Curate 757


Luisa Igloria

Luisa Igloria, a professor of English at Old Dominion University, is the 20th Poet Laureate of Virginia.

AIRED: April 14, 2021 | 0:08:14

(gentle serene music)

- I come from a country where you can look at the sky

and know what kinds of fish you'll find in the market.

I come from a country where one blind man

can lead another down the sidewalk,

both of their canes tapping.

I come from a country where old newspapers

can be exchanged for compost,

which helps farmers grow their beans and cabbages.

I come from a country where hands are useful.

They plant and harvest rice,

they pick up steamed mouthfuls,

other hands fight for land and water.

I come from a country where the words save and salvage

can mean abduct and murder,

and assassinations take the place of drive-by shootings.

I come from a country of long lines, long waits,

long marches historically ending with death.

But it is the same country

where the light of fireflies

along the lengths of an underground river

is brighter than stars.

(gentle uplifting music)

I like to think of my parents really as my first teachers.

By the time I was three years old

I was taught by them to read,

what led to my love for words

and by extension, my love for writing.

I was married at 18,

I finished college at 18.

When I was 19 I had my first daughter.

One of my former college professor said,

"Put a collection of your poems together

and send them in to the Palanca Awards for Literature,

and I was like, "What's that?"

As it turns out the Palanca Award

is one of the highest literary honors in the Philippines.

And to my great shock, I won first prize

and I said, "What do I do now?" (chuckles)

1990 in Baguio, there were two earthquakes

that truck in quick succession,

and we could hear the sound of breaking glass

across the entire city.

We slept on plywood boards on the street with our neighbors.

We had to go look for water.

It was just this very chaotic time.

Being an English major, I looked at all the distraction

and all the change around me and I said,

"What metaphors is the universe telling me?"

So I left in '92 and it was to do a PhD in English

with creative writing as the focus.

Now I am professor at Old Dominion University ,

and this is going to be my 23rd year.

I look back and it seems like I just blinked

and here we are.

It's pretty amazing.

(gentle serene music)

Poetry is my preferred way of processing things.

We can express our joys, our fears,

our longings, our desires, our anxieties, our hopes.

Ordinary daily transactional language

doesn't seem to be able to go

into these places that poetry can.

When something suddenly pierces you

in a place that you hadn't thought was there,

this is empathy.

And I think we need that so much

in the world that we're seeing today especially.

Every time that I write a new book,

in hindsight it feels like it was a perfect thing to do.

And I wouldn't have known that

if I hadn't made my way to these particular poems.

(waves crashing)

That's just the gift that poetry gives us.

(gentle serene music)

- Thank you all so much for joining us this afternoon.

We're so excited to be able to come together

for the swearing in of Virginia's next Poet Laureate.

- The Poet Laureate is the premier ambassador for poetry

on the state level

and their charge is to create more space

for poetry in public life.

- I think of art as the universal language,

often communicating in ways that transcend words.

Art tells us a story we can hear with our hearts,

sometimes provocative and challenging,

and often helping us to see the world

through another's eyes.

- It is wonderful to introduce to you all

our newest Poet Laureate of Virginia, Luisa Igloria.

- I'm very overwhelmed still

by the feeling of great honor and responsibility

at the same time.

Everyone who is a Poet Laureate

is not only an advocate for poetry,

but also addresses the idea of what it means

to live and write at their particular time and place

in history.

I love the idea that it took an act of Congress

to officialize this too.

So it sends the signal

that things like the arts, like poetry,

are important as a form of civic engagement.

We can manifest our relationship as citizens in a community.

- We're excited for all that you'll accomplish

and look forward to seeing the great work that you're doing

during your term as Poet Laureate.

(gentle uplifting music)

- Give thanks for the wobble of the wheel

and the limp off the pulley,

the tiny pop in the heart of a light bulb as it goes out.

Give thanks for the pause that loosens the noose

around the rushing hours,

for serifs of rain

trickling down the blue gradations of a chain.

And give thanks for the call of a dove

that has lost its mate,

and so tinges your day with the blue of this reminder.

Forgive the stumble of the bow across the strings,

the hair of one note that flies away from the score.

Give thanks for our common imperfection.

(gentle serene music)


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