Tuesday, August 29, 2006


So my New York publisher was kind enough to offer me a Fall 2007 publishing slot (2 years earlier than initially scheduled). That book will be THE LIGHT THAT LEFT HIS BODY ENTERED THINE EYES (Marsh Hawk Press, 2007).

As Marsh Hawk scheduled me earlier than I thought they would, I didn't have a manuscript ready when they made their offer. But I said Yes anyway since I'ma up for a challenge, why not? (Tho its release date is Fall 2007, it's due to my Marsh Hawk editor in January.) And because I was writing the book from scratch, I thought I'd attempt to do something unusual for me -- create a book that's the typical length of contemporary poetry books, which would be somewhere from 64 to 78 pages. I think I was interested in exploring this scale which is so often imposed as a standard on poetry books by poetry contests and publishing constraints.

Anyway, I don't know why I thought I'd even get near that range. My first poetry book Beyond Life Sentences is 140 pages. My slimmest poetry books (Menage and Reproductions) are 128 pages. ENGLISH is known as a brick for clocking in at 504 pages. And my most recent, Punctuations, is 176 pages.

Well, I just completed the first draft of THE LIGHT... Total? About 275 pages. Ah well: one's gotta go where the poem wants to go...


And given the completion of the book's first draft -- which had as much to do with figuring out the order of the contents -- a "book description" surfaces (often a precursor for what will end up being used as back cover text or for press releases, so forgive the layer of marketing-orientation in excerpt below).

I've long tinkered with "book descriptions" or summaries written AFTER a poetry collection is finished. I try to summarize the book by reading it as if I wasn't its author. The process allows me to second-guess what I thought I was writing--to see what the poems compelled me to do/write versus any intention at the time I began the project. Consistently, the book has always ended up being something other than I intended (which I believe is good). Anyway, here's an excerpt from my book description for THE LIGHT...:


On April 11, 2006, Filamore B. Tabios, Sr. died from brain cancer and its complications. In writing about her father, Eileen R. Tabios came to reconcile with the legacy of Ferdinand Marcos through deliberate empathy with the former Philippine dictator's oldest daughter Imee Marcos; pay 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; meditate on the murder statistics of the 20th century's leading killers, from Idi Amin to Adolf Hitler; consider the Filipina pen pal phenomena; and engage with Dante Aleghieri's Purgatorio.

But while a once prodigal daughter's grief led her to enact Nietzsche's notion that "Punishment is the making of memory," the poet never forgets the integrity of her material -- that poetry demands form organically structured with content. In her 11th poetry book, Ms. Tabios uses commodity lists to create autobiography, practices ekphrasis by poetically translating the painterly technique of scumbling; offers variations of the hay(na)ku form (which she publicly inaugurated on June 12, 2003 to memorialize Philippine Independence Day from Spanish colonialists); and blurs the boundary between poetry and prose through texts originally written as blog posts. The book's overall trajectory also reflects her disruption of narrative linearity in favor of Dante's conception of the Trinity. For Dante, creation is simulltaneous as regards What (God) creates, How (Son) creation unfolds, and the Form (Spirit) taken by what is created.

Ultimately, however, this book's existence testifies to a poet's resolve for nothing less than Joy -- that she would cease writing this book only after she resurrected her father, which is to say, Love.