By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net MARIKINA, Philippines—MONDAY nights are for abandon. Veering away from the usual notion of “busy-ness” attached to Mondays, college students, faculty and business professionals troop to Mag:net Katipunan Cafe to celebrate a night of poetry reading, drinks, fun and lots of learning. Welcome to Happy Mondays. Happy Mondays started three years ago when a small group of poets met Monday nights after work to read and write poems over several bottles of beer. The drill is nothing too formal: chat, draft poems and enjoy the company of friends over some drinks. And the results are impressive: hundreds of poems, some of which have won the Palanca Awards. A year after, the group was approached by Mag:net Katipunan owner Rock Drilon to bring their poetry reading session at the cafe, said Joel Toledo, a poet from the original group during an interview with INQUIRER.net at the 39th installment of Happy Mondays. Since then, the group attracted other poets from all genres and age, growing to a community of poets. And though people come and go, a fully-packed night can have about 80 persons at the house, Toledo noted. Though a community, they avert the structure of an organization since they don’t want exclusivity or having the image of an elite group. A faculty member at Miriam College, Toledo said what they have is a loosely based organization where everyone is invited to join and have fun. “We want Happy Mondays the way it is: People come to share their work and talk with people whose passion is similar to theirs, said Toledo. “We are here not to critic each other’s work but to have fun by sharing our expression of ideas.” This could be the key to the constant flow of writers who flock the venue every Mondays, said Toledo. Toledo also commended the support they are getting from students and faculty of University of the Philippines Diliman, Miriam College, De La Salle University and Ateneo de Manila University, some of which are now patrons. Even without the charters of an organization, the poets of Happy Mondays observe one rule: they are craft-conscious. What brings this craft consciousness? Shared Toleda: “I can say the people of Happy Mondays are not amateurs for they know where they are coming from—in terms of style, genre or rhetoric. It’s not the audacity of reading the poem onstage but each poet’s desire to write a poem worthy of being read onstage.” Another poet from the original group, Mikael Co concurred and said Happy Mondays has continuously shaped his craft. For the last two years, the low-key Co has won Palanca for his poems. The group has also produced five other Palanca winners. Co shared that bringing the poem to the stage helped removed the notion that poem is a high-brow, solitary art meant to be enjoyed alone. Much like any art, he said, a poem has a communal aspect to it, that it is better shared. Toledo said that poetry reading allows younger writers, who are not yet published, to share their work and be heard, even if not in public. As I left the Café, I looked back at the entrance and saw the poem, the last line of which was quoted by Co in my earlier talk with him.
Brook by Joel Toledo The old dirt road will lead you to it, eventually: a depression visible through the gaps among the tall grass, the air terribly lonely where a bridge should have been. The descent will be difficult. The banks are steep and riddled with roots and insects and mud. But the brook will be there -- the daily chorus of rocks gurgling the sweet water, the dragonflies balanced curiously above the laughter of lilies and fish, the visiting kingfisher, blue, chest puffed, proud. Late this afternoon a letter arrived from some country, some memory, some small movement in the soul. It had nothing to do with the brook, but still I walked out of the house to stare at the gathering night and to weep for the little deaths--the day's demise, the loss of color, the brook I will not visit in the darkness nor come back to, ever again. Return is the tragedy of time, rotting the spoiled places, inconsolable by presence. We handle grief by moving. Distance makes it intense.