Interview By Valerie Horres.
Luisa A. Igloria’s poem “Status, News Feed, Most Recent, Last” can be found on page 51 of Vol. 6.1.
VH: What there some particular event that sparked the creation of this poem? What was the inspiration for this piece?
Luisa A. Igloria: I’m going to have to confess that I initially wrote this poem as part of a submission for another journal’s call for Facebook-themed poems. I wrote two for that submission, but they didn’t interest the editors at that journal, after all. I continued to work on the poems, though–this one in particular engaged me most because I liked the mixture of tones emerging in it: upbeat, perhaps in some places a little cavalier or a wee bit punk, maybe even borderline irreverent, but also increasingly, toward the end, earnest and wistful. The title is of course self-explanatory: “Status, News Feed, Most Recent, Last.”
VH: How did you go about picking the images for the poem? Was there one that you started with and the rest follow? What was your process to create this poem?
LAI: This second question is related to the first one–so I’ll continue by saying that after I decided to write the poem as an abecedarian, other decisions seemed fairly easy to manage. I knew that because of the subject of the poem–which is in part the sheer welter of information that comes through the specific social networking experience that is Facebook, and also the randomness of such information–I wanted to arrive at some satisfying emotional justification for all the different images that came into it.
Picking images was easy–I simply looked at my Facebook news feed when I was writing–the poem gives away the date (June 01 last year) I was working on it; and it’s true that on that day a number of news sources (New York Times, etc.) ran the headline of the story about sculptor/visual artist Louise Bourgeois’ death. I didn’t lift lines whole from other people’s status posts – but I think I worked in some of the typical threads one might encounter there – those that write environmental/nature-themed posts (Earth Hour), those who write about where they’ve recently traveled, those who play games (Farmville etc.), gush about tv shows (Glee, etc.)
The last few lines of my poem echo a sentiment that many other poems have written of in their own way and in their own time — about the weird or wonderful serendipity of human encounters, and that despite the odds, they can and do happen.
VH: You write “O agony and ecstasy, our lot on this blue-green/ planet.” Are those two feelings the only ones we can experience? Is there a way to lessen the agony and extend the ecstasy, or is there reason for experiencing both?
LAI: You ask, “are those two feelings the only ones we can experience?” I like to think not; only, they do seem to define some of the extremes of human experience. I believe in nuance. But in this particular line or part of the poem, I think I’m speaking to the idea that the reason we recognize one state is because we also know the other. I don’t know if there is something in my particular upbringing or background that has predisposed me to such a worldview, but I believe that all experience is yoked to its opposite; that we are capable of deep feeling to me signifies that we have also opened ourselves deeply to everything that life might offer of both pleasure and suffering. We need to experience both because our understanding would be imperfect and untrue if we only knew one state. Is there a way to lessen the agony and extend the ecstasy? I don’t know that a formula for that has been discovered — but I think that poets try to find some respite, or some way at least to meet experience more deeply–in language.
Luisa A. Igloria is the author of Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame), Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, 2005), and eight 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. Originally from Baguio City, she teaches on the faculty of Old Dominion University, where she currently directs the MFA Creative Writing Program. She keeps her radar tuned for cool lizard sightings. To visit her website go to www.luisaigloria.com.