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, May 29, 2019


Two recent publications. The first in Bellingham Review is an excerpt of series inspired by an Anselm Berrigan line. The second is a poem in The Lantern Review; the poem also is part of my newest book Witnessed in the Convex Mirror. (As latter is online, here's link to it: http://lanternreview.com/issue7_2/toc.html ) Agyamanac.


Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Poet-Mom Michelle Bautista just shared she "survived" a hay(na)ku workshop for kindergartners at Glenview Elementary! The survivor said:
"They shared their poems then their classmates had to guess what they wrote about. For kids that needed extra help, wrote words on post it notes that they could move around."

The use of post-its was genius--it made the process like a manual version of those magnetic poetry kits!  This, of course, is ALSO what hay(na)ku is for -- to bring love to poetry and poetry to love!

Thanks Michelle! The sample poem:
Make dolphins you; 
whoosh wavy; 

Sounds great to me!!!

Monday, May 6, 2019


Deep gratitude to Erica Goss who reviews my Selected Hay(na)ku Poems at her Sticks & Stones Newsletter. Erica's newsletter features a variety of interesting readings--you can sign up for it HERE. Here's the current issue's contents:
  • REVIEW: One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku by Eileen Tabios
  • THE READING LIFE: A Closer Look with Karen Kelsay of Kelsay Books
  • RANDOM POEM FROM THE BOOKSHELF: "Everything” by Mary Oliver
  • QUOTE: William Stafford from "Writing and Literature, Some Opinions"
  • ARTICLE AT MOVING POEMS: "Wings of Desire is a Poetry Film"
  • VIDEO: An interview with poet Raymond Antrobus
           MY NEW BOOK, STONE empty chair

And here's my review!

REVIEW #30: One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems by Eileen R. Tabios; Spanish translations by Rebeka Lembo

Paloma Press, 2018

In One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems, Eileen R. Tabios, creator of the hay(na)ku, proves that she is not only adept at invention, but also at exposition. The collection contains hay(na)kus and variations of the form, as well its history, description, a selection of hay(na)kus written by Vince Gotera, and seven poets’ comments about the form. This book is part poetry collection, part manual, and an invitation to participate: at the end of the introduction, Tabios writes, “I hope this collection encourages readers to try their hand at the hay(na)ku!”

A hay(na)ku is a three-lined poem with one word on the first line, two words on the second, and three on the third. As Tabios writes in the chapter, “The History of Hay(na)ku,” the form started out as a “Filipino haiku;” eventually she renamed it “hay(na)ku,” and notes “’Hay naku’ is a common Filipino expression covering a variety of contexts—like the English word ‘Oh.’” The chapter includes a list of hay(na)ku variants: “ducktail,” “melting,” and “worm” are just a few. In creating this form, Tabios meant for it to become “a community-based poetic form; this fits with my own thoughts on the poem as a space for engagement.”

Deceptively simple – just six words, no rhyme, meter, or complex patterns – hay(na)ku creates resonances within its tight structure. Each hay(na)ku is a complete poem or a stanza in a longer series. For example, the first stanza of “Post-Ecstasy Mutations,” reminiscent of Emily Dickinson in its use of dashes and capital letters, seems complete:

            Thus, barter—
            Love requires haggling—

and the next stanza seems dropped in from another poem:

            forever excavates—
            Mahogany dining tables

but by the third a leaping intelligence begins to form within the six-word stanzas:

            to include
            despite royal lengths—

One, Two, Three includes a Spanish translation. Translating poetry is always a tricky proposition; hay(na)ku, however, with its emphasis on brief, pithy lines, forces a limit that seems to make word-for-word translation possible. Indeed, the translator, Rebeka Lembo, preserves the word-and-line structure in almost every poem. Consider “Maganda Begins” (“Comienza Maganda”), a reverse hay(na)ku. The Spanish and English poems appear side-by-side, Spanish on the left and English on the right. The poem’s beginning stanzas:

Amor mio: Si                             My love. If
hay palabras                              words can
que                                               reach

lleguen al mundo                      whatever world you
que sufres—                               suffer  in—   
escucha:                                     listen:                                                                                                                     

“Maganda,” Tagalog for “beautiful” and also, as the epigraph states, “the name of the first woman in a Filipino creation myth,” adds yet another language to the mix, emphasizing Tabios’s goal of creating inclusivity in poetry, and that poetry be a place for an ever-shifting mix of ideas, languages, and forms.

The variant, haybun, combines hay(na)ku poetry and prose similar to the traditional Japanese form haibun, which combines haiku and prose. In 147 Million Orphans (A Haybun), Tabios explores the experiences of orphans (147 million is an estimate of the number of orphans alive in the world). The prose paragraphs in each haybun expand on the words in its accompanying hay(na)ku. In “Haybun MMXII,” she writes

                        weekend weekday
                        reacquaint vessel insubordinate

          To learn his new language, the adoptee was
          charged with learning 25 new English words a
          week during the schoolyear…”Weekend,
          weekday” – such common terms…

Eileen R. Tabios is an imaginative and tireless experimenter with words and ideas. One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems is not only an enjoyable read, but also inspiration: it’s almost impossible to resist writing one’s own hay(na)ku. Tabios’s project reminds us that words matter most in poetry, and that, surrounded by white space, six words have the power to move us in unexpected ways.

Eileen R. Tabios loves books and has released over 50 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. Her 2018 poetry collections include HIRAETH: Tercents From the Last Archipelago; MURDER DEATH RESURRECTION: A Poetry Generator; and the bilingual edition of One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems. With poems translated into seven languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized ten anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays in addition to serving as editor or guest editor for various literary journals. She maintains a biblioliphic blog, “Eileen Verbs Books“; edits Galatea Resurrects, a popular poetry review; steers the literary and arts publisher Meritage Press; and frequently curates thematic online poetry projects including LinkedIn Poetry Recommendations (a recommended list of contemporary poetry books). More information is available at http://eileenrtabios.com.

One, Two, Three: Selected Hay(na)ku Poems is available from Paloma PressLulu, and Amazon

Saturday, May 4, 2019


I’m grateful to Jeffrey Side for interviewing me for The Argotist (given that Jeffrey is the author of this article, I’m also honored he asked to interview me). This is the latest of a series of stellar Argotist interviews. You can see my interview HERE but here’s an excerpt…which I’m highlighting for myself because not caring who reads my poem is a privileged position which, at the time of the interview, I didn’t get into (one must maximize self-awareness). Ah well, next interview! 

JS: In an interview for the Asian Pacific American Journal, you said: ‘In poetry, I try to create an emotion that transcends the dictionary sense of what words mean or what they typically evoke in the current cultural context. There are words that are beautiful outside their meaning, like azure or jasmine or cobalt... For me, this is partly the place of abstract poetry, in addition to what’s happening in that space between, words, lines, sentences and paragraphs’. I agree with this approach very much. How much resistance (if any) have you had to such an approach from critics or publishers? 

ERT:  I’m glad the approach resonates with you, Jeffrey! It’s an approach I’d created in a vacuum (mostly from my love of abstract expressionist art) so it’s always good to hear it validated by another writer.

As regards critical response, …those poems can be seen through my first U.S.-published book, Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole (Marsh Hawk), that sold out its first printing in about six months or so (granted, it’s a small press’ first printing but, still!) And I wouldn’t be surprised if that book has sold more than all of my other books combined. Those poems were also picked up in my selected prose poem collection, The Thorn Rosary (Marsh Hawk). In this sense, the poems seem to have received favorable responses (before they were published in books, many of course were published in literary journals). …

Having said all that, in terms of critical reception—and I would include academia here—my approach takes me outside discernible identity-related poetics and so my books are not go-to publications for those invested in Filipino, Pilipinx, Asian American and related-other literature. I think it’s because linkages with those concerns would not be obvious from the narrative content of the majority of my poems (though some exist). But if I’m disappointed, it’s because I feel there is a 100% linkage with those concerns through the approach to language. For instance, abstraction is one means to disrupt the historical use of English as communication for colonial purposes. But it requires more thought, a deeper thought, to address poems and language in this manner. It’s easier if the text itself is saying the obvious…

But having said all that again, I’m fairly clear in what I’m looking for in a poetry audience. It’s not to have a big audience but an open-minded audience really interested in poetry. So, ultimately, I am totally accepting of the kind of readership I have and the limits to expanding such readership. I don’t need to push my poems on anyone.

Full interview HERE.