“What is a shadow? It is the self without a face or a name, all outline and no feature, the self on the verge of being erased. It is the incidental child of matter and light. Look how it spreads itself on the ground, weary but weightless, unable to leave a trace.”
“At this historical moment when the issue of how to respond to suffering is so fraught as to leave us speechless, the poems of Conchitina Cruz have found a way to speak. Here in this starkly beautiful volume, she has discovered a language sufficient to the terrors and the joys of the contemporary. The highest praise that can be given to any work of literature—and Dark Hours is most surely literature—is that it is contemporary. This is a very remarkable book.” —Lynn Emanuel
This contemporary poetry collection by Filipina poet Conchitina Cruz kind of reminds me of “Flights” by Olga Tokarczuk in how it attempts to map the human psyche using geography, and/or with inanimate objects or spaces.
“It’s been called names but I feel only fondness for the train that cuts across the city, following the path of a single avenue. Did I have the chance to tell you how the elevator pulled me through the years before the train arrived? Of course, I’ve outgrown the thrill of rising and falling; my loyalty goes to the horizontal line, the sensible movement from north to south and back.”
I love the author’s use of mundane things to illustrate sadness (also felt in her other collection “There is No Emergency”). There are political elements, and even an influence of Filipino myths. I enjoyed the pieces about Alunsina (she is a favorite among Philippine deities). The mix of the divine with the mundane is seamless, and illustrates quite beautifully how even the gods get lonely, too.
“The woman leans the sadness of her body against the window, tries to look beyond the pear tree. Inside the story, she sees nothing but darkness.”
Sometimes when I’m too sad and my mind is numb I crave for poetry because it is never demanding, it is just what it is, and it offers itself to me as how I would interpret it. Although there was a time before when I thought that it would be too difficult to read, now it serves as a wonderful source of comfort. There is comfort in knowing my truth is what will define my reading experience.
In the past, I never would have even admitted to feeling sad, because others perceive sadness as equating to dissatisfaction or ingratitude. But sometimes sadness is just sadness. That deep feeling of sorrow, the inability to feel joy because of various internal and external factors. When this happens, it helps a lot just to feel that I am not alone and that others have been there before me. In this sense, I love poetry because it allows me to reconnect with the world while respecting my personal space. Not all poetry is the same, but I’m glad I found an ideal haven in Dark Hours.
“Such is the curse of this place: if you close your eyes, it disappears.”
About the Author
Conchitina Cruz teaches literature and creative writing at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. She helps run the Youth & Beauty Brigade, a small press, as well as the semiannual small press expo Better Living Through Xeroxography (BLTX). She is a PhD student in English at State University of New York (SUNY) Albany. Dark Hours won the National Book Award in 2006.
Dark Hours: 10th Anniversary Edition
by Conchitina R. Cruz
Paperback, 67 pages
Published 2014 by Youth & Beauty Brigade (first published 2005)
Edition Language: English
Literary Awards: NBDB National Book Award for Poetry (2006)
Genres: Poetry | Contemporary | Filipino Literature
I bought my physical copy at a book fair so many years ago, and sadly I am currently unable to find this book in major bookstores. You can always reach out directly to the publisher The Youth & Beauty Brigade if you’re hoping to get a copy, too.