A reissue of the Santa Clara County poet laureate's lauded second book that deals with translation, grief, and reflection of lineage and identity.
like a solid to a shadow is a documentary poetry collection about grieving, fatherlessness, and the limitations of language. Sapigao finds her deceased father’s love ‘letters’ to her mother: cassette tapes recorded in Illokano, a language of which she has imperfect knowledge. The book moves through Sapigao’s process of translating and transcribing the tapes; playing with, learning, and unlearning the Ilokano and English languages. This book then launches from the tapes to ask “what can we really know?” when it comes to family lineages and personal histories. Through family trees, photos, and mapping, Sapigao articulates, distorts, and heals her knowledge of the man who is her deceased father.
“Sapigao dedicates her second collection to an intriguing project of translation as a means of reckoning with identity and trauma. Her father, who died when she was six, had recorded spoken love letters in the Filipino language Ilokano to her mother and grandparents. Sapigao begins by detailing her process of translating these recordings. But the ensuing work dances away from cohesion, incorporating handwritten notes on learning Ilokano, family trees, Facebook messages, and more. Her language is spare and surprisingly direct given the ghostly subject, a deliberate refusal to invite a subsurface reading. Sapigao provides stark contrast through renderings of her father’s staccato words: 'Make sure not to leave behind what I write (what you write). Because what we write is what we need to keep in order for it stay (so it doesn’t fly away, to keep it from flying with the wind, to have it so that it doesn’t become flight or wind,) so it doesn’t go far away from us.' Sapigao’s closing pages reveal the danger of investigating family; she uncovers her father’s secret other family and realizes that she is the last in her family to know. Though solid ground can be difficult to find, Sapigao’s 'imperfect translation' is worth the work of the journey.”–Publishers Weekly