This profile of Luisa A. Igloria appeared originally in Positively Filipino, an online magazine, Oct. 15, 2013.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria’s twelfth book, The Saints of the Streets (UST Publishing House) is hardly a quarter of a year off the press, and it is already getting noticed by her fellow poets here and abroad.
Dave Bonta, editor-publisher of the www.vianegativa.us, wrote, “I am humbled by the role that The Morning Porch and Via Negativa have played in eliciting this extraordinary creative outpouring from one of our (and the Philippines’) most talented and hardest working contemporary poets.”
Igloria, a professor of English and creative writing and director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, wrote in Facebook, “Am I ‘living a life devoted to poetry?’ I don't know what’s meant by that. All I know is we do it one day at a time...The heart aches, the belly pines, the mouth wants love, the hands want to rest on the pillow and every hair wishes to be a joy that's counted; the body is brave, the body is anxious, the mind is tired of fighting. The house wants heat, the house wants to fill, certainly with something more than suffering.”
As of latest count, her poem-a-day practice has covered 1,043 days or two years, ten months and eight days. She began this on November 20, 2010. Her poems are archived on Bonta’s website.
She said, “I'm extremely grateful that he shares space there with me. I’ve come to love what has become my daily writing discipline. I didn’t plan to do this. I was merely responding to the frustrations of not being able to find enough time to write in my busy day to day amid the demands of home life, teaching, running an MFA program. I get grumpy when I can’t get to my writing. I had to find a way to once and for all conquer the demons of procrastination.”
Igloria's newest book The Saints of the Streets
The fact that she continues to write poems daily makes her claim, “I no longer believe in writer’s block.” She doesn’t set a particular time of day to write, saying, “When it feels like I can take at least a half an hour to 45 minutes, I drop into that space. These days, we are back to school (the fall semester began in August) so I’m doing a lot of my writing at night. In the summer I could spread out those times more through the day.”
The minimum time she has spent composing a poem is 30 minutes. She says, “If I can go beyond that and have nothing else begging for attention that I must do, then I keep going. If not, I'll take the 30 minutes. I can usually finish a poem within 30 minutes.”
Asked if she needs silence to write, or if she listens to music to prompt her, the author of seven other poetry books (Cartography, Encanto, In the Garden of the Three Islands, Blood Sacrifice, Songs for the Beginning of the Millennium, Trill & Mordent and Juan Luna’s Revolver, the last winner of the 2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize Series in Poetry and published by the University of Notre Dame Press, answered, “I’m tolerant of outside noise. The only caveat is that no one else can bother me while I'm writing. If I’m at home, that means I’m not going to answer the phone, I’m not going to answer a question about the dishes or dinner or tomorrow’s baon (bag lunch).”
She continued, “One of the things I’ve learned to develop from writing every day is to quickly process. I like writing in cafes with a large coffee on hand that I’ll nurse. But I can just as easily write at my desk, at the kitchen counter, in the car waiting for my daughter to come out of school, in the parking lot at my university. I’ve finished poem drafts on my phone and posted them to Via Negativa or my blog (www.luisaigloria.com) from there. I love the new little electronics and how portable they are. If I’m in a café, there’s usually some kind of music playing in the background. I like Argentinean tango.”
A Palanca Hall of Fame awardee for the many times she won first prize in various categories, Igloria admitted that the Internet makes her procrastinate. “I use Twitter, Facebook, my blog. Some of my favorite Internet ‘black holes’ are Amazon, Etsy (I love hand-crafted things). Lately, Zillow and Trulia—I’ve been bitten again by the dreamhouse bug. I also read Huffington Post, NPR.”
The best advice she has received and which she shares is: “Keep the fire burning in your bituka (gut). Listen to your inner voices despite what others are saying to the contrary. Don’t take no for an answer. Above all, love this thing you do.”
LETTER TO NOSTALGIA
City I once wore like a shawl
on my shoulders, the soft brown outlines
of your hills and valleys the first thing I saw
coming in at dawn on the lowland bus—
Where will I see again except in memory
such astonishing green, or the deep sapphire
of a sky outlining trees that push through sheer
outcroppings of rock? And it’s true, nothing
I’ve seen abroad holds a candle to this view:
early morning light glinting off rooftops,
the cry of bean curd vendors in the streets;
my children once, in their own youth, holding out
bowls by the gate for a taste of this sweet.
–Luisa A. Igloria, The Saints of Streets
Elizabeth Lolarga, a freelance writer-editor, teaches creative writing at the Community of Learners in San Juan City. Her essay collection, Catholic and Emancipated, is part of the UST Publishing House’s Personal Chronicles series. She is part of the Baguio Writers Group of which Luisa A. Igloria remains a founding member.