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.

Sunday, February 10, 2019


So grateful to Datableed, and editors Juha and Eleanor, for publishing images of my hay(na)ku sculptures involving the circle and the line. You’ll notice that the shadowboxes are made of cartons (they usually carry my cases of dog food). That I recycled them into sculptures reflect the inspiration of Mel Vera Cruz’s artworks that recyle cardboard and cardboard boxes (relatedly, his 2017 such series will be North Fork Arts ProjectsMarch exhibition!). I’ve long wanted to make shadowbox art from a lot of emptied wine cases, some of which are quite fancy wood with etched images. But I kept that as an idea for years until I thought about the more mundane—more honest—utilitarian cardboard box. Thanks Mel for the inspiration!
This issue also features the works of -- and I'm so honored by the company -- Jasmine Gibson, Laura Elliott, Travis Lau, Kat Sinclair, Daniel Spicer, Azad Ashim Sharma, Karen Sandhu, Ava Hofmann, Carol Watts, Nasim Luczaj, Peter Myers, Christina Chalmers, al anderson, Fred Spoliar, Jazmine Linklater, L Kiew, Flo Reynolds, Tam Blaxter, Tom Betteridge, Lucia Sellars, Konstantin Rega, Kashif Sharma-Patel, Maria Damon & Alan Sondheim, Lisa Samuels, Alison Rumfitt, Nathan Walker, Lotte L.S, Kyle Booten, Aodán McCardle, Sara Matson, Allen Fisher, Katie Schaag, Eileen R. Tabios, David Greaves, hiromi suzuki, David Grundy, Jeff Hilson, TR Brady, and Katy Lewis Hood. 


Elsewhere, Claude Nguyen continues to create visual  hay(na)ku magic! I particularly love this radiant work entitled "space debris":

Thursday, February 7, 2019


I'm grateful to decolonialism scholar Leny M. Strobel for engaging with THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL (she initially thought she was going to read a novel instead of peruse a collection of visual poetry--laugh) and then providing it with its first review!  You can see her review HERE, but here's an excerpt:
Boundless creativity can be unleashed when one is not attached to limiting beliefs. 
Ergo, Eileen invents the words “Pilipinz” and “cloudygenous” to write about the paradox of being a settler and a diasporic person at the same time. Those of us who have been displaced from a homeland may be interminably pining for “Home” so, in the place where we are settlers on indigenous lands, we create home on the (i)Cloud and we sustain our virtual connections to the homeland using facebook chat, zoom, whatsapp, instagram., etc. What are the implications of technology as the mediator of our deepest desires and longings? You will have to read the book to see how these dilemmas express themselves in a Eileen’s visual poetry (14–20). 
“…my (poetry) words attempt to transcend dictionary definitions…As a poet, I attempt not to work only within what I inherit because what’s inherited is fucked up, of which colonial history is only one fact. English was the colonizer of my birthland, the Philippines. English, but not Poetry.” (25)

As well, recently I was interviewed by Cristina Querrer for her YOURARTSYGIRL's new podcast series. Our interview notes indicated that we'd partly focus on THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL. Guess what we didn't touch on at all!  Yep. But we did discuss everything else: writerly beginnings, collaborations with both writers and artists in other genre, colonialism and English, the start of the hay(na)ku, my art gallery North Fork Arts Project, my website’s file cabinet aesthetic, process process process… everything and way more than you might want to know about me.

You can listen to me HERE. Also available on Spotify if you're going to be stuck in traffic. And coming soon on ITunes!

P.S. Actually, I still have the pre-recording interview notes. As the blog is also a file cabinet, I'll post them here--questions are from Cristina:

Can you give me a bio of yourself and tidbits you'd like to me to mention concerning yourself and your work?

Here’s a somewhat canned bio:

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 (2001-2019), INVENT(ST)ORY: Selected Catalog Poems & New 1996-2015, and THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems & New 1998-2010. Her award-winning body of work includes invention of the hay(na)ku poetic form (whose 15-year anniversary was celebrated in 2018 at the San Francisco and Saint Helena Public Libraries in California) as well as a first poetry book, BEYOND LIFE SENTENCES (1998), which received the Philippines’ National Book Award for Poetry. Translated into nine languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 15 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays, as well as exhibited visual art in the United States, Asia and Serbia. Her writing and editing works have received recognition through awards, grants and residencies. More information is available at http://eileenrtabios.com

In terms of tidbits to mention, it may be worth noting that I am the only poet (as far as I know) who’s doing Selected Poems projects based on poetry form. I prefer this approach for two reasons:

1) The traditional way of doing Selecteds is “Best of” or Most Favored” poems as the perspective. That’s not particularly challenging for me. I also know subjectivity: what one person favors or considers “best” could be disputed by another person’s taste.

2) Doing Selected Poems based on poetry form allows me and the readers to see if I’ve done anything to expand the possibilities of that form. So I’ve done this now for the prose poem, the catalog or list poem, visual poetry, and tercets. Within the tercets form, I’ve also done a Selected Hay(na)ku to show how I’ve further expanded the possibilities of a form even after  I invented it.

1) I know on Facebook, you post your daily check lists of what creative projects and tasks you've accomplished, do you find this helpful?  If so, why?

I’m doing the daily checklist only for my novel-in-progress (not all of my creative projects). I did daily checklists everyday in 2016 when I wrote the first draft—my first successful first draft of a long-form novel. Starting in 2019, I begin editing the novel and that’s what I’m posting daily about. I do this for several reasons—all related to how the novel is (for me) such a big and unwieldy task:

a) I’ve long noticed how lists really help me manage tasks

b) I post it publicly—and use Facebook for the public forum—to keep me honest about putting in the editing work. I believe editing the novel is just as time-consuming as writing the novel’s first draft so I need the infrastructure to make sure I put in the time. Already, I’ve caught myself thinking about certain posts: Wow, you put in less than an hour that day…or you should put in more time, etc.  Netflix-bingeing is a big danger to my novel J 

By the way, though I haven’t finished the novel itself, my 2016 daily notes became its own book—writing about writing the book! Love the meta of it all. That book, entitled appropriate #EileenWritesNovel was published as a special issue by Otoliths. It’s a favorite project because it’s illustrated by selfies taken of me during the writing process … and I usually loathe selfies.

2) You do a lot of reviews, promote other artists and writers as well as your own works, does that hinder or boost your creative process and creative projects?

Reviewing is a logical offshoot of another task that all good writers should do: READ.

Reading as a writer provides many benefits for one’s own creative work, and is, IMHO, a different type of reading than the reading done by non-writers. For a writer, reading is a responsibility—you do so to know your craft, to know how writing can unfold in different ways than you might conjure, to avoid treading in clichés in your own work, etc.  It’s amazing to me to see how poets don’t read widely. More than once, I’ve read prize-winning books and concluded, That approach was already done by this other poet, and done better. This may mean something about the reading habits of the prize judges, too (haha).

As for promoting other writers and artists, I need to clarify one important detail. I promote the art and the writing. To do so, I end up promoting their authors or makers.  But it’s the actual art I’m promoting, not the ones who did it – which, by the way, is a complicated balancing act when dealing with “community” perspective.  There are exceptions—usually when I’m focusing on non-individual based perspectives. Like, I promote Filipino writers and artists in general. But in terms of individual achievements, my focus is on the work itself—whether it succeeded—not who created it.

This is important to understand in a context where folks sometimes automatically promote their friends. I can understand that impetus: a friend is someone who’s got your back no matter what. But if I have promoted YOU in the past, know that it’s because I sincerely admire your work and not because I like you. 

You can see this, btw, in how I do reviews. I don’t assign myself books to review. I just read as widely as I can and the books which end up moving me to review them are the ones I review.

3) What are you working on now?

I just released my Selected Visual Poetry book entitled THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL so I suppose I need to spread the word about it. Info about it is at https://palomapress.net/2019/01/18/the-great-american-novel/  Note that Paloma Press is offering a pre-order special rate prior to February 14 which is its official release date. It’s already available too on Amazon.  I’m also in the editing/production phase of two more poetry books due out later this year. And, of course, daily, I am editing my novel.

4) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

My mother tells me I knew at age five when I was folding together pieces of paper to make “books”. (Mom writes about it at http://www.oovrag.com/oovnew/daughter-eileen-story-respect/ ) As far as I can remember, I’ve always loved words and always been a reader. But my first attempt at a career with words was through journalism, and I’ve worked for several newspapers and briefly in TV news (I wasn’t enamoured with broadcast journalism as it didn’t have the writing dimension I wanted which I got from print journalism). I never got my act together to write creatively until my early 30s.

5) How do you find inspiration and motivation?

Nowadays, I don’t look to be inspired and motivated. I just do. And my wish-list of Projects-To-Do exceed my capability at the moment. For example, I now have an idea for a second novel … but I can’t or won’t touch that until I’ve finished or gotten the first novel to a certain finished stage.

When I did need a source of inspiration, I usually find it through reading. Reading gives ideas.

6) Does place matter?  Where you live, I mean?  How much does nature and landscape affect you and influence your work?

Place does not matter for my writing—geographical space, that is. Whether it’s been in a small New York apartment or a large house in the country, it’s not been an issue as my focus has been on the screen and the benefits of the internet. As a result, I invented a word, “cloudygenous” which is in the anthology COUNTER DESECRATION (Eds Linda Russo and Marthe Reed) a Wesleyan University press book of writings in the anthropocene. Cloudygenous, a word play, is about being “indigenous” to the cloud of the internet. That’s me, and in that sense place has been significant.

Where place does  matter is through memory—my remembrances of my birth land, the Philippines. That’s a permanent presence within my psyche and affects my work. But the land in that memory no longer exists; i.e. what we have today is a different country from what I remember in my childhood.  Chalk it up to one of the costs of my diaspora.

Lastly, would you prefer to do video or just audio?  I might have a YouTube channel as another venue but funnel the audience through the podcast first.


Friday, January 25, 2019


Mail del dia is the chap E IS FOR EPAL from Paolo Manalo of Jolography fame. I expected to laugh, and I did, at his fabulous wordplay... but when his brief collection must include a poem like “Annus Horribilis,” it just shows the direness of the current regime. The poet doesn’t turn eyes away, forcing humor to come harder and harder.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


I've decided to review more fiction this year, part of the process of trying to finish my own novel. First for the year, my review of Gina Apostol's novel INSURRECTO is now up at The FilAm; here's an excerpt:
One of the most effective ways to enhance the effect of a joke or a witty remark is to underpin it with deep thoughtfulness; multiple layers of significance elongates resonance—it can make unforgettable a joke or other manifestation of humor. Apostol’s humor is so smart it seamlessly and often transitions to meta. For instance, “he laughs as if he has invented the act that will follow and that, soon enough, swallows him.” That’s a statement that can linger or come up unexpectedly as a recall, given its penetration as an observation. 
“Insurrecto’s” story is wide-ranging, thus, contains many dark elements because such is the 20th-21st century history of the Philippines. Apostol’s sense of humor helps us bear the darker aspects even as it highlights the darkness of such aspects ... 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


“The Limits of Syntax” is one of those poems I wrote and promptly forgot about because I’d written it off the cuff. Stride Magazine first published it in 2017 and then it was a Poem of the Day earlier this month at Central Coast Poetry Shows. You can see the text-poem HERE.  I’m glad it appeared at CCPS as it allowed stellar vispo poet Claude Nguyen to do something with it viz “rhythm and waving.” THANKS so much, Claude! Please go to his blog konkrete poesie to see, though I present image below:

 Curious, I asked Claude for a process note as regards his interpretation and he says (again, thank you!):

"It is a very spontaneous work, in general what touches me for the interpretation is the poetic lightness in front of the heaviness of the world, a force of the flight in some way. It is a very beautiful poem that I see as a clearing in the deep forest."

I’m so grateful that Claude has found a way into my poems. I believe we’ll be seeing more “translations” from him.

Sunday, January 6, 2019


I'm so pleased to be translated into Bengali in this way! From the co-editor's Facebook post:

ভাবনা-চিন্তার শুরু এক বছরের ও বেশি আগে। ২০১৮,ফেব্রুয়ারি,কলকাতা বইমেলার আকাশে তখন সন্ধ্যে ঘনাচ্ছে,কাফেতে আলাপরত আমরা তিন জন আর দুই মার্কিন কবি। প্রকল্পের বীজ রোপণ হল। তারপর গত একবছর ধরে নিরলস পরিশ্রমে নির্মিত হল এই  #অ_পর৩,কবিতার অতলান্তিক অনুসৃজন,প্রকাশিত হতে চলেছে ২০১৯-এর কলকাতা বইমেলায়। সমসাময়িক মার্কিন কাব্যজগতের ১২ জন প্রখ্যাত কবি এই অ্যান্থোলজিতে অংশগ্রহণ করলেন । হ্যাঁ,কারণ এটি সাধারণ আর পাঁচটি অনুবাদ বই এর মত নয় । কারণ কাজটি আমরা একা করিনি। কবিরা স্বতঃপ্রণোদিত হয়ে অংশগ্রহণ করেছেন এই প্রকল্পে। মুরাত নেমেত-নেজাত, চার্লস বার্ন্সটাইন, এইলিন আর তাবিওস, মেই-মেই বারসেনব্রাগি, মাইকেল বোওন, এলিজাবেথ উইল্‌স, জন ব্লুমবার্গ রিসম্যান, পিটার ভ্যালেন্টি, পিটার গিজ্জি, এইলিন মাইল্‌স, আদীনা কারাসিক, বব হোলম্যান এরা প্রত্যেকে নিজেরাও অংশগ্রহণ করেছেন। তাদের কাব্য ভাবনা,সমকালীন দুনিয়া ও শিল্প ও শিল্পীর সংযোগ,আরও বিবিধ জটিল ও সহজ প্রসঙ্গে তারা নিয়মিত মত বিনিময় করে গেছেন। এমনকি অনূদিত বাংলা ঠিক কি ও কতটা হলে কবিতার সঠিক ব্যঞ্জনা প্রকাশিত হবে,সে বিষয়েও তারা অংশগ্রহণ করেছেন। 
কারণ,আমরা আন্তর্জাতিক বাঙালী পাঠকের কাছে দায়বদ্ধ,ভাষার কাঁটাতার পেরিয়ে সঠিক কাজটি প্রকাশে। সমগ্র কাজটির সুচারু তত্ত্বাবধায়ক তুলনামূলক সাহিত্য নিয়ে নিরলস কাজ করে যাওয়া দুই অনুসন্ধিৎসু কবি রুণা বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায় এবং অরিত্র সান্যাল। সমস্ত প্রকল্পটির রূপায়ণে প্রধান ভূমিকায় ছিল মার্কিন কবিদের বাড়ানো আঙুলের স্পর্শ। বারোজন কবি ও দুই অনুসৃজকের হাত ধরে এবার প্রস্তুত এই অনুবাদ সাহিত্যের সীমাবদ্ধতা ভাঙার খেলা। 
কলকাতা বইমেলা,২০১৯এ  #ঐহিক প্রকাশ করছে অতলান্তিক কবিতাএ অনুসৃজন প্রকল্প 
মোড়ক ও পাঠ উন্মোচনে এবং সরাসরি পাঠকদের সাথে কথোপকথনে কলকাতা বইমেলায় উপস্থিত থাকবেন স্বয়ং মার্কিন কবিরা ও দুই বাংলার বিশিষ্ট কবিরা। 
প্রিয় কবিতাপ্রেমী পাঠক, সীমানাহীন কবিতার এই খেলাঘরে আপনাকে জানাই আমাদের সাদর আহ্বান।
প্রি অর্ডারের জন্য যোগাযোগ করুন ইনবক্সে।
in the Kolkata bookfair, 2018, we planned for a Transcreation project with 12 renowned contemporary American poetry most of whom are being translated in Bengali for the very first time. Bridgeable Lines: কবিতার অতলান্তিক অনুসৃজন is scheduled to be published this Kolkata International Bookfair, Feb, 2019. Two Bengali poets Runa Bandyopadhyay and Aritra Sanyal were editing and transcreating for this Anthology. We feel lucky to have interacted with some of the finest minds functioning in the genre of poetry. We personally thank Murat Nemet-Nejat, Charles Bernstein, Adeena Karasick, Peter Gizzi, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Eileen R Tabios, Peter Valente, Elizabeth Willis, John Bloomberg Rissman, Michael Boughn, Eileen Myles, Bob Hollman for being with us throughout the transcreation project. Now Dear Readers, our heartiest welcome to you to take the roll of the main actor to complete the Poet-Poetry-Reader triangle.
প্রচ্ছদ নির্ঝর নৈঃশব্দ্য

Translated are poems from my Menage a Trois With the 21st Century. I'm glad as I've long thought that book deserves all of its exposure.

Saturday, January 5, 2019


Someone asked me about writing about/in response to a parent's death. I replied, then thought to share my thoughts:
For me, I wrote an entire book concurrent with my time at my Dad’s death bed. And yet I am speechless over my Mom’s death. So perhaps I would note two words: urgency and constraint. While I actually was 2nd-guessing whether I should be using my Dad’s death as “material,” I felt helpless against the urgency that made me write – like, I had to write the grief out of me (as if that was possible). Then, as it turned out, that book, THE LIGHT SANG AS IT LEFT YOUR EYES, became one of my more successful ones even as paradoxically it was my rawest writing to date. Some of the most meaningful responses to my work are in response to that book – specifically how it helped other readers with their parents’ passage. So feel out the urgency/necessity of writing as an ethic, if you will, on writing about something like your Dad’s passing.   
As for constraint, especially if you took notes, it may be helpful to create a constraint as an organizing element for those noted thoughts. My favorite poem by Barbara Jane Reyes is one she wrote re her father’s death … and its organization presents a 24-hour day unfolding and she uses time of day to begin writing (not saying Barbara consciously used constraint-based methodology but I see the poem as a successful example of what I suggest—to come up with a (more objective) organizing principle that would help harness what I’m sure must be very emotional thoughts that you’ve noted. You can see Barbara’s poem  at https://aaww.org/the-day-barbara-jane-reyes/ 
As for writing about my Mom, it’s been about 7 years. And I can’t. And that’s okay.

A parent's death is tough. I share in case these thoughts are useful to someone ...