KASAMA Vol. 20 No. 2 / April-May-June 2006 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Deborah Ruiz Wall Book
Poems of Possibilities, Passions and Politics

Book Review by Emere Distor

Reconciliation, Love and other poems is a compilation of poems that explore possibilities, passions and politics as represented in the life of its author, Deborah Ruiz Wall. In her captivating and almost picturesque prose, Wall takes the readers to the different places, times and experiences that shaped her as one of the foremost Philippine-born activists in Australia. An accomplished photographer with numerous acclaimed exhibitions under her belt, Wall utilises her poems like a camera lens to focus on aspects of social issues dating from the tragic incidents of the First Quarter Storm in Manila in 1970. In her poem titled Flight to Nowhere, the author instinctively captures the encounter between the soldiers and the youth activists from an imagery that can equally be recreated with the same clarity as in her camera’s viewfinder:

Behind bars, I saw them,
their eyes tinged with sadness.
Though strangers to each other,
we spoke through our hearts
in a world where soldiers once walked,
soldiers with nametags
stripped from their uniforms
to avoid recognition, their individuality
reduced to mere representation.

Another literary and political staple in the author’s work is her close association with Aboriginal people. An active member of Redfern Residents for Reconciliation and Women’s Reconciliation Network, Wall includes at least nine poems reflecting on the plight and virtues of urban Indigenous communities in inner Sydney where she also lives. Her interest and attention to Aboriginal issues was catapulted from an experience in 1987 when an Aboriginal person walked out from the Conflict Resolution course that she and a colleague were conducting. Curious, she later learned that the tools they had used on assertiveness were out of sync with Aboriginal practices. This experience was to become her inspiration for the poem Reconciliation and most importantly, the pivot to her passionate involvement with Indigenous issues and spirituality.

In 2000, Wall visited Uluru with Indigenous friends and paid homage to the heart of Australia by circling it four times and writing the poem Healing from Uluru. Astonished by the majestic rock, Wall laments; “.. I sit in awe of the grandeur of Creation; Before me, around me, in me. Oh would my life be, a living prayer so it unfolds, naturally as it is so ordained..” But the inner stirring would recur once again and this time closer to home when the only son of Gail Hickey died in Redfern in February 2004. The death was blamed on the police and became the trigger to the already volatile relationship between police and the Indigenous community culminating in the Redfern Riot. In Riots In My Mind, Wall reflects: Nature speaks / with language we cannot hear / but when flares command the air / and stones rain, and revolt reigns / we pause and think: / who really is ‘the other?’

Themes of love and friendship also feature heavily in Reconciliation, Love and other poems. Probably not someone to mope over lost love but rather write about the turmoils and lessons of the experience, Wall is undeniably a reluctant romantic. She uses almost teasing metaphors to describe love and friendship to give readers a glimpse of her personal passion without the intricate revealing details. She likens love (or lost love) to Awakening, Stillborn, Freedom and Metamorphosis. There is a particularly striking and moving poem that will warm up the readers especially those who would read it after a break-up of a relationship. Bolt From The Sky encapsulates many emotions that lovers would not put in words but Wall successfully did. The author nurtures the metaphorical turbulence of storm in lyrical mode: “..and all I could see was your trail on the sand, your face, engraved only in my mind, your voice echoed from a dream…”

Unknown to many, Wall is a prolific writer and the book is just a sample of her many literary works. She has written in different genre including the fascinating stories of her prominent grandfather, Hermogenes Guido. Hopefully, Wall will continue to publish and share with us her dreams, passions and distinctive prose but most importantly, her hopes for a meaningful and genuine reconciliation.