Thursday, September 27, 2007

Eileen R. Tabios' latest book......

I'm always pleased when Eileen Tabios sends me her latest book for review. Her range as a poet is amazing, everything from free form to experimental, poignantly expressive to humorous. Always, her work is imaginative and thought provoking. This latest book is vintage Tabios, with the added treat of stunning prose as a bonus. Tabios has gained a huge internet following through blogger. You'll find her hanging out at

The Light Sang as it Left Your Eyes
Our Autobiography
By Eileen R. Tabios
ISBN 978-0-9792416-2-8
366 pages at 19.95 paperback
Marsh Hawk Press
P.O. Box 206
East Rockaway NY 11518

Eileen R. Tabios is one of the best avant garde and experimental poets alive today. Her poetic explorations -- scumbling, ekphrasis, Hay(na)Ku -- demonstrate a zest for words and meanings as she shapes poems that reflect her world. Black sorrows, bright hopes, harsh injustices, a poisoned environment, new poetic forms, and boundless love share equal time on each skillfully crafted page published. In this latest book, Tabios proves that she has mastered prose equal to her exceptional poetry.

In April, 2006, Eileen Tabios’ father died. Filamore B. Tabios, Sr. had fled the Philippines with his family when Ferdinand Marcos came to power. He was an old world father, patriarchal and strong-willed in his dealings with an equally strong-willed daughter. In this book, as she spends time in the hospital at her dying father’s bedside, the boundaries and divisions between them soften. The journal she shares in this book is a remarkable psalm to life. Consider this excerpt from the opening poem -- “Sentences” -- to understand the poet’s heart:

The same book you read to excavate me is a fiction I sculpted to soften
my marble core, as if -- and I still don’t know -- words can save me from

The same poem you are feeling your way through is a thin, blue vein dug
out from beneath my flesh for the color of a sky breaking into scarlet to
set words afire.

Somehow, those dying days in April clarify the poet’s vision and understanding. She makes sense out of her sorrow by identifying with Marcos’ daughter, Imee. In “What Can a Daughter Say?”, Eileen Tabios acts as surrogate for Imee Marcos and both daughters learn what their fathers were, and were not:

The palace of one’s childhood
-- for even those who could afford
the bricks to obviate metaphor --
is usually constructed from memory.

Ms. Tabios and her peers have perfected the art of Hay(na)Ku, a poem comprised of six words and three lines. Tabios edits and writes, writes and edits as she struggles through the reality of losing her father to cancer:

The poem cannot
be pure.

never travels unimpeded
by anonymous

Her father‘s dying does not soften Eileen Tabios‘ reflections on injustice. “April in Los Angeles” is a 120 verse contemplation on love, grief, horror, exhaustion and regret that zeroes in on the cost cutting cruelty practiced by modern hospitals. Tabios fans will discover that sorrow has neither blurred her outlook on world politics or injustice, nor smothered her passionate love of friends, family, and literary excellence. This autobiography in poetry and prose is typical Tabios -- intensely personal yet international in flavor -- with translations by and collaborations with her peers from other lands. Highly recommended.

Review by Laurel Johnson for Midwest Book Review

1 comment:

Lynn Barry said...

Hey buddy!
Do you have the latest NAVAR CD yet?
Love ya...let me know...

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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