DiscoverVerse: Adrian De Leon + Rouge

Poet Adrian De Leon enters the ALU DiscoverVerse today to talk about his TTC-inspired collectionRouge (Mawenzi House) and how, through the writing process, he has learned the power of a writing community. De Leon explains that while his need to write might have been derived from an anger for Toronto politics, it is history that sustains his work. Read on for the full interview and a poem from the collection!


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During the month of April, you can buy any of our featured DiscoverVerse books for 20% off (+ we’ll send you a set of three poetry bookmarks so you’ll always find your place.)

An Interview with Adrian De Leon

 All Lit Up: What did you learn writing Rouge?Adrian De Leon: I learned how beautiful the writer-editor relationship could be. My first poetry mentor, Daniel Scott Tysdal, continues to provide guidance for me as I make my way in the literary world. He’s seen my clunkiest, earliest work, and was really instrumental in shaping the form of Rouge itself, as a structured book and as a collection of pieces. Since then, my literary kinfolk and I have become writers-editors to each other: Natasha Ramoutar, Téa Mutonji, Oubah Osman, and many more. From Rouge, written for a hometown community, I learned about the power of a writing community too.ALU: If you were a character in a Choose Your Own Adventure story, what kind of quest would you be on? What three things would you have with you on your journey?ADL: Fun question. I would want to be one of the DigiDestined from the early seasons of Digimon, and save the Digital World. So I guess a Digivice, a Digimon (Agumon, obviously), and some sort of travel survival kit (though I’m still unclear about the biology of being in cyberspace). Why, yes, I am a nerd. ALU: Where do you draw inspiration from outside of poetry?ADL: I became a poet not because of great poets, but because I was pissed off at the Rob Ford administration and Toronto politics. So, I guess me being pissed off at political corruption and the far right offers ample inspiration. Nowadays, I continue to be a poet because I am a historian. Research into the deep history of native migrant workers from the Philippines and the Pacific Northwest provides both critical insights as well as poetic ones. ALU: Help us with a poetry prompt for our readers. Can you come up with a writing prompt for our readers to write their own poetry?ADL: If poetry is a vehicle for expression, write a poem about a vehicle (car, truck, train, boat, etc.) that best captures what you have difficulty in expressing right now. 

A poem from Rouge

 LESLIEOn Sundays, Daddy used to drive us downTo let IKEA start our day. A tankOf gas would cost us more than eggs and meat.Potatoes, too! Those golden wedges meantTo make us feel deliciously at home,But neither Mom nor Dad would dare to cookPotatoes without beef and lard from cansOr big ol’ helpings from the tubeOf Tex-Mex (or whatever else the SouthCould grind and clobber in memoriamOf Alamo.) Hmm. Maybe home is oneOf those weird Swedish names they stick on chairsAnd light bulbs, cushions, blankets, even meals.To stretch that tank of gas, we’d spend a wholeDay after Catholic Mass to stuff our platesAnd faces with those “home fries,” eggs, and bacon.I think that home was in those fries. We stayedSo long at times that even janitorsWould get to know our names and stuffed faces.The chairs, the beds, the showrooms: our playground.The setting sun, it darkened Scarborough first—IKEA candles, rays of light, burned brightly.* * *
Adrian De Leon is an Abagatan (Southern) Ilokano writer and cultural educator from Baranggay Bagong Tanyag in Manila by way of Scarborough, Ontario. He teaches Philippine histories in university classrooms, community events, and martial arts gyms. His first book of poetry, Rouge, was published in 2018 by Mawenzi House. He lives in Los Angeles.* * *  During the month of April, you can buyRouge and any of our featured DiscoverVerse books for 20% off! PLUS: FREE shipping!Keep up with us all month on  Twitter,  Instagram, and  Facebook with the hashtag #ALUdiscoververse. BONUS:Play our Choose Your Own Poetry game where YOU are the narrator! Choose from multiple paths on the way to one ultimate goal: visiting your local bookstore to browse poetry. As you move through the story you will find poetry books to collect in your tote bag. There are a total of 36 poetry books to discover across the various paths with 12 possible endings. Which poetry collections will you find on your path?Playing time: 1-2 minutes per path. To play, click the link below to start the download.  

DiscoverVerse: Choose Your Own Poetry Game