Some weeks ago we’ve had a thunderstorm at night. I recorded it, added some sounds and improvised piano…
For some reason I thought about the recording of ‘Oir’ Luisa sent me earlier. I combined them all and forwarded the result to Luisa.
I very much love the broody thunderstorm background and the improvised piano. I like the sound of rain very much. A hard rain on tin roofs is a particularly strong memory trace I have from my growing up in a tropical country. Anyway, for me rain has the capacity for both amplifying and muffling/softening the atmosphere. It’s full of emotional portent,
Luisa also gave me the idea of using ‘café-ambient’ noises and provided me with some insights about the poem;
…but in part the poem is partly triggered by a conversation I had in a cafe. We talked about work, creative nonfiction essays, family…
As usual the cafe was crowded and noisy. it struck me then but perhaps more afterward, when I was writing the poem, that in the spaces that teem with so much everyday life, activity, business as usual, we strive to hollow out spaces for the intimate to be enacted and reenacted.
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.
The reading isn’t perfect, but the imaginative shot selection more than makes up for that, I think. And while most student videopoems come out of film classes, this was unusual in that it was made for a literature class, according to the brief description at Vimeo.
For more on the poet, see her website.
Luisa Igloria has been writing daily poems for my blog, Via Negativa since last November, but I didn’t get around to envideoing any of her poems until her 50th birthday last week — shameful, I know! Luisa is the author of Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, 2005) and eight other books, and grew up in Baguio City, the Philippines. I blogged about the making of the video here, and Luisa’s poem first appeared on the blog in text form here.