The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku

“Inspirational Innovation”

A review by Joey Madia

The great white whale for all true Creatives is the alchemical creation of something New. Wholly new. Something Never Before Done.

But, in reality, how many emotional crews and spiritual lower legs have we sacrificed in the pursuit of such seeming folly?

I was recently engaged in a discussion with creative colleagues when the idea that “there is nothing new” left to create came up. For one of us, it was a statement originally made to him some 30 years ago by a professor in the college where he had enrolled.

So—is it true? Outside of deconstructionism and post-postmodernism, aside from homage and pastiche (all four of which are prevalent in my own work), is there anything truly new?

This retrospective collection says yes.

Embracing variations on the haiku and tercet forms while honoring Philippine culture and elements of the Diaspora, Tabios’ Hay(na)ku form has, to put it mildly, caught on with a worldwide community of poets, breeding variations that both honor the form from which they come and the strength of the form itself. Continue reading

Witness in the Convex Mirror

“An Innovator, Always”

Review by Joey Madia

It is always a special day when a new work by this innovative and energetic writer arrives in my mailbox. Over the past 10 years, I’ve reviewed about 20 percent of Tabios’ over fifty published works, at times being inspired to be as innovative as the poet and the particular work in how I did so.

Part of her ability to be so prolific is the way she reworks, recycles, and reimagines her own writings and the writings of others—in this case, as the Author’s Note indicates: “Each poem begins with 1 or 1–2 lines from ‘Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror’ by John Ashbery.” In many of my previous Tabios reviews I talk at length about her various means of working with existing pieces to create something new, so I won’t belabor it here. Instead, I’ll say that ALL work a writer or other artist produces is linked to and derivative of something—many things—that have come before.

Tabios simply has the self-awareness to be up front about it, even when it is more ephemeral than repurposing lines from another poet’s already existing poem.

Although Tabios has always been to some extent political, be it the Filipino diaspora, 9/11 and the world ever since, or the complexities of gender or adoption for adopter and adoptee, I found Witness in the Convex Mirror to take it to a new level. And the clue is in the substitution of Witness for Self-Portrait. As many a wise and wizened soul has told us, to Witness is to be responsible to Speak. And speak Tabios does, on a variety of pressing subjects in a hurting and hurtful world. So this review will be less about the technical achievement and more about the content of the poems and the responses they evoke. Continue reading

Murder, Death, Resurrection

“Metaphorical, Intentional Poetics”

A review by Joey Madia

Eileen Tabios’s newest collection of poetry could be called a sum total of a life’s work (in progress). Created from her MDR poem generator (as have been a few other collections before this one), Murder, Death, Resurrection (to me aptly named, although an email exchange in the back of the collection indicates not everyone agrees) is 1,166 lines of her previously published poems. (The final line is 1,167, but in a Postscript Tabios says that she eliminated one line—I did not notice which—and, should your own means of generating poems from these lines [a key aim of this project] point to that missing line, insert one of your own, or another poet’s.)

Boy, that’s a complex opening paragraph—lots of clauses, parens, brackets, em dashes… but that seems to be okay in this case. Complexity is part of this endeavor, which Tabios undertook for a few reasons. I will summarize them quickly here, because there’s lots to do, but do not ignore the Introduction and back matter of Murder, Death, Resurrection—it is a treasure trove of exercises, explanations, and that email exchange is really not to miss. If Tabios wants to provoke thought and even pushback, she is succeeding. Continue reading

Manhattan: An Archaeology

“Forever the Innovator”

A review by Joey Madia

Innovation is not easy. Being innovative and prolific—well, that approaches the ultra rare. And that is why, year after year, I try to do at least one review of Eileen Tabios’s works. When the work spoke clearly as to how, I have attempted to be as innovative in my reviews as Tabios is in her art. A scroll through the 145 reviews currently on New Mystics Reviews (newmysticsreviews.blogspot.com) will show ten other reviews of Tabios’s work, some of which use lines from my other reviews or a poetic form to honor the range of inspirations and innovations Tabios has employed in her 40-plus collections, which have now been published in eight countries and in numerous languages.

Manhattan: An Archaeology, from the relatively new Paloma Press (they list only one other offering so far—Blue by St. Jo and Grefalda, which I reviewed last month), has a multi-page list of inspirations, ranging from Tabios’s own previously published works to those of other authors, YouTube videos, the paintings of Clyfford Still, and a trip to Provence the poet took with her husband.

The collection, which is divided into several sections, interdicted with graphic images, begins with THE ARTIFACTS, a poetic list of items that then appear in the poems that follow. Here we have the material archaeology of Things, which is only part of the picture. Because there is also the etheric archeology of Memories, to which the items tether. Why else are so many of us so compelled to collect? Continue reading

Invent[st]ory: Selected Catalog Poems & New

“Introductions to Infinity”

Review by Joey Madia

The arrival of a new Eileen Tabios book has become no less than an Event for me. Not only is it inspiring to see what new forms and source material this award-winning and prolific poet and editor is working with and drawing from, but it inevitably leads to my own experimentation with whatever creative works I am bringing to life at the time. Tabios is very much a writer’s writer, and one of the leading poet-practitioners in the realm of how to make the reader participatory with the experience. In essence, Tabios is such a writer’s writer that she wants everyone to be, if not a writer, than certainly an active author of their own experience and engagement. This is an aspiration that is beyond resonant with me as an artist, mentor, and storyteller. Continue reading