Poetry makes life beautiful. That’s usually the classroom takeaway after you dissect odes to salt and sunsets. Thoughts just sound better out loud as far as spoken word is concerned. Then there’s the stuff you retweet from Poems Porn — because, of course, nothing hits / harder than / hugot / in verse.
Yet Andy Tubig’s Tonight We Slurp in Color talks third nipples from the get-go (specifically with the collection’s first poem, memorably entitled “Sid Lucero Lost His Third Nipple and Became a Poet.”) And bunny strip clubs, and Karl Marx getting head. The book has MS Paint diagrams of vaginas, some hairier than others. All this is meant to represent people and experiences, but not in the ways you’d expect. This is poetry that paints the universe as thoroughly, intoxicatingly ugly, but revels in the fact. “I wanted to prove that poetry has room for the destructive and crazy,” says Andy. “And that, perhaps, there is something even more attractive and meaningful in the ugliness.”
Andy is a Creative Writing senior from Ateneo de Manila University. She’s never been afraid of wielding such disturbing themes on paper. Once upon a time, however, she was afraid of poems — of how intimidating and serious they seemed to be. Her views soon changed in a class under award-winning poet Nikay Paredes.
“The first thing we were asked to write was a ghazal,” Andy explains. (It’s an Arabic form where thematically autonomous couplets still end with the same word. See, for example, “Ghazal of the Better-Unbegun” by Heather McHugh.) “To my surprise, I had so much fun. I think it was the craziness and playfulness of the ghazal that made me fall in love with poetry.”
And so Andy played. Tonight We Slurp in Color was her required thesis chapbook, written over the course of her college years. Incidentally, Balangiga Press was looking for transgressive manuscripts to publish, and Andy’s poems fit the bill. There’s certainly transgression in how they navigate love and loss (“You, Me, and the Condom in Between”), how they discuss you by your taste down there (“Pussy Tastes Like Sun-Dried Tomatoes”), or how they frame people from different walks of life (“Ligaya Paraiso”). Yes, that last one is a vagina poem, complete with flies buzzing around its openings.
She really does go wild with the images. Andy draws inspiration from the overlooked and hard-to-look-at: urban jungles, overturned garbage cans, that one-night-stand you’d rather not remember. Her writing is messy, and that’s the point.
“Writing a poem is very draining,” she admits. “My poems are violent releases of destructive and colorful energy. I allow all my thoughts to just spurt out whether or not they make sense, and then I just tidy them up a little later on.”
But not too much. If Andy bleeped out the gory and profane, she wouldn’t have gems like this: “A dying bunny / chews its lips / into a pulp / and thinks of its carrot stash reserved / for the winter / that will never come.” Sid Lucero wouldn’t have his third nipple chomped off by her persona. She wouldn’t mention a girl who left her Dorito-scented beau to marry a clean-cut avocado — and how that girl skinned her fruity offspring alive.
Tonight We Slurp in Color shuns propriety, since the rules are kind of boring to begin with. In “Breakup Poem Long Overdue,” Andy writes: “Maybe it’s because the dirtiest thing about you was your fingernails…Maybe it’s because every time I look at you, I don’t see anything poetic.” Because, for this poet, authenticity beats expensive bath soap any day.
This collection is an ode to the ugly. These poems find life in the twisted yet fascinating. As Andy puts it, “Poetry is actually that chick who can be serious and tender and intelligent, but can also be wild and gross and silly.” So how ’bout you slurp that up instead?
Tonight We Slurp in Color will be sold on April 21 during HARAYA 2017: the chapbook launch of Ateneo’s Creative Writing seniors. The book can also be ordered here, along with other Balangiga titles. Tonight We Slurp in Color hits selected bookstores this June.