Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Spring 2006, vol 4 no 1

Rustle of Bamboo Leaves
by Victor Gendrano
A Review by Robert D. Wilson


Victor P. Gendrano was born and raised in the Republic of The Philippines. During World War II, the Japanese military invaded his homeland. The enemy was ruthless, forcing women into prostitution, bayoneting babies, confiscating property, and imprisoning people regardless of their age or health. The occupation and mistreatment of the Filipino people left an air of animosity towards things Japanese that still lingers in some parts of the Philippines. Haiku and related genres are of Japanese origin and have not taken the country by storm as they have in North America and Europe. The tide, however, is changing.

Online forums and printed journals are entering the Japanese short form poetry arena, showcasing haiku and related genres penned by Filipino poets. A leader in this movement is Victor P. Gendrano. During the dictatorship of General Ferdinand Marcos, Gendrano migrated with his family to the United States. There he earned a Master's Degree from Syracuse University in New York and soon after, moved to Southern California to become a librarian for the Los Angeles County Public Library system. Like most Filipinos, Gendrano was introduced to poetry at an early age, studying in school poetry written by the father of the Philippine Nation, Jose Rizal. Gendrano took to poetry like a carabao to a rice field. Although adept in Occidental style poetry, it is Asian short form poetry that Gendrano feels most comfortable with.

Victor Gendrano dedicated Rustle of Bamboo Leaves to his wife, Lucy, who died in 2003. Particularly poignant are the poems about his wife, her illness, her passing away, and how he deals with her death. The series reminds me of the tanka Fumiko Nakajo wrote prior to her death in 1954 that addressed her having terminal breast cancer and how she dealt with her illness. It is refreshing to read poetry that is unafraid to reveal one's inner feelings and truths.

Here are some excerpts:


I wait til dawn
for her footsteps
misty cold night
the wail of a mate-less loon
pierces the darkness


the nights get longer
and chillier
this time last year
we watched a romantic show
for the last time together


sa maraming namimili
bibili ako ng regalong
para sa akin


frenzied shoppers
i'll buy myself
a christmas present


ospital silid hintayan
ang plastik na bulaklak
laging bukad


waiting room
the plastic flowers
always in bloom


nakawalang isda
palaki nang palaki
sa tungga ng alak


one that got away
the fish grows bigger
with every sip of beer


A lot of books published today by contemporary Asian short form poets are uneven and lack sincere emotion. Gendrano's book is a good read. Many of his poems are indelible, and he is unafraid of sharing with his readers via his poetry the "is" of who he is.

Rustle of Bamboo Leaves
By Victor Gendrano