Wednesday, December 12, 2018


IRA SUKRUNGRUANG presents the Foreword to

The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis by Luisa A. Igloria
(Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2018)

The Buddha is Here, the Buddha is Everywhere, the Buddha is Nowhere

I look for him in my need, and over the years, I have needed. He is not an omniscient presence, not a deity, not watchful like the Christmastime Elf on the Shelf, reporting children's behavior—naughty or nice—to Santa. Sometimes I find him in unlikely places: hidden behind the Jesus statue in my neighbor’s vegetable garden, in the closet of my childhood room to ward off the monster that comes out at night, on my shoulder whispering encouragement before entering awkward social gatherings. Sometimes he is a guide, Virgil to Dante. Sometimes an ear to receive my woes. Sometimes a voice—which either sounds like my Southside Chicago friends, tough and vulgar, or throaty and hoarse and speaking Thai like the monk who first taught me about the meaning of suffering. He takes on many forms. He can be transcendent, gold and without flaw. I might find him in a baseball cap and ripped jeans and a T-shirt. Or he can look like my mother and all I want to do is curl into him when I am despondent. He can be anywhere.

And now, I find him in the pages of this book.

Reading Luisa A. Igloria’s poems is like opening doors within doors within doors. These doors give access to the mind, the imagination, into lush and lyric worlds. The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis continues pushing this space the poet occupies—a space between the real and the dream. And what a fantastical realm to exist in! I am lost. In a good way. I am taken. In a good way. But I am also found. Over and over again these poems find me. Over and over again I give over to them.

And then arrives the Buddha.

S/he possesses all that is human, every fragility we keep within. S/he is the voice we’ve locked inside. S/he is comprised of mythology, tradition, and imagination. Here the Buddha sits in a turbulent plane. Here s/he writes an advice column. Here s/he is the wallflower at a party overhearing a story about pot brownies. Igloria finds her Buddha in strange places too. But perhaps it is deeper. Perhaps the Buddha is the poet, and the poems are her doctrines layered in image and metaphor and meaning and meaninglessness. So Buddhist!

This is the beauty of this book. Nothing is what it seems. We are the sound grains of rice make in hollow bamboo; or we are whisked onto an operating table, floating off into a falsetto dream; or we are the drill during a dental procedure. Always we give way to the imagined state. Poem after poem reveals the Buddha. S/he is sneaky and coy. S/he peeks behind every stanza, meditating at every end-stopped line, her robes overflowing in every layer of images. And in the end, after we’ve taken in every poem, s/he finds a place in the center of us.

A book trailer by Marc Neys (Swoon) is available HERE.


Ira Sukrungruang is a Chicago born Thai-American and the author of the memoirs Southside Buddhist and Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy; the poetry collection In Thailand It Is Night; and the short story collection, The Melting Season. He is a professor of English at the University of South Florida, Tampa.


No comments:

Post a Comment