“...Legaspi, like William Carlos Williams, can find poetry anywhere. And like his mentor Pablo Neruda he seems able to locate the mysterious and the magical in the most common and overlooked objects. It is difficult to overestimate the daring and resourcefulness required to complete successfully this astonishingly original book. I believe this collection of poetry, so rich in the dailyness of the world and what wisdom we can draw from it, is ample evidence that Joseph O. Legaspi has arrived to a place none of his ancestors in life or in poetry have ever journeyed, and we his readers are the richer for it.”―Philip Levine
Being a Filipino immigrant myself, Imago resonates in its in-betweenness, in its earnest endeavor to capture this transitional state. I hope to see more of this in Threshold.
Maybe this is just a difference in poetics that I have to be mindful of, but Legaspi seems to write as historian first, poet close second. When push comes to shove, the poems bend the knee to their sources, trading possibilities for accuracy. The poems are not bad — Legaspi's sharp eye and instinct for narrative transform the everyday to something a little less quotidian — but they could've gone further if they weren't too keen on memorializing. Sometimes, it would be nice not to see "fireflies scatter like stars" (Little Blackbird) in an emotional poem.
This also doesn't quite sit well with me:
She worries about her sons chasing white women, about her daughters being chased by white men, or worse, black men. (The Immigrants' Son)
Not to harp, but poetic license is also poetic responsibility.
Pulsing with intense sensual imagery, this collection is fierce & memorable. As a city gal, the country scenes invoking bat hunting and a sow tied to a post to mate with a pig were shiver-inducing. The intense love for family coupled with a dramatic locating of space & setting were wonderful aspects of this poetry.