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.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


There’s a tricky stage in starting up a new review journal, as I just did with THE HALO-HALO REVIEW’s Mangozine.  It’s when you have to seed the debut issue with new reviews.  For The Mangozine, I am blessed to have had the help of several poet-critics who, in the past, have reviewed for Galatea Resurrects (GR).  So thank you to these GR reviewers who helped launch The Mangozine: John Bloomberg-Rissman, Rebecca Loudon, Allen Bramhall, Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey and Thomas Hibbard.  Nine new reviews is a decent presentation for most single review issues (though not by GR’s standards, but that’s a different story).  The Mangozine’s Review Copy List is not (yet) as extensive as GR’s, but I invite you to peruse it and hopefully engage.  While Filipino authors are the subjects, reviewers need not be Filipino. Next review submission deadline is Jan. 30, 2016.


While I edit THE HALO-HALO REVIEW, I allow (unlike with GR) reviews of my works to be posted there in the spirit of HHR serving as an aggregator of online review links to Filipino-authored works.  So I also thank John and Tom for engaging with my writings.  I never (or rarely) challenge how others read my words — and I am fascinated by these two reviews for presenting thoughts that did not occurr to me whilst writing the poems (which is part of the beauty of Poetry!).  Jose Garcia Villa, towards the end of his life, said something about how he’s turned to poems that make one think (rather than simply sing). Thanks for this, Thomas Hibbard, for leaping from AGAINST MISANTHROPY to a reasoned discourse of globalism and global warning:

What, then, does globalism even mean on a “macro” scale?  It might mean that the so-called “carbon footprint” of humankind is probably an insignificant factor in terms of the environmental future of our planet.  It might mean that the appearance and disappearance of glaciers is a somewhat more normal fluctuation than at this time we view it.  It might mean that we don’t yet have good science on, for example, such things as the part that lithium plays in the formation of solar systems and galaxies. It  might mean we need to know where the Sulphur in our oceans originates.  It might mean our rare atmosphere and biosphere, with its oxygen and liquid water, are possibly very much in jeopardy from ice formation or complete evaporation as seems to be the more common surface condition of most planets but from natural factors which we are only beginning to study.  In Gaia, Lovelock does an excellent job of discussing the atmosphere of earth on a macro scale, and he points toward the significance of our being able to contrast our atmosphere with that of other planets. 

In terms of human life, the macro perspective might mean that we are more afraid of our unknown fates than we are aware,  that humankind is less well established on the planet than it believes it is, living and dying pitifully huddled together and exposed in rags in a way that we are currently incapable of seeing and understanding.  Yes, we have become, as the apostle Paul says, citizens rather than subjects, but don’t forget that it is a citizenship established in the manner of adoption.  Our promotion comes at the cost of learning that we are citizens of a much more autonomous and formidable emptiness than we could ever have imagined.  The “arduity” that poets such as Tabios face is to write about our birth into a magnificent mystery of Creation that sometimes we are capable of mistaking for being doomed.  In fact, in both poetry and science, globalism on the macro level seems to me pretty much summed up as this:   humankind’s understanding and activity needs to be motivated and advanced based on faith and knowledge rather than fear and desperate melodramatic manipulation.  Just as Tabios resolves to connect writing good poems with being “a good person,” the citizens of the macro perspective must resolve to do the right thing in a straightforward diligent and mature and open manner—for the sake of life in society. 

Globalism is our new life of abstraction, lived in an uncrowded space, inside our twenty-four hour a day (or perhaps twenty-five or forty-five hour a day) space suits of conceptuality.  Globalism is interacting with our miraculous, strangely wonderful surroundings of loneliness and affection and that includes some moments of apprehension and not knowing, in the seeming scale of randomness or else improbability.  Globalism is finding our bearings in the infinite context.         

AND thanks for this, John Bloomberg-Rissman, for saying about my work that you’re “always left with a bit of mystery. Which I think is thought and emotion producing. Which is great” before exemplifying it in your review of my poem "What Can A Daughter Say?" with these thoughts:

Perhaps this is where my NOT being an exile or immigrant becomes a strength, but perhaps it also becomes a source of misreading. In any case, my immediate thought upon finishing this poem was: why, among all the world’s leaders who have been linked with terrible crimes, are no USAmericans listed? Yes, the names of a number of presidents are listed, but not with crimes attached to their names. Which leads to a question: does a person exiled to the US, or who has emigrated here, have a different relationship with the nation’s crimes than I (who as born in Chicago) have? Or is there another reason for this what to me is an obvious (meaning not accidental) omission? I don’t know. I really have no idea.

But I must say, that these omissions do say something. I just don’t know what. But it’s important somehow. It feels important. Not in terms of the grief that this poem is working thru. I only know that if I had written these lines, and if I had limited myself to US crimes against humanity that took place from Johnson on, I would have had to write:

“My father is not Lyndon Baines Johnson, or Richard Milhaus Nixon, who, between them, murdered 700,000 Vietnamese for no intelligible reason, and disrupted Southeast Asia to such an extent that the Khmer Rouge, and hence Pol Pot, became possible, and as we already know, Pol Pot, who ‘killed between a quarter and a third of his country’s population.’”

“My father is not George Herbert Walker Bush, or William Jefferson Clinton, who, between them, embargoed Iraq and did not allow the importation of chemicals that would purify the water, so that 500,000 children died of intestinal diseases.” [Note: Tabios – the poet  and/or the persona – attributes these deaths to Saddam Hussein. I can only say that the US Ambassador to Iraq under both Bush and Clinton said, in my presence, that the US was to blame for the death of those children. I know, as the poem says, ambassadors lie, but I couldn’t see in 2003, when I heard him say this, and I still can’t see, what this particular ambassador had to gain by his statement]

“My father is not George W Bush, who invaded Iraq in 2003 under the known pretense (lie) that Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 attacks, even tho he knew they didn’t, which morphed into the lie that Iraq was a danger because it had WMDs, which morphed into the lie that we were bringing them democracy, and who is responsible for the deaths of a million or so Iraqis who died because of the US invasion and occupation (whoever in fact did the killing, they wouldn’t have died otherwise).”

And, just as a footnote, during the year since the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, 1091 people have been killed in the US by police. That’s almost 3 a day, which is heading towards Pinochet territory, whether or not some of the dead “earned” it (suicide by cop, etc).  

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think Tabios SHOULD have included these lines, or ones like them; it simply the fact that she didn’t, that the US in this poem is somehow (apparently) exempted, that I found so … interesting. I make no critique of the poem for what it doesn’t include. But. The fact that there are no such lines tells me that there are things about this poem I don’t understand, and thus my position as a reader (and more) is raised, in my eyes at least. My takeaway is that it is possible that it’s different to be her than me, or it’s different to be an exile / immigrant than not to be one, or it’s different to be a Filipino than not.

Thought- and emotion-producing. I aspire to such for my poems. Thanks for the feedback that showed engagement with both heart and intellect.

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