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, July 13, 2014


At times, I receive unexpected reminders of how much my mother, Beatriz Tabios, supported my writings.  Like, today, I was led (while developing a project) to read Fred Muratori’s review of my book THE LIGHT SANG AS IT LEFT YOUR EYES published in the American Book Review.  And there’s this excerpt in it that captures one of the risks I remember taking in putting together that manuscript:
What distinguishes Tabios’s work is the anxiety of contradiction at its core, its concern with formal experimentation, and the depth of its self-awareness. Nowhere is this more obvious than at the very center of the book, where we find, in a piece titled “The Blank Page of Death,” a photograph of Mr. Tabios himself lying in a coffin, a copy of one of his daughter’s books displayed above his chest. The poet writes: 

What is it about the image of someone in a coffin? While taking photos of my father in his coffin, I felt appalled—like I was intruding or that the image should be something left uncaptured so that it resides only in memory. Still, I kept photographing... 

No doubt many readers will be appalled as well, prompting questions of taste that rarely surface in discussions of literature anymore. When does art trespass on human dignity? Should the poetic ego acknowledge any limits? Where does the daughter-self end and the poet-self begin? What on earth was this woman thinking? But Tabios, rigorously candid and determined to represent all dimensions of the experience, anticipates these reactions: “I kept thinking to myself, half laughing and half...appalled, ‘You sick puppy—what are you doing?’”
Yeah.  It was such a risk that, today, I actually don't know whether I would replicate that move (of including in a book a photo of Dad in his coffin).

But at the time I chose to do so, I rationalized the decision as one taken and presented in the context of the larger book which, I hoped, showed my complicated but true love for Dad.  

So, Mom.  Since Dad died in 2006 and the book came out, Mom had a choice among my books of what she’d always share with friends and relatives.  Relatives, mind you.  Our clan.  And Mom? She mostly chose this book, THE LIGHT SANG …  

And I’m just realizing today, upon reading Muratori’s old review, that my decision was okay (I suppose I always wondered about it).  Because if it had been only lousy taste that made me decide to include this photo (note that I'm not replicating it here now on blog), I do believe Mom would not have given away so many copies of that book.  If anyone could judge me on this, it would be Mom--a writer but also wife to Dad.

Thanks Mom. And I miss you.  Here she is, and of course she's reading one of my books

with her sewing kit nearby.  Good old Mom -- she so often repaired more than just my fragile hems.

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