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.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


[If interested in participating in this series, "What Do You Re-Read?" please go HERE for more information. We welcome your participation.]

Eileen Tabios Re-Reads!

1) What books and/or authors do you re-read?
2) Optional:  Please provide comments on your answer.

I rarely re-read books for a simple reason: there are too many books I have yet to read for the first time.  So I anticipated that my answer would feature a short list -- I notice that only my first two listings are re-read for pure apprecation.  The third is re-read for appreciation but also for increased comprehension. The last three are re-read for "work" purposes related to poetry:

Jean Rhys' novels:  Voyage in the Dark, Quartet, After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie, and Good Morning Midnight 

Her novels' characters of women making it on their own strikes a chord.  But I think I keep re-reading her because she is a master of evocation.  Her words generate a powerful and powerfully-fragile atmosphere that I much appreciate and would want to have the ability to effect in some of my writings. Although, I would prefer to create that effect without having to experience what Rhys did -- her, as one Amazon commenter said (chuckle), "sad kitty" experience...

I paused in writing this post to re-read my all-too-brief comment on Rhys' novels.  I'm missing something -- and it's this:  her writing is addictive.  Like a drug.  I'll stop there.


84, CHARING CROSS ROAD by Helene Hanff is, per Wikipedia, "a 1970 book by Helene Hanff, ... about the twenty-year correspondence between her and Frank Doel, chief buyer of Marks & Co, antiquarian booksellers located at the eponymous address in London, England. Hanff, in search of obscure classics and British literature titles she had been unable to find in New York City, noticed an ad in the Saturday Review of Literature and first contacted the shop in 1949, and it fell to Doel to fulfill her requests. In time, a long-distance friendship evolved, not only between the two, but between Hanff and other staff members as well, with an exchange of Christmas packages, birthday gifts, and food parcels to compensate for post-World War II food shortages in Britain. Their letters included discussions about topics as diverse as the sermons of John Donne, how to make Yorkshire Pudding, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the coronation of Elizabeth II."

The tale is so charming that after first reading it years ago, I immediately sent the book to Mom and bought another copy for my library.  Both Mom and I were/are extremely charmed by this tale.  I've read it twice and while I haven't looked at it again, I would always be willing to pick it up and read it.  It's just such an enchanting tale. 

The book's Wikipedia link is actually a good one for listing the books that Hanff ordered from Doel and Marks & Co.

The story also melds my interest in bookstores and coping with adversity.  There's a movie version out there that, unfortunately, is pallid relative to the book.



Can one really understand The Bible without a humongous amount of rereading?  In any event, I've just started Bible Study with some Methodist grannies for this porpoise



This "book" from the ever-innovative Ugly Duckling Presse (Brooklyn) is a small box of index card-sized cards with instructions that, if followed, can create a new book. Page 1's instructions are hilarious by saying, "Obviously, nothing at all should appear here" which is often the case where the first page in many books is blank.  I keep re-reading this because I want to generate thirty-five new pages of writings based on the index card's declarations/instructions (and/or possibly write a review for Galatea Resurrects).  For example, to generate Page 13, this card indicates:


THE GRAND PIANO, ten volumes of a "collective autobiography" by Bob Perelman, Steve Benson, Tom Mandel, Kit Robinson, Rae Armantrout, Carla Harryman, Ron Silliman, Lyn Hejinian, Barrett Watten and Ted Pearson.  This is self-assigned re-reading because I'm interested in the project's structure of collective autobiography. Because all of the volumes were released prior to my paying attention to the series, I have been reading each individual poet’s contributions sequentially with the idea that, if I was so moved after reading all authors’ contributions, I then would read the books as collectively authored.  Now that I've finished reading all the authors, while I wasn't moved (so to speak) by all of them, I am still sufficiently curious to plan to read at least one volume as a volume -- to see what they are achieving as collective autobiographers.  Here's the series and also on, yeah (because what's a blog for but the chance occasionally to be cheeky),  a grand piano:



I also anticipate that my answer to this re-reading question will be affected by my writing focus newly- away from poetry to a RUSSIAN NOVEL.  I anticipate that this will require me to reread some great novels as part of honing my craft.  I've read a lot of crap fiction over the past years but they don't stick when it came to my poetry writing.  I anticipate that to improve my writing of fiction, I need to read different (better) fare.


I initially ended my post here.  But Tom Beckett's contribution to this series reminds that writers often re-read their own works for a variety of purposes (scroll down to his last paragraph in the link).  So I will end with saying I've been re-reading my first U.S.-published poetry collection, Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole (Marsh Hawk Press, 2002) because I used it as a basis for creating new poems for my forthcoming Fall poetry collection, SUN STIGMATAS (Sculpture Poems)
Reproductions... is a book of prose poems.  To create most of the poems in SUN STIGMATAS, I thought about chiseling lines out from the prose into verses a la this quote

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

In response to Michelangelo, I thought, "What if the block of stone is a block of prose?" Thus, I thought to "sculpt" verses.  

But recently, while I thought of the above process as "sculpting" poems, I've realized that perhaps what's happening here is also a practice of Lectio Divina (there is spirituality in my poetic practice and I do consider the "poem" a "prayer"--perhaps a tale for another time). In order to read my original poems, I had to engage with the words themselves instead of trying to recall any particular intention of mine as author at the time of writing them (this wasn't hard to do as my memory is a sieve). In READING THE DIFFICULTIES (Univ. of Alabama Press), Elizabeth Robinson offers this about Lectio Divina which I find useful for my point:

One contemporary  monastic website discusses the way that Lectio Divina radicalizes the practice of reading (and rereading): “One does not engage in Lectio Divina to acquire disinterested, intellectual knowledge. The intent of Lectio Divina is to make the reading of Scripture … a two way street for God and us. Cyprian of Carthage put it perfectly: ‘Be assiduous in prayer and in reading. In the one you speak to God in the other God speaks to you’. What is germane here is that this ancient practice of reading and  rereading insists on a sense of reciprocity between reader and text: each is involved in an interchange whose outcome, meaning, and value cannot be ascertained beforehand and which is subject to change with each reading. 

Isn't the above an interesting take on *reader-response*, its role in engaging with poetry, as well as the role of rereading!


  1. I share your love of Jean Rhys and have a complicated emotional relationship with the Grand Piano collab. This was a very interesting post (on a number of levels).

  2. Thanks, Tom. It's a good series, and a nice way to consider Lectio Divina for me....