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.

Friday, December 6, 2019


I recently sent books to a professor of Asian American Literature who will be teaching some of my poetry. Along with the books, I dashed off the following (very informal, not scholarly) note ... which I then thought to share here as it may be helpful to others. The note is slightly contextualized for AsianAm Lit but I believe can be relevant to other disciplines:


            Thanks for your receptivity to my work. I thought I’d share some notes since I’m sharing several books that may (or may not) be helpful for purpose of “Asian American lit”:

--you have Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole and it shows how I use abstract language to elide the use of English as narrative communication, as a dis at how English was used to colonize the Philippines. My transcolonial take on language is reflected on how I deliberately radicalize the slipperiness of language (for which Poetry’s language is so perfect)—such is seen as well on MURDER DEATH RESURRECTION (which maximizes the role of randomness in creating new poems).

--2019 book Witness in the Convex Mirror reflects a nod to John Ashbery for being called (in some circles) the most important English-language poet of the 20th century) but my attempt (particularly in 2nd half of book) also “browns" his concerns.

--the hay(na)ku books add a new poetry form to English poetry, which was both an aesthetic and political goal.

--I like using methods associated with the visual arts because I’m trying to address poetry in non-traditional ways. SUN STIGMATA reflects my “sculpting” out new poems from the text blocks that had appeared in Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole. This also led to my “Selected Visual Poetry,” THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL (GAN); the title of course also addresses the notion of not just GAN but “AMERICAN.” GAN’s first entry may be of most interest as it reflects how I translate diaspora into “cloudygenous,” a word I invited for a Univ. of Wesleyan anthology of new words related to the anthropocene…

--The Secret Lives of Punctuations brings out to light those items (punctuations) often ignored—a metaphor for … many things. Note the reference to “Vol. 1” though there aren’t (yet) additional volumes to indicate the plentitude of life in the margins. Relatedly, Menage a Trois with the 21st Century seeks to resuscitate a modern life for Gabriela Silang who had sacrificed her life to be the first female general of anti-Spanish colonial forces in the Philippines.

--ECSTATIC MUTATIONS: Experiments in the Poetry Laboratory is an old and out-of-print book published in the Philippines but is useful for relaying my early interests in experimenting with poetry. TANKA, Vol. 1 (relatively new work) indeed shows me revamping the traditional “tanka” form.

--it’s tedious being a martyr so I TAKE THEE, ENGLISH, FOR MY BELOVED is also a  rapprochement with my reality of being a diasporic Filipina writing in English. It was a lot of fun to marry English and that performance also involved  other poets, including a hairy poet, wearing that over-the-top Princess Di type of bridal gown (once, it was the rage J ) featured on the book cover.

--I TAKE THEE, ENGLISH,… includes reports on performances involving the community. Such acts, along with the hay(na)ku, MURDER DEATH RESURRECTION, and others will reflect—ultimately—my encouragement of “Kapwa” (a Filipino indigenous trait of recognizing one's self in others and vice versa).

--I love doing “Selected Poems” projects on poetry forms as such allows me to show—and interested readers to glean—how I expanded a poetry form’s possibilities: hence, Invent(st)ory on the list poem; Great American Novel on visual poetry, A THORN ROSARY on the prose poem, and even ONE TWO THREE where I did a Selection on the hay(na)ku despite inventing it (it led to the “haybun,” among other things). 147 MILLION ORPHANS is the first and so far only single-author collection of haybun. As a Filipino-PilipinZ writer, I consider it important to be discernible in not just inheriting but expanding the English language.

--The Blind Chatelaine’s Keys and AGAINST MISANTHROPY may be useful for offering poetics essays. Note that quite often I use not my own authored essays but others’ to reflect Kapwa and because I believe it’s my job to create poems but not necessarily tell others how to read/interpret them. These two also reflect my performance-disputations of auto/biography—the difficulty of capturing reality (e.g. through multiple interpretations of my work). This element is noted in the subtitle of THE LIGHT SANG AS IT LEFT YOUR EYES which incorporates the word “our” before the word “autobiography.”

More info on my poetry books are at my website, specifically https://eileenrtabios.com/poetry/

All best,

THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems & New (1998-2010)
INVENT(ST)ORY: Selected Catalog Poems & New 1996-2015
The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku: Selected Tercets 1996-2019
The Great American Novel: Selected Visual Poetry (2001-2009)
Menage a Trois with the 21st Century
The Secret Lives of Punctuations, Vol. 1
Love in a Time of Belligerence
Witness in the Convex Mirror
Sun Stigmata (Sculpture Poems)
147 Million Orphans
AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A Life in Poetry (2015-1995)
ONE TWO THREE: Selected Hay(na)ku (English/Spanish bilingual edition)
ECSTATIC MUTATIONS: Experiments in the Poetry Library
TANKA, Vol. 1

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