|(1907 - 1995 )|
Angela Manalang Gloria’s Poems (1940) is the first and only pre-war anthology of poetry in English by a Filipino woman. A collection of lyrical pieces exploring a woman’s private passions, it was predictably ignored at the 1940 Commonwealth Literary Contests, which prized social significance and moral values. Although re-issued as a student anthology in 1950, Poems failed to merit the attention of the dominant literary critics of the time, who subscribed to the school of New Criticism.
Manalang Gloria’s poetry, however, has undergone revaluation in recent years. The publication of a complete collection of her poems and a literary biography has made her work available to a wider audience. Re-reading her work free from the constraints of her time, feminist critics such as Edna Zapanta Manlapaz and poet Gemino Abad have found the poems of Manalang Gloria a revelation, prompting them to assert that she emerges—imperiously—as the matriarch of Filipino poets writing in English.
Among ALIWW’s collection of Manalang Gloria’s personal papers and photographs are two notebooks, Bureau of Education issues which the poet had appropriated from her young son in grade school. These contain early penciled drafts of some of Manalang Gloria’s poems and various notes, some of which have faded beyond legibility. Of particular interest is an early draft of “Revolt from Hymen,” the controversial piece which reportedly made the all-male judges at the Commonwealth Literary Contests “see red.” The draft seethes with anger at the experience of marital rape, and becomes a compelling read against the final version of the poem, where the poet successfully transmutes the raw display of rage into controlled but masterful spite.
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Ateneo de Manila University
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