Words by Ana Ginina Talja

The Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan community opened its doors for an afternoon of artistic immersion in “River of Words,” a talk and poetry reading event held on March 7 at the XU Little Theater.

The event also doubled as the book launch for “Crossing the River,” award-winning writer Dr Anthony L Tan's newest compilation of poetry and the latest book released by the XU Press.

Tan delved into the genesis of his poems and his growth as a writer in the talk, “Parnassus and Pierian Spring: The Provenance of Poetry.” Despite the prominent references to Greek mythology, Tan’s personal muse is found on a much closer horizon to home. His early life on the island of “Muddas” (also known as Siasi, Sulu) is of particular significance.

“It was not heredity that made me write ... it was provenance,” Tan pointed out. Coming from a family with no background in literature, it was his musings on Muddas — the events, people, and experiences surrounding his birthplace — that led him into poetry and literature.

Tan also revealed the inner workings and inspiration behind some of his poems, such as “The Music of the Fiddler Crabs,” “The Progress of Death in Muddas,” and of course, “Crossing the River,” the titular piece of his newest book of poetry published by XU Press.

Published both locally and internationally to great acclaim, Tan has been twice the recipient of the Palanca for poetry (and once for the essay), among other accolades. He is also a retired educator with a combined 43 years of teaching experience from Silliman University, De La Salle University, and Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology, along with being a veteran panelist for various writing workshops.

Along with Tan, several members of the Xavier Ateneo community took to the stage for the said activity.

Dean for research Dr Ester Raagas and Department of English Language and Literature (DELL) chairperson Dr Lilia Cotejar delivered opening messages. Also from the DELL were emcees Dr Carthelyn Adajar and Ann Catherine Ticao-Acenas, as well as Dennis P Corbita, who read the blurbs for Tan’s new book.

Sample poems from the collection were read by Dr Virginia Lourdes Yacapin, director of the Alumni Affairs Office; Dr Ferdinand Cantular, director of the Admissions and Aid Office; Dr Bernadette S Tismo, editor of the Kinaadman Journal; Abigail James, faculty member of the DELL; Mark Anthony “Ton” Daposala, MA candidate and author of the Bisaya poetry collection “Basa-basa”; and Ana Ginina R Talja, an MA Literature student. Alfretch Kristov Ebuña of Xavier Philharmonia also provided wonderfully nostalgic violin performances throughout the afternoon.

The event ended with a photo op with Tan for the participants, along with the chance to purchase his new book “Crossing the River” and the rare opportunity to have it signed by the author himself.

River of Words was organized through the joint effort of the XU Press, XU DELL, and the Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA). This was also the last event scheduled for PANAGHUGPONG 11 – Xavier Arts Festival, celebrated in consonance with the National Arts Month.∎

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