Luisa A. Igloria says: This Helps

Luisa A IgloriaToday I’d like to introduce poet Luisa A. Igloria, the latest interview in celebration of my new book, ‘What Helps: Sixty Slogans to Live By.

What slogan helps you?
The one I think of most of the time is an Ilocano saying. Both my parents were/are Ilocano, and I remember my elders offering it in various situations, as I was growing up: “Saan nga maydaysa iti aldaw.” The literal translation is something like “Today is not the only day” or “There is more than just this day.”

How does this slogan help you?
I never gave it too much thought growing up, but as an adult I really came to appreciate the wisdom in this simple, homegrown/folk saying.

My sense is that it’s not something completely original only in my family; rather, that there may be variants of this saying familiar to other communities where I grew up in the Philippines (Baguio City up north in the Cordillera region of the Philippines).

It reminds me that things change all the time, and that whatever is overpowering or overwhelming in one moment (whether it is joyful or painful) is not a permanent condition. It also reminds me to find that centering place in any strong or overpowering experience so that I don’t completely get swept away.

It’s also perfect for thinking through the large or small moments of triumph or despair (which sometimes feel joined at the hip, actually) in writing – for instance, whenever we’ve felt successful at capturing the essence of something in language, there can also be a kind of underlying terror or anxiety after the rush of elation: that feeling of “I don’t know if I could ever do something like that again!”

How have you seen this slogan help others?
In my personal context, I’ve offered the same saying to my daughters, to try and help them think through difficult situations. There’s something balancing and grounding about the idea of not forgetting where you are, who you are, in the scale of time and things.

What else helps you when you feel stuck, when you are suffering, or when you are in need of inspiration?
Poetry of course. Reading others’ words does this for me. It reassures me that I am– we are– not the only one/s.

What advice do you need to remind yourself of the most often?
In the swirl and seemingly increasing oppressiveness and chaos of every day, more and more I feel the need to prioritize: to keep the most basic and important things in sight– family, friendships, love, kindness.

Luisa A. Igloria is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of the chapbooks Haori(Tea & Tattered Pages Press, 2017), Check & Balance (Moria Press/Locofo Chaps, 2017), and  Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015); plus the full length works The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, March 2018), 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 (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, which she directed from 2009-2015.

Read the other This Helps interviews as they appear here. These interviews are in celebration of my new book, ‘What Helps: Sixty Slogans to Live By‘.