I first came across poet Eunice Andrada a year or so ago when I was browsing through spoken word poetry videos on YouTube. I came across this video, and was immediately drawn in upon hearing her read a poem in Filipino (Tagalog), one of my native tongues. Last month, I was in one of my favourite bookshops, The Hobart Bookshop, when I found her newly released book of poems, Flood Damages, which I promptly bought.
Knowing that Eunice Andrada is, like me, a Filipino-Australian poet, I was very much looking forward to diving into her collection, and it did not disappoint. I do have a tendency to adore poets whose poems explore experiences and identities that are similar to my own (such as displacement, migration, racial and multiracial identity – see also my post about Safia Elhillo’s The January Children), and Andrada’s poetry comes even closer through our shared Filipino origins. But thematics and content aside, Andrada’s skilled manipulation of language with its evocative imagery and weight of emotion also greatly appeal to this poet and writer.
Here is a little bit of one of my favourite poems in the book (you can read the rest over here at Verity La):
(photo from my copy of Flood Damages)
Throughout the collection, there is a recurrence of themes and images of water, blood, the body – especially the brown-skinned, female body – religion and spirituality, and lineage and family. Interwoven are narratives of colonialism, violence, immigration, deportation and displacement. Ever-present is the feeling of being without roots, of having a country – and with it, language, culture, family, some sense of stable identity – pulled out like a rug from under you as you float suspended in mid-air.
Perhaps I am projecting my own experience of displacement and diaspora into Andrada’s poems. Nevertheless, in my reading I inevitably, if unconsciously, search for some kind of truth to attach myself to, and I have found something of it here. I cling especially to poetry like Andrada’s, because it feels as though she is speaking my language, both literally and metaphorically. Her poems allow me to see and know, and to be seen, to be known.
In this increasingly transnational, globalised world, the voices of those in the margins only become more important, more necessary. Despite the trends of migration and displacement that have been ongoing or increasing for many, many years, there are still parts of individual identity that are informed by place and country, by culture, language, and bloodlines, whether known or unknown.
I believe, no matter where you come from or how long you or your family has lived there, that it is important to think about and explore these facets of your identity, of your lived experience of race, culture, language, national identity. Reading poetry, especially poetry by women, by people of colour, by immigrants and refugees and those under the queer umbrella is a good place to start.
Ultimately, I am grateful for poets like Eunice Andrada and Safia Elhillo who allow hard questions to inform their art, and who know that there are not always answers to be found. As for me, I continue to seek for truth in poetry, and I hope that you will too.
P.S. A little update – I’ve written an official review and it’s up on Empty Mirror! Check it out here.