Ten years of daily poeming! It was November 20, 2010 when Luisa A. Igloria began her amazing daily writing exercise, originally prompted by a post of mine at The Morning Porch. I soon invited her to become a contributor to the blog, sensing that it would not only expand readership, but also help revive my own flagging interest in daily blogging. I did get some push-back from long-time readers who didn’t want anything to ever change, but Via Negativa had already changed significantly from the early years, when I was more apt to post 5000-word brain dumps than poems. By the late aughts, VN had become that dreaded sort of blog where the author posts his own half-baked drafts and doesn’t seem to ever bother submitting them anywhere. Blogging itself had suffered a radical decline in fashionability with the rise of social media.
Luisa brought not only a fresh voice and virtuoso talent, but as a multiple award-winning author and director (at the time) of a university writing program, she has pioneered a unique path for online poets: flaunting the general taboo in academic circles against self-publishing while still keeping a hand in the regular submissions process. And due in part to her phenomenal ability to win blind contests, publicly sharing her drafts here doesn’t seem to have hurt her ability to land manuscripts with book and chapbook publishers at all. Not to mention her selection as Virginia Poet Laureate! In fact, her daily writing practice appears to have been a factor in leading the committee to choose her.
Of course, writing is its own reward, and being able at some point every day to get into the headspace where poetry happens is a great gift. As Luisa told the Richmond Free Press in September, her practice is a “pleasure and high point of each day.”
I look forward to that part of the day, not rigidly scheduled, when I claim that window of time to sit down and write a poem. I think this is just because poetry is the place I prefer to go in order to think through and feel and process things.
If I stress Luisa’s publishing success, it’s not because I feel that’s the ultimate measure of writing achievement, but from a conventional standpoint, it’s certainly a vindication of this poetry-blogging model. (Blogs that are mainly about poetry will always get way more traffic than we do, so if you want to actually make money on the internet, this is not the way to go!) So with that said, let me paste in a list of all Luisa’s books and chapbooks where a significant portion of the content debuted at Via Negativa.
- Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014)
- Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (winner of the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Award, judged by Mark Doty; Utah State University Press, 2014)
- Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Spring 2015 e-chapbook selection, Kudzu House Quarterly/Kudzu House Press)
- Haori (Tea & Tattered Pages Press, April 2017)
- Check & Balance (Locofo Chaps, Moria Press, Chicago; 2017)
- What is Left of Wings, I Ask (Center for the Book Arts, NY; 2018 CBA Letterpress Chapbook Poetry Prize, selected by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey; September 2018)
- The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2018)
- Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (co-winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Poetry Competition; Southern Illinois University Press, September, 2020)
June 1990 ~ My first published book, Cordillera Tales, Retold and Illustrated (in the picture above); I was all of 28, a very young instructor at the University of the Philippines in Baguio. Seven years prior, even younger (and a new mother to boot) I’d entered poems for the first time to the Palanca Literary Awards in the Philippines. To my great shock my entry won first prize. When Cordillera Tales came out, I wasn’t even sure what “page proofs” or “royalty” meant.
September 18, 2020 ~ My newest book, Maps for Migrants and Ghosts, is scheduled for release from Southern Illinois University Press. Each book, and every book in between these 2, has been a leaving and a returning: to find and lose and find the self again.
In this strange pandemic time that we inhabit, as forests burn and deltas flood and winter comes to places that never knew it before, we count our daily dead, grieve everyone and everything that has passed too soon, and keep close what’s most important (family, friends, community). It’s heartbreaking work, this living we must do. And yet we do it, for all we love and hold sacred in the world.
Amen. And congratulations on reaching this milestone! Via Negativa and all its readers and visitors are so much richer as a result.