HomeLIKHAvol. 18 no. 1 (1998)

C/Siting the Poem, S/Citing the Voice: An- Other Reading quasi una Fantasia on a Theme on/in Translation by Merlinda Bobis

David Jonathan Bayot

Discipline: Philippine Literature



Watch my mouth then/swallowing the dark/ and spitting redly the sun"-wrote Australia-based Filipino bilingual (English and Filipino) poet, Merlinda Bobis, as epigraph to her essay, "Redreaming the Voice: From Translation to Bilingualism" (1995). The process of (re)dreaming/writing to reality "a voice" that is constantly elusive, but one which the poet had been actively pursuing, was, as the poet describes it "fraught with linguistic and ideological conflicts-as if "swallowing the dark." However, the procession culminated in a cessation of languages, thereby yielding "the joy of finding a language" (p. 27; orig. italics)--an ecstasy objectified through the image of the persona "spitting redly the sun."


The text of the dream (which was later on redreamt) was triggered by a sense of necessity felt by the poet-to raise her pen and textualize/ inscribe her culture. Through the process, she found herself dichotomized by the context in the form of a language issue which is central in the discourses both within and on postcolonial Philippine culture as understood and defined by Bobis. She felt tom between two possibilities of language usage: to use the native tongue called Filipino, or "the 'gift of the colonisers' "which is English.