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Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Swenson Poetry Award) Paperback – September 15, 2014
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Dave Bonta, editor of Via Negativa and MovingPoems.com
"Luisa A. Igloria establishes herself as a singular and revelatory voice in American poetry . . . Her engrossing poems hide, behind their gorgeous scrims, a bristling wall of spears."
Sabina Murray, author of Tales of the New World; A Carnivore's Inquiry and The Caprices (winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award)
"These are poems whose gaze is as public as it is personal, and whose desire is to bring us into conversation with others by reminding us of the instances in which our language, whether fragmented or fluid, makes us part of a larger river of voices, a chorus as old as humanity itself. Through Igloria's poems we encounter the wisdom gleaned from looking backward and forward at once. Her ability to do so makes this collection, as well as her other work, an exercise in time travel well worth making."
Dorianne Laux, author of The Book of Men, The Book of Women, and Facts about the Moon
About the Author
Luisa A. Igloria is professor of creative writing and English and director of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University. Beyond the ten books she has previously published, her work has appeared or been accepted in numerous anthologies and journals, including Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, The Missouri Review, Indiana Review, Poetry East, Umbrella, Sweet, qarrtsiluni, poemeleon, Smartish Pace, Rattle, The North American Review, Bellingham Review, Shearsman (UK), PRISM International (Canada), Poetry Salzburg Review (Austria), The Asian Pacific American Journal, and TriQuarterly. Originally from Baguio City in the Philippines, Igloria has four daughters and now makes her home in Virginia with most of her family.
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Igloria is very unconventional and makes two things that seem to be so distant from each other relate to each other. "Fire might dampen, doubt flicker in the mind's unfinished winter." A lot of the lines in the poems are very vivid, one reaches a clear imagery. For example "the woman at the window sees the moon not yet completely seated in the sky, half a pair of pearl earrings," you can see exactly the way the moon is verses if she had just said moon. Poems like "Spangled" are rather blunt, "You think you know but you don't know s*** about what we've been through."
The author doesn't dwell too much on the emotional side of things but mostly focus on providing an imagery of the physical world. "I am cry cracked Bodi leaves that falls from the tree." I think tests our imaginations and make us see things differently than what we're used to. Also I adore the way Igloria's unpredictable description of human nature juxtaposes with the physical nature. She talks about nature using personification. I can tell that nature is something very important to the author. It may be that the tropical climate of her home country allows people to be outside. The poems are very contemporary and can be applied to current events. In another poem called "Boy," she echoes the Trayvon Martin tragedy with, "...this other boy who walked to the corner convenience store, for a can of soda and a bag of sweets: under his hood, this boy." I did want to see more poems that lent more to the emotional side of things because that was my preference.
A reader can surely find a piece of himself in these poems. Most importantly she allows us to see that we are nature just like the trees, the sky and the moon. We are nature too. Knowing this allows us to see and grasp our purpose and what it means to be human. That its beautiful, mystical and wonderful. It's everything that we can allow it to be as long as it makes us who we are and makes us better people.
Each verse is tucked into Igloria’s Filipino background, exploring goddesses and exotic fruits and words I don’t know how to pronounce. The details of this fascinating, far-away civilization contrasts with those of America’s (Igloria’s long-term residence) industrialized busyness. This clash of the old and the new, of childhood and adulthood, wraps Igloria’s poems in a cloak of mystery for those of us who are ignorant of such culture. The poems thus invite us to dig in, learn more, and find out how we connect with that other world that Igloria displays so expertly in her work.
This collection makes perfect reading for a sunny spring afternoon, complete with the quiet fragrance of wildflowers, the silent aura of a hummingbird, and the whisperings of a mountain breeze.
Actually, it makes perfect reading for any day, but you may want to choose a day like this in order to get the most out of it.
In between the fricatives of the air, you may just be able to hear the purr of the hummingbird’s heartbeat.
“Boy” flinches less abstractly. It’s about a boy, shot with a gun while recorded by a security camera. The shooting man is white and the boy is thirteen and the boy stole only a soda and some candy. It very directly refers to the Trayvon Martin case and how unflinchingly many responded to it. It hinges on the line, “And the boy that, surely, once in his life, the white/ man brandishing the gun must have been? Only a boy,/ each of them.” Trayvon Martin was very quickly reduced by unflinching people to a point proved. Like Igloria says, “how does he become less than a boy?” What does it say if we don’t flinch at a tragedy such as this? The first response to a boy stuck in a broken structure, shot in a misunderstanding by a scared man with common preconceptions about race, can’t be that the boy was doing shady things and that disqualified him and he was actually purchasing things for drugs and he wasn’t as sweet and innocent as they want us to believe and he is exactly as dubious as we expected he was and good kids don’t put themselves in situations where they get shot. How does this make him less than a boy?
Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser is a call to empathy. It is a tender and fully voiced prayer for the small things overlooked and trampled.