trailed behind, her shadow was beside her. Water splashed on the pathway. Pieces of jar scattered on the ground, like severed ears straining to hear her shadow’s faint footsteps.

      Batch ‘81

      “Did Martial Law help or harm the country,” the master asked the initiate strapped to the electric chair. The batch was ordered to watch as the master hit the switch. Little did the batch know that this was a test: should they obey the master and watch their friend get shocked, or should they disobey and get expelled. The wide angle shot took everything: the master’s face, the batch’s hesitation, the initiate’s voice, help help help. Look at one of them pressing against the frame as if he wanted to break through to another life.


      Narda ate the stone, shouted “Darna!” and became Darna. She could defeat the villain who had snakes instead of hair. She could run fast and rescue people in distress. She could fly: watch her image (close up) superimposed on a view of the city (panorama). An anagram is a sign of distress: a riot rearranges crowds, an incantation rearranges names, a villain rearranges lives.

      Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag

      The man from the province failed to find his lover—Ligaya Paraiso—in the city. In despair he killed the Chinese man who he thought held her captive. A mob chased him down the street. He was unfamiliar with the city. He ran into a dead end. The crowd caught up with him. As he was being lynched, the camera focused on his face. A close up holds in captivity the range of possible expressions. After a few moments, her image appeared—her name, translated, means “Happy Paradise”—then his face and her image faded into black.

      Bayaning Third World

      The name of the national hero was everywhere: matchboxes, streets, funeral parlors. His statue was in every plaza. His books were in all the libraries. “I am just as how you want me to be,” he said to the filmmakers who wanted to make his biopic. The mise-en-scene conflated past and present: near the hero were dungeons and prison bars, near the filmmakers were cameras and computers. “But you cannot know me even if you tried.” The hero lit a cigarette. The smoke moved from one side of the scene to the other: from there and then, to here and now.