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In celebration of April National Poetry Month 2015, POETRY DAILY is once more featuring week-day POETS’ PICKS

Luisa A. Igloria’s Poetry Month Pick, April 8, 2015

“[God gave a Loaf to every Bird —]”
by Emily Dickinson (1830-1986)

God gave a Loaf to every Bird –
But just a Crumb – to Me –
I dare not
eat it – tho’
I starve –
My poignant luxury –

To own it – touch it –
Prove the feat – that made
the Pellet mine –
Too happy – for my Sparrow’s chance –
For Ampler Coveting –

It might be Famine – all around –
I could not miss an Ear –
Such Plenty smiles opon my Board –
My Garner shows so fair –

I wonder how the Rich – may feel –
An Indiaman – An Earl –
I deem that I – with but a Crumb –
Am Sovreign of them all –

(The above version is a transcript from a manuscript from
Poems: Packet XVIII, Fascicle 36
Includes 22 poems, written in ink, dated ca. 1863
Emily Dickinson Archive)

*

God gave a loaf to every bird,
But just a crumb to me;
I dare not eat it, though I starve,—
My poignant luxury
To own it, touch it, prove the feat
That made the pellet mine,—
Too happy in my sparrow chance
For ampler coveting.

It might be famine all around,
I could not miss an ear,
Such plenty smiles upon my board,
My garner shows so fair.
I wonder how the rich may feel,—
An Indiaman—an Earl?
I deem that I with but a crumb
Am sovereign of them all.

(The above version is set out as it appears in Poems, by Emily Dickinson, edited by T. W. Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1892)

* Luisa A. Igloria Comments:

Dear Emily,

It is this poem, of all your poems, I keep returning to through the years: its dark, hard pellet around which my hand, knuckle-fisted, has closed; but which, whenever I open my palm again to look, I find has expanded, like a piece of fermented, spongy bread. A living thing; sustainable, sustaining.

So much has already been written about this and your other poems that have the theme of stoic abstention in the face of hardship: given “just a Crumb,” you “dare not eat it— tho’ [you] starve—” Here you show how the contemplative self or heart, diminutive like a bird and dwelling in its spare isolation, must feel when regarding the comparative wealth of others and the plenitude of other ways of being in the world. The self that is less abundantly blessed, that has less of an ability to possess the object/s of its desire, comes to find solace in its spartan practices. A little becomes the world, a crumb becomes “poignant luxury.”

I often wonder what it was that might have specifically occasioned this poem. Forgive me, but perhaps because I am a person of color, a woman born and raised in a third world country, where the poor are visible everywhere one looks, I cannot read this poem without considering how it is an indictment of poverty— no, not poverty itself but those seemingly invisible and abstract forces which control the distribution of wealth, of what we call luck or chance: “God gave a Loaf to every Bird -/ But just a Crumb – to Me -“

And while I know the poem speaks perhaps to more metaphorical and internal experiences of stringency, I cannot help but read it too against the braided contexts of race, gender, and power, and their concrete effects on real lives.

You mention “the Rich-” the “Earl[s]” and “Indiam[e]n” who came into their fortunes through the indentured labor of others. I read in the dictionary that an Indiaman is “a large ship formerly used by European and North American merchants on trade routes to India, East or Southeast Asia, or the West Indies.” I think of how they brought back to the New World precious metals, spices, scrolls, statuary, as chains of brown bodies rowed in the hold and birds scattered in every direction, making small dark marks in the sky.

And so this is how I have come to know those internal reserves of which you speak in this poem: how having less can teach one to develop the resilience needed to survive, how a “Pellet” can be extravagant treasure when held against those longer times of seemingly endless deprivation and “Ampler Coveting.” You might as well have subtitled the poem “The Art of Making Do.”

Your poem’s alchemy consists, for me, in its ability to lead through its language and juxtapositions, to the idea of a transformation that is almost spiritual— To show how I, “with but a Crumb -” might yet find internal reserves that are independent of external circumstance. It’s a paradoxical idea, one that is especially difficult to comprehend because there can be so much evidence called up to thwart it.

But it’s that crumb of hope that has become precious to me, that is the real “Sovereign:” the idea that reversals are possible, despite history.

Gratefully,
Luisa

About Luisa A. Igloria:

Luisa A. Igloria is the author of the eChapbook Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press, spring 2015); Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press), Night Willow: Prose Poems (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014), The Saints of Streets (2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, 2005), and 8 other books. Luisa has degrees from the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was a Fulbright Fellow from 1992-1995. She currently teaches in and directs the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University. For more than four years now, since November 20, 2010, Luisa A. Igloria has been writing (at least) a poem a day; these poems are archived on Dave Bonta’s Via Negativa website.

 

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Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.

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Looking forward to spring…

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…and to the spring equinox (March 20, 2015) release of Kudzu House Press/Kudzu House Quarterly‘s first eChapbook Selection, my BRIGHT AS MIRRORS LEFT IN THE GRASS \o/

Copying KHQ’s announcement here:

“We are so pleased to announce Kudzu House Quarterly’s first eChapbook issue, Spring Equinox (5.1) will be:
BRIGHT AS MIRRORS LEFT IN THE GRASS

Poems by Luisa A. Igloria
Here is what our poetry editor had to say about the work:
In Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass, Luisa A. Igloria’s poems attempt to yoke us to the phenomenal world. They show us that nature is around us and within us, but it’s not completely describable; “nature” entails what’s “hidden, that gleam / constellations away.” In its pursuit of both the mysterious and knowable in nature, Bright as Mirrors recalls Emerson and Thoreau. Igloria praises the celestial and the quotidian, the museum artifact and “the broken mismatched part.” Her speakers—one of whom compares herself to dust on the outer fringes of a constellation—still seek the evidence that stands for a living thing’s mark on the world, from the milk trail a worm leaves behind to the “spark struck on the heel of a boot.” These are poems that invite the reader to experience the brief but beautiful moment that a flower effloresces—for its own sake, but also because it mirrors our own brief flourishing.”

*

Please go back to Kudzu House Quarterly this coming Friday to read the entire eChapbook; I am told that toward the end of the year, the poems will be included in a print edition.

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Maraming salamat!!!

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On Thursday, February 5, the English Department of Utah State University will present a poetry reading by Luisa A. Igloria, the 2014 winner of USU’s May Swenson Poetry Prize for her book, Ode to the Heart Smaller Than a Pencil Eraser. The reading will be held at noon in room 101 of the Merrill-Cazier Library.

Igloria is the author of several other award-winning books of poetry, including Juan Luna’s Revolver, which won the 2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry, Night Willow from Phoenicia Publishing (Montreal), and 10 other books.

(Photo credits: Rich-Joseph Facun)

(Photo credits: Rich-Joseph Facun)

Luisa will also be presented at a reading on Friday, February 6, in Brigham Young University’s English Reading Series. This reading is scheduled for noon at the Harold B. Lee Library Auditorium.

Both events are and open to the public.

For more information:

Michael Sowder (USU)
(435) 797-7100
michael.sowder at usu.edu   or

Stephen Tuttle (BYU)
(801) 422-4425
stephen_tuttle at byu.edu

Celebrating the poetry vendors!

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Congratulations to the excellent Dave Bonta, on his milestone 6000th post at Via Negativa yesterday (where he has graciously accorded me the status of co-blogger since 2010).

Yesterday, it was also my FOURTH year anniversary of writing (at least) a poem a day – they’re all archived at Via Negativa – so, double huzzah!

Dave created this fun video to commemorate the occasion.

The Saints of Streets wins 2014 Gintong Aklat Award

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10582935_10152480327748929_5819972776843534155_oPostcard The Saint of Streets, front

 

Maraming salamat sa Dakilang Pinagmulan!

Thank you to all you wonderful readers and supporters ~

I’ve just learned that my poetry book THE SAINTS OF STREETS (UST Publishing House, 2013) has won a 2014 Gintong Aklat (Golden Book) Award!!!

Reposting here, some links to recent Reviews:

Christian Anton Gerard at The Rumpus

Henry Leung at Lantern Review

Mookie Katigbak Lacuesta at Philippine Graphic

Robbi Nester at the New York Journal of Books

Elizabeth Lolarga at Postively Filipino

Rina Angela Corpus at GMA Network News

Poems at The Poetry Storehouse

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Mil gracias to poet and filmmaker Nic Sebastian, who has just let me know tonight that my poems are up (with audio) on The Poetry Storehouse ~

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So then, dear friends and potential collaborators, do check out the Remixers’ Guidelines and further, the Remixers’ Guidelines for Poetry.