By: April Mae Berza
I started writing when I found out about the national hero of the Philippines crafting verses at an early age. That time, I told myself I will follow his footsteps. When I realized I could never be Jose Rizal, that’s when the idea of becoming April Mae M. Berza become worthwhile.
My poetic journey is not stellar, but it is like a Halley’s comet. It only comes every 75 years and my writing life only comes once in a lifetime even if there are several publications and awards under my name.
I am beyond grateful for all these blessings. My first publication was when Maganda magazine made my dream come true. They helped and supported my literary endeavours. It was a resounding success because the Filipino-American community in the University of California Berkeley assisted in the process.
Writing poetry is cathartic, it enables me to express my intimate thoughts and ideas no matter how painful it is. Whenever I feel blue, poetry will never let me down. She is like my best buddy. My afflatus motivates me to craft engaging pieces that resonate well with the masses.
Also, the Philippine American Writers and Artists supported me way back then. They published my poem “Rizalian” where I dreamt of becoming Rizal’s daughter.
I also became a member of Poetic Genius Society, a group of intellectuals who share a love for poetry.
Furthermore, local workshops honed me. My poems were not so good and I admit it. But I improve as times go by. This journey led me to realize that writers should connect and empower each other, we should revolutionize how the system works.
I have a penchant for word puns and brain games and this helps me to redefine the art and craft of poetry. Poetry is not just an art, art is not just poetry. I discover that poetry writing can magnify how we positively view life, we can be bigger than life.
In addition, I got invited to do poetry readings in Bluestockings in Manhattan, New York. When Shubha Bala emailed me, I was reluctant to attend. I never set foot to America. And I never imagined getting there. But things changed. My poems made it not only in America but also in Canada, Romania, Japan, Belgium, India, England, France, and the Philippines.
I am humbled by all these experiences. I believe that this helps me a lot to be a better person. Poetry helps me serve other people as well as other creatures. I fight the fight for Lumads, I fight the fight against tyranny, I fight the fight against stigma and discrimination.
When the Preview of the Arts in New York was created, I got invited. I made a short video clip showing it there.
I also got invited to be a guest at Miss Audrey’s House.
Moreover, my poems were broadcast in international radio shows. These poems witness a passion about my country, my love for the Philippines that enables me to continue struggling for the truth and freedom.
At an early age, my debut poetry collection got published in Canada.
My literary accolades might seem trivial but I am certain this only proves that young people like me can make a big difference in this firmament.
I can be me. I can significantly help others love literature.
When I got awarded Honorable Mention in both haiku contests in Japan and Russia, I was humbled and elated at the same time. Never did it occur to me that my haiku is worth an award.
I am a fan of Mai der Vang and her Afterland inspired me a lot. Hmong refugees are worth writing about. My award winning haiku is about child refugees and praying.
Years later, I also wrote something about a child refugee entering a bookshop for the first time. I’m not really good with words. But I have a love for words. And people. And books.
Last March 2021, I met Oprah Winfrey online when I attended the Poets & Writers 2021 Gala. I was in euphoria. I also got a chance to meet Joy Harjo, the US Poet Laureate.
Rubbing elbows with literary giants is a dream come true. I never thought I could be with them. Being a member of Poets & Writers has its perks. And even if I am just a simple poet, still, I get to have a chance to virtually meet them.
Writers and readers should join hand in hand to create more books and love more books and enjoy more books.
When we work together to share our passion for reading and writing, we become united to promote literacy. We empower the youth to learn for themselves the art of reading.
Reading books should be normalized, it should not be seen as a geeky thing.
Oprah taught me that books can be magical creatures that can transport us to everywhere. Also, we can battle against discrimination and injustices if we read books and understand the living situation of our fellowmen.
We can learn about wilderness and love nature and fight against climate change.
We commune in the same table, the same figurative table. I was in awe when I saw all their faces beaming in joy. This is more than what I expected.
Oprah was really in love with books. I can feel the passion. She rekindled in me the love for reading that has been locked away in my heart.
When this pandemic strike, I thought that I could never ever be a reader and writer again, that life will be empty and meaningless. Purpose seems to run away together with my very existence. However, I learn to love writing and reading again. I start to enjoy not only books but celebrate books and writers and readers.