By Angelique Manalad
(unedited version of articles in Fudge magazine Feb-March 2009 issue p.71)
It was in late 2004 that Carren Cecilia “Kooky” Tuason started putting into motion her vision of instilling confidence to everybody by means of creative self-expression, specifically through spoken words. A shy child herself, she wanted to be able to encourage people to come out of their safety zones and embrace the glory and satisfaction that artistic talents can give.
Spoken word, as defined by Kooky, is basically performance poetry. It doesn’t essentially pertain to poetry that is written or taught in school. It’s like storytelling and doesn’t stick to the certain parameters set in poetry. Spoken word aims to be able to get the message across and touch hearts of people. “It’s about being real, it’s about being you. It’s about exposing yourself.”
Early 2005, Kooky’s first album “Romancing Venus” came out. It became a good instrument of introducing spoken poetry to Pinoys especially the Filipinas. The album features Kooky’s poems of love spoken by her friends who gladly gave their support and lend their voices. Some of the women in the first album were TV personalities Angel Aquino, Iza Calzado, Cindy Kurleto; musicians Barbie Almalbis, Wawi Navarroza; journalist Kara David; and designer Kate Torralba.
Although Kooky never took formal education when it comes to poetry, she always had a passion for writing and a poet by heart. “Yung pagsusulat ko kasi, it’s my way of healing myself. Kasi madami akong dinaan na things in my past…ang tingin ko kasi kakampi ko yung pen and paper…Nakikita ko kasi yung poetry is healing e, so, I know that it can also heal others.”
Receiving positive feedbacks, Romancing Venus gave birth to a new movement adopting the name with an advocacy of healing through art, music and literature. They set themselves to empower those who were victims of abuse, give workshops and seminars and perform. “It feels great because in expressing ourselves, the Venuses would also like to encourage other people–young women especially to speak their truths and say what is on their mind. There is so much power in that.” columnist Karen Kunawicz, who is a part of the movement, said This also paved way to a second volume of the album the following year, which evolves to a wider range of life-themed poems and the background music also differs from the first one.
Since everyone in the movement are females, hence the name Venus, some people saw them as a sisterhood of some sort.
But as Buchi Emecheta, a Nigerian novelist, said that a writer is a writer and writing is sexless. Kooky soon called up some of her guy friends who also have the same beliefs and aspirations. She crossed paths with Juddha Paolo, who is not known to many writes poems himself but a little hesitant to call himself as a poet.
Juddha had been to spoken word for quite awhile even before he met Kooky, “I did my first poem in States, back in 1997. When I first got into ABS, I was doing spoken word in 2003, it’s something I’ve been doing even in the States. In 1998 the movie, Slum, came out with Saul Williams. I was able to meet Saul William in Los Angeles that was like the baptizing of me into the spoken poetry movement that was 1998, that was 10 years ago… I actually been into spoken word for quite awhile, it’s more of rap. I’m a hip hopper so it’s like rapping; I’ve always been doing that.” Along with Juddha, some guys also involved in Romancing Venus are writer Moki Villegas, photographer Erving Go and many others.
Kooky is brewing up a new group that will finally make both male and female feel equally welcomed which would be called “word weavers”. Another evidence of the success of spoken word penetrating the main stream was the radio show which was offered to Kooky as the station manager was really a supporter of the two albums released. “Nung una sobrang daming ano kasi nga mahiyain ako diba? I can perform on stage but mag-tuloy-tuloy ka na magdaldal e hindi nga ako nagdadaldal. Mas nagsusulat ako e, it’s a big challenge for me. Pero dahil naniwala sila sa akin tapos dahil maraming taong nagtiwala sa ginagawa ko tuloy-tuloy na sya.”
The third album was entitled “Bigkas Pilipinas” taken from her radio show’s title. The show features spoken poetry from other countries, guests who are closet poets who finally get to be heard and celebrities who read their favorite poems. As of today, Bigkas Pilipinas is the only spoken word show in the country airing for more than a year.
The impact of the show and spoken word still amazes Kooky even today, she had this listener who was a detainee in a jail and now releases his own album. Even though it was a struggle at first, Kooky and the rest of the movement is reaping the reward of finally being able to erase the boring connotation of poetry and awaking the minds and creativity of a lot of people.
Spoken poetry is receiving popularity in many parts of the world and it’s light is shining bright in our country as well. “I think, by and by, people would start understanding the power of the word. They would understand that they do have capability to control their environment. It’s growing, slowly but surely. And the more people would understand it, the more people see the magic of it, the more beautiful this world would be. Everything begins with the word.” Juddha stated.
Some of the other Venuses are musicians Anabel Bosch, Charms Tianzon, Aimee Marcos, Maegan Aguilar, Nityalila; writer Ginny Mata; and photographers Honey Cruz and Romina Diaz.
The movement has regular gigs which can be checked out at Kooky’s site at http://kookycrackers.multiply.com