“MAGUNITAN” in Cebuano means to grasp, secure, even embrace.
Our Thursday Group gathers online once a month. During the long months of community quarantine and social isolation, the members connect virtually to swap stories about stories.
Commitments, deadlines, domestic emergencies—such are shunted for an hour or so to carry out what seems ritualistic and newfangled at the same time.
I was accustomed to workshops opening with the literal flipping of a folio compiling the works. Pads and pens appeared for jotting down comments and doodling.
Technology inserts into the frame of our meetings, pinned for the last Thursday of the month. We begin by locating each other online. When our images coalesce on the screen, I look at my fellows preparing their gadgets even as they watch me tinker, too.
This Digital Gaze is remote but connects. When one of us moves out of the frame, I am reminded how our meeting only suspends but does not interrupt life. We are not privy to vast tracts of each other’s life; we do not want to. We honor the boundaries set to safeguard the interiority essential for creating.
Began solitary and unseen, the writing does not have to continue in silence. Journeys are difficult to make in isolation, which, after living through this pandemic, I equate with deprivation and punishment.
The Thursday Group begins and closes each session with the writer. The person first reads aloud the work, not a redundancy although all of us have read it beforehand.
The voice reading aloud recreates the presence embodied—the voice embedded in the body of work—which, as a child captured by storytelling and then as an adult listening to poetry readings, I consider as the animating of the imagined.
After the voice trails off in the reading, the listeners take turns sharing impressions and asking questions. The writer’s response rounds off the cycle.
Due to habits of consuming media, the journalistic and academic forms of writing are assembled by an ensemble, with the writer sometimes dislocated from the published form. In unspoken agreement, the Thursday Group shares poems and short stories despite disparate experiences in writing and publishing in these forms.
Far from comforting, the literary pushes each one to reach inside and surface what has not seen light. Then each writer risks exposure to the Digital Gaze but comes away from the encounter, paths cleared, vision cleared, resolute about returning to the solitary trudging in the writing journey.
My takeaway from these Thursdays of exposure and discovery is borrowed from another member’s word for storytelling: “magunitan.” Surface the narrative, speak one’s truth, free the voice.