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.

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.

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