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By Prince Golez

As coronavirus cases continue to bring worry to health, award-winning Filipino writer and poet Peter Solis Nery has found a way to get his creative juices flowing during the lockdowns: teach poetry.

For the past few weeks, Nery, a Palanca Hall of Fame Awardee in 2012, has been offering free writing workshops for young and new writers on social networking website Facebook.

His “Weekend Poets Project” encourages visitors of his Facebook account to submit their work/s as comment every Friday evening. He also evaluates submissions in English, Filipino and Hiligaynon in the comments section for all to see.

“People are beginning to see that I have a teaching heart. I’m not paid to do online teaching,” the Passion of Jovita Fuentes author said, adding that he wanted to help young writers hone their craft.

“[They] know that my criticisms are not malicious, but grow out of genuine generosity. They also like my crazy sense of humor,” according to him.

Here’s some of what Nery had to say:

Why poetry, not short story, essay or novel?

PETER SOLIS NERY (PSN): I took on this personal challenge because I found the Internet full of Filipino students’ poetry writing communities where they shamelessly have their online WriCons (writing contests) that choose winners among themselves. All of them are award-winning poets never mind that they cannot write a grammatically correct sentence. I wanted to help young writers write better.

How can poetry make stress easier to handle during the pandemic?

PSN: Either by addressing stress directly—meaning, confronting the problem or issues with a creative approach; or deflecting stress with the escapist dimension of poetry. For my October project, it’s more of taking away our attention from the stressful scenario of the pandemic. I have another Covid Lit Project on Facebook for the first objective.

What is your goal to achieve in teaching poetry?

PSN: My most ambitious goal of course is to rid the internet of bad poetry. I’m committed to good literature, because that’s what I’m good at, and that’s what I’m known for.

Any writing tips for first-time poets?

PSN: Read a lot of poetry even before starting to write your own. And read poems that are outside of your comfort zone. I realized that most young writers’ poems suck because their instapoem and hugot (sentimental feeling) models also suck. They don’t even understand that “You are the moon, I am a shooting star” is not a poem but a delusion of grandeur.

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