Luisa A. Igloria


We are taught to think of persona as a function of voice in the poem: a means to further sieve the poem's embodied experience, by casting it in the context and details of a figure or character that we come to recognize as differentiated from "the poet's own voice." But rather than such a clean and technical separation (a kind of ventriloquism, perhaps), in writing the persona poem I recall certain shamanic traditions in Philippine culture and literature. When the babaylan or mambunong (the priestess-medium, who is also a rhapsode and poet) falls into a trance and begins to speak in other voices, the condition is described in one of the vernacular languages as "naluganan" -- quite literally, the state of being mounted (as a steed would be mounted) by an unnamed power - the divine masquerading in other form(s). The poet-medium is never entirely erased in the process, nor simply reduced to a mechanism of levers and pulleys to throw the voice or thrash the limbs about for dramatic effect. Despite the apparent submersion of her own physical identity, she must be an active, muscular and facile vehicle; the animal (though haltered) whose nose points too toward the goal of poetic or divine utterance -- ideally, the state in which steed and rider blur and become indistinguishable from one another.




What To Do with Suitors in the Courtyard


Who helped the hero of that story
        find his way out of the labyrinth?
                Softie. He should’ve been left

to rot. This is what hubris
        has become. I prefer a man
                who doesn’t hyperventilate in secret

from the fear of being lost, who’ll dip his head
        into an unshaven cleft for water. Even the quarrelsome
                are more lovable than the stoic. Darling pain in my side, let me know

what you’re thinking. Let me in. Fight your way out.
        Or parry. This is not about a grand adventure twenty years long,
                solitary hero; then the return, incognito, until a servant girl or

wizened nursemaid recognizes the telltale scar
        above the ankle, and falls on her knees. I’ve discovered something:
                I wouldn’t have lasted a week with that loom.

Faithless? Let me tell you something. I could’ve cleared
        that courtyard of pseudo admirers, interested only
                in what they could stuff in a sack. Annex me

any way you want, but leave me alone.
        I like the taste of olives. I like the feel of a globe
                tucked inside each cheek. Dense like meat, tart

to the bite. The pits to be discarded
        like some days— inedible and too, too silent.
                The clatter of bowls flung against stone

enough to raise the dead. So raise them.
        Pull the golden fleece out of your eyes. How
                do you tango? Because everything dissolves eventually,

I choose, I choose.
        I long to follow in the rush of heat, that beautiful arc,
                even as the shimmering lure detaches.



Luisa%20Igloria.jpgLuisa A. Igloria (previously published as Maria Luisa Aguilar Cariño) is a poet and Associate Professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University. She is the author of Juan Luna's Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry, University of Notre Dame Press), Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions), and 8 other books. Her work has appeared in Poetry East, Poetry Salzburg Review (Austria), Shearsman (UK), Prism International (Canada), Smartish Pace, Crab Orchard Review, and Poetry, among others. Originally from Baguio City in the Philippines, she received the 2007 49th Parallel Prize in Poetry (Bellingham Review), the 2007 James Hearst Poetry Prize (selected by former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser for the North American Review), and the 2006 National Writers Union Poetry Prize (selected by Adrienne Rich).