By Renelaine PFISTER
On the day he returned to the Philippines from the Middle East, the bus Elmer Omar Bascos Pizo was riding in collided with another bus. The woman next to him died, as did five other passengers. Meanwhile, he suffered a concussion, and lost his short-term memory. At the urging of his neurologist, Mr. Pizo used writing as a form of therapy, though this wasn’t his first attempt at writing.
Mr. Pizo came from a family of farmers, teachers, and religious leaders in La Union, Ilocos Sur, and Pangasinan. He earned an Agriculture degree in 1981 and eventually worked in the Middle East as a Greenhouse Agriculturist.
It was in the Middle East, where he and his co-workers suffered from labor abuse, that Mr. Pizo started writing a journal regarding his experiences, which turned into some of the poems featured in his new book of poetry, Leaving Our Shadows Behind Us.
Though Mr. Pizo is an admirer of poets such as William Carlos Williams, Wendell Berry, Edith Tiempo and Sid Hildawa, he was not trained in poetry; in fact, he was unaware that he was writing poems. He simply jotted down whatever he found significant, interesting, and painful. He wrote about every day life. He wrote from instinct.
The abuse he encountered in the Middle East, and other abuses he suffered when he was young, became an impetus in the creation of his art. But his subject matter is not limited to that.
We Filipinos will find a connection with Mr. Pizo’s poems as they relate to the immigrant experience, other people’s perceptions of us, and the lives we left behind in the Philippines.
Mr. Pizo is a Poetry Fellow at the 2000 Silliman National Writers Workshop in the Philippines and a Poetry Fellow at the Vermont Studio Center in February 2006. His poems have been published in several print and online publications in the United States and in the Philippines. The poet has been a resident of Ewa Beach for the last twenty-two years.
Leaving Our Shadows Behind Us is published by Bamboo Ridge Press, the voice of Hawaii’s literary talents since 1978.
The public may visit www.bambooridge.com for information on his Book Launch, which includes a Reading and Signing event on April 25th, Meet the Author Party on April 27th, and a reading at the Hawaii Book and Music Festival on May 4th.
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