Thursday, July 30, 2020


By Luisa A. Igloria
(July 2020)
Size: 3” x 3”

Meritage Press’ Minitage Editions is delighted to release REFUSE GHAZAL, the book-length poem with illustrations by Luisa A. Igloria! We present the poem itself, followed by an "Artist Statement" for the book as well as images of the unfolding book.

Refuse Ghazal

The woman begs to cover her husband’s body
with a blanket, but the police refuse—
Their daughter sits on the curb, wailing into her hands.
Someone will try to pull her away, say Shh; she will refuse.
A train whistle cuts through the rain. Leaves quiver and mix
with shadows in the alley— the only witnesses that won’t refuse.
Everyone else averts their eyes: the duck egg vendor, the drunk,
men out for a smoke; late night owls at the bar. All refuse.
Mid-October, near dawn. The pedicabs ghost away. Tinny rattle,
gravel spray. How many deaths as of today? The mind wants to refuse
these horrors. The MO’s like this: two masked men on a motorbike ride
up to their target. Shots ring out. Every day, bodies pile up like refuse.
Artist Statement
Before the blank miniature book arrived from Eileen Tabios in the mail, I'd had no formal plans about the content I would include—except that it would be one of my poems. I also did not know what it would physically look like. What I got was a blank book about 3 inches square, with a rich gold cloth binding adorned with a rhinestone and pearl floret on the front cover. And then I thought of my poem "Refuse Ghazal," which I'd written about the EJKs (Extra Judicial Killings) under the current Duterte regime since he came into office in July 2016—and of the thousands of young people, even children under the age of 5, who have been killed without compunction. These guided my ideas of composition and the actual execution of the artwork throughout the pages. First, I wrote out the poem using a brush pen, taking care to leave in-between pages and spaces because I knew by then I would be using a combination of ink pen and watercolors. The paper is not of heavy stock, so I worked a few pages at a time during the day over maybe 4 days, airing sections out in between. The images came to me as I progressed; as well as a 2-page spread which I decided to design as an EJK word search, using some of the first names of the child and youth victims of EJKs. The ghazal itself plays on at least two meanings of the word "refuse"—one, as a verb, signifying active resistance or noncompliance with something; and two, as a noun, carrying the meanings of garbage, detritus, waste. EJK victims are from some of the poorest and most destitute communities in the Philippines. The pages on which I inked the final "refuse" of the poem combine what I hope to convey about the ambivalence and contradictions between the weighty meanings of the term, coupled with the richer object behind the letter S: a strip of intricately patterned T'boli beadwork, with tassels ending in hawk bells.

Throughout the book, I have also interspersed words and phrases/lines (in Tagalog/Filipino) that typically occur in prayers:

Paalam (Goodbye)
Bangungot (Nightmare)
Dalamhati (Sorrow)
Ayuda (Entreaty/Help)
Gunita (Dream)

O Panginoon madali ka
sa pagsaklolo sa amin.
Ipanalangin mo kami, O
Santang Ina ng Diyos.

(O Lord, hasten
to come to our aid.
Pray for us, O
Blessed Mother of God.)

O Maria
walang sala

(O Mary
without sin)

O Diyos
ilawit sa
akin ang

(O God
to me
your help)

These seemed to be the most fitting tonal accompaniment to the poem itself, in addition to the images. I heard them in my head as murmured interjections, perhaps said under one's breath, but no less intense for the wishes they carry.

Minitage Editions is grateful to Luisa A. Igloria for her donation of REFUSE GHAZAL to the Miniature Book Library.

1 comment:

  1. Powerful and riveting-I love the play on words and accompanying illustrations.