Interview with Maed Rill Monte

Maed Rill Monte is a nineteen-year-old poet from Philippines. His works can be read on Anti-Heroin Chic, Feral, and Trouvaille among others.

A few details about yourself.

I’m Filipino and live simple. Nineteen and spent all those years in Leyte province—mountain ranges, seas and several lakes. Ormoc is my city and we take pride in our pineapples. We hold annual festivals for these. In the sunny days, the city is sweat and dust. In the rainy days, mud and umbrellas. We have one public library set in a weather-beaten building, and a number of shopping malls that sell books but one thing I’ve observed, my people aren’t big on literature. The books remain in the shelves with all their crisp, smell and dust like mummies remain wrapped up in linen in their tombs. I believe the locals are yet to discover the rich story behind this aspect of life, referring to literature, that they let remain unopened. Wink.

I’ve been writing as far back as elementary school, naturally not as effective. Junior high school I was unprepared, rebellious. A different story unfolded in senior high school. I craved after self-expression and purpose.

I found poetry in the lyrics of a band I frequently listened to in and out of school in those years. The main guy is one of us. A verse in a favorite song goes: “I had dreams of myself / as the Allen Ginsberg of this generation.” I wondered, Who’s Allen Ginsberg? Pushed to action by curiosity, I googled. And the sun shone on the road and I saw it was a long road and the horizon was beautiful and brilliant and luxurious and to stand over it is the dream. The year was 2017 and I’m a poet.

The main inspiration for my poetry are the Beats. I devoured the generation and let the generation devour me. Ginsberg, Kerouac, Corso, the others. I write thinking of myself as a beatnik — my secret formula, the most important part of my writing routine. Imagine how an underground group from the sixties could leave behind a legacy so monumental it would come to inspire an obscure youth living on the other side of the world decades later. Praise to the power of the written word!

2020, I started submitting at some point in June or July. I didn’t know there’s option like it! Amateur, emerging, I had more declines than acceptances. I didn’t falter. I kept improving my work, even till now, and eventually received an acceptance notice by email from the editors of Anti-Heroin Chic. I was thrilled. It was two in the morning and I was among glaciers. Three poems got a thumbs up.

The cycle of submissions, rejections and acceptances continued. I have a poem in an Indian journal called Amritanjali. Poem in a Christian magazine called Lost Pen. Poem with Irish publishers in Strukturriss. Poem in Issue 5 of Feral. Poem in Trouvaille. Other forthcoming publications with Thimble, MollyHouse, and To The Litehouse. Some year this has turned out to be for me.

What does being an exophonic writer mean to you?

Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe my job as an exophonic writer is to essentially withdraw the line that separate natives from borrowers. Because in a world where minute details dictate the algorithms of the game, there is a pressing need for indistinctness in English expression if exophonic writers are ever going to command equity from the readers. We exophonics have no need to be less like us and more of them, referring to natives, only, if we want to win big, with no one left behind, in this business, all the apples on the stand must exude the same intensity of charm. What value a patron could get from one, the same this would collect from another. This is a humongous challenge for our kin, but the plight is nothing compared to the price.

What do you write? What is your writing process like?

I write to be able to gradually realize the limitlessness of the possibilities of language. Ironic. While the ordinary mindset is that one should improve and improve and improve to reach that definite level with that definite effulgence—a place, status, achievement specific to the individual—my ideal is to meet no limits and to just keep pages flipping, inks flowing, to just keep getting better with my craft. 

My writing process is compartmentalized. A very professional term for a very unprofessional creative. Ha-ha! 

The first “forced” session would begin, according to the last couple weeks, at around 10 AM and conclude halfway through 11 AM. I write in my cellphone using an app. WPS Office, JotterPad, alternatively. I don’t use pen and paper because my writing hand (right) just wouldn’t coincide, just couldn’t catch up, to the stream of creative information in my mind. I erase, I rearrange phrases, I put spaces and removes spaces, I replace words with bug words, small words, or don’t use words at all. The result? A big, unsettling mess. Of the paper. And my sense of orderliness.

In contemporary poetry, no matter the style, no matter the formatting, no matter what they say about us contemporary poets with our unbelievable styles and unbelievable formatting, there are two aspects, two “somehow just there” factors, that play crucial roles as to why I’m in this business in the first place: structure and organization—presented in very unbelievable forms by poets. And technology today has made structure and organization very available to a wide  variety of aspects of everyday living, even to the author here speaking, with his ridiculous standards. Hey, to achieve high, aim high! Ha-ha! The majority of the afternoon is spent on the same meticulous activity of writing. The second “forced” session. I’d begin at around two PM until satisfied. You might say, “Odd! What about your “dayjob”, Maed Rill?” Well, I live with both parents who have unfailingly supported me all these years. Not wealthy, but we’re amply provided by Providence. We’re the typical Filipino family and support each other in every way possible—put simply.

Also, believe it or not, not all writers write with caffeine-induced high. I, for one, notice my best ideas come up while just randomly typing thoughts in my phone, or while I’m outside hanging around on a hammock watching the men work the rice paddies. Sometimes its reading other poets’ works that shape thoughts I can work on.

What’s the last book that made you cry?

I don’t remember crying because of a book. But there’s a movie called The Book Thief that I watched on one of the HBO channels just recently, adapted from the book by Markus Zusak, which is one of the books I’m currently reading, that had such a tragic ending to it I just sat on my chair in a subdued cloud of thoughts and emotions. The end was too sudden it could’ve been the beginning. And man, it was. Clues to the storyline: the end of the Nazis, bombings, human destruction, Death as narrator. Surreal story.

What advice would you give to other exophonic writers?

Come up with a definite, consistent, persistent writing schedule. Please. I want to state this method first because it’s immediately actionable. Like right now, in this moment, O dreamy reader, go to your cellphone’s clock app and set a time in your equally 24-hour day to write what you write. Do it. We’re not writing bibles so we need not be inspired before we write what texts we personally deem holy.  After a full day, Kafka sets 11PM for writing, Maya Angelou from 6:30 AM – 2 PM, Haruki Murakami begins at four in the morning. Here’s the key: creative inspiration is a myth. So just create. You will be inspired while you perspire.

Also, read widely in your chosen genre. This how we expand our knowledge of forms and styles of writing, some we would adopt as our own. Find your fit. When you do, you will have the confidence to present yourself to coldly-gazing editors. Your fit will be your bet and your bet will make it. Just bet. That is, submit.

Finally, I compare the fullness of the English language to the fruit that grows on the very top of the tree. We’re climbing and the wind comes from all sides. Now it’s a tough climb! And what a huge tree it is! Maybe a teacher so high up the ladder of mastery? As exophonic writers, we will always be students of the language. Let’s admit it. At times it’s difficult but nothing unkind. So we could be more patient and considerate with ourselves.

Read Maed’s poem for Litehouse

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