MEDITATIONS OF A BEAST
By Kristine Ong Muslim
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Publication Date: December 2016
List Price: $12.95
Trade paperback, 83 pages
A word MEDITATIONS is often used erroneously in the modern world. For some people the word meditations mean thinking or contemplating; for others, it means fantasizing. But it is none of these. Meditation is the very specific technique of achieving a higher state of consciousness totally different from our “normal” state.
A word BEAST in its precise meaning defines an animal that kills and eats its prey (raw), particularly a large or wild one. In its wider meaning, it refers to an unpleasant, annoying, or cruel person.
Why am I starting with definitions of these two words? For a simple reason: these two words present an unmistakable appropriate choice for a title of the collection of poems MEDITATIONS OF A BEAST by Kristine Ong Muslim.
A prolific writer, Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of several novels, books of poetry and short stories, editor of a literary magazine, and a translator from the Philippines. After reading Meditations of a Beast, I can also say that Kristine is one of the most promising contemporary literary voices of Southeast Asia, if not even wider.
So, what are the beast’s meditations about? Genesis, the strange lights of the angel of death forming impossible forms of the maze; years of shadows, burglars, assassins, dolls and dollhouses, the fallen angels, and much more. Kristine Ong Muslim is a master of allegories and of the ways of using metaphors in the development of her poetic themes. Everything in her writing is a symbol – even the way she jumps from one theme to another, from one poem to the following. Like a skillful ice-skater jumping from one figure to another, everything in her writing is synchronized and thought-out to a perfection.
In general terms, Meditations of a Beast come across as a socially active poetry with a covert prophetic overtone of the prophecy of doom, and a disturbing lamentation for the lost innocence. Author's skill with words and verses keep us involved even if we don’t enjoy the message. And we remain enchanted with the beauty of the fallen angel, cursed to be looked upon by the “god of the broken things.”
“In freefall, we do not spin, even if we change our center of gravity. We also do not whisper in public. We pretend not to notice the striated walls, the exposed bedrock, the crisscross of rusted rails, the smoke between the slats, the roar of an eroding landscape.
From where it peers in, the god of broken things—the yellow splotch at the corner of the ground-sky—looks down on us. But from where we are falling, we easily loom over the shapeless yellow god. Every morning, we watch it turn purplish, slither close to the violet end of the visible spectrum, as if it were cowering.”
This is a book of poetry I highly recommend!
Review by Stevan V. Nikolic
Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of eight books of fiction and poetry: Age of Blight (Unnamed Press, 2016), Butterfly Dream (Snuggly Books, 2016), Lifeboat (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2015), A Roomful of Machines (ELJ Publications, 2015), Grim Series (Popcorn Press, 2012), We Bury the Landscape (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2012), as well as the forthcoming book-length poetry collections Black Arcadia (University of the Philippines Press, 2016) and Meditations of a Beast (Cornerstone Press, 2016). She serves as poetry editor of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, a literary journal published by Epigram Books in Singapore, and was co-editor with Nalo Hopkinson of the Lightspeed Magazine special issue, People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction!. Widely anthologized and published in magazines, she grew up and continues to live in rural southern Philippines.