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, October 7, 2021

NOW AVAILABLE AS FREE PDF: THE THORN ROSARY: SELECTED PROSE POEMS & NEW


Please allow me to give you a PINK ROSE with the news that THE THORN ROSARY, my first Selected Poems project, is now available for free online reading (& teaching) to inaugurate a new "Archives" section at the Marsh Hawk Press website. You can read and download through this link:

 https://marshhawkpress.org/archive/

THE THORN ROSARY presents my poems developing the prose poem form (abstract expressionism and cubism are major influences) with critical essays by poet-scholars Thomas Fink and Joi Barrios. The latter's essay is particularly timely for October as Filipinx-American History Month. Salamat for your time!







Wednesday, September 8, 2021

ENGAGING JANICE LEE'S IMAGINE A DEATH


Imagine A Death by Janice Lee

(Texas Review Press, Evans, TX, 2021)

BOOK LINK

I was not going to ignore this book, not after having read Janice Lee’s prior book Reconsolidation (Penny-Ante Editions, 2015) which identified her to me as a prose stylist to follow. In Imagine A Death, the first thing you can’t help but notice are long sentences and long paragraphs. Sometimes an entire paragraph is a single sentence. Form=content then as the form contributes to a sense of breathlessness. That is, somehow the reader finds herself holding in her breath until a period allows her to inhale again. (Blurber Lydia Yuknavitch says if she could swim in Janice Lee’s language she’d “never come out” and I recall my inability to swim such that decades ago I had to hold my breath for the span of two swimming pool-lengths to pass a swimming test, without which I could not obtain my college degree—a breathlessness relevant to my reading of this book because of its lengthy sentences.)

The lengthy sentences are all the more impressive for stringing together one fabulous passage after another, like this single yet simply glorious sentence:

 

“He had made lists for all sorts of things in an attempt to get organized and bring order into his life, though of course it wasn’t order that his life was lacking (once during a job interview, he was asked about his stance on teamwork and collaboration and for his answer had spoken about the importance of establishing order in a group of people, the need for dominance and hierarchy and structure, as in a dictatorship or controlled government arrangement, had repeated the word order several times like a mantra, and as he watched their expressions mute and then shift away, he saw the exact moment they had decided that he would not be getting the job in the research lab yet they had sought to fulfill the obligation of letting him speak and finish out the interview, formality, after all, an important part of systemized structure and gratitude), and yet he clung to the word like a slightly-too-old child clinging to her yellowing blanky and the comfort of sucking her thumb in private, knowing she ought to have grown out of the habit by now, but both idea and action still bringing her comfort and she has yet to find a suitable replacement for the relief of having something soft and loyal to hold on to and having a part of her own body tethered to her mouth in a way that feels like she is doing something while knowing this is a bit perverse, the security of a thumb inside one’s mouth, the noisy and fairly disgusting suck-suck-suck as she lightly chews the thick skin around her thumb, and in the predilection of wrongness and unreached maturity, she manages to realize a complete sense of peace.”

 

Further into the book, there’s another sentence that can explain the length of Lee’s sentences:

 

“She had finally broken the paralysis of her writing, that is, she had finally realized what she had been trying to write about, that in her circling and rewriting and extending of sentences that never ended, somehow the hesitation to end any sentence with a period linked to her own inability to push any narrative toward a sense of finality…”

 

It’s certainly reasonable, this manifesting of hesitation(s) embedded within other hesitations (and for which M-dashes and parenthesis are helpful for focusing a reader). It’s relevant to note that the above sentence doesn’t end where it could end as excerpted. The above sentence-excerpt continues on to say,

 

“… or, like the process of squatting over a hole in the dense brush when no toilets are available and though the urge and desire are there, the strangeness of the encounter with nature in this way, that is, shitting in a hole in the woods, somehow combats any natural inclination to relieve oneself and so a person might stay in that position for a while, squatting legs tiring, knees shaking, until finally, one either lets it all out freely and sloppily (no one ever said taking  shit in nature was natural), or gives up, pulls her pants up, and proceeds onto the next task and in all this hesitation embedded inside of hesitation,….

 

By the way—and to my distinct appreciation—that sentence isn’t over yet but continues beyond what my fingers have typed to excerpt above—the approach presenting a certain wit to those attuned to catch it.


What’s also impressive is how Lee manages to keep the characters differentiated from each other as well as not subsumed by the long—wordy!—sentences and paragraphs (have I mentioned their length and yes I know I have but repeat the matter for emphasis). Lengthy sentences and paragraphs effect a passage of words against a page that’s unbroken or just once-broken by the visual relief of white space allowed by the shorter-than-page-width length of a passage ending a paragraph and then the resulting stretch of white indicating a paragraph-break—so let’s face it: in the face of such prose intractability, how many readers as a result have had their eyes gloss over instead of read individual words? I don’t mind noting that, as regards the latter, characters’ statements and thoughts are sometimes presented italicized and, in such cases, never have italics been such a source of (visual) relief to the eyes. 

Logically then, the writing is not dialogue-driven, unfolding more like a series of character sketches except sketch is not the right sense as there’s too much muscle afforded by the depth of descriptions and observations.  

 

As a result, Imagine A Death is not a page-turner, but in a good way—an effect facilitated by looooong sentences. Now, one way for lengthy sentences to keep a reader’s interest is if they manifest Kapwa—the (Filipino indigenous notion of the) interconnection of all things, before being pockmarked by brilliant singular notes. For example, this single-sentence paragraph that resonantly links language and moths:

 

“The different modes and textures of language become more apparent in darkness, become more apparent as the moths only show themselves when it is dark yet are drawn to the light, stupid creatures that don’t seem to be able to be stopped and yet it ought to matter that they are moths, that they are winged creatures, that they possess something that humans don’t, including the incapacity for speech.”

 

Again reflecting Kapwa, the paragraphs, given the scale to expand, can attain a magnificent munificence, e.g. a paragraph (straddling pages 98-98) that begins with “What is the feeling of a mausoleum” and end with “the cry, that lustrous and desolating and calamitous force that is a wailing howl exuding from your own body, that cry is also the logic of this world.” Lee’s range and yet a consistent tone of intimacy within such range are marvelous.

 

By now, it’s clear that Lee has thrown off the “tyranny of the plot,” reminding us of the special position of “literary fiction.” The book is even filmic, specifically evoking a prolonged art flick that teeters on difficulty but remains palatable through lush imagery. Lee’s lushness surfaces through her diction’s evocativeness and sensory effects.

 

~

 

Lee also wisely introduces non-human species’ voices. The book reminds (encourages us) to listen to other species for a wisdom that may be difficult for humans to know. (Well, unless you’re Janice Lee.) Here, the birds say, “It is the humans that don’t know how to be lost anymore.” Simply, that’s wise.

 

Lee’s range is also expansive enough to allow (even) humor, though the humor I felt might not have been intended by the author. Humor, after all, is subjective. Nonetheless, I found this phrase hilarious: “This morning the old man, speculating on how things might have turned out differently had he chosen a career as an applied physicist, visits a coffee shop down the street with a large red door and where stale bagels are served…” Perhaps I was amused because I often think of how my life would have changed had I stuck to my guns in my first career instead of throwing it away on a charismatic boyfriend with a leather jacket and motorcycle. Or if I had not dismissed a major press that one time... Don’t we all think similar “what if” thoughts? Yet Lee turns this notion into a brilliant bit of meditation—

 

“Rather in the constant desire to do something about the vast thoughts always circling around in his head—those thoughts about what a future might look like had he had a better childhood about what his eyes would look like had he made better life decisions, what kind of home he might live in now had he chosen a different career, what kinds of things he might have learned about relationships had he decided to cohabitate with an animal—he believed that in a world such as this there was more often hope in the inevitability of. Nothing that in in the possibility of everything…”

 

—with a fresh conclusion: “there was more often hope in the inevitability of nothing than in the possibility of everything.” It’s an example of Lee’s philosophical underpinnings that provide critical muscle to what may seem in places to be stream-of-consciousness meanderings (and one of the rewards if one perseveres with reading extremely-long paragraphs).

 

There’s so much more insights to praise in this book but I need to stop presenting them so that you, Reader, might have the pleasure of discovery when you read Lee’s book… oh, okay, one more! I am particularly taken by Lee’s presentation of the “aevum”—

 

“A way of labeling the peculiar experience of existence by angels and saints in heaven. Not quite the eternal and divine timelessness of God, and not quite the limited temporality of humans, it was akin to that space betweenwhen one’s hand was resting on his leg, that buzzing and angling of everything contained there though not visible or pointed to by language, not unlike the soul, which wasn’t contained within the body nor did it exist without, but also in that sort of improper eternity, the intersection of indeterminacy with flesh, an ever-present but peculiar distance from the relationships between moving bodies that made time felt, that is, these evenings when the sky would sit beautiful and pale and yellow and rusty against an everchanging sky, the world seemed to deepen according to a certain time that felt endless yet gradual, imperceptible yet known by color and coldness.”

 

Improper eternity! And it goes on! To linger along—or as I discovered and I suggest you try it, too: to simply type—Lee’s passages is to be transported into bibliophilic nirvana. Indeed, Lee transforms the reading space into a hush—wanting to listen only to the story made me breathless so as not to interrupt the sound of the story in my mind even if the interruption was to be by that which after all is required by living: breathing…

~

 

What’s the book about? The book description cites “the otherwise impenetrable depths of grief.” My mother is dead. But I’m not able to write about Mom, in contrast to when I burst out helplessly with a book-length manuscript when Dad died. With Imagine a Book, Janice Lee gives me inspiration: Trust Kapwa. Trust language. Trust how we humans are flawed and that can be ultimately okay…

~

 

There’s also a sophisticated subtle thread of meta self-references (though I won’t be presumptuous to call that “self” autobiographical and it’s none of my business anyway) whose knots occasionally surface throughout the book. There’s the discernible referencing of “The Writer,” of course, but even without such titling there are passages that encourage the reader to engage in reading as a doubling where the book is being read as it is written and vice versa. Perhaps this is exemplified by

 

“What she really felt in this moment was despair, but too, she knew that the body’s uncontrollable shaking and sobbing was a sign that it wanted to live.

 

Too, there was a reason why she hadn’t yet revealed what her manuscript was about to anyone, including herself.”

~

 

There are certain books to which you want to respond with another book, to respond at length. There is so much more to say about Janice Lee’s Imagine a Death. But let me conclude instead by sharing her words through another excerpt, words that speak for themselves to encapsulate what seems to me to be an important take-away from the book:



 

 

Monday, August 9, 2021

"THE REBEL'S SON" BECOMES A MINIATURE BOOK

I've bound my poem "The Rebel's Son" into a miniature book! 


The Rebel's Son by Eileen Tabios

(Victoria Library, Saint Helena, CA, 2021)

Size: 2" x 1-7/8"





Book Background via Facebook:



Book Bindings of Japanese War Currency Originally Acquired on Ebay:




Wednesday, July 28, 2021

HOTEL PACOIMA by MICHAEL CAYLO-BARADI

Some poets lurk—simmer—under the radar. But when their poems are so good, they come to my attention even as I remain as reticent about my recognition as they are about pushing themselves into the spotlight. That’s what’s great about a book—a book can give (me) the opportunity to sing praise on their behalf. I do that for Michael Caylo-Baradi’s debut (I assume it’s his debut) poetry collection, HOTEL PACOIMA. I read it and was stunned, but in a way I’d anticipated. He solidly grasps the ineffable: masterful at not just objectifying but eroticizing language into flesh itself, sagacious when it comes to observing culture, easily offers a textured diction that often lapses into the delicious, and (and this is difficult to articulate) proffers a sense of some rapprochement with life, such that it ultimately makes sense that he offers Anita Brookner through an epigraph including “…at last I understand that acceptance is all. I succumb to the genius of the place, and know true felicity. The sun is God. Of the rest it is wiser not to know, or not yet to know.” Dear Reader, I counsel you RUN to get this book.


A Sample Poem:





Sunday, July 25, 2021

DOVELION ON "DIVERSE TV" EUROPE!

 "Writings on the Wall" Europe at DiverseTV

Alexandro Botelho reads an excerpt from "The Return of DoveLion," the primary poem featured in DOVELION: A Fairy Tale for Our Times (AC Books, New York, 2021), for "LIVE: Writings on the Wall Europe" (the poem is read at about 40:30).

~~

 






Friday, July 23, 2021

THE SILENCE IS DEAFENING

  I'm delighted to share the 2021 release of my new tiny book, The Silence is Deafening


The Silence is Deafening by Eileen Tabios

(Eileen’sTinyBooks (Victoria Library), Saint Helena, CA, 2021. 1/1)

Size: 1.25” x 1.75”

Here are other images of the deafening book:





The Silence is Deafening uses a hand-made leather bound journal by Ginger at JustJournalIt. Materials: leather, cotton thread, and Arches 90lb cold pressed cotton watercolor paper. Ginger used the long stitch method to affix the paper to the spine.

I held on to Ginger's blank journal for nearly a year before coming across a Facebook post by Chile-based artist Felipe Cussen:

Felipe's post on Fra Elbertus' Essay on Silence inspired me to turn the blank journal into a blank-paged miniature book to become, as well, part of my Bibliotheca Invisibilis Project. Thanks to Felipe for permission to present his original post.



Tuesday, July 20, 2021

MY FIRST FRENCH TRANSLATION IS A BOOK!

I'm grateful to translator Samuel Rochery and publisher Serie Discrete (Bordeaux, France) for releasing my first French book: LA VIE EROTIQUE DE L'ART !


Ordering and other information at the Publisher's Book Page.

Merci, Universe!



Saturday, July 10, 2021

"CHAOS PAMPLONA" IN YOUNTVILLE ART WALK!

The lovely town of Yountville had its Art Walk today and I was able to see my poem in the company of the sculpture that inspired it. Said sculpture was made by Jedd Novatt, and my poem shares its title with his sculpture: “Chaos Pamplona.” The ekphrastic poem project of poets writing “after” one of the sculptures dotting Yountville’s landscape is the brain child of Napa Valley Poet Laureate Marianne Lyon, and I’m grateful Marianne asked me to participate. Here are some photos and it was a lovely day for taking them! I also share another ekphrastic example of a Macaw sculpture  and the poem it inspired from Cathy Carsell. 

(Click on images to enlarge)

















Monday, June 28, 2021

BURT KIMMELMAN REVIEW OF THE IN(TER)VENTION...

Marsh Hawk Press recently concluded a virtual book launch reading series featuring current Marsh Hawk titles by Jon Curley, Thomas Fink and Maya Mason, Edward Foster, Basil King, Daniel Morris, Gail Newman, Geoffrey O’Brien, Eileen R. Tabios, and Tony Trigilio. Before each reading, Burt Kimmelman presented a much-applauded, insightful introduction to the poets' works. These critical intros are now collected in a summer edition of the Marsh Hawk Review available HERE.

I am blessed by what Burt had to say about The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku, including the following:

Too many readers overlook a poem’s form, ironically. Tabios does not. Yet she’s always bending it. Tom Fink points out, in his introduction to The Intervention of the Hay(na)ku, that this book “involves theorizing about poetry [from] within the poems.” 

 

James Joyce found poetry too confining. Tabios must always transcend her own formalisms—their own magnitude and brilliance. What one writer lives in or with, so the other.

 

Tabios is intrinsically drawn to form for reasons to do with how aesthetics and thought touch. Robert Creeley wrote what I see as a hallmark of post-War American experimental poetry. Titled “A Piece,” the poem has five words—two each in the first two lines, one in the last. Its unobvious symmetry is evident in its reading:

 

One and 

one, two, 

three.

 

When once asked about this poem, Creeley said: “I knew that for me it was central to all possibilities of statement.”

Tabios may not know Creeley’s poems well. Nevertheless, she possesses the instinct in that non-poem. I’m awed by her intellect that’s always understated.


*****

What's interesting about this edition of MH Review is that presenting the same critic allows the reader to contextualize each take on a different poet from the same mind--you can consider Burt's opinion on Poet A based, too, on how he approached Poet B or Poet C, etc. There's a certain integrity there that's rarely accessed.


Of course: THANK YOU, Burt Kimmelman!

Summer of Emergence Reading Series: New and Recent Marsh Hawk Press Books

Contents

Introduction 

Basil King, Disparate Beasts Part 2 

Geoffrey O’Brien, Where Did Poetry Come From; Daniel Morris, Blue Poles .

Thomas Fink and Maya Mason, A Pageant for Every Addiction 

Jon Curley, Remnant Halo: A Map n’ Dice Chronicle 

Eileen Tabios, The Intervention of the Hay(na)ku: Selected Tercets 

Gail Newman, Blood Memory 

Tony Trigilio, Proof Something Happened 

Edward Foster, A Looking-Glass for Traytors 

ABOUT BURT KIMMELMAN



Monday, June 7, 2021

A DOVELION EXPERIMENT!

It's been two months and 7 days since my novel DOVELION was released and I am grateful for its reception so far. There were supply imbalances as we didn't expect the initial high demand, which is lovely since it's a great problem to have. Fortunately, DOVELION is now restocked, but I'd like to present an opportunity get a FREE COPY:

The novel comes with a "Notes" section that's so extensive that poet-artist-publisher Holly Crawford observed it's its own novel. So if anyone would like to engage just the 4,500-word "Notes" section, I'd be happy to send over a review copy. ("Engage" here means a reaction that can be informal and written in any style, from epistolary to a straight review.) Your response can be as long as you wish but should be at least 4 paragraphs as I'd be interested in featuring it in next Halo-Halo Review. This Notes section incorporates not just sources to various items in the novel but links that you may or may not wish to follow up on, as well as a few poems. This obviously is an experiment so I'm open to however people end up engaging this Notes section. Email me if this opportunity would be of interest. This offer is available to more than one person, depending on interest.


Info on DOVELION is HERE; hopefully the info will interest you in reading it anyway. I'll also post a photo from a random page of "Notes" section, to give an idea of what the Notes look like. Ultmately, have fun with this experiment, too!


(Small print: book can be sent only to U.S. addresses.)

THANKS in advance for your time and interest!


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

DOVELION REVIEWED BY NORTH OF OXFORD

(click on images to enlarge)

Deep gratitude to reviewer Ray Gleenblatt and North of Oxford for reviewing DOVELION. The reviewer focuses on the book's diction and his focus is why I don't mind talking a lot about the novel's plot ... because nothing said can replace reading the book. One doesn't get this novel by reading about it but only actually reading it, unmediated. You can see entire review HERE, but here are some excerpts:

Tabios has the skill to bring objects to life, whether miniscule or cosmic. Let us first look at the building in which Elena and Ernst meet. “A building that looked like a grey egg. I cracked it open.” (19) This simile suggests the birth of something significant. “The building’s multiple reflections encouraged the thought of parallel universes.” (33) Inside this structure all types of freedom of expression waited for her. Through direct address she challenges her fears: “I am not small and anonymous like you, Basement!’” (31)


[...] Not much has been said about the author’s moments of comedy. 

     “Capturing light through algebra.” (284) 

      “Anthologies of glass.” (285) 

I am not quite sure what the above mean, but I find them delightfully whimsical. "





VIDEO RECORDING AVAILABLE FOR MARSH HAWK READING

You are invited to see the recording of the second session of Marsh Hawk Press' Summer Reading Series. This event features readings by Thomas Fink & Maya Mason, Jon Curley, and Eileen R. Tabios with Introductions by Burt Kimmelman. The website features link and password at this link.

(My part of the event starts at 00:35.30 as I'm the last reader.)

I recommend the presentations by the other readers. I also thank Burt Kimmelman for his generous Introduction to me and the book I was launching--the 2021 paperback edition of The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku: Selected Tercets 1995-2019; here's an excerpt: 

"Too many readers overlook a poem’s form ironically. Tabios does not. Yet she’s always bending it. ….Joyce found poetry too confining. Tabios must always transcend her own formalisms.… . Tabios is intrinsically drawn to form for reasons to do with how aesthetics and thought touch."

I'm also grateful to those who attended the reading, including these:







Friday, May 28, 2021

DOVELION PRESENTS A MEMORIAL DAY OFFER!

Publisher: AC Books (New York)
Release Date: Spring 2021
ISBN: 978-1-93901-19-4
Pages: 319
Price: $20.00
Distributors: Small Press Distribution; John Rule (including Europe), Bookshop, Amazon, Eastwind Books, and Others To Come 


After swiftly selling through its first & several inventory supplies of DOVELION, Small Press Distribution or SPD  has now restocked my first novel! Feeling grateful, I’ve decided to offer a “Memorial Day Special”—anyone who purchases DOVELION can get a free copy of my Selected Tercets poetry book, The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku! Just share your receipt (unless we know each other) by Facebook messenger or email to galateaten@gmail.com  This "2-Book Offer" is good through Memorial Day weekend until Midnight (PST), Monday, May 31, 2021.


Small Print: In(ter)vention can only be mailed to U.S. shipping addresses.

 

Here are some links about DOVELION: A Fairy Tale for Our Times since it was officially released less than 2 months ago in April:

 

A Review. 

Here’s an excerpt:

True to most fairy tales, the novel opens with the traditional phrase “once upon a time” but there is nothing traditional about this novel which is at once inventive and experimental. How many times, for example, can a writer get away with describing a young woman approaching a threshold and pressing a button on an intercom to gain entry to Apartment 3J? The answer is again and again and again. Each time the reader is given a little bit more information and each time the reader is kept in suspense. There is something portentous, if not symbolic, about crossing a threshold. Tabios takes this to new heights by exploring the threshold of pain: how much a human being can withstand pain through living with actions that can have long-lasting repercussions. 

—Neil Leadbeater

 

A List:

What To Read When You Want To Celebrate APIA Heritage Month,” The Editors of RUMPUS, May 14, 2021

 

A Feature Article: “From Poet to Novelist”

Here’s an excerpt from Positively Filipino:

Eileen says that autofiction was not what she had in mind in creating DOVELION. Instead, she says she was trying to manifest [the indigenous cultural trait of] “kapwa” in terms of the notion of the interconnection of all things. As a result, she says, she wanted to eliminate the barrier between the life inside the book versus outside of the book. “Like in some theater when the actors walk off the stage and continue the play’s actions amidst the audience members,” she explains. “I wanted to acknowledge the connection—by eliminating a division—between author and story and, later, story, and readers.”

          Autofiction, in any event, would simplify what Eileen’s novel actually achieves. DOVELION is not just a work of fiction, but also the creation of a new myth. DOVELION creates the world of an indigenous tribe known as the Itonguk who live in Pacifica.

 

An Interview

Here’s an excerpt:

Strobel: A reader who has no knowledge whatsoever about American colonialism in the Philippines can still find their entry into the novel through poetry and art. How do you want the novel to disrupt the dominant narratives about empire and authoritarianism? Or how do you envision it doing so?

 

Tabios: Poetry and art often reflects their time. So whether one is a poet/artist or an audience member, the poetry/art can provide doorways into engaging with the larger world. One should always be learning—never stop being a student of the world. You may not even recognize what’s a “dominant narrative” if you’ve not educated yourself.

          As for the novel’s effect in this area, well it’s disruptive in so many ways. I can think of it subverting the narratives for gender roles, eros, history (as defined solely by “winners,” as the saying goes), and U.S. foreign policy, among others.

 

 

A Visual Engagement

Here's an excerpt (more can be seen HERE):




A Few Readers

Eileen’s book is very Gebserian… The book creatively irrupts time the way Jean Gebser spoke about, bringing past, present and future together in an originary presence.
—Glenn Aparicio Barry, author of Original Politics: Making America Sacred Again

 

Some books change you. Others haunt you. This one did both—and more—in a time when words have been difficult.

—Reine Marie Bonnie Melvin, novelist & editor

 

Encyclopedic masterpiece!

—E. San Juan, Jr., poet & civic intellectual

 

~~

 

We are also celebrating the 2021 paperback edition of The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku: Selected Tercets 1995-2019 which originally came out as a hardcover in 2019. For information about it, go to the Title's Link, and here are some images about the book:

 



~~

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND HER FIRST NOVEL: https://eileenrtabios.com