Thursday, December 14, 2006


I never thought the last *list poem* I wrote would get as much exposure as it looks to get. After all, it was a two-second cutnpaste poem -- though don't scoff, Dear Ones, since its conceptualization took a lifetime. You can see the poem on my Gasping Blog as it's the last post there.

An excerpt from the poem's VisPo manifestation will be featured in FOURSQUARE (thanks much to Jessica Smith for asking). Stella Lai is currently riffing a collaboration from it. It will appear in my Fall 2007 book (and possibly in another anthology). And a mixed-media installation project based on the poem will appear in an exhibition opening in Manila this January.

I'm always uncomfortable doing visual poetry -- it's why I plan to do more of it.

Anyway, here's an excerpt below from a letter to two of the curators of the Manila exhibition entitled "CHROMATEXT RELOADED" (it will show in the Main Gallery of the Philippine Cultural Center). The curators of course are also poets: Alfred Yuson and Sid Gomez Hildawa. Moithinks the letter below offers some background which may be interesting as regards process (and if not interesting, don't tell me about it as that would absolutely crush me. yeah.):


I’m attaching a typed version of my poem “List(ing) Poem: Towards The New Filipino Society” which is a “list poem” wherein each line is a title of a book by Ferdinand Marcos. Obviously, as someone born in the Philippines in 1960, the whole Marcos legacy informs me and my family…

So enclosed are five pieces of mixed-media / drawings that comprise an installation of a visual poetry manifestation of my poem. For ease in mailing, I’m sending you the pieces and will trust that you can install them appropriately. You can frame them or not…but they should hang so that the five pieces form a cross.

Although the works can hang as they are against a wall, you also could do something more creative (from an installation standpoint, if that is possible or of interest). For instance, the pieces can be pinned--still in the cross shape--against a red lush fabric (red velvet or red silk or red satin, something that’s lushly-red), because red denotes the color of blood. You also could drop a few roses on the floor beneath the hanging and leave said roses there to dry out over time as the exhibition continues. "Rose," you see, is my middle name. Or, you could put a suckling pig--with an American red apple in its mouth--on a table in front of and beneath the drawings (this could be good if, there was an opening, say, and the visitors could then eat form the pig). These are optional ideas, as I said; the drawings also could just hang more simply on their own against a wall.

As regards the works themselves, you might want to note the following elements:

--Nos. 1 and 2 feature a print-out of the poem ripped apart to show my baby photo. Such denotes how I was part of the multitudes affected--and ripped apart--by the Marcos’ reign. You’ll also see the tsinelas stickers--well, tsinelas are ubiquitous among Pinoys, right? I also think of the “rip” as the ripping out of Filipinos into the diaspora--in No. 4, the tsinelas are supposed to be walking away from the Philippines (or from the baby as I was in the Philippines when I was a baby).

--No. 1 also features in the bottom right corner some “ascemic” poetry created by me writing out my name and then writing “Marcos” over my name so that the result is intelligible (ascemic).

--In No. 3, you see the start of the tsinelas continuing on to No. 4. The first tsinelas is aligned with the 10-11th line to reference, again, my departing from the Philippines at age 10.

--No. 3 and 4 shows me writing out the poem. There are the same number of lines as in the poem itself. But each line (in red) was hand-written as “Eileen R. Tabios.” As of the 11th line, “Marcos” is handwritten over each line of my name. That references that I grew up outside the Philippines as of age 11. As time unfolds (as of the No. 4 page), the “Marcos” becomes black to emphasize the editing out cum erasure of Eileen R. Tabios. All this, of course, references how the Marcos regime snuffed out the future of (or a certain better future for) many Filipinos.

--No. 5 shows basically a blank page and then the bottom line of “Poe[m]” melting into my name to say that the final result has yet to be written, and that the poet (or poem) not the dictator has the last word.

--the way the five pieces hang forms (or evokes the shape of) the cross. Or crucifixion--as in “Eileen R. Tabios” or Filipinos were sacrificed (crucified) for Marcos’ dictatorship

--the color red is initially used for handwriting out the ascemic text related to the poem….because red is the color of blood. When, in No. 4, the red changes to black, it’s also to reference how the life becomes a poem--I live out my poems before I write them …


In a follow-up email, the curators asked whether I placed my drawing/collages between thick cardboard types inside a manila envelope to prevent them from wrinkling.

I replied,

"They may get bent or folded but that could be fixed by you guys either temporarily framing them or just placing beneath some heavy books for a while. But, frankly, if they come wrinkled or in messed up shape, that's OKAY with me. You can hang them as is. That would fit my poetics of a poem being effective when it's "used", or engaged with by the audience -- even the blind audience of a postal system...."

Such blather from Moi! But Conceptual Art is never a two-second matter, eh? Anyway, hopefully, I'll be able to post pics from the exhibit when it comes out...