Interview With Jonel Abellanosa


Q: When did you start writing?

A: I started writing in the late 1990s. I published my earliest poems and short stories in local and national magazines here in the Philippines. But my writing never really took a serious turn until after 2010, when I started submitting to international journals and anthologies. Currently, I have published my poetry in almost two hundred literary journals and anthologies in countries like the United States, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, India and other countries. My works have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, the Dwarf Stars Award (of the Science Fiction Poetry and Fantasy Association) and the Best of the Net Award. 

Q: Who are your biggest inspirations/your favourite writers?

A: Regarding poetry, I revere one poet in particular – Dante Alighieri. I’ve read The Divine Comedy countless times, in translations by John Ciardi, Robert Pinsky and Allen Mandelbaum. The three poets that have influenced me the most are Robert Pinsky, Seamus Heaney and Adrienne Rich. I admire the works (for their precision above anything else, whether for their musical qualities and/or in terms of imagery) of A.E. Stallings, Eileen Tabios and Ocean Vuong. When it comes to Filipino (or Fil-Am) poets, to me no one writes with as cutting an edge of precision as Luisa Igloria, Patrick Rosal, Ricardo de Ungria and Cirilo Bautista. Regarding fiction, I’m a disciple of Feodor Dostoevsky, Roberto Bolaño and Salman Rushdie. I’m now writing the novel I couldn’t find. 

Q: What time of day do you do most of your writing?

A: I write early before dawn, during the witching hour, or in the morning or afternoon. There is really no set time of day that I write. 

Q:  Why do you write?

A: This is really a tricky question, which to me opens up a lot of traps for sinking into cliché. I guess I write because I have something to offer the literary world that it has never seen or heard before. Shakespeare wrote 150 or so sonnets. I’m trying to at least equal such an achievement with my own collection of acrostic poems. So far I’ve published around 50 or so acrostic poems in such journals as Rattle, The McNeese Review, Poetry Kanto, Star*Line, Dark Matter, the Peacock Journal, the Bangalore Review, That Literary Review and more. I’m aiming to publish 100 more acrostic poems. Ezra Pound’s maxim, “Make it New,” to me is misleading, because it implies that everything has been written and that the job of the poet is to rehash in new ways. My acrostic poems, I like to think, are “new.”                                          


Q: Do you have any favourite quotes from writers?

A: No. To me quotes from famous writers might become the biggest impediments to creativity and invention. I may believe in something a famous writer says. As a poet and writer I have always relied on intuition as an integral part of literary creativity, and by intuition I imply the participation of what many might call the sacred or the profane, the demonic or the angelic, in the poem’s creation. Ironically, I believe in Dylan Thomas when he says that the poem must have enough holes and gaps for things that are not the poem to creep, crawl or thunder in. When I come across an interesting thing a writer says, I test it and decide if it merits belief. To me, if there are 100 million poets on the planet, then there are 100 million ways of writing the poem. 

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give new/aspiring writers?

A: Never underestimate the profane and the sacred in the poem’s creation, and by this I mean the primary role of intuition in the poem’s creation. Read, read and read. Discover the Multiverse for yourself! Create your own poetry and poetic forms. Write your own rules. And there is no short-cut to this: write, write and write, until you hear your original voice, the voice no one has ever heard before.  

Q: Do you have any collections, chapbooks, or other books available for people to purchase?

A: My fourth chapbook, “Songs from My Mind’s Tree,” is available from Clare Songbirds Publishing House in New York, which will also publish my full-length collection, “Multiverse” in late 2018. If you wish to order a copy, follow this link: and look for my collection in the list, called “Songs From My Mind’s Tree.” Thanks.


Jonel Abellanosa resides in Cebu City, the Philippines.  His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Rattle, Anglican Theological Review, Poetry Kanto, The McNeese Review, Filipino-American Artist Directory and Marsh Hawk Review. His fourth chapbook, “Songs from My Mind’s Tree,” and full-length poetry collection, “Multiverse,” are forthcoming from Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York. He is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and Dwarf Stars Award nominee.

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