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.