Selected as Ms. Magazine's 2021 Poetry for the Rest of Us. "Care, dichotomy, healing."

An urgent debut by poet Nica Bengzon, demanding a reckoning with what it means to be healthy against a backdrop of widespread illness and violence. Selected as the third winner of the annual Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize (2020) by Singapore Literature Prize-winning poet Cyril Wong.

At the heart of Nica Bengzon's timely collection is a bold challenge to our understanding of health. Using the language of medicine and psychology, Bengzon probes for ironies and conflicts in these fields and their professed capacity to provide care through control and scientific truth. A truly interdisciplinary experiment, Object Permanence at once embraces and refuses the scientific method, repeatedly testing what it means to have hope amid grief, illness, violence, and survival. Subtle yet potent, philosophical yet grounded, clinical yet intimate, Bengzon's poems expose the limits of healing in its institutionalized and professionalized forms.

"You wonder why it feels as though you're playing peek-a-boo with a wall, why the baby doesn't laugh. I hate this game. I always have, because it's a magic trick I can't see inside of, no more than you can read the signs in my head. The question of your existence is too grave to tickle my funny bone. When I take the steel balls of my fists to your arms, remember this is the only way my youngest self knows how to love, always half-terrified of things it can't see."

Author Bio

Nica Bengzon is a Filipino writer with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines and a creative writing instructor at the Ateneo de Manila University. Her work has been published in Rambutan Literary and Memoir Mixtapes, among others. She lives with her family in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines.


"A sustained, deadpan riff on found poetry at the start is ironic to downright sardonic, full of subtle and paradoxical connotations that demand to be taken seriously-or not seriously at all! The recurrent trope is of medical care-the deeper subject is a more urgent question about human care, compassion, sincere connection. Through subversions of scientific jargon, documentary voiceover, exegetical response, confessional lyric, even film criticism, the manuscript never lets up in showing that how we speak betrays who we are; the ways in which we depend on the practicalities of language expose limitations in how we may know ourselves and each other." --Cyril Wong, poet, Infinity Diary

"Nica Bengzon's Object Permanence is a study in the causes and cures of pain, drawing from the language of medicine, science, pop culture, and faith, to haunting, mesmerizing effect. Bengzon manages to make the intensely personal universal. Her violence takes all the necessary blows without being overdone. In these poems, there is embedded risk, movement, a playfulness with form, and a demand for the reader's attention that slyly evolves into a tug on one's heart. I read it thinking how dare you-and remained, until the end, amazed by that daring." --Isabel Yap, author, Never Have I Ever: Stories

"In this debut collection, Nica Bengzon explores the overlap of scientific and poetic truths to investigate our ways of knowing dependent on an objective reality, especially when this knowing clashes with her speaker's personal interactions with the world. The poems are clever, complex, and patient in their almost methodical observations as they search for understanding, compassion." --Paolo Manalo, poet, Happily Ever Ek-ek

"Rooted tenaciously in the pleasure and the disquiet of the personal, Nica Bengzon's debut collection explores the contact zones between science and poetry, the perceived and the believed, the rational and the lyrical. Initially the poems propound the argument that the latter resembles the former in that it is equally a form of inquiry, equally a form of seeking and discernment, until finally the lyric subject, mortally aggrieved, is revealed to be intractable Mystery itself, which is approached best through the uncertainties of metaphor and myth rather than the pattern-making exactitudes of experimentation...What perhaps emerges in the end is the acceptance of the necessity, in our world, for intuitions of the transcendental, impermeable to mechanistic demystification. Again and again intimations of its truth can be gleaned from ideas that occur in the softer and more human(e) of the sciences, a choice selection of which this remarkable collection itself eagerly picks up, solemnly considers, and, yes, aspires to transcend." --J. Neil C. Garcia, poet and critic, Myth And Writing: Occasional Prose

"Bengzon takes it all into a stew spiced by both head and heart and gives back generously with poems that turn reading into a hugely satisfactory experience. This reader is grateful--this book is recommended." --Eileen Tabios, The Halo-Halo Review

Publisher website

Gaudy Boy (USA):

Title: Object Permanence: Poems
Author: Nica Bengzon
Publisher: Gaudy Boy
ISBN: 9780999451434
Book Size: 140.0 mm x 216.0 mm
Pages: 136
Weight: 234g
Year: 2021
Genre: Poetry

Object Permanence

SKU: 9780999451434