Published March 6, 2021

Luisa A. Igloria, author of Maps for Migrants and Ghosts, a co-recipient of the 2020 Crab Orchard Poetry Open, thirteen other books of poetry, and four chapbooks, is originally from Baguio City. She has also received the 2015 Resurgence Poetry Prize and the 2014 May Swenson Prize. In July 2020, Gov. Ralph Northam appointed her for a two-year term as the 20th Poet Laureate of Virginia. She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University.

Get to know Luisa in this Q&A and then join us on Sunday, March 21 at 7 PM EST as part of the all-virtual 2021 Virginia Festival of the Book to hear her discuss her work in Indigenous Poetry: Language as a Map Home.

Festival: What motivated you to become a poet? 

Igloria: Even prior to the idea of “motivation,” I think the most important thing that paved the way for my writing was becoming an early reader. Beyond that, the idea of possibility offered through language and the imagination.

Who or what are some of your creative influences?

Some, in no particular order:

  • Mothers
  • Stories about impossible tasks in myth or fable or fairy tale
  • Tango music
  • Cartography
  • Visual arts: graphite drawings, pen and ink, watercolor, collage
  • Indigenous arts and colonial histories

What was your favorite part about writing your poetry collection?

Using bits of research for layering in poems. Also, the cover art: work by the legendary artist Santiago “Santi” Bose.

Do you have any sources of inspiration that you come back to while writing?

  • Federico Garcia Lorca
  • Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Female surrealist painters
  • Histories of Baguio and the Philippines

What impact or takeaway do you hope your work will have for readers? 

That the poems make readers think about their own relationships to place/to origin/to the idea of home, and other “irretrievable” subjects.

Describe how a book changed your life or perspective.

When I was five years old, my mother gave me Magnificence, a book of short stories in English by the (Philippine) writer Estrella D. Alfon; on its cover, she inscribed the wish that I would also inherit a life of words.

What is something that you’ve read recently and would recommend to others?

  • Sadiqa de Meijer’s alfabet/alphabet—a beautiful memoir of living in multiple languages.
  • Grace Talusan’s memoir The Body Papers
  • Rick Barot’s The Galleons
  • Kathryn Yusoff’s A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None
  • Paisley Rekdal’s Appropriate: A Provocation

What are you working on next?

A collection of poems that look at how the blueprint for some of the crises we are experiencing today—the effects of climate change and the decimation of indigenous ways of knowing among them—were laid out centuries ago in part through the creation of colonial outposts and hill stations.

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