A Conversation with Merlie Alunan

A Conversation with the Poet Merlie Alunan Regarding “We Kept a Jarful of Keys” By franz tatel Me: May I ask some information about your poem “We Kept a Jarful of Keys”? Merlie: What do you want to know about Jarful of Keys? Me: Ma’am I want to know the reason why you were able to write such kind of poem. What is it about po? Is it biographical? I want to know everything you’re willing to share to me regarding that poem of yours. It’s simply written but I noticed it has a deeper meaning. Merlie: Read the poem and tell me what you understand. Don’t ask silly questions why I wrote such a poem.

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My life story does not have anything to do with the poem. If your teacher says so, tell her the question is irrelevant. Read the poem. What it says to you, that is the poem. So what is the deeper meaning? Poets do not like to explain their own poems. Me: The poem is about two persons in love with each and never thought that their love would fade away as time goes by. But it does. They forgot to reserve something for themselves. But they cannot do anything about their current situation because they have already gone so far, so they better accept the situation and bear it with dignity.

Whatever is there, let it be there. No turning back. “How did we ever think/ we had no need of keys? ” For me this implies indiscretion by the couple. They always thought love would take them through till the end but the feeling slowly dies. This is my personal interpretation of the poem. I thank you for the help Ma’am and for the advice. I will always bear in my mind that it is not always necessary to know what exactly the writer wants to convey in his poem as long as I get a value out of it. Thanks once again. Merlie: You’re good, Francis. Glad to help Me: Thank you so much Ma’am.

Anyway I’m not a student po though I look like one coz I’m just 21. I’m a young college instructor po. First sem of teaching so I really need help coz I’m just starting in the field. Thank you once again. Merlie: You did very well in interpreting the poem, Francis. Anytime, just tick me off. Me: Thank you so much Ma’am. I hope I won’t be disturbing you every time I ask for help. I am one of the young teachers who admire poets like you. I want to be a writer someday that’s why I’m doing my best to know writers literally and figuratively,and I read as many literary pieces as I can.

Merlie: It’s important that you discover what your own people have written, whether in English or any other native language. May you prosper in your voyage of discovery. Me: Yes Ma’am I agree. Actually I already started the journey since high school. I finished three volumes of Philippine Prose and Poetry, two Afro-Asian Literature books and a book titled Philippine Adventure. Only, I was young then; not that literary mature and critical. I read for pleasure and to have more knowledge but I didn’t use the selections to understand human nature deeper.

It was only in college when I realized this is what I need to do. Now, I’m happy with the results. One result is I happen to know you through teaching Philippine Lit in English and communicate with you through technological and social media. Merlie: Go to panitikan. com. Might find more directions there. Good luck. Me: Mam, when I searched for your poem I noticed someone (I think he’s your student) wanted to translate your poem into Hiligaynon. This gave me an idea. I think I would like to translate it too into Bicolano. Would that be okay with you Ma’am. Thanks!


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