Mark Anthony Cayanan is a poet. Their most recent book, Unanimal, Counterfeit, Scurrilous (2021), traces the narrative and emotive trajectory of Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice, attending to issues of ageing and desire, the human subject often a riveted but alienated figure. Their current compositional process — highly appropriative while remaining committed to the expressive capacities of the lyric — enacts the imbrication of personal concerns, textual realities, and lived social conflicts which inform the writing of a poem and its precarious status as literary commodity.
They hold an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and obtained a PhD from the University of Adelaide, where they received a Dean’s Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence and the University Doctoral Research Medal. Other full-length poetry books are Narcissus (2011) and Except You Enthrall Me (2013), both published in the Philippines. Their poems have appeared in several literary magazines, including The Kenyon Review, The Margins, Indiana Review, Lana Turner, and Australian Poetry Journal. A recipient of fellowships from Civitella Ranieri in Italy and Villa Sarkia in Finland, they were an Assistant Professor at the Ateneo de Manila University before joining ICI Berlin as a postdoctoral fellow.
ICI Project 2022-24
‘Miracle Fever’ is a poetry sequence revolving around the alleged Marian apparitions which occurred in the town of Agoo, Philippines in 1993, as witnessed by Judiel Angelle Nieva, a trans woman. The project is preoccupied with forming a simulacrum of the aggregated consciousness of the town: the poems articulate the evolution and diffusion of the plural first-person pronoun, morphing based on provisional instances of solidarity born of oppression and belief, class resentment, and a keen investment and sense of complicity in the entire devotional extravaganza. The project intends to navigate the paradoxes emerging from the encounter between poetic form and historical subject, to adopt the unifying idiom of a lyric that derives its authority from seeming communal while also telegraphing the irreconcilabilities that exist within this ostensible community.
This intention is carried out through the employment of textual appropriation, the procedure also making manifest how authorial intervention warps the historical reality which the sequence contends with as material. In addition, the project includes poems written as dramaticules, timelines, or photo captions: these hybrid forms, in foregrounding the spectacular dimension of the apparitions, also render issues relating to the ethics of representation, a discourse that the project is inexorably immersed in.