BU student published in landmark anthology of Filipino-Canadian literature

Book cover with abstract art. The book title is Magdaragat.

When Brandon University (BU) student Rafael Palma learned he was going to be published in an anthology of Filipino-Canadian writing, he wasn’t sure if he could believe his good fortune.

“They put out an open call late in December of 2021, and with the overwhelm of entries, the expected call-back or notice that we didn’t get picked was pushed from January to April,” explained Palma, a fourth-year Bachelor of Fine Arts English major. “I tried my luck and sent six of my pieces, and the editors picked four of them! I was extremely thrilled but felt a little punked as I got this email on April 1st!”

Rafael Palma

It turns out Palma was nobody’s fool. His work had indeed been chosen for the collection, Magdaragat, published by Cormorant Books. The first edition was published in November 2023, with launch for the second edition on March 20. Four of Palma’s poems, Balikbayan Box, NAIA Terminal III, Lunch Box and OPM, made the cut.

“I feel extremely lucky,” Palma said. “Out of 90-plus authors, 47 of us were chosen to be part of the anthology.”

In all, nearly 60 pieces of work were selected for Magdaragat. The goal was to champion unpublished pieces from new up-and-coming writers, from various fields of work and experience; as well as amplify established first-generation voices from coast to coast. 

Palma’s poems are inspired by events in his life since he moved to Canada from the Philippines as a teenager. They reflect his adjustment to a new home and culture as he reconciles life in Canada with nostalgia for his past.

“I’ve always been writing. I mainly experimented with science fiction and fantasy back in the Philippines, supplemented by the Harry Potter series and Sherlock Holmes,” Palma said. “When I moved to Canada, I discovered western poetry.”

“Learning that poems didn’t need to be rigidly structured around rhythm and rhyme” helped to unlock Palma’s love for the form. He continues to write while pursuing his studies on campus. His interest in forming a local community of writers, especially BU students, starts with the BU’s Writer’s Collective, which he will be spearheading this summer.

“I hope this reaches our ever-growing Filipino community that we have here in Brandon,” he said. “To be amplified like this so early into my writing career has been an honour. I hope to be a part of this creative community for a long time—not only as a queer Filipino voice, but as a Canadian voice as well—showing that representation and visibility matters.”

Palma hopes to host open mic’s locally in the future, amplifying voices and gathering creatives in and around Brandon.


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