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- forche's definitions of poetry of witness

 Not persuasion but transport

 A diary about an extremity told in a creative manner, because by using personal

experiences and thoughts you maximize the power of poetry to dramatize the human
condition, which of course is controlled by the institutions of power.

 Persona/speaker in the poem is always the author himself/herself, thus biography is


"Often the poet announces him or herself. They’ll say who they are. They’ll appeal to be
believed by readers they know will be incredulous, because they know the events that
their poems will describe will be unbelievable to people who haven’t experienced

 Thus, the poetry between personal and political, a.k.a "social"

 "Poem as trace, poem as evidence."

 Not representation of an event at large, but a poetic evidence

And that the poetry is as some say, as Rilke and Celine after him, the natural prayer of the
human soul and a depository for all that occurred.

"And I became interested in the mark of that extremity…in the language itself. I know that
there has been a lot said about how language, novels, poems, stories, cannot possibly
represent an event as large as the Holocaust for example. But I began to think not in terms of
representation but in terms of evidence. The language is evidence; it is itself evidence that
something occurred. And whether or not the poems were explicitly about the experience of
suffering in the extremity, I believed that they held within them the trace and mark of that

" uses the promise of personal happiness against a politically induced misery, but it does
so in the name of the poet's fellows, in the spirit of communality."

"The work is the result of a decade-long effort to understand the impress of such extremity
upon the poetic imagination."

"It will have to be judged, as Ludwig Wittgenstein said of confession, by its consequences,
not by our ability to verify its truth."

"...the poem might be our only evidence that an event has occurred: it exists for us as the
sole trace of an occurrence."

"I also know that consciousness can be incised by experience, seared by memory, awakened
by what is seen and lived and that the poet’s language also passes through this fire and is
marked by it. The surrender of conscious control so necessary to the receptive artistic state
does not mean that the mark of experience will not be burned into the poem and be made
legible there. When we read for this mark, we read for witness, and at times, along with
aesthetic pleasure and the frisson of newly made meanings, we are also not perhaps
persuaded but certainly transported to regions of experience that might inform our
conscience so as to make art in the light of it, as poet Marina Tsvetaeva once proposed. "

" I think of literary writing as a means of retrieving a human knowledge irretrievable by other
means. Composing poems and writing stories is a meditative, spiritual act of resistance. It
requires a capacity to sustain contemplation, to be attentive to all that is about us, and to
hold within ourselves an awareness that we are here, in our living moment, between two
unknown realms—before our births and after our deaths. We speak, through art, to the
millennia of artists who came before us, and the art we make will send its messages to the
human future. Curiosity about our predecessors and care for our descendants is a collective
accomplishment. Art is what has been left behind, and art is what we will leave to the world
to come. "
A Mother's Diary:

Mila Aguilar's Pigeons For My Son as a Poem of Witness

- pigeons for my son

 Mila's inner conflict as a political prisoner and a mother

 Reminds me of the very last poem discussed before the exam, The Sun of Aushwitz. How
a very personal thought or memory of or with a loved one becomes a reflection of the
overall oppression at the time it was written

- simula pa nung una, we've been appreciating poetry not as a pure art but as a

- <The man, the men at the station>

- <quotes from Notes on Literature and engagement> literature, particularly novels, as not
mere work of art but as

- protest poetry vs witness poetry

- protest poetry: other extreme end of poetry, i.e. as a tool for social change, persuasion,
often with elements of fiction,

- witness poems are actually the best examples of a true literature as defined by

Pigeons for my son was written under her real name, which opens the door for a
biographical reading...

"Many of the poems written in prison were later collected and published in Pintig sa
malamig na bakal ('life pulse in cold steel') published in Hong Kong, as well as in The guerrilla
is like a poet / an anthology of Filipino poetry published in Canada. One of the most
celebrated writers of the martial law period was an underground poet whose writings
appeared in various revolutionary publications under the nom de guerre Clarita Roja. It
would later be revealed that she was actually Mila Aguilar, a former teacher of English
literature at the University of the Philippines. She had joined her future husband in the
guerrilla movement at the beginning of martial law, and after he was killed in an armed
encounter, she continued her revolutionary work as writer and propagandist for resistance.
She published several books of poetry during the martial law period, including two under the
name Clarita Roja: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win! (1974) and The Mass Line /A Second
Remoulding ( Manila 1977), and the rest under her real name after she had surfaced and
continued the struggle above ground— Why Cage Pigeons? (1984), Pall Hanging
over Manila (1984), and A Comrade is as Precious as a Rice Seedling (1984, 1985 and 1987). "

Pigeons for my son

I gave the boy

a pair of pigeons - pair = meant to fly around and reproduce; pigeons = freedom (of the
whole nation), an element of nature, thus implying that freedom is an inalienable right, a
natural thing to be desired
born and bred
in my harsh prison. - kind of freedom that only occurred to her, which she later actually
considered, inside the prison
They had taped wings, - freedom of the nation being repressed
and the instructions were - she straight up told his son...
to keep them on for weeks - just endure seeing the nation being repressed
until they'd gotten used - until the people get used to it
to their new cages.
He never liked - he himself wants freedom for his mother, which may have given him the
urge to fight the whole oppression
the thought of me
in prison, his own mother,
and would never
stay for long
to visit. - strengthens the analogy between the literal imagery and the idea being symbolized:
So perhaps I thought
of souvenirs. - souvenirs = something that would remind him of the prison and her mom in it;
a piece of advice to her son from her who knows how hard it is inside prison
But the tape on his pigeons
he removed one day,
and set them free.
You'd think
that would have angered me, - as a mother giving commanding her son
or made me sad at least - or at least be sad because the "souvenir" she gave her son was not
but I guess we're of one mind. - still she knew what she really wants deep inside, which is the
same as her son's
Why cage pigeons - why take away freedom...
who prefer free flight
in the vaster, bluer skies? - from the place in which it truly belongs--the nation? notice the
comparative adjective: pigeons w/ taped wings mean the son would be the only one to
experience freedom because he'd do away from anything that would sacrifice his own
freedom in exchange for the whole nation's.

But the "vaster, bluer skies" that freedom would best be experienced is the entire

Mila expressed here an inner conflict that she, as an activist, did not ever thought of before
being imprisoned.

Or baka she likened herself to pigeons who are meant to be free. But she was trying to
console her son by telling him that it won't be long and she'll get used to being imprisoned

 It's written under her real name, unlike her other poems which were published under
her pseudonym

 Real situation, real characters

 I'm sure there's purpose/explanation as to the inclusion of her son in the poem, if not
the main character. If she meant this to be a protest poem, she could have written
something about her experience or thoughts without openly using her son as a
character as well as herself.

It simply is a clear indicator that the poem was written not to tell of her

Not to mention to tone that encapsulates the entire poem. There are no flowery,
sentimental words which could have described how tragic it was for her to be separated
from her son. Instead, the choice of words are neutral, almost devoid of personal
feelings. The whole content talks about that very emotion but in a way that clearly
showed Mila's stoicism, an attitude that has always been a part of her personality as an
activist. (Cite some examples)

There is clearly a marriage of personal thoughts and the troubled times. Her personal
experience as a mother dramatized for us the exact effects of oppression, thus . It may
not be written solely for the purpose of protesting against it, but it served as...

 "Regardless of apparent 'subject matter,' these poems bear the trace of extremity within
them, and they are, as such, evidence of what occurred."

 their works remain with us as poetic evidence of the dark times in which they lived

And the poems emerge and they sing of those times, just as Brecht said in his motto. So
if there is a cultural repository it is in art, and in literary art.

An evidence of the event as the author have experienced it from her perspective; thus an
evidence also of the extremity, a piece of the whole picture that gives us a glimpse to the
horrors of the period and how exactly those have affected the human conditions at that time