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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Poet Igloria Wins World’s First Major Ecopoetry Prize

Writing poetry daily, Old Dominion University's Luisa Igloria deftly unveils what she calls the "visceral register" of her words and themes.

The distinguished presenters of the Resurgence Poetry Prize in London concur.

A poem by Igloria moved that panel to recently award the Old Dominion professor of English and creative writing the world's first major award for ecopoetry. The accompanying monetary award of 5,000 British pounds - about $7,400 -- is among the highest of any English language single-poem competition.

The Resurgence Prize committee describes ecopoetry, in the general tradition of nature poetry, as contemporary work with ecological emphasis that centers on man's responsible engagement with nature.

The Resurgence Trust sponsors the competition, with associations with the charitable Earth Restoration Service and the Poetry Archive.

Igloria's "Auguries," a 15-line lament about her childhood in the Philippines, dazzled the judging panel as a "glowing poem, exquisitely accomplished, full of movement and powerful energy."

The panel consisted of Sir Andrew Motion, a former poet laureate of the United Kingdom, and decorated British poets Jo Shapcott and Alice Oswald.

They further praised Igloria's poem as a "sensual elegy" with a bold leaning toward "the almost celebration of struggle."

"This is a very affirming thing," said Igloria, who attended the awards presentation at London's Leighton House Museum with her husband and daughter.

"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. That kind of animistic world view I think is becoming less familiar."

Igloria's poem, which was written before she knew of the contest, begins with a quote from the poet Naomi Shihab Nye:

"I begin again with the smallest numbers."

The poem continues:

In a drawer I found a handful of keys,

but could not remember which flowers

they were meant to open.

I kept as still as possible,

hoping to hear the answer

before the ice melted.

Not only in the amphitheater are there trials:

keep a strong heart and do not be distracted

if it should stop raining roses.

One morsel of bread,

and the dying prisoner

remembers his name.

What flood might a cupful of water unleash?

Winged creatures search in the absent grass for treasure, a diligence rewarded by the sun."

"I'm comparing my own sensibility as a child growing up to the sensibility of my youngest child growing up in America," Igloria said. "The whole idea of children not being able to really just go out and run, even in their own backyard or in the street, I'm lamenting that in part."

Of her composition style, Igloria said she seeks an "organic, internal click that I have achieved the resonance I want to achieve between thinking, feeling and the language. I don't know what readers experience, but I'm hoping that if I feel the poem has come together in a unified way, that it translates to the reader, too."

Igloria is the author of "Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass" (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), "Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser" (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), "Night Willow" (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna's Revolver" (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She directed ODU's MFA Creative Writing Program from 2009-2015.

A number of Igloria's titles are available at the University Village Bookstore. They include: "Juan Luna's Revolver;" "Night Willow;" "Not Home But Here;" "Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser;" "Turnings;" and "Trill & Mordent."