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, November 15, 2018


I’ve had about five poetics essays accepted for publication in the last couple of months—folks seem to like my blather. (Indeed, I write this while on a break from writing another such essay requested by another poet.) I think if I have a lot to say on poetics, it comes from how I approach poem-making. And, ever multi-tasking, I’d like to talk about it by answering another question that’s recently come up to me: 
“You have so many books and I’m new to your work—how do  choose?”

My answer is three-fold:

1) Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole as it’s what I consider my true first poetry book (includes sizeable excerpts from technically my first book, Beyond Life Sentences which is not distributed well outside of the Philippines) and it’s always interesting to see any poet’s first book; 

2) Any of my recent books as they would benefit from experience and maturity (hopefully); and/or

3) My favored answer—the one I would say if I could only choose one of these three numbered options: books from my form-based Selected Poem series.

I create Selected Poem books based on a single poetry form. I do so for one reason: so that I can prove to the reader that I didn’t just write poems but helped to expand the landscape of its particular form ... because I believe that if I didn’t expand poetry’s expanse, then my poems threaten to be solipsistic, masturbatory, or derivative (yes, I'm my toughest critic).

Relatedly, the poems inside each book are presented chronologically so that the reader can track how the writing developed before it ends up in expanding the form. I think this layer is interesting as art is a process as much as a result.  

To date, I’ve released three such Selected Poems books:

Forthcoming are two more Selected Poems collections:

The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku: Selected Tercets (1996-2019)

THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL: Selected Visual Poetry (2001-2019)

So I have addressed four forms through my Selected Poems series: the prose poem, the catalog or list poem, the tercet, and visual poetry.

I write/have written in other forms but if I haven’t released a “Selected Poem” addressing a particular form, it likely will be because I don’t feel I’ve explored it sufficiently and thus provided my own value-added on to its form. I’ve written, for example, in quatrains, sonnets,  ghazals, etc. and while individual poems may have merit, I don’t feel I’ve (yet) expanded on the form.

An exception to my Selecteds will be the tanka. In the future, I likely will present a Collected Tanka book of the tankas that I will have written only in 2018 (I don't anticipate writing more tankas after this year this year). Thus, that book will be a Collected rather than Selected and, yes, I also feel I expanded that form (for proof until I release that Collected, you can check out  my TANKA, Vol. 1 from Simulacrum Press, 2018).

But to get back to poetics, I don’t think I’d have much to blather about poetry were it  not for my desire to expand the possibilities of whatever form I’m writing. So, if you have to choose among my many books, you might consider one of my Selecteds. Thank you for asking.

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