|“...her central demands — to perceive freely, to investigate color, to be a fully responsive being. ‘Can you pay the price for risking perception and imperceptibility?’ she asks, and then answers, ‘I trust in radiance. Let: Us.’”— Publishers Weekly
Eileen R. Tabios: I Take Thee, English, For My Beloved
Recipient of a 2005 Calatagan Award from the Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc.
Eileen Tabios has an enormous tonal range in her poetry. A breathless intensity may be her most characteristic mode. — kultureflash: Headlines From London
Eileen Tabios is writing not only as if her life depended on it but also as if there were no tomorrow. For her, poetry is the only way to live, and she intends to suck the marrow and everything else out of it.—The Philippine Star
I Take Thee, English, for My Beloved contains and melds the forms of poem, memoir, art monograph, play, novel and questionnaire. Here are four discrete collections that would stand on their own but which, together, form the vibrant expanse of a book that affirms: not only does Eileen R. Tabios speak English but she loves English.
This collection is a "quar(quin)tet" partly because it contains a hidden (fifth) book—that book referenced by the series "Footnote Poems." The texts which generate the footnote-poems are not included, thus enabling a space where the readers play the roles of speculating what story(ies) is(are) being footnoted. This reflects Tabios' belief that a poet may begin a poem but the reader completes it. The resulting structure also manifests the paradox of how poems by themselves cannot capture the significances of Poetry as experience: that this book's true page count, like Poetry's expanse, is not fixed and, thus, is infinite.
Although Tabios' first poetry collection received the Manila Critics Circle National Book Award for Poetry in the Philippines, where she was born, she has lived for over three decades in, and is a citizen of, the United States. The initial impetus for this collection stemmed from her meditations on being fluent in only one language—but a language that colonized her birthland and about which she is still asked the question by strangers as she travels throughout North America: "Do you speak English?" This bespeaks the consistent "Other"-ing experience imposed by many on people of color, even second- or third-generation Americans.
Nonetheless, Tabios—a "transcolonial" poet—refuses to allow adverse socio-political elements to deter her from what she feels she must do as a poet, particularly as a poet of eros: to love her raw material of English. From such love, she not only crafts poems denoting a unique vision, but writings that transcend inherited literary forms. Tabios considers the term "transcolonial" to describe a postcolonial perspective that goes beyond the referenced context of colonialism. One result is the "hay(na)ku," a poetic form which Tabios invented as a community-making gesture; here, the community encompasses both Filipino and non-Filipino poets gathered together through a love of Poetry. This collection features the first publication of "The Official History of the Hay(na)ku."
This collection ends with a close reading by respected poet Ron Silliman of one of Tabios' poems. Silliman concludes, "Tabios tries for more in one page than many other poets would attempt in 20. And she pulls it off."
EILEEN R. TABIOS has released a poetry CD; three e-poetry collections; and written, edited or co-edited thirteen books of poetry, fiction and essays since 1996 when she traded a finance career for poetry. She is also a community-oriented conceptual artist who pens the infamous poetics blog "The Chatelaine's Poetics" at http://chatelaine-poet.blogspot.com; who invented the "Hay(na)ku" poetic form; and whose "Poems Form/From The Six Directions" project has been exhibited several times in California.
ISBN 0-9759197-3-3 $24.95
Part of mortality's significance is that wars end.
Yesterday, I determined to stop watering down my perfumes.
Insomnia consistently leads me to a window overlooking silvery green foliage—tanacetum argenteum—whose species include the tansy which Ganymede drank to achieve immortality.
Once, I could have been tempted.
But to be human is to be forgiven.
The man in my bed shifts, flings an arm across the empty sheet—gladly, I witness him avoid an encounter with desolation.
Soon, summer shall bring a snowfall of daisies across these leaves whose mottles under a brightening moonlight begin to twinkle like a saddhu's eyes.
I can feel my hand reaching to stroke the white blooms as gently as I long to touch a newborn's brow.
By then, I swear my hand shall lack trembling.
I am nearly done with homesickness for Year Zero.
This is my second-to-last pledge: insomniac thoughts understate my capacity for milk.
This is my last pledge: I will not drink until all—all of you—have quenched your thirst.
Perhaps This Second Drift
—after "First Drift" by Andrew Joron
If we diminish, to be diminished—this recurring punch line so alien with its familiarity: cruelty is a flawed strategy and yet we discover our cheek against its torso—
If we cannot be more than our least lazy possibilities—the "older woman" weeps from a tongue offered to create a future memory of silk black hose rupturing over thighs of moonshine—
Beauty is reductive. Therefore, within a shadow box my palm perpetually caresses the 45-degree rise of your belly for I, the "older woman," heard how human history whispers: men with flat bellies should be trusted rarely. Which does not obviate my clinging to the piano's highest scale—
Toward a man with colorless eyes who transformed me into a virgin so he could roll cigars from tobacco leaves pressed against the tendons riveting my thighs.
"An excessive choral indwelling," as if perfumed, cushioned salons did not prevent Cellini from feeling the blissful difficulty of art—as if Lorrain and Cezanne did not obsess over one problem for all of their lives: the landscape's inarticulate rhythm through boulders in sienna, in sepia.
After the Jewish artist hammered three rows of nails against a white wall to evoke 17th century prisoners convicted of infanticide, the lamp and shadows conspired to weave a lace border I wanted to hem on my sleeves.
—In Athenian vase painting, the red-figure style allowed artists to describe gesture and expression for the first time; the technical advance destroyed the harmonious relation of all-black figures against light grounds. From this enforced binary, simultaneity was birthed through dimorphic vases through which the same scene was depicted in both red and black. To witness simultaneity, one must turn the vessel.
"We also (wanting elision)" would be dung on your fields, grow there the honeysuckle I would sip and lather on your lips as I tear the stitches from your coat to unearth pages you once wrote surreptitiously. (By the flicker of a flame from a quarter-inch candle stub.) All is my fodder: All is my father.