Asia's First Poetry Jukebox is Hiding in Plain Sight

There’s only one button on this big weird machine, and it can really only do one thing: play poetry. But in the big city, where almost every sound is noise, that’s a big thing.

The country’s first-ever poetry jukebox—the first in Asia—is a Czech invention recently unveiled at the Greenspine (across The Mind Museum) in Bonifacio High Street, BGC.

The jukebox itself looks odd, and ingeniously so—because who can resist going off one’s lunch or rush hour path to check out a big black pipe poking out of the grass?

Asia’s first Poetry Jukebox with Czech Ambassador Jaroslav Olša, Jr., who brought it to the Philippines, and National Artist and NCCA Chair Virgilio Almario. IMAGE: Sarge Lacuesta


Brought here by the Czech Embassy in cooperation with Art BGC and the Bonifacio Art Foundation, the poetry jukebox features 9 Czech poems and one Slovak poem translated into English and Tagalog, alongside 10 Filipino poems in English and Tagalog.


On the track listing are poems by noted Filipino poets Gémino Abad, Virgilio Almario, Mikael Co, Joselito D. De Los Reyes, Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta, Jerry B. Gracio, Allan Pastrana, Ildefonso Santos, Rolando S. Tinio, and Alfred A. Yuson. Czech poetry will be represented by such Ladislav Seifert, Vítezslav Nezval, Antonín Sova, Václav Hrabe and Jan Kresadlo. The Czech poems were translated into Tagalog by Filipino poets Mikael Co and Virgilio Almario.

"Ang Init na Ito," Joselito delos Reyes

"Makasalanang Siyudad," Ladislav Seifert

"Pillage," Alfred A. Yuson

Invented by Czech cultural activist Ondrej Kobza, the poetry jukebox is meant to arrest passersby in the middle of their day with its obtrusive black presence and invite them to press the single button that cycles through all the different poems, as recited by Indra Cepeda, Mikael Co, Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta, Allan Pastrana, Lourd de Veyra, Alfred A. Yuson, and producer and curator Sarge Lacuesta.

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The result is a mystical experience in the middle of one’s mundane working day, a sonic stop that reminds us of the music that words can bring, and that tells us of the universal language of literature. The poems also remind us that there are is a bigger world that exists outside of our urban experience—and it only takes the press of a button and a minute filled with words to hear this world, and for this brief moment, dwell in it.


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Sarge Lacuesta
Editor at Large, Esquire Philippines
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