Dave Bonta is reading and reviewing a volume of poetry during each and every day of April. He graciously accepted my idea that those of us who can't hollow out time to read a volume a day would still benefit from reading one of the week's books with him. We created a reading schedule here, but you can participate at any point during the month. Dave also created an interview schedule with the poets and asked me to participate, and of course, I said yes. What a generous poetry universe I'm finding myself a part of!
This week's book is Luisa Igloria's Trill and Mordent, and last night, we had our phone conversation--podcast coming soon. You have a lot to look forward to. In the meantime, here's my review of the book.
I first met the poems of Luisa A. Igloria on Dave Bonta’s blog, where she writes a daily poem in response to his front porch observations. The poems in Trill and Mordent are much more complex and more fully developed.
These poems ask us to think about the lives we’re living, the trellises that undergird our lives, the armor that we try to construct to protect our lives. But as the poem “Armor” makes clear, these efforts to protect all that we love may make us falsely confident; armor exists “to make the body moving / into battle feel braver than it is . . . .” Our lives are crocheted out of fragile links, “for every coin of happiness, two of uncertainty.”
Igloria uses images of crocheting in this poem, even as she’s describing the making of chain mail. Elsewhere she uses braids to ask, “What separates, what brings together?” (“Braid”). Even once we’ve protected what we know, this poem reminds us, “ . . . New / knowledge supplants old, in science and history together / with all the arts which hollow out this space . . . .”
Many of these poems remind us that we have choices, many roads diverging in our multicultural woods. These poems both remind me of Robert Frost and remind me of how much simpler was the worldview of Frost. We live in a world that’s on the move, a world where our ancestors might get left behind. Many of these poems circle back to past times, back to the ghosts that haunt us. The poem “Wounds” reminds us that we live in bodies “with its hundred hearts,” and in the poem “The Four Seasons of Life,” we meet the speaker who says, “I am trying to learn how to leave / my body. Much more difficult how to manage each / return.”
In the end, we’re sunk, “stung by love and hurt and the knowledge that there’s no hope for any of it” (“Stairway to Heaven”). Yet there are consolations. There’s wine and food; we can learn “how to turn / the dullest of leftovers into a dish so unforgettable / my friends will beg and beg, years after, for the recipe;” (“The Unrepentant Hour”). There is the blood that “must match with blood, to cause effective chemistry” (“In the Blood,” a poem about transfusions and other couplings).
These poems know that “Karma is only another name for longing, the soul / returning and returning, begging to be loved or taken” (“Field Planted to Winter Grass”). These poems know that although there is no hope for us, we are full of “unpredictable hungers” (“Tree of Watchfulness”). And in those hungers, paradoxically, we find hope.