New Via Negativa-derived book in the works: Buddha poems by Luisa A. Igloria

Phoenicia Publsihing logoBreaking news this morning from Phoenicia Publishing:

Phoenicia Publishing is delighted to announce that a new book of poems by Luisa A. Igloria, The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-life Crisis, will be published in March 2018. This is a collection of 53 “Buddha poems” that Luisa wrote in early 2016, many of which have appeared online at Via Negativa, where she has posted a new poem every day since November 2010.

The author says these poems began from the premise that “if the Buddha in me can greet the Buddha in you,” then the aspiration to transcendence is a daily work in progress. She writes about the constant seesaw between our appetite for worldly things and the hunger for deeper permanence; about our human imperfections and foibles; and our longing to be touched by grace, if not love and absolution, in this lifetime.

The post goes on to suggest that interested readers subscribe to their email newsletter so they won’t miss the announcement of the pre-order sale, which I guess we can expect sometime in February.

This will be Luisa’s second book with Phoenicia, following Night Willow in 2014, and her first full-length collection since Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press). Both those books, along with two subsequent chapbooks, also consisted mainly of poems first drafted for Luisa’s ongoing poem-a-day practice at Via Negativa. (Visit her website for links to all of her books still in print.)


She asks for ice in a cup, then later
takes a hot water bottle to bed.

She stuffs strips of foil in the cracks
around the door frame, weighing again

if she has loved enough. Through the night,
the wind brandishes its hundred knives.

The eaves rattle as though the roof
were made of straw. Two blocks away,

the river has gone quiet under a quilt
of ice. This is just the beginning—

Everything leans inward or into itself,
but holds on to some fragment: the way

back out into the open lit by a moon
which paints even the smallest shadow silver.


Up, and it being a most fine, hard frost I walked a good way toward White Hall, and then being overtaken with Sir W. Pen’s coach, went into it, and with him thither, and there did our usual business with the Duke. Thence, being forced to pay a great deale of money away in boxes (that is, basins at White Hall), I to my barber’s, Gervas, and there had a little opportunity of speaking with my Jane alone, and did give her something, and of herself she did tell me a place where I might come to her on Sunday next, which I will not fail, but to see how modestly and harmlessly she brought it out was very pretty. Thence to the Swan, and there did sport a good while with Herbert’s young kinswoman without hurt, though they being abroad, the old people. Then to the Hall, and there agreed with Mrs. Martin, and to her lodgings which she has now taken to lie in, in Bow Streete, pitiful poor things, yet she thinks them pretty, and so they are for her condition I believe good enough. Here I did ‘ce que je voudrais avec’ her most freely, and it having cost 2s. in wine and cake upon her, I away sick of her impudence, and by coach to my Lord Brunker’s, by appointment, in the Piazza, in Covent-Guarding; where I occasioned much mirth with a ballet I brought with me, made from the seamen at sea to their ladies in town; saying Sir W. Pen, Sir G. Ascue, and Sir J. Lawson made them. Here a most noble French dinner and banquet, the best I have seen this many a day and good discourse. Thence to my bookseller’s and at his binder’s saw Hooke’s book of the Microscope, which is so pretty that I presently bespoke it, and away home to the office, where we met to do something, and then though very late by coach to Sir Ph. Warwicke’s, but having company with him could not speak with him. So back again home, where thinking to be merry was vexed with my wife’s having looked out a letter in Sir Philip Sidney about jealousy for me to read, which she industriously and maliciously caused me to do, and the truth is my conscience told me it was most proper for me, and therefore was touched at it, but tooke no notice of it, but read it out most frankly, but it stucke in my stomach, and moreover I was vexed to have a dog brought to my house to lime our little bitch, which they make him do in all their sights, which, God forgive me, do stir my jealousy again, though of itself the thing is a very immodest sight.
However, to cards with my wife a good while, and then to bed.

in fine hard boxes
how harmlessly
the old people lie

yet I believe in wine and cake

at the banquet I was jealous
of my stomach

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 2 January 1665.

Nowhere to hide (erasure poem)

section of the cover of The Argonauts

section of the cover of The Argonauts

The turn to a paternal god comes
on the heels of where you end and others take.
The mother’s rage within her power
provides the me and the not-me she may not make.
Why does delivery come at such cost?
What is the rage we should withstand?
The infant’s lack, and so her own,
bathe in the sun to soothe a wound, to fill a void.
Maternal finitude could satisfy desire for anything;
the word I write could value what I am,
what I have lived. There is nowhere to hide the suffering.

Maggie Nelson: The Argonauts, Melville House UK, pp. 119-121

How I lived through that time

Two years I took the midnight bus to get to work
6 hours from home; and stayed the week in the city,
surviving on ramen, fast food meals, coffee.

On Fridays, I caught the last trip and leaned
my head against the window, watching the landscape
change: pedicabs snaked through slow-moving traffic,

billboards and construction cranes gave way
to darkened skies with here and there a small
purse of coins. Sometimes, hard rain and mud

forced detours; or an engine break in the middle
of the night. Passengers sat by the road, swatting
mosquitos and waiting for the conductor who’d hailed

a passing vehicle to return from the station with another
bus. When at last I let myself in the door, everyone was long
asleep in the deepest cave before morning broke. No one heard

me pick through a trail of children’s toys and books strewn
in the hall, putting them back by touch on the shelves. As
in dreams, time passed either too slowly, or much too fast.

Trying to meet myself coming and going, undressing before
bed, I tried to learn from the mirror how not to confuse
stillness with emptiness, silence with suffering.


(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed, having been busy late last night, then up and to my office, where upon ordering my accounts and papers with respect to my understanding my last year’s gains and expense, which I find very great, as I have already set down yesterday. Now this day I am dividing my expense, to see what my clothes and every particular hath stood me in: I mean all the branches of my expense.
At noon a good venison pasty and a turkey to ourselves without any body so much as invited by us, a thing unusuall for so small a family of my condition: but we did it and were very merry. After dinner to my office again, where very late alone upon my accounts, but have not brought them to order yet, and very intricate I find it, notwithstanding my care all the year to keep things in as good method as any man can do.
Past 11 o’clock home to supper and to bed.

night gains all
the branches
of my body

as small and intricate
as any clock

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 1 January 1665.