Coming Home to the Island: Poems” by Arlene J. Yandug has won the 41st Philippine Literary Arts Council Prize for Best Book of Poetry in English.
The author expressed her delight with the citation, but likewise some trepidation moving forward to her next book, given her duties as Chief Editor of Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan’s (Xavier Ateneo) Kinaadman Journal, and concurrently as manager of the XU Press, on top of a teaching load.
Arlene J. Yandug
“Giddy with delight, knowing all other four finalists have shining books and track records, and already excited to do the next manuscript,” she said in a note to this writer. “But as to how or when, that’s a big question as I’m swamped with administrative and teaching duties.”
Coming Home To The Island: Poems recollects experiences of the self in connection to place. In fifty poems, Yandug weaves strands of past and present, space and time, as she shows how the self is grasped in the larger narrative of Mindanao, her home island.
Speculating not just on personal history, but also on the island’s distant past, Yandug magnifies for the reader details that re-present the invisible, remote layers of the self. In this meaning-making process of remembering, the poet is re-contextualizing conversations, interpolating facts, rearranging events, turning them into meaningful pieces that hopefully bring readers to a sense of home.
“Her poetry has the power to put the reader in a state of ‘mino’, of being lost in enchantment by the way her images are rendered—fresh, nuanced, careful, at times dark,” says Elio Garcia, assistant professor at the U.P. Film Institute, and Yandug’s former Xavier Ateneo colleague as the Director of XU Press under whose watch the book was published.
“From the moment Arlene’s manuscript landed on my desk, I knew it was going to become a strong book. In fact, I felt that the book was long overdue as I am personally a fan of Arlene’s poetry from many years back.”
Yandug’s poem Going Back to Island was a third prize winner of Void’s Poetry Contest run by Cha: An Asian Literary Journal for unpublished poems in the theme of “Void”. Here’s what Singaporean writer and editor Daryl Qilin Yam had to say in his review, Void Poetry Contest Winners: Why We Chose These Poems :
Arlene Yandug Book signing following the launch of Tinubdan on March 24, 2023 a the XU Little Theatre. (RMB)
“I love a good poetic sequence, and the powerful combination of a mythic voice and fabled setting further compels me to read to the very end, taking in all of the sights and sounds along the way. Like Edmunds’s winning piece, this poem succeeds largely because of the sheer onslaught of wonderfully composed lines, and the magical quality of it all is scarily consistent.”
“Most delightful, however, is whenever Yandug uses food imagery to paint her beloved world, be it the emotional power of onions, the smell of toasted coconuts, the squeezing of lime over the sky or even the salty brine of the waves. You feel it all on the back of your tongue.”
41st National Book Award
The 41st National Book Award’s Best Book of Poetry in English is a significant literary award in the Philippines, specifically aimed at recognizing and celebrating outstanding poetry written in the English language. It is organized by the National Book Development Board (NBDB) and the Manila Critics Circle, and it is one of the most prestigious accolades for poets and writers in the country.
The award celebrates poets whose poetry collections have been instrumental in the field of literature. The finalists as well as the winners in this award often cover the broad spectrum of modern Filipino English poetry, with its many themes, styles and voices.
Yandug’s “Coming Home to the Island: Poems” was also one of five finalists for the 23rd Madrigal González Best First Book Award, an annual award established in 2001 by the U.P. Institute of Creative Writing through the initiative of the Madrigal-Gonzalez family.
Most recently, Yandug’s poem “February in Many Voices” (which is also found in Coming Home to the Island: Poems) was the Third Prize winner in the inaugural Rhonda Gail Williford Award for Poetry, among a strong collection of work with174 submissions from 39 countries. The Award is administered by the International Human Rights Art Movement.