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Luisa A. Igloria Named Poet Laureate of Virginia

By Philip Walzer

Luisa A. Igloria, a professor of English at Old Dominion University, has been named poet laureate of Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday.

Old Dominion is the state's only school to have two faculty members designated as poet laureate in the past decade. Tim Seibles, who has since retired, was poet laureate from 2016 to 2018.

Igloria, who has written nearly 20 collections of poetry, described it as a "unique position for service and engagement through poetry. I hope to have many conversations with others, and to find meaningful ways to support and promote the voices of Virginia poets in particular and the work of poets and poetry in general as an important part of living in these times."

She described herself as "overwhelmed" and "grateful" for the appointment. "It's such an honor to join the ranks of many esteemed Virginia poets laureate," Igloria said, noting that she would be the fourth person of color to hold the title.

"My colleagues and I are thrilled that Dr. Igloria was selected to serve as Virginia's next poet laureate," said Kent Sandstrom, dean of the College of Arts and Letters. "She richly deserves this distinguished honor. Dr. Igloria is an internationally renowned poet and award-winning professor whose work inspires her students and colleagues. She is also a remarkably thoughtful, bright and engaging teacher and scholar."

John McManus, the director of the M.F.A. creative writing program, said: "To hear that Luisa has been named poet laureate of Virginia is thrilling but not surprising news, since there's no other poet in this state more qualified for the position. Luisa's dedication to her writing is unparalleled, and her poem-a-day practice awes and inspires me. She's also an inspirational teacher: Year after year I've heard my student advisees describe Luisa's classes as life-changing, and some of my favorite poets are the ones Luisa has made me aware of by including them on her syllabi. She's singularly devoted to the success of her students; she's also a wildly prolific and gifted poet and the most generous of colleagues."

Igloria, the Louis I. Jaffe Endowed Professor and University Professor of English and Creative Writing, came to Old Dominion in 1998 and was promoted to full professor in 2010. She was director of the University's M.F.A. creative writing program from 2009 to 2015.

Her most recent book, "Maps for Migrants and Ghosts," which was a co-winner of the Crab Orchard Open Poetry Prize, will be published in the fall by Southern Illinois University Press.

Igloria's other books include "The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Midlife Crisis," "Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser" and "What is Left of Wings, I Ask."

In 2015, she received the first Resurgence Poetry Prize for her eco-poetry. Igloria, a native of the Philippines, said at the time: "I grew up with a lot of myth, a lot of folklore, the kind of household where the elders would say if you went into the garden beyond dusk, you had to address the spirits as you walked past."

Igloria is also an 11-time recipient of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature, the most distinguished literary prize in the Philippines.

Her other awards include the May Swenson Prize, the James Hearst Poetry Prize, the Stephen Dunn Award for Poetry and the Fugue Poetry Prize. At Old Dominion, Igloria has received the John R. Broderick Diversity Champion Award and the College of Arts and Letters' Charles O. and Elisabeth C. Burgess Award for Faculty Research and Creativity.

Since 2010, she has written a poem every day. In an interview this year with Old Dominion's Center for Faculty Development, she said: "I look forward to writing every day, whether I have only 30 minutes or longer. Some of the things I've learned: letting go of notions of perfection; learning to filter out noise (both external and internal); welcoming uncertainty and surprise."

The position of poet laureate was created in Virginia in 1936. The governor selects the poet laureate from a set of nominees submitted by the Poetry Society of Virginia.

See Igloria read one of her poems at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3W1Oogeu0Q

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