Over at Phoenicia today, I was delighted to announce the forthcoming publication of Night Willow, a collection of prose poems by Luisa A. Igloria. Readers of The Cassandra Pages may be familiar with Luisa's work through her daily writing project, poems that are published and archived at Dave Bonta's Via Negativa.
I still remember reading, with that sense of excitement and surprise editors always look for, the first poem Luisa sent to an issue of qarrtsiluni that Dave and I were co-editing. We were pretty blown away by that poem, and by many subsequent ones too. That was the beginning of a long association which has continued on FB, where I see Luisa's regular posts. I've hoped to publish one of her books for a long time, and am proud that we've signed an agreement for Night Willow.
In addition to being a very hard-working and prolific poet, a teacher, wife, mother, and daughter, Luisa is a collaborator with other artists: her poems at Via Negativa are usually inspired by one of Dave's posts at The Morning Porch. Maybe it was fated that we'd work together on this book, because the title poem was inspired by a painting of mine, and a post I wrote here. Now I'm excited about making a beautiful book for her poems to inhabit.
That painting was dreamlike, and these prose poems of Luisa's are too. Like much of her work, Night Willow
employs memory and associations as well as the ingredients of the
everyday, but goes beyond the narrative and the purely lyrical to create
a dream-like atmosphere that contains beauty and bewilderment, along with many other emotions.
In writing Night Willow, Igloria said she wanted to stretch both herself and her craft, asking her prose to do "the same hard muscle work I expect in every poem that I write."
"It was an experience that felt almost like trying my hand at musical composition," she said. "I wanted to create mood, tone, networks of memory and echo so that the poems could speak to each other across and within the collection - but at the same time achieve a level of language that is also precise and thoughtful."
Before beginning to work with Luisa on this project, I didn't realize that she was the first Filipina woman of letters installed in the Palanca Literary Hall of Fame in the Philippines, and is an eleven-time winner of that country's highest literary award, the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature (in poetry, non-fiction, and short fiction) as well as having a very long list of American poetry awards to her credit.
Like many other immigrant artists and writers, she is sometimes put into an ethnic classification: Carlos Angeles wrote, "“[Her] poetry inhabits the heart first, then the mind, and the soul…her
work contains some of the most extraordinary and most polished poetry
written by a Filipino poet in English today.” I absolutely agree, but think there's no reason to limit Igloria's strength by comparing her to one country's
poetic output; it's extraordinary and polished poetry by any standard.