5 Questions with Eunice Andrada
By Robert Wood
Eunice Andrada is an award-winning Filipina poet, lyricist and performing artist based in Sydney, Australia. She has performed her work on diverse international stages, from the Sydney Opera House to the UN Climate Negotiations in Paris. Flood Damages (Giramondo 2018) is her first book of poetry.
Pick up a copy of Flood Damages here.
Tell us about your new book, ‘Flood Damages’. What are some of its themes and what are some of its techniques?
Flood Damages explores themes of diaspora, domestic violence and the reclamation of my female, coloured body as my own. The writing of these poems has been both a reopening and a healing of wounds. The poems tell the story of my family's migration to Australia, my mother's struggles as an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker), and a deportation that resulted in years-long separation.
I've written these poems in English, Tagalog, and a mongrel mix of the two to reflect the accents and mispronunciations that have filled my homes. After the work of Safia Elhillo and other poets, I've re-staged singular moments as photo captions to capture snapshots of my mother's life as an OFW.
The writing of these poems also incorporates the tones and rhythms of prayer, specifically the novena. Growing up, my church-thrice-a-week Catholic grandmother would make me memorise and recite prayers from her bible. Those times I sat down with her at one of the three altars in our home, my voice would shift to another, unnatural cadence to carry words that felt wholly unnatural in my mouth. Some of the poems are steeped in the music of these prayers.
‘Flood Damages’ builds from your own personal experiences, but it is coupled with imagination. Can you explain the process of bringing together real world concerns with poetic fictions, especially when it comes to identity?
I delve into poetic fictions as a way of excavating further truth from memories and real world experiences. Melding fiction with reality has been a vital to my truth-telling. For instance, in my poem “Marcos conducts my allergy test”, the former dictator of the Philippines ends up working in a medical centre in Australia. He is fully assimilated into Australianisms and thinks I am strange – for my accent and for the way I am allergic to most things here (two types of trees, four types of grass, etc.). In my writing I've mentioned the Marcoses in passing quite a bit – perhaps to grapple with the fact that they have had an unexpected personal role in the lives of my family.
“Autopsy” touches on Ferdinand Marcos' burial in the Heroes Cemetery and snaps back to my life in Australia, in the time of mass extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. In “photo album”, there is a poetry caption of my grandmother playing golf with Ferdinand Marcos. There is, of course, more history behind these scenes. Some of that history doesn't make any sense. Through reimaginations, I find new ways of articulating truth.
Building on that, you often deal with politics, especially around climate change, immigration, feminism. What is the intersection between politics and poetry, especially when it comes to form?
Performing poetry has always been an inherently political act. As a woman of colour immigrant, it's given me the courage to take up space and to be louder in my truths. It's powerful to see young people of colour getting up on stages and performing their poetry. Being unerasable.
You have also been a recognised performer of poetry for some years now, including at festivals and residencies around the world. How did you find the relationship between performance and the page?
I fell in love with performance first. It was world-changing for me to see other women of colour perform their work so unapologetically. I wanted that bravery and power. But I also wanted the vulnerability that came with sharing your poetry with strangers. When I started writing poetry as a new immigrant to Australia, I didn't have the communities I do now. Performing was my way of speaking out and opening myself up to the world.
Finally, what is the lesson you want the reader to take away from ‘Flood Damages’?
I hope these poems make immigrant readers, women of colour, single mothers and victims of domestic violence feel seen. I want other readers to listen to our stories and elevate our voices. I want these poems to incite meaningful conversation around immigration, diaspora, violence and the women of colour who hold the world up.