Poet, author, and UCSD MFA Writing alumni Allie Moreno wrote a riveting book of experiential poetry called, “Still Prime.” She touches upon the themes of her Filipino cultural heritage, on being a woman and being an adoptee. She also explores the art and sound of poetry in many of her poems.
“Bahala” is a poem in her book which speaks volumes on the Filipino way of being. Bahala means to “let go” and is an expression used by many households ro mean that they place their life or circumstance in God’s hands. Moreno also creates poetry on the Tagalog words of ba, ha, la before presenting her poem on bahala with ba as the femine, ha as the breath, and la as a masculine word.
Much of Moreno’s poetry is inspired by Charles Berstein’s Writing Experiments. Bernstein took an experiential approach to poetry. In one chapter, “Compositions” her poems are based on the lyrical qualities of the music and songs she listened to. “She was a dancer. Dried up plans and worn slippers. Had slippers to run far away …”
At the same time her poetry sound much like riddles but are not riddles. It may not seem to have rhyme or reason to it, but it does shape the listener’s experience into something totally else.
Moreno makes a statement on the role of women in this society and on how they are perceived and how they are to perceive themselves such as in the poems, “discretion” and “dainty.” For example, women are constantly occupied by their waistlines and their sizes. Moreno uses numbers as metaphor for women who are minimized based on their sizes of their body attributes. In “dainty,” she compares a delicate french pastry to a woman that is delicate and soft but is not strong.
An interesting background on the author was that she was abandoned as a baby in a box in Chula Vista and was later adopted. She writes about this experience and also uses the metaphor of a box to show that society puts people in boxes, especially women.
In conclusion, it took some background on the author to understand some of her meanings behind the words, but with some light on her experiences, I find this collection of poetry a fascinating read on experimental poetry and about Moreno herself.