Rofel’s poems are lyrical in that the first person is there. However, they are not egotistical. They don’t ask for attention. They have an element of transforming the reader into the owner of the poem. The poem is highligted not the poet. Because it is simple and lacks the showcasing of skills that are typical of poems.
The people who attended Rofel’s book launch were family, colleagues, students, and fans like us. There seem lots of family and friends that one gets the immediate feeling that the main audience of this poet is his family and friends. And this makes a lot of sense. He is his first audience of his own work and he doesn’t really take his writing seriously. He writes if he things what he’ll write about matters whether there is one or two readers. If a writer thinks this way then his readers will have faces. He will know each of them and have a relationship with each of them. He invests in these relationships and nuture them. His audience is not a faceless collective that are marketed upon.
Notes from the podcast interview
People feel like they are the most important person in the world when they talk to him.
He became a teacher to Jesuits. This is where he learned how to listen.
He has been guiding people even before he had a seminar in spiritual accompaniment.
This is what he does outside poetry.
He can talk to young people. He has a father in him. He doesn’t have kids.
He was coasting along. He didn’t have a job. He chose economics because it was cool.
He didnt plan his life.
City gov san pablo first job for 6 months
Started business with friends
25: I really need to go to first love, literature. He studied lit.
Student of rolando tinio
He was a bum at 22. His father bought him a typewriter. He wrote some lines. He realized it was poetry. He sent four to a magazine. They published 1.
3 years later when he went back to school to study. He enrolled to a class of a teacher 5 years older than him. His only published poem was in the syllabus. The teacher has been using the poem for 3 years. The teacher nurtured her. They gave each other poems on their desks.
28: joined a national contest for below 30 and no national award for poetry. He has 10 poems and he won unanimously. Jose Lacaba. His idol. When he can’t write poetry, he reads Lacaba and words start to come out.
He is a lazy poet. His poetry short and simple. The readers were the ones who made the writings poems. When people said it.
People will see things in your poem that you didn’t intend to be there.
Poetry is like giving birth to a child. Once it is out it has a life of its own.
He write because he cannot paint, draw, and take photos. To be creative.
There is something in me that wants to come out. I dont know what it is but I want it to come out.
His writing was self-centered. He wasn’t writing for others. He writes during retreats so his poetry becomes prayers.
He is a lazy writer. He doesn’t sit down to write poems. He wrote poems when he is low before. It came to a point when he had to be alone to write. His poems became about nature. Moments. They are image poems not idea poems. Haikus. So zen.
Poetry is like photography. Little reflection. The reader is the one who reflects. Eventually he intentionally chose words to urge the reader to reflect. But the process really was let the words come. He had to be quiet.
When he was starting out he can write when people was around him. He can only write when handwriting them. He doesnt have drafts. Now he can write even in the computer.
He doesn’t feel stuck. No writer’s block.
When he writes he doesnt see himself as a writer. He doesnt take himself seriously. If he cant write he does other things.
Writing is not a big deal. But it later became a big deal because it afforded him to travel.
He doesnt write a lot and it doesnt even bothers him. During retreats he can write a hundred. Verses.
He doesnt care if he will be plagiarized or not. Our forefathers wrote without caring. Poetry was to help others. It was ritualistic. Ambahan mangyans did not even take ownership of the poem. It was communal.
He thinks his poetry is not that great so he doesnt care if they steal it.
If only 1-2 people say his poetry is good thst is ok with him because he gets his kicks in other things.
If he has an idea at the middle of a conversation he doesnt stop. He allows the idea to get lost becaue his priority at this moment is talking to someone. He doesnt take his writing seriously but he is fortnunate that other people do.
He now is a writing coach.
Essay Then They Were Gone by Rofel Brion (personal essay)
Rofel’s boundary is he doesnt divulge things that people will get hurt with.
2 schools of thought in nonfiction writing
- Be truthful dont add.
- Add. Embelish.
Memory is faulty it isnt perfect. So its ok to add anyway.
Every time he writes he just assumes that it will be read by people and so he has to be careful.
The question is why would people care about your life anyway?
I also believe that there are all sorts of readers. Some readers might not be interested but some readers might be. So for me, bottom line is, if I think that what I’m writing is worth writing about, whether it is only for me or a few people, then I will write it.
If he wants to publish, the editors will do the decision. His only vanity publication is Facebook.His only vanity publication is Facebook. He used to have a blog but forgot his password. You get feedback even in Facebook.
He doesn’t take his writing seriously so if he gets bad feedback, he doesn’t get really hurt that much.
The opinions that matter are those that help you improve your writing.
However, he is also lazy to revise.
He never thought he wanted to be a teacher. Always intimidated by an audience.
He love to teach because of his love for relationships with students.
He wants to teach because he want to be noticed. This is a human need.
He can live without people around him. He is happy with just zoom calls.
Consider yourselves as students all your lives.
His favorite failure
His inability to swift out of Economics.
He lived a very privileged life. No heartbreaks no failures. His cousin said he wont be a good poet.
But he feels blessed. No moment of depression during the pandemic.
He only takes things as they come. Focus on the moment. Never aims high. So not a lot of failure.
Lesson: Focus on the moment.
Nothing disturbs you. All things are passing. God is enough.
How will he teach? He sleeps and in the morning it just comes to him. Like poetry.
Biographical info on Rofel Brion
Rofel is a poet and a formidable Filipino teacher.
1983, Filipino faculty at the Ateneo Junior Summer Seminar
1987, facilitator at the Creative Writing Workshop
Had an office and room at Cervini dorms
Moderator for the Humanities Club
Chairman of the I.S. department
Went to the United States to pursue writing fellowships under the Fullbright program
Visited Ann Arbor, Michigan, Bowling Green, Ohio, Manhattan, and tri-state area
Rofel Brion’s writing
He believes that “everone can write.”
Rofel is fluent in English but he has a lack of ease in it at least in his poems.
I prefer his poems in Filipino to his poems in English. I take pleaasure in the sound of his words. I love the rhythm of the language and the simplest images they evoke. There is all of nature: flower, tree, rock, mountain, sunbeam, and then there are the people—father, mother, family, friend, God. Rofel’s poems have a purity—even bareness—that almost makes them “un-poetry.” They are without affection, without overtly poetic language, and yet intensely personal, often lyrical. His words are solid and heavy in the hand or light to the touch, or salty or sweet on the tongue, and yet also, always, basic and elemental… like water, like earth, like air. The poems are deceptively complex in their simplicity.
I see his great love for single, singular images and his special affection for certain Tagalog words—inaakit, tahimik, busilak.* I feel his steadfast, integral faith, his deep and overwhelming capacity for friendship but also for love. I also sense her loneliness.
The audience and themes of Rofel’s writings
His poems are signposts to the kindred, little notes to other friends, to beloved family members, musings and reflections on the spirit and also, quite naturally, prayers.
Chan, K. (n.d.). Rofel Brion—On being patient with yourself, seriously not taking it seriously, and focusing on the moment (No. 8). Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://www.kevinnchan.com/2020/11/24/radio-ep-8-rofel-brion/
Rofel Brion, or “Lobo” as many would like to call him, is an award-winning poet, essayist, professor, academic adviser, campus minister, spiritual guide, and friend to so, so many. After graduating with a degree in economics from Ateneo, he pursued a Masters Degree in Filipino Literature, won the Gawad Galian sa Tula Poetry Prize in 1982 before graduating in ’85. His first book of poems, Baka Sakali, won the Philippine National Book Award in 1981. In 1997, Sir Rofel received his doctorate degree in creative writing from the University of the Philippines.
To date, he has written, translated, and contributed to over 10 books and compilations. He is currently a professor and campus minister at the Ateneo de Manila University.
Brion, R. G. (2013). Kapag Natagpuan Kita = Once I Find You. Ateneo de Manila University Press.