Today, my daughter Gabriela read a new poem that I wrote for the Unveiling and Dedication of the Virginia Historical Marker Honoring Filipino Sailors, at the Philippine CulturalCenter, Virginia Beach. (I was unable to attend because I was giving a presentation at around the same time, for the Poetry Society of Virginia's Annual Conference/Festival.)
The quote directly below this is from a 2017 article from the Filipino American National Historical Society(FANHS) website, and I used it as epigraph to the poem:
“...several thousand Filipinos had been recruited into the US Navy and other branches of the military
during the American colonial period ... As a result of increased need for personnel ... , the Navy began
recruiting Filipinos at a rate of 1,000 a year in 1952; this was increased to 2,000 annually in 1954.
Filipinos ... were limited to the steward rank until 1971, when an agreement was reached with the
Philippine State Department to discard the practice. Stewards were responsible for providing
cooking and cleaning for the ship and domestic service to officers and their families:
food service, cleaning, laundry, and chores.”
- from Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) online
* * *
by Luisa A. Igloria
20th Poet Laureate of
the Commonwealth of Virginia
Forward and bow,
the hull’s built resistance
to restive water; each port
a pin on the scalloped edge
of a map. As for leaving
an archipelago— as if
it was a simple matter
of plowing into the foam, wave
after wave turning like a page.
What of home and history?
No, not that one with a date
and an explorer’s name
attached to it, nor his
naming of our ancestors’
lands after his king.
Rather, those gridless skies
above green canopies and
mangrove forests, islands
threaded through with rivers
and streams, with fabled
animals and birds
whose songs could stun you
into stone. You’d find, coming
back to these histories,
spaces where brooks
sounded, as they cut through
forests of fern and lady
slipper orchids, as they fused
with the nightly discourse of frogs.
Sleeping volcanoes, houses on stilts
or perched on hills, their roofs
touched by the same sun that colored
the fields and shimmered the fish
which expeditions tagged,
numbered, and held in vats--
They still float in the cool
basement of a museum, part
of the hundred thousand
archives of our waters.
Fortune, we are told, favors
the bold. Fortune, we dreamed,
waited at the end of months-
long journeys as we set sail
then for a fabled land. Passage
extracts a price from everyone—
some of us, paying with our labor
on the very vessels that took us here.
But here we are today, across
the land, across the globe. We,
architects of rafts and smaller
vessels that narrow distances
between shores. We, no longer
just recruits, apprentices,
stewards. We, builders
of galleons. We, who learned
to captain our craft by the stars.
Christopher Newport University is holding its 40th annual Writers Conference 06 & 07 May 2022 (Friday and Saturday). I hope to see some of you there!
I've been kindly invited to give the 07 May/Saturday Keynote at 9:00 AM
(it's an in-person event) at the Gaines Theatre, CNU Campus ~
"Opening to the World Again: Writing Poetry From Out of This Time of Vulnerability"
Among poetry’s most powerful effects are its ability to unpeel complex layers of experience; to help us find keys which might open up spaces that were closed, hidden, unseen, unspoken. Especially, but not only in times of great difficulty, it might seem safer to keep the world at a distance. But poems offer the invitation to keep ourselves open, and the promise and grace that it is possible to make our way to the articulation of what we think we don’t even have adequate words for.
to all the lovely poets who participated in my April 2022 NaPoMo Poetry Prompt-a-Day. Your prompts were all so fantastic. Everyone can go back to revisit these prompts at the Virginia Poets Database where they are archived under "Poetry Spotlight," "National Poetry Month 2022." (And while you're there, especially if you're a VA poet, please consider submitting your information to the database.)
Another big THANK YOU to the VIRGINIA PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATORS (formerly Virginia Press Women), for the Virginia Newsmaker of the Year (2022) Award you gave me yesterday. It's an honor to join the ranks of other awardees through the years. Here are some pictures from yesterday's Awards Luncheon in Richmond; in one of them, I'm with my nominator, Gail Kent.