Sunday, January 29, 2006


[First published in THE PHILIPPINE STAR, Manila, February 21, 2005]

Excerpt from a column:

By Alfred A. Yuson

A synchronicity tax, oh yes, thank goodness we don’t have that yet. Otherwise I might have landed in the poorhouse last week when, starting on this column-review of certain titles that should enhance our current drive toward regaining excellence in the English language, what should fall on my lap but this heavy tome straight out of California, titled I Take Thee, English, For My Beloved.

Why, wunnerful!

The book is authored by our friend Eileen R. Tabios, poet, editor, ekphrasis expert, publisher, proselytizer for Fil-Am literature. An all-around Wonder Woman, she also tends an orchard at Napa Valley when she’s not consuming bottles of produce as a bibulous epicurean cum blogger on the comparative merits of the red-or-white stuff.

The hefty, 504-page volume, published by Marsh Hawk Press in New York (, is quintessential Madame Eileen, starting with its charming cover that features a young bride, brown and very pretty, pairing of with a dashing groom, Caucasian, for a highlight photo-op climaxing that sacrament called matrimony.

The contents are also quintessentially Tabios, which is to say that it’s something like manifest destiny turned manifold. To call it a grab bag is to do postmodern palaver an injustice. Let’s say multi-disciplinary, assembling as it does, rather ambitiously, her extraordinary output in several literary genres: poems, prose poems, essays, exegeses on others’ works as well as on her own, by others, etc.

There’s a scenario that’s section-titled “Obviating the Proscenium’s Edge’ and piece-titled “But Seriously, When I was Jasper Johns’ Filipino Lover …” -- where she plays herself as a character, while a Kali artist and a Bride are supposed to be played by her fellow Fil-Am poets form SF, Michelle Bautista and Barbara Jane Reyes.

There’s an ars poetica essay, “Six Directions: Poetry as a Way of Life,” that’s illustrated by photos documenting a performance “happening” that featured what Tabios billed as a poem sculpture -- the interactive “Poem Tree” which required the participating audience to pi poems on Eileen’s very own, now vintage, bridal dress.

There’s an interview of her by poet Nick Carbo, an epistolary Poetics via e-mail, “Sculpted Poems,” and “hay(na)ku” poems which are a Pinoy take on the haiku in a stepladder tercet form that Tabios initiated.

Why, the handsomely designed book even has all of 90-odd pages that are nearly, concretely, blank, but for one-to-two-line footnotes at the bottom. I suppose this extravagant feature presciently addresses any possible allegation that the multiplicity of dazzling entries constitutes a top-heavy offering.

Yet indeed, spectacularly over the top is the direction Eileen Tabios seems to have always gravitated towards; she is a Baz Luhrman of an entrancing, entranced poet-aesthete. And her Moulin Rouge of exultant literary treats is run by a first-class Madame, graciously, elegantly, exquisitely at all hours.

But this is not to say that Tabios’ fundamental verse belongs to the province of frippery. Space considerations dictate that I offer but one quote; for this I select the first few lines of the emblematic, native hark-back that is “Season of Durian,” which starts with epigraphs from Joey Ayala (“Durian defies categories.”) and Jacques Derrida (too long to be quoted here). “Somewhere/ a crop/ teases a wet opening/ to soften bones// Nipples nail a man/ into silence. So loud the stars,/ for once, are audible…”

We hear you, Eileen. Loud-speakers blaring or muted, your marriage ot poetry ,to English, to universes beloved and betrothed, scan only signals joy, ecstasy, and fulfillment. Hear! Hear! And we are all so much less benighted.


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