Eileen R. Tabios is a poet working in multiple genres and in-between. She also loves books by writing, reading, publishing, critiquing, romancing and advocating for them. This blog will feature her bibliophilic activities with posts on current book engagements and links to her books and projects related to books.

Monday, May 6, 2019


Deep gratitude to Erica Goss who reviews my Selected Hay(na)ku Poems at her Sticks & Stones Newsletter. Erica's newsletter features a variety of interesting readings--you can sign up for it HERE. Here's the current issue's contents:
  • REVIEW: One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku by Eileen Tabios
  • THE READING LIFE: A Closer Look with Karen Kelsay of Kelsay Books
  • RANDOM POEM FROM THE BOOKSHELF: "Everything” by Mary Oliver
  • QUOTE: William Stafford from "Writing and Literature, Some Opinions"
  • ARTICLE AT MOVING POEMS: "Wings of Desire is a Poetry Film"
  • VIDEO: An interview with poet Raymond Antrobus
           MY NEW BOOK, STONE empty chair

And here's my review!

REVIEW #30: One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems by Eileen R. Tabios; Spanish translations by Rebeka Lembo

Paloma Press, 2018

In One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems, Eileen R. Tabios, creator of the hay(na)ku, proves that she is not only adept at invention, but also at exposition. The collection contains hay(na)kus and variations of the form, as well its history, description, a selection of hay(na)kus written by Vince Gotera, and seven poets’ comments about the form. This book is part poetry collection, part manual, and an invitation to participate: at the end of the introduction, Tabios writes, “I hope this collection encourages readers to try their hand at the hay(na)ku!”

A hay(na)ku is a three-lined poem with one word on the first line, two words on the second, and three on the third. As Tabios writes in the chapter, “The History of Hay(na)ku,” the form started out as a “Filipino haiku;” eventually she renamed it “hay(na)ku,” and notes “’Hay naku’ is a common Filipino expression covering a variety of contexts—like the English word ‘Oh.’” The chapter includes a list of hay(na)ku variants: “ducktail,” “melting,” and “worm” are just a few. In creating this form, Tabios meant for it to become “a community-based poetic form; this fits with my own thoughts on the poem as a space for engagement.”

Deceptively simple – just six words, no rhyme, meter, or complex patterns – hay(na)ku creates resonances within its tight structure. Each hay(na)ku is a complete poem or a stanza in a longer series. For example, the first stanza of “Post-Ecstasy Mutations,” reminiscent of Emily Dickinson in its use of dashes and capital letters, seems complete:

            Thus, barter—
            Love requires haggling—

and the next stanza seems dropped in from another poem:

            forever excavates—
            Mahogany dining tables

but by the third a leaping intelligence begins to form within the six-word stanzas:

            to include
            despite royal lengths—

One, Two, Three includes a Spanish translation. Translating poetry is always a tricky proposition; hay(na)ku, however, with its emphasis on brief, pithy lines, forces a limit that seems to make word-for-word translation possible. Indeed, the translator, Rebeka Lembo, preserves the word-and-line structure in almost every poem. Consider “Maganda Begins” (“Comienza Maganda”), a reverse hay(na)ku. The Spanish and English poems appear side-by-side, Spanish on the left and English on the right. The poem’s beginning stanzas:

Amor mio: Si                             My love. If
hay palabras                              words can
que                                               reach

lleguen al mundo                      whatever world you
que sufres—                               suffer  in—   
escucha:                                     listen:                                                                                                                     

“Maganda,” Tagalog for “beautiful” and also, as the epigraph states, “the name of the first woman in a Filipino creation myth,” adds yet another language to the mix, emphasizing Tabios’s goal of creating inclusivity in poetry, and that poetry be a place for an ever-shifting mix of ideas, languages, and forms.

The variant, haybun, combines hay(na)ku poetry and prose similar to the traditional Japanese form haibun, which combines haiku and prose. In 147 Million Orphans (A Haybun), Tabios explores the experiences of orphans (147 million is an estimate of the number of orphans alive in the world). The prose paragraphs in each haybun expand on the words in its accompanying hay(na)ku. In “Haybun MMXII,” she writes

                        weekend weekday
                        reacquaint vessel insubordinate

          To learn his new language, the adoptee was
          charged with learning 25 new English words a
          week during the schoolyear…”Weekend,
          weekday” – such common terms…

Eileen R. Tabios is an imaginative and tireless experimenter with words and ideas. One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems is not only an enjoyable read, but also inspiration: it’s almost impossible to resist writing one’s own hay(na)ku. Tabios’s project reminds us that words matter most in poetry, and that, surrounded by white space, six words have the power to move us in unexpected ways.

Eileen R. Tabios loves books and has released over 50 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Her 2018 poetry collections include HIRAETH: Tercents From the Last Archipelago; MURDER DEATH RESURRECTION: A Poetry Generator; and the bilingual edition of One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems. With poems translated into seven languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized ten anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays in addition to serving as editor or guest editor for various literary journals. She maintains a biblioliphic blog, “Eileen Verbs Books“; edits Galatea Resurrects, a popular poetry review; steers the literary and arts publisher Meritage Press; and frequently curates thematic online poetry projects including LinkedIn Poetry Recommendations (a recommended list of contemporary poetry books). More information is available at http://eileenrtabios.com.

One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems is available from Paloma PressLulu, and Amazon

Saturday, May 4, 2019


I’m grateful to Jeffrey Side for interviewing me for The Argotist (given that Jeffrey is the author of this article, I’m also honored he asked to interview me). This is the latest of a series of stellar Argotist interviews. You can see my interview HERE but here’s an excerpt…which I’m highlighting for myself because not caring who reads my poem is a privileged position which, at the time of the interview, I didn’t get into (one must maximize self-awareness). Ah well, next interview! 

JS: In an interview for the Asian Pacific American Journal, you said: ‘In poetry, I try to create an emotion that transcends the dictionary sense of what words mean or what they typically evoke in the current cultural context. There are words that are beautiful outside their meaning, like azure or jasmine or cobalt... For me, this is partly the place of abstract poetry, in addition to what’s happening in that space between, words, lines, sentences and paragraphs’. I agree with this approach very much. How much resistance (if any) have you had to such an approach from critics or publishers? 

ERT:  I’m glad the approach resonates with you, Jeffrey! It’s an approach I’d created in a vacuum (mostly from my love of abstract expressionist art) so it’s always good to hear it validated by another writer.

As regards critical response, …those poems can be seen through my first U.S.-published book, Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole (Marsh Hawk), that sold out its first printing in about six months or so (granted, it’s a small press’ first printing but, still!) And I wouldn’t be surprised if that book has sold more than all of my other books combined. Those poems were also picked up in my selected prose poem collection, The Thorn Rosary (Marsh Hawk). In this sense, the poems seem to have received favorable responses (before they were published in books, many of course were published in literary journals). …

Having said all that, in terms of critical reception—and I would include academia here—my approach takes me outside discernible identity-related poetics and so my books are not go-to publications for those invested in Filipino, Pilipinx, Asian American and related-other literature. I think it’s because linkages with those concerns would not be obvious from the narrative content of the majority of my poems (though some exist). But if I’m disappointed, it’s because I feel there is a 100% linkage with those concerns through the approach to language. For instance, abstraction is one means to disrupt the historical use of English as communication for colonial purposes. But it requires more thought, a deeper thought, to address poems and language in this manner. It’s easier if the text itself is saying the obvious…

But having said all that again, I’m fairly clear in what I’m looking for in a poetry audience. It’s not to have a big audience but an open-minded audience really interested in poetry. So, ultimately, I am totally accepting of the kind of readership I have and the limits to expanding such readership. I don’t need to push my poems on anyone.

Full interview HERE.

Monday, April 29, 2019


I'm grateful to Neil Leadbeater for his review of THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. You can see the entire review at the just-released issue of the ever-outstanding Otoliths, but here's an excerpt:
“Mooring After Loss” (2016) demonstrates the close association that can sometimes be present between the word “image” and the word “imagination”. A camera has been positioned in such a way as to photograph someone walking across a floor. In the photograph we see the floor and a left foot (the one that is in the act of striding forward). The right foot is not to be seen but an outline of it has been drawn on a blank piece of white paper and placed on the floor beside the left foot. At first, I misread the title as “Mourning After Loss” and thought that the blank outline of the right foot represented the departed one but then I reread the title and recognized how important it is in a time of loss that we still keep ourselves anchored to the ground, even if it is only with one foot, so that we can keep moving on, one foot at a time. The soul of the departed one is always close to us, closer than we think, in our daily walk through life. 

In this collection Tabios, always at the vanguard of poetic expression and invention, offers up a thoughtful fusion of text and image that is at once multilayered, satisfying and visual. Beneath the surface of her strikingly original artistry, she speaks out courageously against the horrors of injustice and makes a plea for all that is beautiful and tender in our fragile world. Fully recommended.

Saturday, April 13, 2019


Dear Friends,

My latest book, WITNESS IN THE CONVEX MIRROR, is now officially released and available through me or the following spaces:

I hope you check out this book where much of what I've learned about the poem over the past two-plus decades culminates. Here's a description:

TinFish Book Description
When John Ashbery died in September, 2017, all the obituaries noted that he had been a member of the New York School of poets, that his roots were in western New York and that, despite living for a decade in Paris, his career had unfolded over many decades in the City. Ashbery was, indeed, something of a local poet, constantly using references from the places he had lived. Lost in the very local memorials, however, was the fact that Ashbery’s work also influenced writers in the Pacific, including writers of color. Eileen Tabios has taken up Ashbery’s influence and engaged in a project of “the browning of John Ashbery,” as she told Tinfish’s editor once. Using one or two lines at a time from Ashbery’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” (1976), Tabios inhabits Ashbery’s mode, while moving our focus of attention many thousands of miles west of New York City. Tabios, who grew up in the Philippines, studied and worked in New York City, and has lived in California for many years, appropriates Ashbery to her own ends. These include cultural appropriation, genocide, militarism, sexual and racial violence, art history, and many other interests she shared—or did not share—with the older white male poet. Witness in the Convex Mirror is a tense act of homage, one that draws Ashbery away from the region that is most comfortable with him, and into a place where the discomfort is palpable, but extremely generative.

“You don’t write poems like he does,” the speaker says in Eileen Tabios’ poem  “Tense Past Tense.”  We, the readers, immediately notice the vertigo, the  joie de vivre  of a playful but incisive sense of the text.   She does not write like Stephane Mallarme but   you can hear the sounds of his dice rolling in the poems. She does not write like John Ashbery and yet the complexity and opacity tumbles in tune to the music of those sentences. WITNESS IN THE CONVEX MIRROR is Eileen Tabios’  modus opus  and it should find a place in every public or private library.
— Nick Carbó, author of Secret Asian Man and editor of Returning the Borrowed Tongue

Eileen Tabios cracks open Ashbery’s convex mirror to reveal a secret history of our times.   Her virtuoso riffs on Ashbery’s masterwork are no mere exercise, but open up into unexpected vistas—these poems “say ‘convex’ for widening / the gaze.”  That gaze is directed both inward and outward, offering glimpses of the quotidian life of those who find “mortality gazing back / at us from the bathroom mirror,” but also pulling back for a wide-angle view of a planet in crisis, chronicling “the body’s deterioration, ours and earth’s.”  These pages, like Ashbery’s, are filled with the pleasures of poetry, but Tabios resists the “preening that / negates the subject matter,” unafraid to peer behind the scenes of our lives in “the dim shadows / of a movie forged from the margins / of capitalism.”  The swerve of the convex mirror, allowing us a (brief) respite from confronting ourselves, is gradually replaced with an awareness of our complicity in the world reflected in the poem: “No one is / innocent in empire.”  What’s left to the poet is to be “the spy / in the house,” as Tabios’s formal inventions dig behind enemy lines to open up, however briefly, a space of plentitude: “I came into being, capacious and singing.” 
— Timothy Yu, author of Race and the Avant-garde: Experimental and Asian American Poetry Since 1965 

To read Eileen R. Tabios’ WITNESS IN THE CONVEX MIRROR is “to Ashbery,” which,  to paraphrase John Ashbery—arguably the greatest American poet of the 20th century—means to “imitate the way knowledge comes, by fits and starts and by indirection.” Ms. Tabios begins each poem with 1-2 lines from Mr. Ashbery’s oeuvre, before pivoting to Asia and Asian themes: “It happened while you were inside, asleep. / The penguins now grieve over the escalation / of silt in their bath. A mother begs a child, / “Let go. I won’t survive, but you can!” But…” In her new book, Ms. Tabios addresses super typhoons and modern-day slavery, and homonyms and reduplicative words such as wagwag and pagpag, with aplomb and intense imagination, permanently and expertly connecting these with the hermetic nature in John Ashbery’s poetry. Read these poems as through a fish eye mirror, where the field of view is ever more expansive, and objects are always closer than they appear.
— Aileen Ibardaloza Cassinetto, San Mateo Poet Laureate and author of The Pink House of Purple Yam Preserves & Other Poems

Thursday, March 28, 2019


The Strip Hay(na)ku Project.  A collaborative experiment in sequential graphic poetics

Edited by Ernesto Priego

With contributions by John Bloomberg-Rissman, Sam Bloomberg-Rissman, Amy Bernier, lola bola (Jane Ogilvie), Horacio Castillo, Ira Franco, Ernesto Priego, and Ginger Stickney.

Foreword by Eileen R. Tabios
Introduction by Ernesto Priego

ISBN 978-1-934299-13-5
Release Date: April 2019
Page Count: 48 pages, full colour.
Price: US$14.00 or equivalent 
For more information: meritagepress@gmail.com

Meritage Press and Laughing/Ouch/Cube/Publications are pleased to announce the release of The Strip Hay(na)ku Project, a collection of hay(na)ku poems in comic strip form, edited and co-created by Ernesto Priego with contributors John Bloomberg-Rissman, Sam Bloomberg-Rissman, Amy Bernier, lola bola (Jane Ogilvie), Horacio Castillo, Ira Franco, Ernesto Priego, and Ginger Stickney.

"Hay naku" is a common Filipino expression covering a variety of contexts—like the word "Oh." The "hay(na)ku" is a 21st century poetic form invented by Eileen R. Tabios. It is a six-word tercet with the first line being one word, the second line being two words, and the third line being three words. Poets around the world have used the form and have created text and visual variations of the form, including the “chained hay(na)ku” which strings together more than one tercet as well as the reverse hay(na)ku where the word count is reversed. Ernesto Priego started co-creating "strip hay(na)ku" poems in 2008, inspired by examples of Slovenian "strip haiku".

About The Strip Hay(na)ku Project:
"Hay(na)ku, a 21st century fixed verse form, has inherited haiku-sensibility (with its caesuras or paradigm shifts) and added to it a new kind of game, with 1, 2, and 3 words, perfect for the special needs of alphabetical writings. The inventive collaborators of this book successfully transplanted hay(na)ku – not only its basic form but its spirit as well – into the field of visual writing, and what we get is new and exciting. The book contains real comic strips but almost as soon as I started reading/watching the panels I had the strong impression that instead of the usual multitude of voices, speakers, actors etc. we have only two "heroes", so to speak, inside and outside, and even they are not so different, to say the least. There is no comic strip without a story, and this time we are told and shown (but the texts and images don’t explain each other, their connection is inspiringly dissociative), how those heroes or perspectives keep changing places. It happens gently, almost invisibly…"
-Márton Koppány

Ernesto Priego is a lecturer at the Centre for Human-Computer Interaction Design, City, University of London. He is the founder and editor in chief of The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship. He co-curated, with Ivy Alvarez, John Bloomberg-Rissman and Eileen R. Tabios, The Chained Hay(na)ku Project (Meritage Press and xPress(ed) 2010). He is also the author of Not Even Dogs. Hay(na)ku Poems (Meritage Press, 2006); the amazing adventures of Gravity & Grace (Otoliths 2008); The Present Day. The Mañana Poems (Leafe Press 2010); Ahí donde no estás. De nombres propios y otros fantasmas (Instituto Veracruzano de Cultura 2013); and, with Simon Grennan and Peter Wilkins, the non-fiction comic Parables of Care. Creative Responses to Dementia Care (City, University of London, University of Chester and Douglas College, 2017). He posts things online whenever he is able to at his blog, epriego.blog, and on Twitter @ernestopriego.

Eileen R. Tabios has released over 50 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Her books include a form-based "Selected Poems" series: The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku: Selected Tercets 1996-2019; THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL: Selected Visual Poetry (2001-2009); INVENT(ST)ORY: Selected Catalog Poems & new 1996-2015, and THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems and New 1998-2010. Recent poetry collections include HIRAETH: Tercets From the Last Archipelago, MURDER DEATH RESURRECTION: A Poetry Generator, TANKA: Vol. 1, and ONE TWO THREE: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems which is a bilingual English-Spanish edition with translator Rebeka Lembo. Forthcoming is WITNESS IN A CONVEX MIRROR which will inaugurate Tinfish Press’s ”Pacific response to John Ashbery.” She also invented the poetry form “hay(na)ku” whose 15-year anniversary in 2018 is celebrated at the San Francisco and Saint Helena Public Libraries. More information about her works is available at http://eileenrtabios.com.

Monday, March 18, 2019



This is a Call for Poets for participation in Meritage Press' latest' project:

Secrets Among Poets

You email (meritagepress at gmail dot com) me a secret. I write it in a book that will not be read by anyone but me as I create your book. Your book will only be shelved in my Tiny Books Library!

And of course I won't reveal your secrets!

[Caveat: Your book may be read by others after we are all dead because I don't burn books.] 

Please include a short-ish poem with your secret. (Though I won't reveal your secret, if you wish me to post an image of your poem in the book, I can do so.)

Deadline: April 30, 2019

If chosen and published, you will receive a poetry book in exchange.

The Physical Book Objects:
Your secret and accompanying poem will be inscribed by me -- and possibly illustrated with one of my drawings -- in one of these tiny blank books originally made in Nepal (for as long as supplies last):

For more information: contact me at meritagepress at gmail dot com