Filipina American poet Luisa A. Igloria took an active role in collaborating with Swoon (Marc Neys) on this film in support of her new collection, The Saints of Streets, as Marc describes in a blog post. Much of the footage comes from a film Luisa found on YouTube,
part of a collection of motion picture films that John Van Antwerp MacMurray shot during the time he served as American Minister to China (1925-1929).
The 16mm silent movie was shot during a trip to the Philippines in October 1926, where MacMurray and his wife spent a few days at Camp John Hay, Baguio.
In the same post, Luisa has this to say about the poem and Marc’s film:
The poem’s recurrent rhyme is the word “everlasting” — it had started out as a meditation of sorts on a flower indigenous to Baguio, the mountain city where I grew up in the Philippines. The locals refer to them as “everlasting” flowers, but they are strawflowers or Helichrysum bracteatum (family Asteraceae). Locals wind them into leis and sell them to tourists. One of my dearest friends from childhood recently returned from a trip to Baguio, and brought a lei back for me.
Around ten years ago, this friend lost her only son, who grew up with my daughters in Baguio; and she has never really recovered from that grief; she has also just had surgery, and thinking about her and about our lives in that small mountain city so long ago, before we became what we are now, led me to writing this poem which is also a meditation on time/temporality, passage, absence and presence.
When I write poems, I am often guided first by images and their interior “sound” or texture, even before I can bring them to bear upon each other in some totally explicable way… What draws me in the first place to poetry is the sense it offers of mystery, of how not everything in language can be completely grasped, so that we can continue to think of possibility.
Therefore I love so much how Marc has been able to intuit the poem’s themes of recurrence and memory and render them in such a way that both sound and imagery, artifact and dream, loop one into the other in the video poem.