On April 11, 2006, Filamore B. Tabios, Sr. died of brain cancer and its complications. In writing about her father, Eileen R. Tabios explores reconciliation with Ferdinand Marcos’ legacy through deliberate empathy with the former Philippine dictator's daughter Imee; pays homage to Judas Iscariot whose Gospel, discovered during her vigil by her father's deathbed, reveals him to be the most loyal disciple, instead of greatest betrayer, of Jesus Christ; meditates on the murder statistics of the 20th century's leading killers, from Idi Amin to Adolf Hitler; considers the global Filipina pen pal phenomena; and engages with Dante Aleghieri's Purgatorio.
In enacting Nietzsche's notion that "Punishment is the making of memory," Ms. Tabios also makes poetry by interrogating form. In this book, she uses commodity lists to create autobiography, practices ekphrasis to translate the painterly technique of scumbling, offers variations of the hay(na)ku form, relies on random collage to create visual poetry, and blurs the boundary between poetry and prose through texts originally written as blog posts. In addition, the book's overall trajectory reflects her disruption of narrative linearity in favor of Dante's conception of the Trinity. For Dante, creation is simultaneous as regards What (God) creates, How (Son) creation unfolds, and the Form (Spirit) taken by what is created.
Ms. Tabios' first poetry book, which received the Philippines' National Book Award for Poetry, inaugurated a body of works that has given her a reputation for multivalent poetry. The Light Sang As It Left Your Eyes reflects the poet's primal battle with grief, showing how the death of a parent can be one of the most complicated, turbulent and wrenching experiences. It is also her most overtly political work yet, referencing her roots as a “Marcos Baby,” a member of the generation that grew up during Marcos’ martial law regime. To grapple with her father's death, the author addresses the world which created the context for their engagement. Ultimately, however, The Light Sang As It Left Your Eyes acts as a poet's testament for Joy—that she would cease writing this book only after she resurrected her father, which is to say, Love.
FROM EARLY BOOK REVIEWS:
Since American Confessionalism and the British Movement, there's been a steady attempt to reclaim autobiographical writing in the cause of an ever more "innovative" poetics. The contentious term of "radical autobiography" has thus been evolving - from the earliest orientations of the New York School through to early and current Language writings - in a consistent if at times calculated way. // Tabios' The Light... does not easily situate itself within one of these competing camps, but rather seems to accomplish the feat of making poetic diversity a value in itself. // Death, and silence, is the distillation of complexity and diversity, of all these vibrant languages, forms and histories, into something which unites them. It is perfection, yet such is Eileen Tabios' vitalizing disposition, that even this perfection cannot seem an end. It too becomes poetic affirmation: "Don't ever stop." Be mad with me. Be ecstasy. Be me. . ."—CORDITE
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.—Midwest Book Review
The whole book is very touching and moving and escapes from the poetic mystique that turns language into twisted ambiguity games.—Small Press Review
The more I encounter Eileen Tabios' writings--(and I mean that word "encounter" exactly as I wrote it, for to read Eileen Tabios is encounter her, no more, no less)--the more I'm convinced that she's a force of nature instead of a mere scribbling mortal like the rest of us. I imagine Dr. Bucke must have felt the same way about Walt Whitman who time and again in his poems tells us that who touches his book touches him. (Of course his eventual encounter with the aging poet is a different matter.) Tabios manages to do the same thing with this book, and in fact even begins to talk in "we's" instead of "I's" toward the end of it. ...What energy! What charm! And this doesn't even begin to address the many virtuoso forms she displays in her "warm" rather than "cool" experimentalism.—Ahadada
Heart-wrenching...Though the selections here are classified as poetry one isn't really sure as Tabios has been known to subvert the genres almost as if it were a fetish, perhaps even deriving some satisfaction out of our inability to place her under one label or category.....The writer makes good use of autobiography as in itself a conceit for her poetry, a construct that when left alone may soon enough crumple by the wayside like the shattered feeling of one who has just been orphaned.—Philippine Star
WHAT CRITICS HAVE SAID:
…collaging of poetry, historical data, symbolic analysis of art, and formal evaluation itself embodies a critique of reductiveness and a championing of pluralism with a critical edge—MELUS Journal (Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the U.S.)
If we were to coalesce the totality of Tabios’s poems into a single commentary, we would probably be compelled to step beyond the thematic content of her works and recognize that they hang on the perspective of the noble individual who lives experientially in the world and who meditates spiritually above it.— Philippine News
Any work by Eileen R. Tabios is interesting, intriguing, thought provoking and enlightening. [Her poems] are poetic and artistic mysteries begging for exploration. Joy comes with the sense of adventure and discovery sparked as these poems are read and reread.—Midwest Book Review
[Tabios’] act of writing is a political one, staking out territory word by word…It’s a different world, whose poets are forging a cultural identity that is post-colonial, revolutionary, universal and peaceful. Theirs won’t be a unifying flag under one god, but one that’s as various as the hands that raise it. —Pacific Time, KQED 88.5 FM
Tabios’ prolific meditations on writing, living and loving in modern times solidifies her role as one of the foremost Filipino American poets of the 21st century.—Asian Week
“...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 has released 14 print, four electronic and 1 CD poetry collections, an art essay collection, a poetry essay/interview anthology, and a short story book. In her poetry, she has crafted a body of work that is unique for melding ekphrasis with transcolonialism, and her poems have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Tagalog, Japanese, Paintings, Video, Drawings, Visual Poetry, Mixed Media Collages, Kali Martial Arts, Modern Dance and Sculpture. She’s also edited or co-edited five books of poetry, fiction and essays. Her poetry and editing projects have received numerous awards including the PEN/Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Award, The Potrero Nuevo Fund Prize, the Gustavus Meyers Outstanding Book Award in the Advancement of Human Rights, ForeWord Magazine Anthology of the Year Award, Poet Magazine's Iva Mary Williams Poetry Award, Judds Hill's Annual Poetry Prize and the Philippine American Writers & Artists’ Catalagan Award; recognition from the Academy of American Poets, the Asian Pacific Association of Librarians and the PEN-Open Book Committee; as well as grants from the Witter Bynner Foundation, National Endowment of the Arts, the New York State Council on the Humanities, the California Council for the Humanities, and the New York City Downtown Cultural Council.