Luisa Igloria On Writing

For the past year or so I’ve been a fan of Luisa Igloria’s poetry. Her command of phrase and imagery is an inspiration for me. This morning I came across an interview with her at this site:

Writing Our Way Home

That site, by the way, is an interesting resource for writers and readers and seems to have spawned a vibrant on-line community.

How do you keep creating when things get difficult?

I used to moan and whine a lot about not having, or finding, enough time in the day/week/month/year to “get to my writing”. That’s most likely a function of wearing a number of hats at the same time: I’m a full time parent and spouse at the same time that I’m a full time academic. Finally I got tired of hearing myself complain, and have had to learn to squirrel away moments in the day to feed that part of me where the writing comes from.

Perhaps some day we’ll find that ideal world where we can have time for everything, but right now the medley of all that claims one’s attention is the reality for most of us. I used to look forward to summers, and applying for some kind of writing retreat or residency (have gone to some really nice ones too, over the years). But that’s not always something one can count on with any regularity.

So I appreciate what the last 287+ days writing a poem a day on Dave Bonta’s Via Negativa site (beginning with a prompt I find at his Morning Porch site) have helped me to achieve– the space, and ability, to keep sharply focused on nothing but writing for even just thirty to forty minutes a day. I could swear by it now – by how daily writing practice does make you limber, trains the mind and the senses to pay attention, so you can quickly get to that place where spontaneous generation can take place and you can use language, image, sound to cut even momentarily through the noise and crap, all the baggage we lug around everyday.

Luisa teaches on the faculty of Old Dominion University, where she directs the MFA Creative Writing Program.

In closing I’ll present an example of her fine poetry:

Todos los Santos

The gravestones are damp, shiny with recent rain.
Everyone we’ve ever loved sleeps beneath this ground,

smelling the grass, letting weather trickle into bones
that lie in their beds, broken rosaries wound through

what once were fingers clasped across the chest.
At their feet, pairs of good leather shoes, tightly

rolled blankets not yet riddled with holes.
In trouser pockets, soft bills, loose change.

A gold tooth that’s fallen into a circle of ash.
How long has it been like this? Soon, hundreds of

little flames flower atop white-washed tombs.
Moths in the branches sift smoke from their wings.

—Luisa A. Igloria
10 26 2011

This poem was inspired by one of Dave Bonta’s Morning Porch series of deliberately short poems:

The walk is shiny with recent rain, and the west wind is damp and full of sounds from the valley: tires humming, the heavy thrum of a train.

Dave and Luisa have a very fruitful call-and-response collaboration, with new poems every day. I observe from afar and offer comments occasionally.




Filed under Poetry

4 responses to “Luisa Igloria On Writing

  1. Joan

    That’s a very evocative poem. Something about me really likes grave poems. As long a they are about people I don’t know. Good time of year for grave poems. Wish Bonta would get his English ones published as he did the Tools book. Maybe do some American graves to go with. I’m a compulsive hard copy freak.

    I have read Luisa’s interview before. It’s a good tribute to her discipline. Ron Powers, who wrote wonderful biographies of Mark Twain used to say that his target was 3 chapters a day. He also said that rewriting was as important as writing. Sooo in that case, Luisa is superwoman. 45 minutes a day and such quality!! Also.. she is a mother, as well as spouse and academic. That’s a lot of hats to juggle and still find time to write.

    I’m always astounded at how prolific Luisa is, and with the agility with which she incorporates Dave’s morning porch poems into her own. A few days ago a morning porch post about a bird’s ‘scarlet crests glowing in the sun,’ turned into the ‘ scarlet-flushed, hydraulic, banded muscle’ (her pounding heart ) in a poem about a neighborhood police event.

  2. Joan

    P.S. Bonta just posted a photo of 51, 7th grade postcards strung on yarn. Each had written a poem inspired by Dave’s poem written in August 2011, “If There Were Ghosts” Commenters as well had submitted poems. Since it was a good time of year to read ghost poems, I re-read comments and found this one by Bev Wigney, which is just too good not to post in total.


    If there were ghosts
    they would be
    brooding malevolent
    derelict houses.

    they would spy
    through cracks in siding,
    skeleton key holes,
    and the gap ‘tween
    door and jamb.

    they would drop windows
    with a smash,
    flinging shards of glass
    across slanted floors.

    their rust-seized hinges
    would squeal
    and shriek,
    while mysterious thuds
    erupted from root cellars.

    their ill-fitting panes
    would sigh and moan
    like tones issuing
    from a dissonant
    aeolian harp.

    punky cornice mouldings
    would break loose
    at inopportune times,
    flipping tall ladders

    pull-cord lamp fixtures
    would flicker eerily
    then spit forth
    crackling sparks and
    plumes of smoke.

    if there were ghosts,
    they would be derelict houses
    with doorsteps fashioned
    of salvaged tombstones.

  3. bev

    Thanks for reposting my ghosts poem, Joan. I had actually forgotten I had written it! I may take it to a potluck dinner where some people in this town gather to read their wriings.

  4. Joan

    You are most welcome. Now I have two Bev poems discovered on Bonta’s blog, and one comes with a voice. 🙂 Have a good dinner!

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