Interview with KARLO SEVILLA
What writers have inspired you?
First, thank you so much, Splintered Disorder Press, for including my poems in your Red Skies anthology! Now for the writers who currently inspire me, my peers in Rat’s Ass Review’s online poetry workshop are my main and constant sources of inspiration. I won’t identify each of them by name, but suffice it to say they’re all wonderful and talented poets. And as we collectively belong to this workshop, aside from inspiration, they provide invaluable feedback to each one’s submitted drafts of poems. Also, reading the young artist and writer Henrie Diosa Jimenez, who is a virtuoso of end-rhyme poetry, inspires me to keep writing some of my poems in this traditional style. Lastly, among famous writers who inspire me, Albert Camus stands out. His novel, “The Stranger,” left an indelible mark in my consciousness; it reminds me that absurd, unjust and terrible things can happen anytime, and we should just keep on living and writing with our convictions until the end. (And that’s why I’m extra glad for this opportunity you provided me because I have neglected to mention Albert Camus in previous interviews, which was a shame considering “The Stranger” had the most profound impact on me when I read it years ago.)
What projects are you currently engaged in?
Right now, I’m writing poems based on photographs entrusted to me by award-winning photographer Francis Lumahan. It’s for our collaborative book project of his photos and my ekphrastic poems.
I would like to believe that I’m still working on this long poem I’ve dreamed of finishing years ago. I want it to be as long as Ferenc Juhász’s fantastic poem, “The Boy Changed into a Stag Clamors at the Gate of Secrets.” So far, I only have the title and the first and last stanzas, haha! Anyway, I’m confident I’ll pull it off – hopefully soon.
I also have a chapbook of concrete poems currently submitted for consideration to various publishers.
Last, I was involved in the manuscript of my poet friend Rene Boy Abiva, of his Ilocano poems with Tagalog and English translations. I wrote the English translations and likewise, my friend has already submitted his oeuvre for consideration to several presses.
How have you spent the year 2020?
Mostly, working from home and writing poetry. And by default, being with my family almost 24/7, which has to be the sole blessing of the “new normal” since the imposition of the lockdown in March here in Metro Manila.
How have you maintained your artistic skills during lockdowns?
It was inevitable. Given a lot more time at home definitely resulted in my reading and writing more, and I’m confident the increase in both not only maintained but also sharpened my artistry.
You've published two different bodies of work. What were the challenges that you experienced? And, what were your favorite parts?
My first published collection was a microchap of six love poems, titled “You” from Origami Poems Project in 2017. It’s a very small labor of love, and arranging them to form a sort of narrative arc was but a minor challenge. The bigger challenge was hoping and waiting for the publisher’s sweet yes, and I was ecstatic when they accepted. For “Metro Manila Mammal,” my first full-length poetry collection published by Soma Publishing in 2018, I’ll always be grateful that publisher Mark Antony Rossi invited me to submit a manuscript. The biggest challenges were choosing and subsequently arranging the poems (each individually previously published except for one) according to theme, tone, and whatnot.
For my favorite parts or poems, I like all the short poems in “You” equally. In “Metro Manila Mammal,” I have special preference for “The Disciples Ask,” which was then the only poem that wasn’t previously published in the collection. I believe it offers a unique perspective on the New Testament’s “let him cast the first stone” narrative. (The poem was later republished in Ariel Chart in 2019.)
What has your experience volunteering with Solidarity of Filipino Workers? What led you to this originally?
I was a former student activist in the 1990’s, and we fought for a number of causes aside from those involving the studentry. In solidarity, we also joined campaigns for workers’ rights. And that’s how I became friends with labor rights activists belonging to the Solidarity of Filipino Workers, which was organized and led by my late maternal uncle and his comrades. I am no longer active in “the movement.” For the past two decades, and only when I have time, I try to join as much as I can the protest rallies of this labor organization, as a warm body and to express my support. It always gives me a sense of purpose when I am among the struggling workers.
Is community important to your writing? Are there any magazines or small presses that you feel a strong attachment to?
Community is very important to me for my writing, and thanks for giving me a chance to acknowledge the writing communities I belong to:
As I initially mentioned, the Rat’s Ass Review’s online poetry workshop has been invaluable to my craft.
Recently, I also benefit from my regular participation in Black Bough Poetry’s weekly #TopTweetTuesday poetry sharing event. (Please join us!)
Together with our publisher Mark Antony Rossi, we writers published by Soma Publishing also belong to a Facebook Messenger group chat.
Additionally, I’ll always cherish my membership in the Facebook group page, Modern Poetry, which I joined way back in 2015. (Lately, I have been barely active in this group, though.)
Like a parent to all his children, I’d like to claim that I love equally all the literary magazines and presses that kindly published my poems. But, as with children, you tend to be more mindful of those who do more for you, haha! So most of the following are those which, aside from publishing my poems in their respective magazines or presses, also gave so much more, like including my poems in anthologies, giving me interviews, etc.: Philippines Graphic, Ariel Chart, Small Orange, Spank the Carp, Collective Unrest, Matter, Eclectica, Radius, DIAGRAM, Eunoia, Black Bough Poetry, Kitaab, Eastlit, I am not a silent poet, Peacock Journal, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Line Rider Press, Muse-Pie Press’s Shot Glass Journal and The Fib Review, Rat’s Ass Review, Eternal Remedy, Antarctica Journal, The Wayward Sword, One Sentence Poems, Months To Years, The Ramingo’s Porch, The Wombwell Rainbow, Riverfeet Press, Kistrech Poetry Festival, and of course, Soma Publishing and Origami Poems Project.