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, December 13, 2015


I wish I knew this video existed when Mom was still alive. Mom was an English teacher (whose master’s thesis was among the first to look at local (Pinoy) elements in the Philippines’ then burgeoning English-language literature). About my poetry, she said, "I love you but I don’t understand it."  If you look at this Ossorio video, his approach overlaps with mine; I could have told Mom, “Ossorio — and his works -- help explain what I’m trying to do in poetry." Pure Kapwa, the interconnection of things, is often presented with a romanticized spin; it sounds nice to say "One is All, All is One." But “All” includes dark elements. So, say with Ossorio, how does one not just make a skull beautiful but contextualize it within harmony?  His assemblages. Which, while visually harmonious are not just surface — it’s why he called his work “Congregations” — a moniker I don’t think so much relates to his (lapsed) Catholicism as to how he wished the freedom (he admired in abstract expressionism) not to result in “disaster.” That Art is to grow, not to destroy. Note in video how Ossorio's works breaks through the frame -- similarly I aspire for poems that bypass page as boundary. One of the few poems of my own I’ve memorized is a couplet: “To bring the poem into the world / is to bring the world into the poem.” Ossorio does it with an intelligent long-considered meditation that ultimately brings nature to the forefront of his aesthetic strategies. Nature —  he’s gotten there with Babaylan poetics while I’m still struggling to get there (fortunately, at the time of this video, he’s got 20 years on me so I’ve got time). While I'd love to have one of his assemblages in my home, I'd be as keen to have his library -- he's clearly a creature of the book. I'd love to know what he's read through all of his life. Reading has discernibly helped form him and his work.  Creatures of the book -- they're special; there's no shortcut to the  rewards of their illumination from just deep reading. Huge gratitude to Michael Caylo-Baradi​  for sharing the video on Facebook and allowing me to discover it.

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