Yes, I refer to his latest little book of poetic demonologies titled “Marka Demonyo” (Anvil Publishing, Mandaluyong City, 2020, 144 pages), and, yes, I am an avid collector of duct tape. Please do not ask me why. This review is about De Veyra’s book, not me.
However, I must share choice bits from the poem “The multitudinous uses of duct tape” here: “All praise to implements that keep things intact. All / adhesive—duct tape, / especially—prevents the collapse of civilization.” He ends that poem with these stanzas: “Amazing how the human anatomy can be systematically / reduced to a ball of duct tape. An imperfectly silver cocoon. // The sleepless coroner tonight will have to peel it off a / young boy’s face.” Critical thinking put to verse—and the music of the bare throat on the open mic—sounds just like this.
Control that looks effortless. Perfectly choreographed rambles that strike true and deep. Short bons mots that get the messages across with fine bladed points like an icepick through the eardrum. That’s classic Lourd de Veyra, all right, but keener now, and much more effective for its abject lack of slack and acute presence of (very intelligent and very witty) mind.
For as long as I have known the man (that is, longer than most Gen Z people have been alive, really), De Veyra’s poetry has had a jazzy, snazzy, bluesy and punk rock irreverence to it that is simultaneously modern and hip, and ancient as poetry itself. Tongue in cheek, I’d imagine that, if Geoffrey Chaucer were a Filipino living in our twisted times, and in this benighted archipelago where tokhang and toxic politics thrive, he’d be Lourd Ernest de Veyra. Like Chaucer, De Veyra makes his commentary on the news of the day plain, relevant and very catchy—so au courant, and musical, to boot.
“Marka Demonyo” is totally on-brand De Veyra, with those dark twists that bring you to the light and remind you that this is the man who once sang the line “love ka ni Satan” with Radioactive Sago Project to all and sundry. I believe he still does. This is proof that he is no mere hawker of vegan chicharon and young pork tocino.
De Veyra’s enjambments and line cutting, on the surface, look like spontaneous genius, and feel totally unrehearsed. Each thought he expresses in his crystalline imagery is brilliant, mostly unexpected and very, very true. That’s the magic of his pen, and he has always had it, as far as I recall.
“Marka Demonyo” is where the grim news that is our daily grind meets poetry in a danse macabre you can’t help but watch with morbid fascination. Lourd takes the shock value that imbues the spoken word he is so well known for, and puts these on the printed page.
The result is magnificent, and flawless in its success at drawing you in and keeping you just where De Veyra wants you: transfixed by his stark imagery, clever juxtaposition and the conclusions you will come to after reading his poetry. Cue in #VoterEd here.
Yet he does not attempt to whitewash, glorify or pretty up the hard truths he hits you with. This is blunt force poetry straight to your head and heart. So prepare yourself before you even think of lifting that book cover to dive in. You won’t come out of the experience untouched or unchanged. If you do, kindly leave the country, exit stage left—and stay away. Thank you.
This little red book is a powerful commentary on the Filipino experience. It is raw and painful, yet wry and truthful in the gallows humor that peppers each poem like potent spice.
In his poem “When the hour of death arrives,” De Veyra brings dissonances together into a defiant melody on the page and ends with this killer of a last line: “Tragedy is a place where nobody changes the channel.” Then there’s that to-die-for opening stanza in “We know where you live, asshole”: “Nobody really thinks about oxygen / until you’ve got your hands / around their throat.”
Read “Marka Demonyo.” But don’t simply read it. Read it aloud, where the neighbors can hear you. Sharing is caring, after all. —CONTRIBUTED INQAvailable in paperback through bit.ly/AnvilMD and from Anvil Publishing’s official stores on Lazada and Shopee.