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February 2023

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UPLI President

Gil Yuzon

Dear UPLI Colleagues,

As a rare break from the regular “Poet of the Month” and “Laurel Leaves” sections in our UPLI website, we will celebrate February, the month of love, and Valentine, the day of love with an article I have written for a major Philippine newspaper. Titled “Verses for Valentine’s Day,” the article contains two poems and will probably come out just before Valentine’s Day.

I am also including four additional poems in our website to augment the article. All the poems are in my book “Glimpses of Love, Life and Beyond,” which was a recommended choice of the largest bookstore chain in the country when it first came out.

I hope you enjoy the poems and that they inspire you to keep writing in our chosen literary art form.

Yours for the love of poetry,

Gil Yuzon

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More than flowers, poems are the lasting language of love
by Gil Yuzon

     Flowers are aptly called the language of love, because they convey most eloquently the romantic sentiments of the sender, especially on Valentine’s Day, the day dedicated to the ardent expression of the quest for love, the hope for the reciprocation of love, and most satisfyingly, the joy of fulfilled love. But perhaps more eloquent in its own way — and certainly more lasting — is the use of actual language through the art of romantic poetry.

     I can imagine that even before the dawn of history, our cave-man ancestor found ways to express his feelings (love or lust) for the object of his desire in ways more gentle than the standard visual caricature of him grabbing the helpless female by the hair and dragging her off to his cave. It was probably more likely that he resorted to pleading grunts and exaggerated physical gestures, together with an offering of freshly killed game as enticement for a much needed meal, the primitive equivalent of today’s romantic candlelight dinner. I can also imagine that this courting ritual was accompanied by vigorous chest-thumping if the primitive male was victorious in driving away or disposing of his erstwhile competitors for the lady’s favors.

     All this of course changed with the rise of human language — of many different languages in fact — which enabled people to express themselves verbally via an ever-increasing vocabulary with the passage of time. The game-changer was the invention of writing, when the communication of ideas and emotions took on a more permanent, recorded form.

     In the English language, with which we are most familiar, various forms of literature developed and flourished, reaching their first peak during the Elizabethan age and continuing to the present. Aside from the many different forms of prose — essays, novels, plays, short fiction, etc. — poetry writing also developed prolifically, evolving into many forms — lyric poems, sonnets, odes, ballads, villanelles, blank verse, free verse, etc. Love is a major theme in many of these verse forms.

     Among poetry lovers, who can forget the immortal love sonnets of Shakespeare (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”); or Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s profession of undying love for fellow poet Robert Browning in her many “Sonnets from the Portuguese” (“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”); or American poet Edgar Allan Poe’s haunting lyric poem, “Annabel Lee” (“And this maiden she lived with no other thought than to love and be loved by me”). To provide perspective however, we have to note that the writing of love poetry is a rich tradition in countries around the world, in their respective languages and various dialects.

     Beautiful love poems from the heart, whether written by famous or unknown poets, do not fade, wilt or wither like flowers, but are verbal bouquets which bloom through the ages, like the few ones mentioned above. In the words of Shakespeare, addressing the object of his affection in one of his sonnets, “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
Valentine, for me, is best celebrated in a poetic spirit. Let me contribute to this spirit with two poems from my book, “Glimpses of Love, Life and Beyond,” a recommended book choice of Powerbooks when it was first published, which I believe are most appropriate for this occasion.

     The first one describes the three kinds of “Valentines,” which is the poem’s title:


it seems to me,
come in three varieties
and its seems
i have known all three.

there are old valentines
when two lovers look back
and to each other say:
      “you have been my valentine
      for all these years;
      you are my valentine today.”

there are new valentines
when fledgling lovers,
still in ecstasy, declare:
      “we have finally found each other
      and are each other’s valentine today.”

and then
there are hopeful valentines
when the hoper
can only ask
the hoped-for:
      “will you be my valentine today?”

will you be my valentine today?

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The second poem adds another “Valentine” variety: a person still searching for that special someone to complete his/her life:

whoever you are

sing me a song
wherever you are,
or just hum the tune.
if it’s a love-melody
my heart is sure to hear it.

write me a poem
wherever you are,
a verse or two will do.
if the words come from the heart
i’ll know it’s for me.

spare me a glance
if I ever meet you;
and if you don’t turn away
when I look at you
then I’ll know
who sang the song
and wrote the verses.

till then,
if and when,
my heart will be looking out
and on the listen,

wherever you are
whoever you are.

I hope these verses are a source of inspiration for the lovers and hopeful lovers out there.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

More Love Poetry for February and Valentine’s Day:

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the things you are

not the heaving
of a restless sea,
      but the soothing calm
      of a moonlit lake;

not the searing heat
of a fiery furnace,
      but the glowing warmth
      of a friendly fireplace;

not the cloying sweetness
of a flower-decked garland,
      but the subtle scent
      of a single blossom;

not the witching hour,
but a thousand faithful dawns
      fulfilling the promise
      of one morning star.

these are the things you are.

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to an autumn maiden

the other night
when I took your hand
and put my lips to it
i knew it was more than a kiss
i gave away.

the other night
it was my heart
i placed in your palm —
you could toss it around,
squeeze it dry,
or just lay it aside
for a rainy day.

but if you decide to drop it
please don’t hurt yourself
on the broken pieces
before they are picked up
or swept away.

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you in my life

thank you
for teaching my heart
to sing again.
thank you
for making my mind remember
chords I had long forgotten,
for giving a melody
to lyrics I couldn’t even write

you have given my life
a brand new song
by just being there.

i know my soul
will not experience
music-drought again
if you decide to stay.

but even if you go away
you would have left behind
a tune for me to hum
on rainy days.

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a may verse

flower of may,

     newly blossomed
     in the warm ablution
     of life-giving sunrays,
     bless this field of dank grass
     with your scent of innocence.

flower of may,

     dew- drenched petals
     glistening in the dawn,
     stand chaste-white
     against a dark-green sea
     of grass and weed.

     bloom in the world this  maytime
     but bloom in this heart
     till the final spring
     to sweeten my day,
     to brighten my way,

my radiant flower of may!