As an eleven-time recipient of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature and its Hall of Fame distinction, Dr. Luisa Igloria has already achieved the Philippine’s highest literary prize as a poet and writer.
Igloria is also a recipient of the 2021 Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas for Poetry in English, a lifetime achievement award given to living Filipino writers by the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas or UMPIL, the country’s largest organization of Filipino writers.
This multi-awarded poet is not only recognized in the Philippines. She is also making waves in the United States and around the world, especially with her work focusing on eco-poetry, which puts emphasis on the environment or ecology. In 2015, she became the inaugural winner of the Resurgence Poetry Prize in the UK, the world’s first major eco-poetry award. Igloria was recognized for her work titled, Auguries, which talks about her childhood in the Philippines.
"I'm not a scientist. I don't go out and take water samples. But I can talk to people. I can describe things in words and maybe that helps to circulate the same kinds of seeds that people try to sow in order to make more awareness of a different mindset we need to have," Igloria said.
Igloria shared that her passion for eco-poetry takes its roots in Baguio City, her hometown and the inspiration for her first collection of poems. One of the major events that made an impact on her was the magnitude 7.7 earthquake that struck Luzon on July 16, 1990 which devastated her hometown. The tragedy has led her to write eco-poetry and poetry that tackles human connections and relationships to space, places, and the things in them.
"I have a very physical memory of that time. And that again is an environmental event. It’s something that certainly had an effect on our lives during and after the incident."
Currently, Igloria is collaborating with the Philippines-based Agam Agenda, a project of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, which brought together 30 writers and 30 photographers from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America.
"The newest anthology project is called Harvest Moon. It is a book of poems and stories responding to pictures that portray some aspect of this slowly eroding physical world that we live in because there is no turning back," Igloria noted.
As a professor of English and creative writing at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, who authored 14 books of poetry and 4 chapbooks and a recipient of numerous national and international awards for her exemplary literary work, Igloria was appointed as the 20th Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia in July 2020. She is the fourth person of color to receive the distinction. In April of the same year, she also became one of the 23 US poet laureate recipients of a 2021 poet laureate fellowship from the Academy of American Poets.
"For me, this is a position that is an opportunity to use the language of poetry to talk about things that matter in the public sphere," she asserted.
Igloria hopes that her work will inspire the community to strive to change society for the better.
"I can't do it by myself, so I have to reach out to other communities of poets because that's how you get things done," she stressed. "You need people to do things together in order to realize something you all want."