Pinoy poet to receive Italy’s top prize

good1MANILA, Philippines – Poet and critic Gémino Abad has been named this year’s recipient of Italy’s most coveted literary prize, the Prize Premio Feronia – Citta di Fiano 2009 under the foreign author category. The prize will be conferred on July 11 during the Nomination Ceremony at the historic Castle of Fiano Romano outside Rome.

In a letter from President of the Committee Filippo Bettini, Abad has been requested to personally attend the ceremony to receive his prize, which includes a cash award of 3,600 euros. Abad has also been invited to attend the Italian Festival Mediterranea in Rome.

Abad holds the highest rank of University Professor at the University of the Philippines (UP), and teaches creative writing at the College of Arts and Letters as Professor Emeritus. He also sits on the Board of Advisors of the UP Institute of Creative Writing.

Originally from Cebu, Abad earned his B.A. in English from the University of the Philippines in 1964 and his Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Chicago in 1970. He served UP in various capacities, as secretary of the university, secretary of the Board of Regents, vice president for academic affairs, while teaching English, comparative literature and creative writing. Abad co-founded the Philippine Literary Arts Council (PLAC), which published Caracoa, a poetry journal in English.

Among his many books of poetry and critical essays are Fugitive Emphasis (1973), his first book of poetry; In Another Light (poems and critical essays, 1976); A Formal Approach to Lyric Poetry (critical theory, 1978); The Space Between (poems and critical essays, 1985); Poems and Parables (1988); Index to Filipino Poetry in English, 1905-1950 (with Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, 1988) and State of Play (letter-essays and parables, 1990). He edited landmark anthologies of Filipino poetry in English, among them Man of Earth (1989), A Native Clearing (1993) and A Habit of Shores: Filipino Poetry and Verse from English, ’60s to the ’90s (1999).

The work for he has been cited is In Ordinary Time: Poems, Parables, Poetics (2004), his own selection of his poems and parables from 1973 to 2003. Ten each of these are arranged under six themes which suggest, generally, a possible terrain of signification: Things (“each thing’s special signature”), Words (“not meaning but meaningfulness”), Self (“the imagination, the self’s primary activity, creates our humanity”), Love (“the self’s deepest moral sense”).

Country (“what one’s imagination owes its allegiance to”), and God (“every person’s imagination’s Word”).

“A poetics of the word” runs through a number of poems and parables, and ends with the poet’s essay, “What for Me a Poem Is,” an essential poetics of finding one’s own path through language and making one’s own clearing there.

The Premio Feronia was established 16 years ago by the Associazione Culturale Allegorein and gives awards in four categories: poetry, narrative, criticism and a special award to a foreign author.

Previous winners of the prize include Gunter Grass, John Coetzee, Leroi Jones, Gao Xingjian, Kunwar Narain, Ismail Kadare and Yvonne Vera.

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