by Lausanne Barlaan
Jim Pascual Agustin has created a distinct, challenging, and necessary collection of poetry that successfully weaves together inner lives and the larger entities surrounding us.
How to Make a Salagubang Helicopter is undeniably a product of its time, made necessary for the challenges it poses upon the reader-challenges the narrator quietly rallies the reader to take on, against the chaos we are already, unfortunately, growing comfortable with.
The poetry possesses an undercurrent of begrudging stillness and stoicism-this quiet voice, with every line that falls, wonders whether humanity is still worthy of championing. Get a copy: San Anselmo Press / Read reviews: Goodreads
WHAT I LIKED
It’s always tricky to read poetry, more so to read it for the sake of reviewing it. There’s the concept of the author being dead—that once the last line is typed, the work now belongs to the reader, open to any kind of interpretation. And yet, an overthinker like me would worry, what if I misinterpret what the author intended to evoke?
Still, the themes in How to Make Salagubang Helicopter are so distinctly clear, covering poems drawn from personal experience and observation to timely sections (perfectly titled “Abominations,” my personal favorite chapter) dedicated to making sense of the senseless decisions and actions made by the current administration. Agustin even manages to make hard-hitting poetry out of the government’s documents (“victimize mostly the underprivileged / and impoverished sector / of society / eradicate” from Redacted Official Document No. 1) and from news coverage (“The police / armed with lists / altered / the body / brutalized / to public acceptance.” from Mangling Miguel Syjuco’s Words).
And while some writers prefer to keep an air of mystery around their sources of inspiration, it was refreshing to see photographs included in the book, credited by Agustin as prompts used for his poetry. “The Keys are in Someone Else’s Pocket” especially hit home with my tear ducts, showing a somber photograph of a war veteran waiting outside a bank combined with beautiful lines hypothesizing on its subject’s life:
“Your veteran’s cap / will give no shade. The morning crowds / rush soon enough, unmindful / of where you were born, or how long ago / you felt sweat gather between your finger / and the trigger as you waited / for the enemy / to come just a little / closer.”
Overall, this collection of poetry flows with such grace that while a number of poems make you pause in stunned silence, you can’t help but flip on to the next one to get another serving of this experience.
Nothing, really. If anything, I hope I heard about this book sooner, and that this book becomes required reading or at the very least more present in local bookstores for others to discover.
How to Make a Salagubang Helicopter & Other Poems by Jim Pascual Agustin is a great collection of poetry that lays out hard-hitting truths and manages to strike universal emotional nerves. ☁️
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