It was a case of bookshelf envy that got Camille Pilar into reading. During some after-school playtime with her neighbors, she spied a shelf filled with Sweet Valley titles. She picked one up, finished it before having to go home, and then asked to borrow the next. And the next. And then came back for the next.

Pretty soon, her neighbor gave her the titles, and Camille’s Christmas letters to Santa would enumerate all the books that she didn’t have yet to complete the series. She also tried some Nancy Drew and The Babysitters’ Club from her mom’s collection.

Later on, Camille made her own wish list of books based on what she would find in bookstores. While her high school did not have an English subject to discuss stories in, she quickly plunged into the world of words in her college years, taking up a minor in Literature and finding more authors to read from.

“It was a long journey, and then I went book crazy. Forget the list, I would impulse-buy! I could never exit a bookstore without buying anything. And it would always be 4 to 5 books at once.”

The first few books she started out with were poetry anthologies by her favorite writers.

“Language in poetry is very tactile, and ‘what does it mean?’ becomes secondary. My first level of enjoyment in poetry is when I look at the words, I read the words in their structure, and it’s already something. Even if I don’t understand it yet, I already enjoy looking at the words and how they were picked out and how they were arranged like that.”

“Every poem is meant to be read aloud, or that’s what they say… The sound itself is something beautiful, because it’s lyrical, it’s enchanting. Like you’re chanting a song, just devoid of a melody. But that’s what I like about poetry, the careful intent in picking out the words, and finally of course, after I’ve read it again and again, slowly, meaning just seeps in. Emotions are just fulfilled, level after level.”

She even has some of her favorite lines tattooed on her body.

 From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot


From The Bluebird by Charles Bukowski. When I ask where the bluebird is, she says, “It already got out!”

“Nowadays there are a lot of writers whose prose can be very poetic,” Camille explains, as we talk more about the kinds of books she likes to read.

Books by Jeanette Winterson, Camille’s favorite prose writer.

“It’s like reading poetry full throttle. It’s paragraphs, there’s a plot, the usual rise and fall of a story, but the words are just magical. Poetry was still the springboard, and the lure was still the language, and I saw that applied in a different genre.

“You can’t read poetry all the time, masisira rin yung ulo mo trying to think of what it means. Sometimes you just want something easier to digest.”

In Part 2, we get to look at more of Camille’s bookshelf, and ask her about her top five titles. You can follow her on Twitter and Tumblr 🙂


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