What is the sky?

Bread for demons.

What was some early indication you’d be an artist?

When I was twelve years old, I played guitar at mass periodically for St. Francis Cathedral. During Communion one Sunday, the hymn ran short, so I filled the silence with the intro to Stairway to Heaven. The younger kid who was playing guitar with me heard me starting the familiar fifth-fret plucking and foamed through his gritted teeth, “Noooo…”

What is the sky?

A running place for upside down gazelles.

If you could learn another language, what would it be?

There are several: Polish (to read all those great poets in the original), Arabic, French (which I can splash my way through, if reading with a dictionary), Chabacano (a sort of Spanish Creole still spoken in the Philippines).

What is the night sky?

A jug to pour blue Kool-Aid into.

What is the horizon?

Trickster bird’s home between sea and sky. Target for singing.

Describe a kitchen scene from your childhood.

It was barely big enough for the five of us to sit around or for my father, my two brothers and me to sit, and my mother to stand at the sink or stove. When she did sit, we sometimes called out “Ipis!” and in one swift move she’d slide a slipper off her foot and bash the roach riding the yellow wall over her shoulder. My father says I talked too much at dinner.

Describe a kitchen scene from your childhood.

My younger brother, Mark, a toddler then, fell backwards in his high chair and smashed his head against the oven handle. I knew blood was trouble. They took him to the ER and stitched him up. His children are geniuses at kissing.

Describe a winter in New Jersey.

I was maybe eight or nine, building a snow fort by the road with a friend, when a bully from Cherry St. came around and started throwing snowballs at us. From nowhere, my brother (five years older), barefoot and wearing only jeans and a t-shirt, charged out of the house (he was on a record-setting relay squad in track) and chased the bully back to his block. My brother returned to our yard, asked if we were alright, and went back into the house, probably shivering his ass off. I don’t think I ever thanked him. Thank you, Anthony.

What about your father?

He is an ex-Catholic priest. He was once rushed out of the rectory by two men who led my dad to a road where the mayor of the capital city of Vigan lay. My dad gave the mayor, right there on the road, last rites, blood flowing freely from the gunshot wound at the back of the city official’s head. The section of the city where the assassination happened was where livestock was killed and butchered, and therefore popularly referred to as “Pagparti-an” or “Slaughterplace.”

And what is the sky?

Someone’s coin.

And what is the sky?

Brushes and snares.

And what is the twilight?

Rum extravaganza.

But tell us the rules.



PATRICK ROSAL is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive, which won the Members' Choice Award from the Asian American Writers' Workshop, and more recently, My American Kundiman, which won the Association of Asian American Studies 2006 Book Award in Poetry as well as the 2007 Global Filipino Literary Award. Awarded a Fulbright grant as a U.S. Scholar to the Philippines in 2009, he has received teaching appointments at Penn State Altoona; Centre College; the University of Texas, Austin; and Drew University.

His poems and essays have been published widely in journals and anthologies including American Poetry Review, New Orleans Review, Harvard Review, Crab Orchard Review, Indiana Review, North American Review, The Literary Review, Pindledyboz, Black Renaissance Noire, Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Non-Fiction, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art , Language for a New Century, and the Beacon Best. His poems and voiceovers were included in the Argentine feature-length film "Anhua: Amanecer," which screened at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival. He was the scriptwriter for the documentary film "Camp Roxas," directed by Alex Munoz. He has also appeared on the "Leonard Lopate Show," PBS’ "Asian America," and the BBC Radio's "World Today."

His invited readings include the Dodge Poetry Festival, WordFest in Asheville, the poetry reading series at Georgia Tech, Poetry @ MIT, the Carr Reading Series at the University of Illinois, the Whitney Museum, Sarah Lawrence College (where he earned his MFA), and hundreds of other venues that span the United States, London, Buenos Aires, South Africa and the Philippines.

The son of immigrants from the Ilocos region of the Philippines, Rosal is a New Jersey native, a life-long amateur musician, an old-school b-boy and DJ. In the late '80s and early '90s, he produced music for Metropolitan Recording Corporation, working with acts like April Kelly, Laissez Faire, and Joey Gold. He appeared in the music video, "Makin' My Move" by Phillip Alexander and can still uprock and do baby swipes.

4 responses to “Patrick Rosal: The TNB Self-Interview”

  1. […] by Patrick Rosal’s recent self-interview at The Nervous Breakdown,  as well as the ongoing Pinay narratives project I’m slowly […]

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