I remember the first time I went for Danabelle’s reading… It was at Punch, an intimate poetry reading session at Book Munch, organised by fellow poet Zeina Hashem Beck. It was a typical January evening in Dubai, pleasant, not too cold. Danabelle was dressed in her tattoos and a floral dress with a pearl string dangling on her wrist.
The incongruity of her appearance was not unsettling. She wore her hair down with poise and one could tell she was a woman of many juxtapositions. When we had met for the first time, several months ago, we had clicked over a mutual interest in existentialism. Since then, cheeky humour and her love for all that is said between the lines, became a topic of our many conversations. That evening, like the other poets in company, she read out two of her poems; half-way through the second one, she suddenly burst out laughing. “Oh she made me laugh!” she pointed at Zeina. Later, while we chatted in the winter air outside, she asked, “Could you tell I was nervous? I almost always am; I could feel my hands shake.”
I am not a poet, I think that is a title you earn. My poems write themselves and I am just the writer that pencils the words down.
Her reading was a lot like her poems, passionate and genuine. There is no money-making pulp-romance formula to them, they are simple and yet strike a chord. Last year, when Danabelle Gutierrez released her first book I Long to be a River, she vowed to follow it through its course. “The title speaks for itself; I wanted it to be a river, the way a river flows and you have no control of where it’s going to go. I am not comfortable doing marketing solely because the river doesn’t ask for attention, the river just is. Having said that, you gotta do what you gotta do. I cringe, but I do it.” She masks her self-doubt with the chirpiness of springtime; just like her Filipino genes are hidden away behind the upbringing of Cairo, Vienna and so many other colourful lands.
“Dubai is where I’ve stayed the longest in all the places that I’ve lived in, so I suppose most of my experiences here and the people that have come and gone have influenced me. In a lot of the poems, there is a recurring theme of leaving or getting left and I suppose I could attribute that to how I’ve lived my life, always in this sort of transient state since I was a young girl, and now that I’ve finally been able to stay stationery for more than a decade in one place, it’s given me time to reflect on the whole spectrum of emotions that you feel whether it’s being the one who is leaving or being the one who is left behind.”