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Filipino poet’s manuscript with martial law poems wins NY book prize

The New York–based press Singapore Unbound has awarded the 2022 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize to Jim Pascual Agustin, Filipino poet living in South Africa.

The New York–based press Singapore Unbound has awarded the 2022 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize to Jim Pascual Agustin, Filipino poet living in South Africa. The winning manuscript entitled, “Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight” was chosen by judge Yeow Kai Chai, a poet, journalist and editor and the director of the Singapore Writers Festival. 

In a videoconference with the five shortlisted candidates, Jim Pascual Agustin read seven of his poems from the manuscript, noting that some of them are about Martial Law in the Philippines. Agustin said that Martial Law-themed poems are his response to the proliferation of disinformation about the dark chapter in Philippine history. “This September marks the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by the late deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The lies that continue to be spread by Cambridge Analytica-trained social media handlers of the Marcoses will keep trying to decimate the memory of those who fought the regime.”

Chai noted that Agustin’s latest manuscript have what he described as an “exquisite sensitivity” that is both specific and universal. In the prize citation that Chai read during the announcement, he noted, “Such perspicacity of mind and heart illuminates Jim Pascual Agustin’s crystalline poems. Masterfully observed, shone through with Zen penetration, these songs of innocence and experience divine a universe of complex lives lived, torn asunder, celebrated, and mended. You are enveloped in these entirely believable scenarios filled with people and creatures finding themselves in everyday moments, and extraordinary circumstances. With a few deft strokes, many of the poems here range far and delve inwards. Politics, nationality, identity, family, laws of nature – everything everywhere all at once, yet intimately, pulsatingly at home.”

The Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize is awarded annually to an unpublished manuscript of original Anglophone poetry by an author of Asian heritage residing anywhere in the world. The winner receives USD1,500.00 and book publication in the US and Singapore. Gaudy Boy titles are distributed globally by Ingram.

Agustin’s latest achievement comes at the heels of the release of “Bloodred Dragonflies,” his first book published in South Africa. The book is available in the Philippines via San Anselmo Press FB and Shopee pages. Other recent titles of Agustin from San Anselmo Press are, “How to Make a Salagubang Helicopter & other poems” and “Crocodiles in Belfast & other poems”. Both were nominated for the National Book Award for poetry.

“Waking Up to the Pattern Left by a Snail Overnight” is set for release in Spring 2023.

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