By Ruth Ingamells
In reading you will experience a medley of emotions similar to grief. Ranging from relief to melancholy to power to peace. Donato F. Duldulao, Jr. illustrates his life in his poetry collection “The Ethereal Tree”.
They are ordered chronologically and in that sense they seem to have little structure according to theme or narrative. The poems fluctuate and as you read from beginning to end you experience an emotional roller-coaster. It is not an easy read because of it – there are no chapters or narrative to aid you in your journey. You are left to fend for yourself in and among the hail of words. You follow a single person and his experiences and ideas through your reading, a very personal reading. Dotted with memories he relives and some simply regrets or tributes.
A life is not a structured thing, it spindles and reaches and breaks like a tree. Sometimes it is stunted on one side and it always grows towards the sun. So the poetry that reflects this idea of chaotic growth feel far more organic.
The sprawling poems that grow like roots and branches should be separate from those that seek to structure and narrate. Here the simple idea of chronology falls short. Chronology should be for poems that suit each other. For those that are structured they act as disruptions from the more organic poems.
The poems highly emotive, the ones that do not rhyme are far more poignant (‘Silence’, ‘Ripples’, ‘Mornings at Ewa Beach’, ‘Phantasms’) because feeling like that should not be penned in by a rhyme scheme. In particular as his premise of the book is for his lost grandson. Grief is not rational but it something we all must experience and something we can all relate to. Grief is personal and insane.
Where his rhyme works it works like Wilfred Owen (‘My Soul is a Tidal Marsh’) or Seamus Heaney’s ‘Beowulf’ especially when dictating a narrative. Duldulao also touches on the epic (‘Rebirth of Poetry’ and ‘The Tragic Legend of Otanod’). And the latter is highly structured, but as it reminisces epic poetry it reminisces epic structure. It is a joy to read.
If you are picking up this to read for a chuckle and a biscuit then this is not the read for you, it will undoubtedly challenge you. You will get the feeling that you bear witness to the ghosts of his memories and that can feel slightly unsettling. But it is important because it is a project whose premise is catharsis. Tiring but certainly leaves you with a feeling of serenity.