The Sahara of I

Luis H. Francia

Luis Francia is a poet in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and José Garcia Villa, and shares with them a compulsion to write serious poems—poems deeply concerned with the metaphysical—that are nonetheless filled with incandescent wordplay, humor, and even, at times, joy. This poet is a celebrant and an avowed sensualist in a locked-down world; a double agent; a singer of elegies and benedictions who employs poetry as his weapon of peace; he is an enemy of ideologies, seeking solace in the radical freedom of language and the profound pleasures of love. In Francia’s world, drinking the morning coffee becomes a trip into the strangeness of being human, and cats threaten to blind “by their dazzling flights”, then fall “from/ grace into grace.” Reading Francia’s poems is to be in the presence of a keen intelligence, a sharp wit, and a hopeful lover of humanity and the world. Read The Sahara of I: I promise you will be carried away on its music and dazzled by its flights of imagination.

Geoffrey Nutter


In The Sahara of I Luis H. Francia once again shares his marvelous gift for probing insight, humor, alliterative wordplay, and serious observations of humanity in all its complexity. Francia’s penchant for aphorism (‘The way of death begins / the moment we open our mouths.’) offsets his playful use of vernacular English. What results is a splendid collection of poems that will charm his readers while inviting them to find a person lurking in The Sahara of I.

Jonathan Harrington


His last poetry collection was Thorn Grass (University of the Philippines Press, 2021). Previous collections include Tattered Boat, The Arctic Archipelago and Other Poems, Museum of Absences, and The Beauty of Ghosts. Included in many anthologies, he has been a first-prize winner in the Philippines’ most prestigious literary competition, the Palancas, and honored by the Union of Philippine Writers in 2014. His works have been translated into Filipino, Chinese, Spanish, French, and German. He has read at numerous literary festivals, including in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Australia, Canada, China, and Nicaragua.

His nonfiction works include the memoir Eye of the Fish: A Personal Archipelago, winner of both the 2002 PEN Open Book Award and the 2002 Asian American Writers award, and Memories of Overdevelopment: Reviews and Essays of Two Decades. His A History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos was published in 2010, with a revised edition in 2014. He is in the Library of America’s Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing. His latest collection of nonfiction, RE: Reflections, Reviews, and Recollections, was released in 2015.

His first full-length play The Strange Case of Citizen de la Cruz, was given its world premiere by Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco in 2012, and restaged in 2022 by New York’s Atlantic Pacific Theater . Another play, Black Henry, on Magellan’s 1521 landfall in the Philippines, was virtually staged by New York University ’s King Juan Carlos Center and Sulo: Philippine Studies Initiative, in late April of 2021, the quincentennial of that historic voyage.

He has taught poetry and nonfiction writing, at among other places, Yale, the Iowa Writers Program, the City University of Hong Kong, Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou, China, and St. Benilde College and Ateneo de Manila University in Manila.

He and his wife, Midori Yamamura, an art historian, live in Jackson Heights, Queens.

In The Sahara of I, Luis H. Francia contemplates our living and our dead, not to mention our hidden connection amid apparent isolation. Few writers wield such irony and romance simultaneously. It is a sparkling pathos, a playful gravity. What a pleasure to read a new book from this poet—part angel, part jester, who, amid our era’s linguistic chaos, reveals laughter in our weeping and paeans amid our grief. 

Patrick Rosal


In a family of poets of the past century—Pablo Neruda, Nazim Hikmet, Rainer Maria Rilke—Luis Francia stands among such literary giants. His newest collection, Sahara of I holds within it many complex worlds while paying homage to the struggles of a singular self who bears the most sacred of burdens and gifts of, “Pen, Paper, Word.” History, a pandemic, internal and external wars, alienation, and the heights of love reside simultaneously in Francia’s devotional work. As always, I am in awe of Francia’s artistic journeys as he invites humanity over divinity, and utterance over silence. Francia’s lyrical precision matched with his tender observations of ruin and triumph creates a universal portal of entry for any reader who seeks profound transformation. 

 Tina Chang