In the Spotlight
Luisa A. Igloria
Professor and Graduate Program Director, MFA Creative Writing Program, Old Dominion University
Norfolk, VA Member Since: 2000
About: Poet Luisa A. Igloria is the author of Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions), and more. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, hand-binds books, listens to tango music, and keeps her radar tuned for cool lizard sightings.
Photo credit: John-Henry Doucette
If you could require every student in your program to read only one book, which would it be?
An unabridged dictionary.
What is the best writing advice that you dispense to your students?
One thing that comes to mind at the moment is something I said in a recent interview for TAYO Literary Magazine, about finding one’s voice: I believe every writer already carries a voice. It’s not like we can just go shopping for it, like, say, at a writing program, or in a year trekking around India or the Philippines or Tibet. But our job is to hone our attentiveness, our ability to focus and clarify what the voice sounds like as we move through the layers of life; our job is to remain receptive, to grow, to remain excited and curious while retaining humility and heart; to be open and vulnerable to both risk and pain, disappointment and reward.
What has been the best experience of building or sustaining a creative writing program? The most challenging?
A creative writing program is only as strong as its community (of students, faculty, and supporters within and without the academe). The most challenging experience has so far been trying to find the resources to do all the many things we want to accomplish—We have big visions for growth, and the many positive experiences we’ve had, despite such challenges, give us lots to be optimistic about. That so many of our students have gone on to do so many great things after leaving the program is extremely validating and lets us know we have given them a good foundation.
Describe your writing process.
I write every single day without fail. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I have written (at least) a poem a day for more than four years running. I don’t set a particular time or condition, only that once I drop into that space of writing, while I am there, I will commit myself to nothing else but that. Here is one recent example describing part of my poetic process—This one is specific to a collaboration with a video poem/film poem artist, for which I wrote a poem called “Foretold.”
What is your favorite line from a book?
I’ve loved these lines for a long time now, from one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems: “…My poignant luxury/To own it, touch it, prove the feat/ That made the pellet mine—”
How has AWP helped you in your career and/or creative endeavors?
Through its annual conferences rich with multi-themed panels and readings where we can listen to the living voices of writers, and through its structure of participation levels, AWP helps practitioners of creative writing find all kinds of ways to achieve their goals better. There is such a wealth of information covering varying aspects of writing on its website, with access made easier in many ways through electronic means.