25th Trillium Award

Armchair travel at elevation: Poetry from The Philippines

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It is not without a twinge of regret that I admit, in my National Poetry Month blog for Open Book Ontario, that my favourite recently discovered literary magazine is published neither within the province nor within Canada.

High Chair—named, I like to imagine, for the deadly combination of purée-infused baby babble and getting onto a high horse that inevitably leads to poetry—is a product of the Philippines.

It publishes poetry, reviews, and “personal essays of communal interest,” in both English and Tagalog, by Philippine and international writers.

The magazine does many things well. Its “About” page strikes just the right balance between generosity and standoffishness: “While we believe that poetry’s audience can and ought to be enlarged, please note that the High Chair journal is not primarily meant for that cause.”

It publishes a beguiling section titled Free Association, with rants and letters on topics such as “What are Poets For?” and “What would you like to see less of in contemporary poetic practice?”

But, most of all, what I admire is the poetry. It is just plain good. My inability to read Tagalog means I miss out on about a third of it. But the remaining two-thirds is various, intriguing, new-feeling, and accessible without losing its experimental edge.

Here is a sampler:
“Wayfarer to Wean” by Raymond John de Borja
“Untitled” by Kristine Domingo
“So I went out into the nervous system of the air—” by Joshua Clover

I owe credit to Naya Valdellon for introducing me to High Chair. Originally from Manila, Naya recently got the papers that will allow her to stay in Canada for good. I for one, am eagerly awaiting her first book.

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