Two Beauties, Just Arrived

Friends Brian Komei Dempster and Luisa Igloria, both poets, have new books out this fall. GAH, when she took them out of the packaging, she was slain by the covers:

In Honor of Independent Bookstore Day, Saturday, 28 April 2018: LUISA IGLORIA PICKS SOME GOOD ONES


Luisa Igloria, Poet

Since self is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Mendocino Art Center, this week she’s been writing up a storm (also sending out her work) and adding to her reading list with regular drop-ins to one of the best bookstores in the world: Gallery  Bookshop in Mendocino. Yelp gives them five stars!

She also asked two fabulous writers if they could share their list of Recommended Books with her, and she was so happy when they agreed. (Even if your local indie doesn’t carry the titles, they can always order them. In most cases, they’ll take an average of three or four days to get to the bookstore)

First up, Luisa Igloria

Luisa A. Igloria is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. Her latest works include the collection The Buddha Wonders If She Is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2018), the chapbooks Haori (Tea & Tattered Pages Press, 2017), Check & Balance (Moria Press/Locofo Chaps, 2017), and Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015). Her collection Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser was selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize and published by Utah State University Press. Her other collections are: Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press). She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, which she directed from 2009-2015. Her website is

Luisa’s Poetry Recommendations:

  • Afterland, Mai Der Vang
  • Calling a Wolf a Wolf, Kaveh Akbar
  • Carpathia, Cecilia Woloch
  • Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay
  • Chord, Rick Barot
  • Eye Level, Jenny Xie
  • Glasshouses, Lighthouses, Tung-hui Hu
  • Khaty Xiong, Poor Anima, Khaty Xiong
  • Living Quarters, Adrienne Su
  • Night Sky With Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong
  • Some Say the Lark, Jennifer Chang
  • Stereo. Island. Mosaic., Vincent Toro
  • Registers of Illuminated Villages, Tarfia Faizullah
  • The Second O of Sorrow, Sean Thomas Dougherty
  • When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further Possibilities, Chen Chen
  • Whereas, Layli Long Soldier

Luisa’s Fiction Recommendations:

  • A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
  • America is Not the Heart, Elaine Castillo
  • Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
  • But For the Lovers, Wilfrido Nolledo
  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  • Mayor of the Roses, Marianne Villanueva
  • Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
  • Smaller and Smaller Circles, F.H. Batacan
  • The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal, Brian Roley
  • The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • The Vagrants, Yiyun Li
  • Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  • Valiant Gentlemen, Sabina Murray

Luisa’s Nonfiction/Hybrid Recommendations:

  • 100 Demons, Lynda Barry
  • America is in the Heart, Carlos Bulosan
  • Blind Spot, Teju Cole
  • Echolalia in Script, Sam Roxas-Chua 姚
  • Kilometer Zero, Wilfredo Pascual, Jr.
  • On Imagination, Mary Ruefle
  • Silver Road, Kazim Ali
  • The Dark Interval, Rainer Maria Rilke
  • The Kepel Fruit, Tung-hui Hu
  • Too Much and Not the Mood, Durga Chew-Bose
  • Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston

Self doesn’t know about you, but she’s itchy to get at more than a few of these books!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Mary Ruefle: From SELECTED POEMS

The last AWP conference was in Seattle. Self roomed with poet Luisa Igloria. When self is with writers from another genre, she loves to pick their brains. So, one day, strolling through the Book Fair, she asked Luisa about her favorite poets, and since we just then happened to be passing a table selling Mary Ruefle, self stopped and purchased a copy of Mary Ruefle: Selected Poems. (Wave Books: Seattle and New York, 2010)

(Oh, did self ever mention to dear blog readers that she brought more poetry collections with her to Mendocino than fiction?)

Anyhoo, today self cracks open Ruefle’s Selected Poems (About time, too: the AWP conference was almost a year ago), and this is the very first poem:

Standing Furthest

All day I have done nothing.
To admonish me a few aspen
jostle beneath puny stars.
I suppose in a rainforest
a draft of hands brought in
the tubers for today, women
scratched their breasts in the sunlight
and smiled: someone somewhere
heard the gossip of exotic birds
and passed it on in the night,
to another, sleeping curled like an ear:
of all things standing furthest
from what is real, stand these trees
shaking with dispensable joy,
or those in their isolation
shading an extraordinary secret.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poem, You Make Self REFLECT

This one’s from The New Yorker of 3 February 2014. Self only began to truly enjoy poetry when she began reading The New Yorker. She adores narrative poetry now. At the latest AWP conference, in Seattle, she bought at least five poetry collections. She is determined to read them all. (She’s lucky, too: her roommate in Seattle was the poet Luisa A. Igloria)

“Ambush at Five O’Clock” (only the first three verses)

by Stephen Dunn

We were by the hedge that separates our properties
when I asked our neighbors about their souls,
I said it with a smile, the way one asks such a thing.
They were somewhat like us, I thought, more
than middle-aged, less dull than most.
Yet they seemed to have no interest
in disputation, our favorite game,
or any of the great national pastimes
like gossip and stories of misfortunes
about people they disliked.

In spite of these differences, kindred
was a word we often felt and used.
The man was shy, though came to life
when he spotted an uncommon bird,
and the woman lively, sometimes even funny
about barometer readings and sudden dips
in pressure, the general state of things.
We liked their affection for each other
and for dogs. We went to their house;
they came to ours.

After I asked about their souls
they laughed and stumbled towards an answer,
then gave up, turned the question back
to me. And because I felt mine always was
in jeopardy I said it went to the movies
and hasn’t been seen since. I said gobbledy
and I said gook. I found myself needing
to fool around, avoid, stay away from myself.

Isn’t that great? The everyday, and the cadence.

And, just like that, self whips out a poem.  But hers is about a man in a white Stetson and his best friend Boyd.

Stay tuned.

1st Friday of March (2014): Reading Poetry

P. 1 of Mary Ruefle's SELECTED POEMS (Wave Books, 2010)

P. 1 of Mary Ruefle’s SELECTED POEMS (Wave Books, 2010)

One good thing about rooming with poet Luisa Igloria during the recent AWP conference in Seattle (three shouts out for Seattle, what a gorgeous city) is that self got to learn a little more about poets.

The AWP Book Fair (where self spent most of her time hanging out) is like a big block party, only 10x better because everyone’s artistic and eccentric.  At the Wave Books table, self saw a display of books by poet Mary Ruefle. Until last week, self had never heard of her (Aaaargh, because self is stupid, OK? In her defense, she’s a fiction writer and she didn’t even recognize probably half the names of the fiction writers on the AWP panels).

Luisa, can we room again at next year’s AWP?  Self would dearly love to do a Part 2 of this personalized crash course on contemporary poets!

At the Book Fair, self picked up a collection of Mary Ruefle’s, and today was the morning she finally had a chance to start reading (Her car’s at the mechanic’s. It flunked the smog test. Her mechanic said it would be around $800 to get the engine to a point where it could pass the smog test. Understandably, self is in no hurry to pick up her car)

The very first poem in the book self purchased (Mary Ruefle:  Selected Poems) is this one:

Standing Furthest

All day I have done nothing.
To admonish me a few aspen
jostle beneath puny stars.
I suppose in a rainforest
a draft of hands brought in
the tubers for today, women
scratched their breasts in the sunlight
and smiled: someone somewhere
heard the gossip of exotic birds
and passed it on in the night
to another, sleeping curled like an ear:
of all things standing furthest
from what is real, stand these trees
shaking with dispensable joy,
or those in their isolation
shading an extraordinary secret.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

GOING HOME TO A LANDSCAPE, Ten Years On: A Poem by Luisa Igloria

2013 is the 10-year anniversary of the publication of Going Home to a Landscape, the Filipino women’s anthology self edited with Virginia Cerenio, and which the wonderful folks at Calyx published.  Amazing.

Over and over, as self pored over the submissions, she was struck about the slipperiness of the concept “Home.”

The title could only have been thus (It was borrowed from a poem by Shirley Ancheta, whose two poems in the anthology were absolutely powerhouse)

Here’s one of the poems, Luisa Igloria’s “Chinatown, Moon Festival” :

The streets branch
like narrow harbors.
During flood time,
the waters rise here,
the color of dry crusts,
old amber, verdigris.

We tell ourselves we have come
in search of curly tree-fungi, seared
eggplants, bamboo shoots — a different
way to return vividness to the jaded
mouth. And because it is the moon’s
festival, we will return bearing
tins of cakes heavy with lotus
seed paste, a thin oil
oozing from the yellow of ducks
eggs, their gilded secret.

In the drugstore down the way,
vegetal roots and animal horns
lie peacably curled in their liquid
solutions. A wave of scent
washes over me — ginseng, hawthorn
root, dark plum, licorice stems.

I breathe it all in, and, breathing, walk
over the little footbridge with torn
paper lanterns, over the creek
with its layers of scum and human refuse.

Later, one evening, I will lift
the last sliver of cake from its box
and my insides will bruise
from a sweetness mingled of all
these forsaken colors. The tongue
will withdraw a little, anticipating
release and remembrance, what it knows
of experience passing away with such

The simplest acts, also the most
extravagant: what we take
into our bodies, the small
gestures of ordinary life —
that knocking at the door of a deeper
hunger; how, after we have entered the foyer,
we want to know what it is that shines
so warmly from behind
the other closed doors.

It’s always taste that brings self back to her childhood over there.

The cover of the book was a painting by Dixie Galapon, a nurse from San Diego: “Tropical Landscape II”

Margarita Donnelly of Calyx at AWP Denver with M. Evelina Galang, and Becky, Calyx's new Senior Editor.  Evelina's in the anthology with an excerpt from her novel, ONE TRIBE.

Margarita Donnelly of Calyx at AWP Denver with M. Evelina Galang, and Becky, Calyx’s new Senior Editor. Evelina’s in the anthology with an excerpt from her novel, ONE TRIBE.

Meme: The Next Big Thing, Courtesy of Luisa Igloria (Answers to the First Four Questions)

This post has to be in two parts, as self is working on a review that needs to be sent in by tomorrow!

Monday (yesterday) self had some dental surgery, and is still experiencing intermittent flashes of pain.

Everything seems to go mad during the holiday season.

But, nevertheless, it’s a great honor to be one of the five writers selected by poet Luisa Igloria to be “the next big thing.”  Here’s how the meme works (Self doing the cut and paste thang, from Luisa’s blog):

My poet friend Seni Seneviratne invited me to participate in this self-interview blog meme called The Next Big Thing, where I get to share a little more about my writing. Writers participating get to answer 8-10 questions (about their book/blog/their writing), and then tag 5 other writer friends to post their own “next big thing” the following Wednesday. Seni’s instructions were for me to post my answers by or before Wednesday, 5 December ~ so here they are!

Self had a whole week to pass on the favor to another five, and these are the five she has chosen, after pondering all week:

And here’s self’s answer to questions # 1 and # 2 (It felt really weird answering these questions with “self” instead of “I,” but what the hey)

1.  What is the working title of your book?

Self has two books she’s working on.  The first is a short story collection, which she calls Magellan’s Mirror.  The collection keeps growing:  basically, it’s all the stories she’s written since about 2006.  That’s  A LOT of stories.  Dozens.  They range from horror to science fiction to her usual dark, despairing narratives of dysfunctional Filipino relationships.  There actually might be a satire or two mixed in there.  And of course, there are a few of self’s favorite form of writing:  flash fiction.  That’s everything from “Stonehenge/Pacifica” (which appeared in Wigleaf), to “Jesters” (which appeared in Used Furniture Review) to “Wavering” (in LITnIMAGE)

The second book is a novel.  The setting is Bacolod during the Japanese Occupation.  She’s gotten it up to almost 300 pages.  She loves working on it, in little dribbles.  She started it three or four years ago.  The working title is The Vanquished.

2.  Where did the idea for the book come from?

From everywhere!  The World War II novel is based on historical research.  Self became very interested in war literature, some time after she got married.  The Man is a military history buff.  All his books are about battles.  Self got to pick up this stuff by osmosis.  Plus, some of her favorite books are war narratives.  The most recent of these would be The 9/11 Commission Final Report (Yes, self does consider that a war narrative), and all the World War II books by Ben MacIntyre, who is one of her favorite nonfiction writers.

The short stories have more various sources of inspiration.  Self writes them fast, and they do begin most of the time with an image, a flash.  If she’s lucky enough to be near her computer, she’ll dash off five or 10 pages at one go.  She’s actually been able to write an entire story in one go, if it’s between 10 and 15 pages.  Each story is an experiment in form or voice or structure or what-not.  They are, each and every story, driven by one over-riding emotion.

Lately, her stories have been getting longer.  So the narrative impulse seems to want “room.”  She’s written a 32-page story, in the last year.  Before this year, her longest stories were 15 pages.

3.  What is the genre of the books?


4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

There’s got to be a part for Keanu Reeves!

Or that androgynous looking guy from “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”

Also, I like Anne Curtis.  And any comedic actor from the Philippines —  I love them all.

Maybe there’d also be a part for Tia Carrere.

(To be continued)

Conversations: Luisa Igloria on Juan Luna

Self missed Luisa Igloria’s reading with Karen Llagas, Joi Barrios and Barbara Jane Reyes, Dec. 6 at the San Francisco Main Library. Luisa’s book, Juan Luna’s Revolver, has just been published by the the University of Notre Dame Press, and self was absolutely ecstatic to get her copy signed, by the author herself, the day before Luisa left the Bay Area.

So there we were, sitting together in self’s humble living room, and self was telling Luisa how much she adored her poetry, and how she loved the collection’s title poem, and Luisa told self that there was another Juan Luna, apparently a mass murderer in Texas who’d had his killing spree at a McDonald’s, and when you google “Juan Luna,” more than likely the hits you get are all about the murderer. Which information self found extremely fascinating. (And, just to show why self can never, ever be a reporter, Luisa Igloria sends self a gentle correction this evening: “The other Juan Luna was a guy in Palatine, IL, who went on a shooting rampage with his high school buddy in a Brown’s Chicken fast food place there – I think this was sometime in 1993 — !!!)

Juan Luna, bless his heart, was apparently so dismayed by reports of his wife’s purported infidelity because he never considered her attractive. So, to make up for this really unforgivable oversight, he killed both his wife and his mother-in-law, but apparently did not serve time in jail (how fortunate for him), but didn’t live long, either, afterwards.

And, self perusing the latest issue of Filipinas Magazine this morning, sees that — whoa! — a newly discovered painting by aforementioned painter/cad/murderer was unearthed and auctioned off by Christie’s Hong Kong (painting is entitled “Las Damas Romanas” and features two European ladies languidly posed on some marble/stone steps, while one of the ladies restrains two very thin, whippet-like dogs on a leash). And this work, which was signed and dated “Luna Roman 1883” fetched over a million US dollars.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.


Available for pre-ordering

2009 Winner of the Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry


By Luisa Igloria

From the publisher’s website:

The poems in Juan Luna’ s Revolver both address history and attempt to transcend it through their exploration of the complexity of diaspora. Attending to the legacy of colonial and postcolonial encounters, Luisa A. Igloria has crafted poems that create links of sympathetic human understanding, even as they revisit difficult histories and pose necessary questions about place, power, displacement, nostalgia, beauty, and human resilience in conditions of alienation and duress.

Igloria traces journeys made by Filipinos in the global diaspora that began since the encounter with European and American colonial power. Her poems allude to historical figures such as the Filipino painter Juan Luna and the novelist and national hero José Rizal, as well as the eleven hundred indigenous Filipinos brought to serve as live exhibits in the 1904 Missouri World’s Fair. The image of the revolver fired by Juan Luna reverberates throughout the collection, raising to high relief how separation and exile have shaped concepts of identity, nationality, and possibility.

Suffused with gorgeous imagery and nuanced emotion, Igloria’s poetry achieves an intimacy fostered by gem-like phrases set within a politically-charged context speaking both to the personal and the collective.

Luisa A. Igloria is an associate professor in the MFA creative writing program at Old Dominion University. The winner of numerous national and international creative writing awards, she is the author of nine books.

A Fierce Review of a Fierce Book

Here’s an excerpt from an early review of Luisa Igloria’s latest collection, Juan Luna’s Revolver (just luuuv that title):

Luisa A. Igloria’s Juan Luna’s Revolver is a fierce work. It is a collection that queries the place of contemporary Filipino American subjectivity as it collides against material histories that require excavation. What does travel and tourism mean in the contemporary moment, especially when placed up against the ways in which Filipinos were once employed as live exhibits at the 1904 Worlds Fair and Exposition held in St. Louis, Missouri? The idea of the Filipino as diasporic subject is clearly figured as the grounding politic of the collection. As the lyric speaker moves from one location to another, various poems situate the movement of Filipinos to all parts of the world, including those that came to America on Spanish Galleons, and an artist who travels to France, among other such trajectories.

Check out the rest of the review, here.

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