Photography by Teegee Villanueva, All rights reserved 2016
Photography by Teegee Villanueva, All rights reserved 2016
I recently reactivated my Facebook profile following a month-long “cleanse”. I felt instantly overwhelmed by the familiar; photographs of young mothers and their children, manicured lawns, and women posing artfully before mirrors, their heads tilted on one side, hands bent at the hips.
A caption over one photograph told this unsuspecting reader to “fight the good fight! Never give up”
Whatever she said.
Once upon a terrible valentine, I was an aggressive Facebook user. A troll who bombarded friends and non-friends with updates, quotations from the holy book, righteous lecturing, the works. I wrote very frequently about politics, about fashion, sex, about issues that concerned the national interest, and I pretended to revel at the immediacy of my own delusions. But deep inside I was playing a character (even when I wasn’t aware of it), a persona, that of a well-to-do provincial, who knew it all, and seen it all. Who read Plato and Jean Bodin, embraced the full spectrum of post-modern political philosophy and proffered poorly constructed arguments to an audience who didn’t care.
I gave up when the likes began to dwindle. My dear, it was discouraging.
So I found Instagram and began to communicate using only photographs, a medium that was foreign to me (until now). Pictures photoshopped and doctored to a T. Innocent “selfies”, evolved into photographs of street peddlers, urchins in funky, neon hand-me-downs frolicking about and red-tinged stills of drug-saddled sex workers earning a living in alleyways all over town.
I was telling a story in pictures.
And while I was limited to images, and constricted to a few pixels, I found it immensely fascinating…that I could convey an idea this way. That I could express so much, and say so little (or nothing at all) liberated me in some way: in such that my art, my photographs could more or less, speak for itself.
I posted an entry today. A photograph of half my face. I posted it without much ado, without a caption. 11 likes and counting. A woman wrote a comment complimenting my eyes. I failed to thank her. Not that I had to.
the cross lingers
high above the confessional
it looms, leering
And beneath it, the cavity
where the voice of the consecrated profligate speaks
with an urgency not immediately divine;
the man speaks with the urgency of a shrew
what is your name, priest?
what are your sins
have you confessed them to the Lord
professed servility to the word?
Did you consume a rosary
plug your arteries, with pages from the Holy Book
apologized to the angels
offered a sacrifice, crucified a child
You are made of the same flesh
infested by the same wiles, marked by the same sins
who are you to judge?
–Poetry and photography by Teegee Villanueva
“Can you believe it? They did it in their uniform”
Said the lady. Her friend, halfway through his cigarette, coifed like men his age, offered an alternative, something more elaborate…a video of two (presumed) college students, naked, frolicking in a bed, rolling around like circus animals, panties and boxer shorts sprawled on the cheap linoleum. The room, according to the man, looked like an altar after a ritual. Messy and post-coital.
It was a sex scandal.
Plenty of them. Hordes of barely there millennials eager to record every passing conquest. Uploaded every second, every hour, on sites like RedTube, fed to an audience of impressionable adolescents. And when did sex ever lose its sacredness, its mystique? When did we become voyeurs, privy to a party we have no business being in… when did we become witless animals reduced to satisfy a singular craving: our concupiscence.
I don’t mean to proselytize, but news of a new scandal is never good (and I run into these conversations all the time, in alleyways at night, in red-tinged hallways). The “fuck of the week” is not something I enjoy talking about, not only because it represents an obvious moral decay, rather the consequences that beset these kids are far too great, far too painful to fathom, some of them are irreversible in fact. Careers are ruined, someone’s hopes dashed, obliterated. But what’s troubling me is that most of them cluelessly consent to this.
I don’t know if they’re stupid, or misguided. Maybe misguided.
–Artwork by Arthel Tagnipez, Private Collection
I am compiling poems for a book I plan to self-publish on April. A collection of only my best bits, noxious, toxic verses drawn from the mind of a chronic depressive. Wow, how compelling.
Saint Jude, the title, will not be a pleasant experience. It will be honest, raw, threadbare (on purpose, in the absence of a grant or a generous patron) and it will come in black and laden with expletives.
I am having difficulty selecting compositions however. I revisited several of my earlier work and found them all lacking in some capacity–forced exercises in craft the lot of them, I doubt if any of them effectively conveyed an emotion or an episode at all. I wrote poems with no subjects, no discernible personae, verses that were disconnected, that were disjointed, poems that generally made no sense. And they were all about love, what is this love, this foolish thing!
So I am resigned to write an entirely new collection; baked fresh, chapters upon chapters of verses with subjects drawn rom memory, from events in the past and the present, from circumstances new and old, from quarrels resolved and questions left unanswered, and I will not be censored, or held back by norms. I will write what I think and express what I feel. Poetry, the art of letters is not something I take lightly.
Photography by Teegee Villanueva
in between my lips
in hers, the hollow afterglow
a whimper, a song, a sigh of great relief
Billy Idol plays on the radio
Elizabeth lays in bed
her head heavy, bowed down
her body entangled over mine
she emerges from her second baptism,
distraught and yearning for a river
She rises swiftly from the precipice
and dons her favorite yellow dress,
She thanks me for my kindness
I thank her for her service
I call my wife on the telephone
I tell her everything’s alright.
–Poetry by Teegee Villanueva, photography by Teegee Villanueva
I sit at cafes, observing the goings-on of the bored. There’s a woman outside, eating madeleines on the fly; she’s distracted by something on her little magic box; totally unaware of the world. When did people become so mindless, when did a cigarette become a means to escape, a means to forget, to pass time when time drawls on listlessly. I thought smoking was glamorous, something only the really rich enjoyed between gossip and cups of cafe au lait.
I like to write poetry. I enjoy the process immensely. Waking up to a good day, heady, and full of ideas. It takes a while to put pen to paper, to paint images with words, like a master portraitist. But I get there eventually with a little rhyme and rhythm; pulsating beats, a pack of rabid metronomes I can only hear but I cannot see.
My photographs complement my poetry. I know when I started I was more than a little straightforward…I presented images as is, real and unfiltered…but lately I let myself loose, I let myself experiment with colors and subtle variations on subjects previously explored. For one, I let the laws of poetry take precedence over photographic technique. This is why my present work lends itself a certain je ne sais quoi, slowly morphing into abstraction, into the realm of pure expression.
Honestly, my poems are dark, on edge; my personae are troubled individuals meting out their grievances in rhyme, or in some distant language only they can understand. Poetry is an exercise in patience, futility even, or poetry can mean absolutely nothing (depending on context)…poetry should be felt, the words should be sung in the privacy of one’s mind, played out, like an instrument of music.
I write from a place far away, many try to uncover the symbols and the meanings embedded deep within my compositions, some dismiss them as banal, some are quick to dismiss my works as reflections of my troubled mental state. But I pay these people no mind, I never do.
Poetry isn’t that simple.
Artwork by Dyck Cediño
I summon you now
Not to think of
The ceaseless battle
With pain and ill health,
The frailty and the anguish.
No, today I remember
Peter old friend
we are only human
we are made of dust
from Adam’s soil: ashes
creatures of chance
unable to cope
unable to see
blind to the world
and the bridges put forth before us,
we are damned
to suffer, one way or another
to rest everlasting, to end.
But we are glorious
even when we come undone
and the world will always remember
the songs we wrote
for Alice, for Emma
for women we do not even know
–Words by Teegee Villanueva