Photo by Brynel Sequio

5 Things I Learned from an Ilonggo Poet’s Writing Workshop at Age 24

By brynel sequio

It was past 4pm and the jeepneys rallied in an array as kids rushed out from Iloilo Central School. My feet thumped along with the traffic light counter, impatiently waiting for the red light to turn green.

It was the first day of my workshop for creative writing. Like every first, it’s always a struggle.

I enrolled myself to this 10-day lecture and was lucky enough to be mentored by no other than Sir Mel Turao, whose name is familiar to the Iloilo writing community and a regular in some spoken poetry events [EDITOR: He also presented at PechaKucha Night Iloilo Vol. 2 and performed at Urban Baylehan 2017]. He also wrote a few notable books including A Few Inflammables and The Interior of Sleep: House Stories. The actual class started at 1 pm, but since I had work, I just settled to catching up with the first lesson.

The workshop room was a small, makeshift utility room inside the mall. I waved ‘hi’ as I saw my instructor. As I walked into the unpainted, cement walls of the room that had plastic tubes hanging on the ceiling, I smiled sheepishly at my classmates who were, certainly, years younger than me, if I were to judge by their unwrinkled faces.

I was nervous, but I’m committed to learn new things this year. I’m glad I went ahead, because it was all worthwhile.

Of course, I learned a plethora of things from the workshop. For this piece, here are five takeaways I’ll always remember from this activity:

“No frills.”

The first day of the workshop, and we were already discussing a poetry technique called ‘condensation’.

Condensation is the process of shortening a poem by cutting off unnecessary prepositions and conjunctions. Every word should serve a purpose by adding more weight or vividness to the imagery of the poem.

It’s ironic, but it denotes to write a poem with lesser words that could convey more of the emotion and scenes the poet intends to reveal. In other words, “less is more”.

It’s “No frills,” as Sir Mel said. There’s value in approaching minimalism for poetry, or for writing, in general.

See things from a different perspective.

“Poetry is about showing details and drawing the vivid imageries in the mind of its readers.”

The bottles laid horizontally on the sidewalk , the balut vendor or the aforementioned traffic jam at the introduction of this article—who knew that these everyday scenes could give me unlimited resources for topics I’m writing on?

Each item can tell a story.

A poet should have eyes that magnify scenes and capture minute details. One should not let emotions rule, since these limit one’s scope. Rather, we should make use of the five senses and our environment in creating a piece.

Explore life from a different angle, and we can write stories that bend minds.

Do not follow the crowd.

Sir Mel emphasized that a poet / writer / author riding the bandwagon settles for mediocrity. To stand out, aim at making a difference in your literary works. Following a trend is synonymous to merely “existing” and not living life at all. And yes, this even applies to writing.

Recreate yourself.

It is not enough to write and monetize a book. A writer should be multi-faceted enough to give readers different “flavors” in every piece he/she writes.

Writers should be like caterpillars: we should be used to metamorphosing. In that respect, recreate, challenge and always exceed the older version of your writing.

Writing is a commitment.

This draws the line between a writer and a “passionate” writer. You can only define your worth as one by your output, and if you can’t find time for it, then maybe your passion lies elsewhere.

You want to write? Start now.

If you’ve no idea where to start, you could join workshops that would connect you with people who share the same passion and eagerness to learn more about poetry or writing like what I did. Join poetry and creative writing communities in Iloilo. You can even go to an open mic or two.

You may not realize it yet, but you may be on your way to writing your first book.