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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


I'm pleased to share that Meritage Press is helping to distribute Luis Francia's latest poetry collection -- I've read it: he is writing at his peak!  Please forward information below:


By Luis H. Francia
The University of the Philippines Press
ISBN: 978-971-542-720-3
U.S. Price: $20.00
Pages: 101

Ranging over a diverse array of subjects, whether it is Christ as a Jewish retiree in Miami, the frog prince, a suicide bomber, or Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, Tattered Boat exemplifies Luis H. Francia’s quest for the lyrical line that fulfills the impulse towards non-narrative meaning. These are poems rife with double entendres, contradictions, and playful ironies. As Danton Remoto puts it, “Like Wang Wei in his middle passage, the poet traces in the air the smoke rings of journeys and destinations, deaths, and rebirths.” Per Krip Yuson, the collection represents the “inquisition of a planet fraught with false gods.”

The book expands on similar themes explored in Museum of Absences (co-published by Meritage Press and the University of the Philippines Press).  Of those works, Nick Carbo writes that Francia’s “themes of love, loss, and redemption weave through the collection with the expert hand of a Stephane Mallarmé or a Federico Fellini.” His last publication, The Beauty of Ghosts, portrayed the Filipino immigrant experience in the voices of individual sojourners to these shores, from an overworked nurse in Queens to a teenaged rapper.

Francia has been widely anthologized and his poems have appeared in numerous journals. He teaches in the Asian American Studies programs of New York University and Hunter College. He is also on the MFA Faculty at the City University of Hong Kong, where he teaches workshops in poetry and creative nonfiction.

Tattered Boat is published by the University of the Philippines Press and is distributed in the U.S. through Amazon. 

In addition to Tattered Boat, Luis H. Francia is the author of other poetry collections, including The Beauty of Ghosts, Museum of Absences, and The Arctic Archipelago and Other Poems. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Language for a New Century and Love Rise Up! ! His poems have been translated into Spanish, German, and Filipino.

His memoir, Eye of the Fish: A Personal Archipelago, won both the 2002 PEN Open Book and the Asian American Writers awards. He edited Brown River, White Ocean: An Anthology of Twentieth Century Philippine Literature in English, and co-edited the literary anthology Flippin’: Filipinos on America and Vestiges of War: The Philippine-American War and the Aftermath of an Imperial Dream, 1899-1999. Included in the Library of America’s Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing, Francia is on the faculty of Asian American Studies at New York University and Hunter College, and teaches poetry and creative nonfiction at City University of Hong Kong’s MFA Program. He and his wife live in Queens.

Luis H. Francia’s 2004 poetry book, Museum of Absences (Meritage Press), is also available on Amazon.com.  To order: http://www.amazon.com/Museum-Absences-Luis-H-Francia/dp/9715424155/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398186477&sr=8-1&keywords=francia+museum+of+absences

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Kindergarde:Avant-Garde Poems, Plays, Stories, and Songs for Children, edited by Dana Teen Lomax (Black Radish Books 2013, 178 pages) is an interesting book.  Over at Jacket2CarolynHembree provides a review that's useful, too, for giving an overall sense of the project.  

I also did a review of one of the poems in Kindergarde, "done" by Rachel Zolf.  I forget now who told me that s/he was so happy I focused on this particular visual poem as it's apparently considered more difficult than other offerings in the book.  Here it is:

Thing is, I didn't consider this work any more difficult or easy than the others.  If you read my review, perhaps the trick to appreciating it is really seeing the work as it is.  So, I don't think it's the work that's "difficult."  I think it's the seeing that can be.  Well then, consider this my encouragement to OPEN YOUR EYES!

Monday, April 28, 2014


THANK YOU to William Allegrezza for inviting me to participate.  The WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR  requires participants to answer four questions (my answers below) and Bill’s answers are HERE

William Allegrezza edits Moria Books and teaches at Indiana University Northwest. He has previously published many poetry books, including still walk, In the Weaver's Valley, Ladders in July, Fragile Replacements, Collective Instant, Aquinas and the Mississippi (with Garin Cycholl), Covering Over, and Densities, Apparitions; three anthologies, The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century, The Alteration of Silence: Recent Chilean Poetry, and La Alteración del Silencio: Poesía Norteamericana Reciente; seven chapbooks, including Sonoluminescence (co-written with Simone Muench) and Filament Sense (Ypolita Press); and many poetry reviews, articles, and poems. He founded and curated series A, a reading series in Chicago, from 2006-2010. In addition, he occasionally posts his thoughts at P-Ramblings.


What am I working on?
I’ve started with book designer Michelle Bautista the book design process of my next book, SUN STIGMATA (Sculpture Poems) which is coming out from Marsh Hawk Press this Fall 2014.   I’m also promoting VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA, a fundraising anthology I edited to raise funds for the survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan. 

I’m working on MY RUSSIAN NOVEL—that’s the working title which is intended only to refer to my life-long goal of writing a HUGE (long) novel. I talk more about the demands of its scale over HERE, including why I felt I had to write so much poetry before I could begin this novel that I’ve wanted to do for the last four decades. 

SUN STIGMATA is my 25th (est.) poetry collections since I began poem-writing about 18 years ago.  Which is to say, the Poetry Muses have been quite generous to me—and I’ve been blessed by having sufficient poetry publishers in seven countries to support me.  But in finally deciding to work on the novel, I did wonder about the Poetry Muses’ reactions (the Muses are very real to me).  At first, I was heartened as they seemed to be supportive as they gave me a poetry-related idea for developing the novel when I was just starting to write it.

But I should have known better than to expect an easy release from the Poetry Muses.  Their idea that supposedly aided the novel ended up being a brilliant idea for a different work—the form may be prose poem, but it’s also an autobiography.  Basically, the Muses I insisted that if I was going to move from the poem to the novel, I first had to write my own poet’s obituary.  Given their historical generosity, I was inclined to abide by their demands.  Initially, its working title was THE SECOND VIOLIN as a metaphor for how, in an orchestra, the second violin can expand (via harmony) on the first violin’s melody.  Metaphorically, I was thinking that if the poem is the melody, the harmony can be the life that had harmonized with the poem to give it life.

I did drop THE SECOND VIOLIN as title (I might use it later for the novel) and, right now, this project is entitled MURDERING AND DYING: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY. 

Even as I write MURDERING AND DYING, though, I am focused on the novel.  I was heartened recently by poet and man of letters John Bloomberg-Rissman who reminded me that “Thomas Mann's major novels has a number of satellite texts orbiting it—not his metaphor but his way of recognizing the relations between certain of his works and others.”  That makes sense to me as certain themes seem to lurk within my past writings, even as I always worked overtly to make each poetry book sufficiently different from each other so that each book could not serve as a foretelling of the next book project.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
It pains me to see so much timidity in poetry.  If there’s one genre that should be radically expansive, it should be poetry.  My work isn’t timid, of which one manifestation is how my poetry-writing isn’t limited to inherited forms.  It invents. I experiment, (not because of the baggage the poetry world has ascribed to the term but, in part) because I think poetry is not a single genre but inherently mixed-genre. 

I once performed several poetry readings with dancer-collaborators—they did their movements to the “music” of the poems I read.  It took at least five performances (I collaborated with more than one dancer) before I admitted to myself that the approach didn’t really work (the dancers moved beautifully but I never was able to harmonize the reading sounds to the imagery of dance).  But, I tried.  And what was at stake for the failure—did failure hurt anyone or anything? No—if anything, it was a source of lessons subsequently used in future endeavors.  I wish people would dare more on behalf of the form.

As a reader/observer, it’s also fun and elucidating to watch others take a risk—whether or not it works.  Risk-taking offers its own source of satisfaction and pleasure.

Why do I write what I do?
I had all sorts of answers as a younger poet.  Nowadays, a more honest answer is probably “I write what I do because it pleases me”—but with the challenge as a poet to have a self that’s large enough to encompass enough concerns so that what pleased me to write becomes something that also interests others.

That’s why I feel I must do a lot of preparation for writing poems by living life in a certain way: open and attentive to what is real and external to me.  The world is a big place, much bigger than my imagination.  I feel I need to pay attention as such information and attitude can benefit poems by widening their expanse, thus, relevance to others (read: readers).

I said all that only to feel the fumbling of articulation.  Let me just cite the marvelous poet/writer John Olson whose book, THE NOTHING THAT IS (Ravenna Press, 2010), I just finished.  Towards the end of this somewhat autobiographical book, he notes, “Poetry is such a mystery. You really don’t know how or where good poems come from.  There are mere words, the same words everyone uses every day, yet somehow, if they are arranged in some manner whose process eludes you, they produce magic. They conjure worlds. They light the mind. They transform ordinary sight into vision.”

This doesn’t negate the idea that poetry-writing is craft.  But a well-crafted poem can still fail to “produce magic,” “light the mind,” “transform ordinary sight into vision,” or however else one might describe poetry’s gifts.  Craft can be taught but I do feel poetry’s birthing is ineffable.

How does my writing process work?
For poems, Slant. And (hopefully) robustly.  And, nowadays, reluctantly.  My answers to this question has evolved over time. But starting in 2010 with THE THORN ROSARY, my first “Selected” poetry book (though it only selects from prose poems which is just one form in which I have written), I consciously raised the threshold—I flung it as high as I could!—for what must push me to write a new poem.  I felt/feel that if I never wrote a new poem again, I still would have done enough to have respected poetry.  So I wanted to be sure that each new poem I wrote had to be urgent enough to exist.  Note that I didn’t say, good enough to exist since I’ve always thought the good vs. bad point-of-view to be such a small (timid!) standard for poetry, even as it’s curatorially convenient for those with careerist mindsets or constraints.  Since 2010, I’ve tried NOT to write new poems, feeling that those that push themselves successfully out of my pen would have a strong (urgent) reason(s) for existing.  I consider the poem’s energy relevant in ensuring it has a transformative effect.

I’ve wanted NOT to write new poems but, since THE THORN ROSARY, I’ve actually released five poetry books and one hybrid poetry-novel collection. I get exhausted thinking of what I would have done had I actually wanted to write new poems.  But when I say I want the writing to occur by the work overcoming my reluctance to write more poems, I am also saying I want the work to overcome me—because the work, if it succeeds, is not (just) about me.

More specifically, there’s an initial impetus—a single word, a thought, someone else’s resonant writing, etc.—that moves me to put pen to paper.  From there, my writing is very process-based, with each word or phrase being what pushes the writing forward to the next word.  Thus, for the writing process I can rarely be specific about content as that may morph based on the energy flow of the writing process itself.  Conscious intention is rarely relevant—but this only emphasizes the importance of living in a certain way: as open and educated as possible in order to harness as many possibilities as possible for the writing as it energetically proceeds forward to overcome my reluctance to begin and then unfold.

For the novel, on the other hand, my writing process is quite different: more conscious discipline and focus.  I actually have an outline!


I’m delighted that this Writing Process Blog Tour will continue next week with John Bloomberg-Rissman! About himself:

John Bloomberg-Rissman has about a year and a half to go on In the House of the Hangman, the third section of his maybe life project called Zeitgeist Spam. The first two volumes have been published: No Sounds of My Own Making (Leafe Press, 2007), and Flux, Clot & Froth (Meritage Press 2010). In addition to his Zeitgeist Spam project, the main other thing on his plate right now is an anthology which he is editing with Jerome Rothenberg, titled Barbaric Vast & Wild: An Anthology of Outside & Subterranean Poetry, due out from Black Widow Press, Autumn 014. He's also learning to play the viola and he blogs at www.johnbr.com (Zeitgeist Spam).    

Friday, April 25, 2014


For his high school English class, my son was assigned to read the wonderful novel, THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini.  Great choice!  Then, as befits great teachers who think of interesting ways to teach, his English teacher had the class make kites!  They flew them yesterday, which is good as it's raining today.  Here is Michael's lovely kite:

I only wish I had a photo of the kids flying their kites!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


There's a "Writing Process" touring the Blogosphere.  Here is the most recent:

William Allegrezza

!  I love Bill's poems and suggest you check out his "writing process."  I do like reading about how writers ... write!  Here are some other participants:

And, yes, I'll be participating.  My contribution will appear here next Monday.  Until then, may I share the first harvested roses from the garden this Spring!

Monday, April 21, 2014


This weekend, I read this from Christopher P. Parr's "Revisiting the Gap Between Words and Reality: Critical Reflections on the Symposium 'Poetry as Social Action'":
"By defeatism I mean a signaling in advance that poetry is capable of very little significant social action, if any at all – and if the ‘poetry’ of the title is taken to refer to writing that can be called avant-garde, the chances of changing actual things for the better any time soon are really nil. So it is better to make minimal claims for poetry’s efficacy in the world."
Well, Mr. Parr obviously hasn't read VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA.  So far, the anthology has raised money to help the following organizations or groups that are helping survivors of Typhoon Haiyan:

Shelter Box

Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation and the Panay/Bukidnon Tribes

National Alliance for Filipino Concerns

Local libraries in Tacloban (ground zero of the typhoon)

Moreoever, not only does VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA present lovely poems but it also offers an all-too-rare view of contemporary Filipino Poetry (I look forward to other Filipino poet-activists redressing this matter), a narrative arc that's more novelistic in scope as the poems together offer a sum greater than its parts, and finally a new (and much-needed) take on the form of journalism given that most of the poems were written right after the typhoon hit land.  

VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA not only is good literature but it does good--actual and not metaphorical good.  That, per Mr. Parr's point, this effect isn't common in poetry is not due to Poetry's failings.  It's due to a failure of imagination by some of its poet-practitioners, even among the so-called avant grade.

I move for clarity in analysis.  While some poets are small, Poetry's possibilities remain infinite.  So it has been, and so it always will be.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


It's high season at Napa Valley for foodies and oenophiles and we tend to have our share of hosting out of town visitors.  Last night, then, we went with said visitors to one of Napa's best, the Restaurant at Meadowwood.  I'm posting pics below of their various presentations as the staff there are artists, as led by Chef Christopher Kostow (what else would you do with a philosophy degree but become a chef!?).  But, look, too at the bibliophilic pic below -- would that be a good way to serve food?  Fried kale on an open book?  But maybe that's inevitable in an age where (snort) bookshelves are arranged by the color of book spines...

[black olive meringue]

[fried kale]

[whipped yogurt wild plum umeboshi shiso]

[asparagus surf clam smoked goats butter]

[kohlrabi glazed in its own juice rye porridge mustard]

[sea cucumber wild onions whipped bean brown butter seaweed]

[cod soy wild radish]

[from the kitchen to show the way the next two dishes are made]

[poussin broth]

[pussin baked in bread grilled rage yeast]

 [missing pic: aged beef shiitake fermented  turnip]

[olive oil coconut barage]

 [can't recall; drank too much]

[contralto castelfranco "ham" (marinated radicchio)]

[missing pic: silken chocolate panettone]

[praline with gold leaf glitter]

Ironically, I failed to take a photo of the best course, served after the chicken: aged beef shiitake fermented turnip.  (Sorry Peep)...

Wines served:
2010 Peter Michael Mon Plasir
2004 Philip Togni
1982 Vega Sicilia Reserva Especial (wine in decanter at top of post)
2001 Sasseti Brunello di Montalcino

Among the influences on Meadowwood's menu is the inspiring "molecular gastronomy" approach innovated by Ferran Adria of El Bulli.  Coincidentally, or synchronistically, his book is near the top of my To-Read List!