CorpsePoetics (formerly WinePoetics)
Savasana-inspired poetics and poems (formerly Wine-inspired poetics and poems)

Friday, January 31, 2003  


Bodies and Voices

What's the excuse for this vanishing
language? I need a different way to put myself
to sleep. A reading of Proust
in terms of speech-act theory would have to proceed
along different lines. This may be of interest
to those who want to know what the wealthy do
on dates, but as a guide to personal interaction
it is of marginal value. Think your material over
and determine its limits. Replace "face"
with "bosom." Describe the hero's possessions
and her response to them. We enjoy the demonstration
that a sieve can float on water. Sparks come
through the door. Reich called this energy
"orgone." So much more death.


Isn't that lovely? "Bodies and Voices" is one of the poems by Mr. Mystery Poet whose book I'll be publishing this Fall through Meritage Press (see link).

Perhaps some of you have already guessed that this poet is also an active critic. I adore incompetent deconstruction (as evidenced by my first book, see Black Lightning link) one of my favorite activities through this blog has been trying to see a relationship between Mr. Mystery Poet's poems and the various concepts that he discusses in his critical prose. "Bodies and Voices" reminds me of something Mr. Mystery Poet once wrote about William Corbett's collection, Don't Think: Look (Zoland Books):

Everything in these poems is immediate, personal, open even to the sentimental--but they are neither diaristic (they blessedly lack that sense of facts dutifully noted for their own sake or that of the discipline of noting them) nor "confessional." The writer is not trying to draw me in to his life or freight it with broader significance. He's simply piecing his [...] lines together from material at hand, from everyday talk (of an unusually thoughtful and perceptive kind, surely) about everyday happenings. These are very much the poems of a middle-aged man, one who has been capable of deep attachment to people, places, and things he has known long enough to lose or become disenchanted with. So they are consistently elegiac in feeling, their repeated subject a "mind racing loss" ("Dejection "). A miniaturist perhaps, but no minimalist, Corbett broaches the compensatory fiction of "a world conceived/in memory alone

Bodies and Voices....and perhaps this particular poem caught my eye today, too, because I noticed WinePoetics recently mentioned in some other poets' blogs. Being coolapsed, I must now emote, "That's quite a thrill, poets! Thank you!"

And it's especially a thrill as this result -- like with results of my best performance projects (e.g. this blog) -- often occur with no premeditation on my part except to be open to whatever unfolds (Parenthetical Leap: uh, yes: I'm a "performance" poet which, cough, has led me to some tricky spaces if you read, say, the kind of poems lurking in Reproductions....). I confess being thrilled when another blog acknowledges my existence -- because, if you must know (oh and you must know!), I am a hermit who rarely receives acknowledgments of my existence [Work with me here, I feel in a fanciful mood!]. I just sit in a cave atop a mountain most days; when the eyes blink from the shimmering computer screen to look beyond the cave's entrance, there is only the occasional, deer, wild turkey, fox, rattlesnake, mountain lion, bear, Venus (the star), the Milky Way, "Sapphire" (my brand new oak tree), and a landscape of seemingly unending rows of vines to keep me company. (I'm an incompetent farmer; after nearly two decades in New York City, I'm still struggling just to expand my flower vocabulary beyond rose, daisy, lily and bougainvillea ....Leap: nasturtium -- is that the word -- is such an astringent word, don't you think, particularly for such a pretty flower?)

Still, I was, um, sort of dismayed by one mention. One poet, Lester, had surveyed poets' blogs to see which posted a link to Lester's blog. Four out of five surveyed didn't -- including WinePoetics -- and thus were called "blind." Those who did link to Lester were called "visionaries." Now, normally, I would just giggle blindly, tip the glass higher and move on. But I'm particularly sensitive at the moment (to responses to WinePoetics) because I just received my first -- MY FIRST -- e-mail from a winery! I mean, I knew poets and certain oenophiles read this blog.....but I didn't know people in the wine world were paying attention! (More on this below.)

Anyway, as regards Lester, perhaps that financially-attuned poet, the equanimitable Drew, might give Lester a lesson or two in statistical analysis. Like, if Lester's intention is to calculate the "blind" blogs, surely Lester must differentiate between blogs who do links to other poets and those who don't (because only the former might have made the decision to be "blind" to Lester). As you may notice, my blog does not link to other poets....and it's not just because I'm self-centered.

I don't link to other poets precisely because I don't wish to "choose" -- or privilege among -- poets. You see, I try to practice the Impossibles with Poetry (I mean, why bother otherwise, eh?) And, for me, this entails (as stated by the title of my latest poetics essay that will be forthcoming in PinoyPoetics, ed. by Nick Carbo; see Meritage Press link again): "A Poetics of Everything, Everything, Everything." Which is to say, I try to accept everything and not privilege among the variety that makes up our world (please note that try-ing does not mean I succeed or, in some cases, should succeed; some things should not be accepted, like war.)

So, Lester, dear, it's precisely because I don't wish to exlude you that I don't link you. In fact, I don't even incorporate the site address of your blog within the body of this post -- see how much I care for you? [If something got lost in translation in this paragraph, well, it's because ..... hic] Just make the veal and I bring the wine, Lester -- shall we meet in Kinshasa?

Leap! But then, all this muttering (on my part) leads me, too, to the more general notion of caring what others think of us....when we don't even know those other people. On one level, that's sort of....diminishing, isn't it? (This isn't directed now against dear Lester; it's a more general point.) Because if we say others should feel a certain way about us without knowing anything about them, then we've just objectified these other people into mirrors for ourselves (before which we might primp), rather than acknowledge their own entities....their own selves which contain their own subjectivities.

And then, there's the irony that, if we ever knew who these others are, we may find that such others are not the type of people whose opinions we'd care about or respect.

Leap! But apparently, some of you pay attention to my blather. And, yes, one was a representative of a winery who elicited a less-than-enthusiastic mention in my report on the recent ZAP zinfandel expo here in San Francisco. I now feel so bad over that report! I'd forgotten why I never diss poets -- now, for the same reason (of not increasing negative energy in the atmosphere), I am thinking that I also shouldn't publicly diss wines.

And the thing is, this doesn't have anything to do with not making judgments. I do have strong opinions on both poetry and wine, but prefer to keep the negative ones to myself. Why? Because I believe in subjectivity. One person's good poem is another person's brilliant gem. As for, for wines, I definitely know that the majority of wine drinkers nonetheless ENJOY wines that I would never serve at the dinner table. So why would I interfere in that process of others' enjoyments. (And have I mentioned yet that, it's not as if I turn up my nose at -- instead of holding forth my plastic cup for -- those wines served at poetry readings?)

Dear Winemaker Who Wrote to Me, I apologize if my comments seemed gratuitous. Fortunately, as I noted to you, I am not Robert Parker* and so my comments are unlikely to affect your market. For the very little that it's worth, your wine is now on my radar screen -- I don't think I was even able to taste 10% of the total wines available during the ZAP festival (one of our friends attended and began going through wineries alphabetically; she collapsed between the B and C tables). But I shall look forward to tasting your wines again.

[*Robert Parker is an influential wine critic whose ratings actually affect demand for and prices of wines.]

Anyway, all this is also to say: Peeps, this blog has never pretended to contain rigor (oh, except for my choice of Mr. Mystery Poet as someone whose collection I must publish -- that was a very RIGOROUS process requiring all my talent, um, talents ... as a, as a....well, as a very talented judge). I mean, look at the sample poems I've been sharing through this blog. Are these poems not .... talented?

So, speaking of wonderful Mr. Mystery Poet and blind deconstruction, it's also intriguing to me how this poet basically spent years practicing his poetry in private. Now, what might create such a situation? Well, I'm the wrong person to ask as I've only been practicing poetry (in this lifetime) for about 7 years; and now, I mostly live in a hermit's cave nibbling the tips of my uncut hair, walking about in holey, soot-stained gowns, cackling at dust motes, and playing with Plato's phantoms. Which is to say I'm not the best-positioned to review the "poetry world." But it also means that when a poet, like Mr. Mystery Poet, creates works that are so moving that, move ... me to go voluntarily outside, eyes blinking, to present his book of poems to the world....well, isn't that something to be curious about, to anticipate, to buy, to read, to savor?

After all, you may not know who I am but, ultimately, (admit it, admit it!) you do care about my rigor-less (but still brilliant) opinions! A future post (soon, soon, it's coming) shall reveal the identity of Mr. Mystery Poet whose lovely poems yanked at my hair and led me out to the world .... where you and I now meet. You, Thou....


By the way, you out there reading me: do you have bodies as well as words?

Okay, there was nothing deep (or French) about that particular question. I just wanted to suggest you take care of your bodies as much as your words. Which is why, I drink this afternoon's 1999 Monte Antico Toscano (only $8.99, I tell you....but be sure to get the right year: 1999).

And I also mention this Tuscan because, surely, even Sandy McIntosh can spring for it. Here's the "wise guy poet" now inflicting his two cents about the prior post:

SM: I'll check out the 1993 Seavey Cabernet (Napa Valley), assuming we get it here on the east coast, and toast you at dinner tonight. Does it come in the gallon jug?

ET (again, that's divine me): Seavey in a gallon jug? Que horror!

SM: Oh. I guess it was too much to hope to get the Seavey in one of those refrigerator cartons with the little plastic straws. So convenient.

…making me go Aaaackkkk and run away from the computer, pour myself another glass of Antico, and return to berate the boor….who's now winking from the computer screen with

SM: Am drinking a Canterbury cabernet--I think the vintage is 2006.

ET (Sigh. Are you making fun of WinePoetics, she thinks as she types out): Does that mean you can taste the socks?

SM: I think it was stomped by people yet unborn.

ET clamps down on her words by sipping the yummy Antico while noticing the subject header of SM's last point to be "more than you want to know."

But the sadist isn't done. SM invades the screen again with: "The socks of the people who stomped the grapes, or the sock I'm drinking it out of?"

ET tries to take the high road; looking at her glass, she types back, "The next post shall feature a wine even you can afford."

Obviously drunk by now on socks and Canterbury, SM cheerfully replies, "Will it be in one of those little bottles, like you get on airplanes, that are labeled 'Pasteurized wine-like product'?"


All of which is to say, in order to remain on the high road, I end this post (hurriedly) in order to exit the Internet. Dear Sandy McIntosh, as Mr. Mystery Poet put it:

What's the excuse for this vanishing
language? I need a different way to put myself
to sleep.

posted by EILEEN | 4:52 PM

Thursday, January 30, 2003  


WinePoetics recently received e-mails from new poets -- actually, both are seasoned poets but are new to WinePoetics): Leza Lowitz (Yoga Poems, Stone Bridge Press, and Sandy McIntosh (Between Earth and Sky, Marsh Hawk Press, I was pleased as punch, I mean, sangria. Both wrote to share their "wine poems"! Tat-ta-ta-dah: This is WinePoetics! Poets -- send me your inebriated poems!

I'm also pleased to hear from Leza given word of Judd's Hill Winery & Vineyard's Fourth Annual Poetry Contest. The theme is, naturally, "Wines & Vines"! Deadline: February 28, 2003. Send submissions to Judd's Hill, P.O. Box 415, St. Helena, CA 94574, or Check out this prize (yes, I've tasted their wine and it's yummy-licious):

A handpainted, gold-etched, 3-liter bottle of Judd's Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, publication in Coracle, and a feature in the Judd's Hill Newsletter and website.

And I also know Coracle to be a pretty nifty journal in which to be published (go Jane Hall, marvelous editor you!)

So, what does the Judd's Hill contest have to do with Leza (and did I tell you that Yoga Poems received a PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award?). Well, she was last year's winner of Judd's Hill's contest with this poem:

What The Vine Raises

What runs in the red river
is the heart's deepest truth
always flowing inside.
If you can mine its depths
you'll know what the vine raises,
that things grow even in the dark of night,
lit by the moon.
The wine has lit up our faces,
turning them the same color,
the quicks of our fingers are red.
When the magic is on your tongue
even the glasses lean towards laughter
and the harvest is never-ending
when you're drunk on the world.

Ahhhh! Peeps -- have you ever been drunk on the world? It is an absolutely ..... intoxicating feeling! Sigh....

Okay, from that transcendence, we now move on to Gallo...which is to say: Sandy McIntosh.

Sandy offered one "wine poem" plus two related poems that reveal why Michael Heller once said, "With a sure surrealist's touch, [he] wickedly maps out the psyche's contradictions and movingly explores family pain and grief. His clean, swift poems strike the reader's eye as well as heart as they range from hope to nightmare, from loss to social comedy."

Here's Sandy's "wine poem" (and unfortunately some of the long lines will "wrap around" given the slim column width of the blog):

Gallo’s Paisano

My mother said: “I like this Paisano. It’s good and sour, like Hungarian wine.”
I refilled her glass to the brim. I was after information that night.
“Why didn’t you let me meet your relatives?”
I had been to Europe several times
but she’d always refused to tell me where they lived.
“You wouldn’t have liked them,” she replied. “They were too poor.”

Halfway through the bottle I got the courage
to ask about her marriage to the mysterious man in Cincinnati.
“We were so young…,” she began, and then said nothing.

I refilled her glass. And then glass after glass.
In the end she started talking,
but by morning I’d forgotten it all.

“Say again what happened in Cincinnati,” I begged.
She stared at me. “No,” she answered.
“We were too young and too poor.
You wouldn’t understand.”


But after sharing the above "wine poem," Sandy then immediately wrote about it, "But I’m not sure it makes much sense unless you know the following:"

Dancing Across the Atlantic

The stage is dark. There is an echoic clang, as if a heavy electrical switch has been thrown. Immediately a bass thrumming noise, the muffled sound of an ocean liner’s engines, is heard. This thrumming becomes dance music, perhaps a waltz, as the lights go up on a couple dancing.


According to my mother, she and my father met in Paris, just before the Second World War. She was a young Hungarian girl, a student, she said, in Paris to learn the language. My father was touring with his father, a wiry old Scotsman. “I really liked your grandfather better than your father,” my mother told me. “He’d sit with me in the café for hours teaching me English. Your father… Well, he just wanted to fool around.”

Then the war began and there was only one boat leaving for America. “Your father asked me to marry him and I told him ‘yes’ because I wanted to go to America. He was not a very fun-loving person,” she reflected. “But he could dance. We danced our way across the Atlantic.”

[Lights and music gradually fade on the dancing couple.]

I carried this story with me until I was twelve. Then, one day, rummaging through my mother’s bedroom drawers, I discovered a Certificate of Divorcement. My mother, it revealed, had been married many years before she’d met my father, to a man in Cincinnati, where she’d had a family.

[The dancing couple has vanished.]

Furthermore, that same year, I got a telephone call from a woman who claimed to be my father’s real wife. “I would have been your mother,” she insisted. “I would be with you but your father put me in this place, instead.” I learned later that “this place” referred to a mental hospital.

Hence, my confusion.


Uh, huh. So. So then, Sandy continued again, "Or perhaps you’d need to know this, too:"


On the way home from school I found a bundle of nudist magazines. I tore out some pages and hid them under my desk blotter. For days I studied them, amazed at the mysteries of pubic hair. I imagined myself in the adult world, and it seemed a strange land, compelling and lonely but full of possibility.

Later, I found the pictures on top of my desk. My mother had rummaged through my room, never saying a word, leaving the naked pictures there for me to know that she knew I had them. This was her style: to let me know that I was never beyond her grasp, that private parts would never be private, that she herself was a greater force of nature than even adulthood, and that we both knew that her name was Silence.


So, okay. As Denise Duhamel once said, "Sandy puts the 'wise' in wise guy poetry."

Incidentally, Sandy's second piece, "Dancing Across the Atlantic" is the opening for the forthcoming off-Broadway production of Between Earth and Sky. The production is hoped to occur in late spring or summer. But there already is music written for the opening piece: a waltz by Kurt Vega; Kurt's nifty waltz can be heard at:

One thing I do appreciate are multidisciplinary approaches to poetry. For Sandy's particular context, I asked him about his background. He then cheerfully (if garrulously) replied:

"I did a number of things during the last several decades. I taught in the Poets-in-the-Schools program (40 schools), and was an English professor (Southampton College of LIU, NY Institute of Technology, Hofstra University). In between I was in publishing. In the early '80s I edited Wok Talk, a Chinese cooking magazine. Then I wrote a software program, The Best of Wok Talk, which was published by Software Toolworks (Electronic Arts). When Wok Talk was sold I moved to LA to work for Software Toolworks. There I was one of the collaborators on Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing!, which has sold millions and millions of copies, and I later conducted a lawsuit against that company that was covered by the Wall Street Journal and lots of computer magazines. Und so weiter....

Oh. I'm also a landlord (see "Louder Desperation" section of Between Earth and Sky.)

But early on, as a student at Southampton College, I met David Ignatow, who took me on as a kind of apprentice. I went with him to Columbia University, enrolling in the MFA program, where I wrote several filmscripts for Stephen Scharf, and collaborated on a documentary, Ireland: The People and the Caring (documented in Endless Staircase, 1990, Street Press) with fellow student, Steven Schwartz. The film won the Silver Medal from the Film Festival of the Americas.

I've published five collections of poems (two of which are available at, etc.) a business/careers book, Firing Back: Power Strategies For Cutting the Best Deal When You Are About to Lose Your Job (John Wiley & Sons), a Chinese cookbook, From A Chinese Kitchen, and some other things.

Mark Bloom, the creator of the Mystic Theater company read Between Earth and Sky, and probably encouraged by Lanford Wilson's praise of the book, asked me if I'd be interested in his company dramatizing my poems. As this would be a "star turn," featuring one actor, accompanied by dancers and music, he is looking to enlist a star actor for the part. We're working now on the dramatizing of the poems, of which "Dancing Across the Atlantic" will be the opening piece. The composer of the music for the stage version of Between Earth and Sky will be Kurt Vega. We have a long history together, and he takes the part of "best friend" in the following narrative:

I had agreed to identify my brother’s body at the morgue because there was no one else except my mother to do it. There was no way out. I had asked my best friend to go with me as a favor of ultimate loyalty and friendship. My friend agreed.

Queens County Hospital complex is perpetually busy. All sorts of people walk the streets or pass through the buildings. Some have their arms in slings. Others walk with crutches or ride wheelchairs. Some are bent over, walking slowly. A few gesticulate vigorously and direct traffic or debate invisible antagonists.

The Mortuary operates in building “H” of the complex. It stands at the end of the road, next to the laundry. Inside there are several bolted doors marked “No Admittance” and two open office cubicles.

I stepped into the first and waited for the clerk to finish her long telephone call. Then I spoke the horrible words: “I’m here to identify my brother’s body.”

The clerk pointed without interest to the next office. “Over there,” she said.

I turned and repeated what I had to say. The young woman behind the glass partition asked me to sit and wait. She, too, was on the phone.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Rodriguez,” she was saying. “The body you’re looking for isn’t here. No. Why don’t you try the Manhattan Medical Examiner? Oh, I see. Well, how about Jacoby in the Bronx. Yes? Well, I’m sorry, we can’t help you. Um-hmm. You too. Good luck.”

She returned to the cubicle where I sat with my friend.

“May I see your identification?”

I fumbled for my driver’s license.

“Your relationship to the deceased?

I told her.

“Did the deceased use drugs?

I told her which ones.

“It is necessary at this time,” she said, “to identify the body. You’ll do that by looking at a photograph.”

She opened the envelope and from it withdrew two Polaroids. She held them with their backs facing out. At length, she chose one and turned it decisively, as if it were a Tarot car.

It was a picture of my brother, his head only, wrapped in a white sheet. His eyes were closed, his face bruised. There was blood on his lips and chin. The sneer, the public swagger my brother wore, was gone. I thought of my mother’s words earlier that morning and echoed them aloud: “That poor little boy.”

To my friend, the corpse looked naïve, surprised to be dead.

I said to myself, “That poor little boy,” and tears filled my eyes. My friend put his arm around my shoulder.

In the car driving home I told me friend, “I’m going to tell my mother that my brother looked peaceful.” It wasn’t true, but that’s what I told her.


Who knows why we become poets, or anything else? No matter what else I've tried, poetry has always made the best synchronicity for me; thus I continue (see "Between Earth and Sky" in Between Earth and Sky). However, I'm not the Sandy McIntosh credited on the web with writing a pretty awful poem called "Lost, One Soul," which, nevertheless, brings me misdirected fan mail each week.

I know this is much more than you wanted, but you asked the right questions.


Okay. So. The-Miss-Who-Asks-The-Right-Questions takes a sip. Sip again. Should I edit what Sandy sent, she thinks. Sip. Ah, what the heck: I'd rather focus on what's right under my nose -- and right in my glass.

So then: to multidisciplinary approaches: Sandy and films/theater/Chinese cooking, and Leza and yoga/wine, I toast you with the wine currently in my glass: the quite yummy 1993 Seavey Cabernet (Napa Valley), another wine robust enough to last three days from being first opened.

posted by EILEEN | 10:41 PM


"If bread is the great staple of the western world, and rice of the east, what does that make of the wine with which both bread and rice are taken? Bread and rice are both human images: what does that make of wine? The element divine. And that is exactly what it is -- the divine element, true, sure, pure and undeniable. Who'd dare deny that?"
--Franz Arcellana, Esq.

Franz Arcellana, one of the greatest writers to come out of the Philippines, is quoted on the back cover of THE CRITICAL VILLA: Essays in Literary Criticism by Jose Garcia Villa, arguably the most significant English-language Philippine poet in the 20th century. The book's editor, Jonathan Chua, sent me a copy which I received today. I am grateful to the Ateneo de Manila University Press for publishing this important collection of never-before-collected writings by Mr. Villa, who also was the Philippines' most significant 20th century literary critic. But I nonetheless was delighted to see Mr. Arcellana's quote because the heart of any project involving Mr. Villa is poetry which, like wine, is indeed "the element divine."

Having just finished one quick read of the book, I can say that some of the most interesting tidbits occur in the Appendices. Here's one, a letter that Mr. Villa wrote to the Manila-based Philippine Graphic in 1934. By then, Mr. Villa had left the Philippines and was living in New York. Now, I know that this is the kind of stuff that offended so many people and and I have met some of you with quite long memories. But, I am forced to admit: over this letter, I simply collapsed (coolapsed) into laughter -- making it quite hard for me, I further add, to finish my yummy slice of coconut cake at a local cafe where I was reading this book. Here's Mr. Villa's letter:


I have done a great deal of poetry -- excellent poetry if I may say so myself -- but hesitate to send it to you as the Graphic is so darn "pure" -- i.e., so passionless -- and poetry, fine poetry is passionate, sensuous, warm, alive. Also my poetry is, I fear, too advanced. I refer to the form -- for the material of all art is eternal; but the same today as in the past and as it will be tomorrow. But the form changes and should change. Last century's styles are last century's styles. The old T-Ford isn't equal to the new Ford. The form has to change to be up-to-date. You can't argue before an intelligent mind that a 1908 form is superior or even equal to a 1934 form. It doesn't make sense. In the same way, the technique and form of modern poetry is superior to the rickety, outworn "great tradition."

The poetry you print is unforgivable. It stinks. My God, if I had judicial power, I'd throw you in jail for publishing such rot and exemplifying them before the public as good poetry, thus submerging the public still more. (Nothing personal about this. Purely literary reaction.)

You haven't published any decent poem except that [Guillermo] Sison poem ["Peace"] in the Christmas number. All the rest is Tripe, and doubly offensive as they pretend to the title of poetry, and appear in the guise of poetry -- when they are farthest from it and are not even good prose. Gosh, the "poems" turn me inside out with literary nausea. There is no more poetry in those "poems" than there is poetry in a classified 'ad.' There is more poetry in one line of my poems, or even in one word of them, than in all the poetry published in the P.I. in the last five years. Sorry to shock you. But I can't stand it -- the state of poetry in the P.I.


Ah, ye critics -- sometimes, y'all just send me! Do you see how, before Simon Cowell and "American Idol" there was Jose Garcia Villa?!

Unfortunately, I am unsure how widely-distributed THE CRITICAL VILLA can be beyond the Philippines' borders. But if you want to know more about Mr. Villa, check out The Anchored Angel (Kaya Press, see link) which I edited. Here's a quote from my essay which also says something about Mr. Villa's character:

"I want the absolute words, only the absolute words, used in the poem. You will notice that in any of my poems, every word has been carefully chosen. In fact, every word is a poem in itself, so pure it is. That is an emanation from my angelic divinity. Don't laugh at me Cirilo, I mean it. You are no poet if you are not divine."

I not only admire this statement for its passion, but because its thoughts do translate to perfect pitch in his poems, one of which shall end this post. Meanwhile, I note that THE CRITICAL VILLA offers many things that were not within the scope of The Anchored Angel, including the following:

On Mr. Villa's poetry collection, Have Come, Am Here (Viking Press, 1941): "Voted unanimously by the Pulitzer committee for the Pulitzer Prize but the chairman vetoed it -- not wanting to award the prize to an experimental poet -- so it was given to Robert Frost, who also had a book that year, but who was really only second choice for the prize -- this information I got from Robert Frost himself and from Louis Untermeyer. I thought it was very decent and nice of Frost to admit it to me." (Villa quote)

On Mr. Villa's poetry collection, Volume Two (New Directions, 1949): Disqualified from receiving the Bollingen Prize (eventually won by Wallace Stevens) owing to Villa's Filipino citizenship.

On Mr. Villa's Selected Poems and New (McDowell, Obolensky, 1958): Panned by Thom Gunn in the Yale Review 48, but defended by Francisco Arcellana: "Mr. Gunn thinks that Villa is a denizen of the lower slopes of parnassus. If this is so then one can't help wondering how high timberline would be. In any case, if this is true -- and it ain't necessarily so -- it would be more forgivable in Villa than in British and American poets including Mr. Gunn himself. After all, the English poet has the horse with wings and Villa has only the winged carabao (albino)..."

EXACTLY! LET MY CARABAOS GO (and particularly the winged albinos)! (See January 29 and prior posts.)

Anyway, I only met Mr. Villa once. The cocktails could do only so much to alleviate the awkward atmosphere. I hadn't ever heard of Mr. Villa before we met. The poet Luis Cabalquinto had invited me to meet "a great poet"; I went over to, cough, simply join them in promised margaritas and martinis. I've never forgotten, though, his pale face -- a face so pale my eyes could and did trace various blue veins flickering just beneath what seemed to be paper-thin skin. A fallen angel...

But the meeting was predestined. The Anchored Angel is a "recovery" project for bringing out a poet from literary obscurity (his books had been out of print for decades in the U.S.). I believe I was meant to edit this book partly because my lack of knowledge about him precluded the kind of emotional baggage (positive or negative) that many Filipino poets carried as regards Mr. Villa. On the opening page of THE CRITICAL VILLA, Jonathan inscribed the words: "To Eileen -- who came face to face with the tiger and didn't blink."

Thanks, Jonathan. That wasn't courage on my part. Just sheer ignorance made cheerful by my margaritas (specifically, wine margaritas).

Here's a poem by Jose Garcia Villa, the one who fell to become The Anchored Angel. From this poem, I once wrote a series called "Girl Singing." That series still remains within the depths of my disk drive as mine never quite captured the "divine element" sparkling within this poem:


Girl singing. Day. And on her way
She has to pass by the oldest mountain.
That at least is certain. Rain. That
Doth leave no stain. And again whose
Flowers move jealously. O pity me.
O if her eyes move and destroy all
Firmament. How brightly devised is
That moment. Much and muchly praised.
O day imperishably dazed. O woman
God-grazed. Succour God alone, O
Teach him Joy. O girl singing. O
For whom alone God bows out. O lovely
Throat. O world's end. O brightly
Devised crystal moment.

posted by EILEEN | 3:27 PM


I wasn't surprised to see Gary Sullivan's blog post today (January 30, 2003) entitled "Dreams of Interpretation" (see Moreover, his essay was exactly about this post that I was in the middle of writing (no lie!). Have I told you that I believe one of a poet's jobs is to connect dots of synchronicity....oh, I've mentioned it three times on this blog? But have I mentioned it RECENTLY?! Anyway, to connect the dots...

Gary was discussing the issue of author intentionality -- that he's "never met an artist--writer or other artist--who did not, at some point, feel that his or her intentionality was being tossed overboard at some point, their work being misread, misinterpreted, misunderstood."

I agree. And I actually have slightly different take on this issue. Partly because I ASSUME that most readers will never glean my authorial intentions anyway -- and also because I believe that readers need not glean my intention as the works should be able to stand on their own -- I don't mind disseminating a lot of prose (poetics) about my poems. But I don't structure these poetics as (or only as) to share what I was intending at the time I wrote my poems (okay: how's that for getting away -- or not getting away -- from the "I"?). I also create poetics statements that are not lies about my true intentions but offer exagerrated emphases on issues that are of concern to me.

Barnard College's Alumna site ( currently features an interview of me. The relevant excerpt is:

Many describe you as a poet-activist. What relationship do you see between poetry and activism?

I believe the role of the poet is not to write verses, but to live life in a different (hopefully better) way than that poet would otherwise if s/he were not a poet. For me, part of becoming a poet has been to be more proactively aware of my environment: "proactive lucidity," as I think of it. Through such awareness, I fine-tuned my focus into some areas where I felt I could make a difference. [...]

How I publicly describe my work is often related to my activist concerns. In 1898, the United States invaded the Philippines to make it a colony, and spread its colonialist regime through furthering the use of English as a communications tool. I am quite aware that many in the United States are not aware of its history with the Philippines; I use my poetry as a doorway to educating them about that. And, what a timely issue it's become, what with the Philippines having become another front-line in the United States' war against terrorism in the aftermath of "911"...!


When I wrote the prose poems that make up my book Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole, I knew that my primary (conscious) impetus was attempting to write poems in the manner of abstract expressionist brushstrokes. But I am finding, given the (war-infused) times, that I speak less of that influence, and more about how abstract language is a means for me to talk back against the narrative use of English as an imperialist tool. Does that bother me? Yawn. You can guess the answer....

By the way [and you'll have to bear this "Leap" since I haven't leaped in a while in my recent posts and I don't favor straight narratives most of the time], there's a photo of me on the Barnard site. I mention this primarily because Steve Dickison who runs The Poetry Center & American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University recently e-mailed to apologize. Apparently, in the forthcoming Poetry Center calendars (which I believe many of you reading me will receive), he took that same photo and, in Steve's words, "there is some lateral distortion to your photo... you are stretched, somewhat, east & west."

To which I promptly replied, "You mean you made me look FAT!?"

In response, Steve did the e-mail equivalent of a sheepish mumble. So I said I'll write about him in public....and there, I just did.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, so speaking of contextualizations, over the years, I would write these prose works that certainly fit the "poetics" category. And they'd often be published in teeny outposts where only the most initiated would ever find them (and of course I always consider my readers -- historically all 3 of them -- the most sophisticated, "initiated" peeps ever!). Here's an essay I wrote about a series of poems I wrote on Gabriela Silang, the Philippines' first woman general who had led one of the revolts against Spain's colonial rule. I think, given the times, there's a new resonance one can glean from it:


In 1521, the world's first circumnavigator Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines and brought that country to the attention of Spain. His discovery, followed by other explorers and proselytizing Catholic friars from Spain, began nearly four centuries of Spanish colonial rule. During this period, Diego Silang witnessed the colonizers' ongoing abuse of Filipinos and began the Ilokano tribe's revolt against the Spanish authorities. Following Diego's assassination, his wife Gabriela Silang carried on the crusade for freedom. After she and the remainder of her army were finally captured, the Spaniards hanged her soldiers -- known to be among the most defiant of Filipino rebels -- and lined their bodies along the coastal towns for everyone to see. Their bodies were left to sway with the sea breeze in order to serve as a reminder to anyone who dared fight the Spaniards. Gabriela was given the doubly painful experience of witnessing the death of her followers before becoming the last to die. She was 32 years old.

I have been writing poems to fictionalize -- and create -- a new life for Gabriela Silang in the 21st century. In writing these poems, I sometimes depict Gabriela in the midst of mundane activities (for example, doing the laundry) to contrast against the larger matters of revolution and politics that took over Gabriela's life. I believe that war teaches us how to appreciate the luxury of having no other momentary concerns than, say, to clean house. Gabriela's story, in fact, reminds me of how war eliminates Home -- in Gabriela's case, the Spanish invasion eliminated home not just in terms of her specific household but in terms of psychic stability as well her country as "homeland."

In these poems that are intended to be about someone else, I nonetheless integrate elements of my own life. For instance, when I turned forty years old, I wrote a poem about Gabriela turning forty even though -- and also because -- she never experienced this particular threshold. Similarly, I wrote a poem about Gabriela reading Charles Baudelaire as I like to think that if Gabriela had a preference for how she would have spent her life, she would have spent time reading poems as I do.

I intertwined my life with Gabriela's for three reasons. First, Gabriela lived during a time when written records were scarce so that not much is actually known about her. Secondly, I felt that Gabriela had to become me -- and I had to become her -- for those moments when I was writing on her behalf. This deliberate conflation of our lives facilitated, I felt, an emotional resonance that might not otherwise exist in the poems were I, as the author, more distant from Gabriela's experiences. Thirdly and relatedly, I wanted to address the contemporary discourse about the "I" in poetry, specifically how the attempt to get away from the personal "I" is also a mode of silencing the stories of one's culture. This positioning relates to my and Gabriela's shared ethnicity as Filipinas. As an ethnic-American poet, I write during a period when certain poets wish to get away from the autobiographical "I" -- and yet that position, for me, would be a silencing of themes related to my culture. This is a tension of identity-exploration. (Indeed, Chinese-American poet and critic John Yau has pointed out [in Black Lightning; see link] that the identity issue has not been addressed well by both modernist and post-modernist poets despite the advent of so-called multiculturalism: ''The identity issue…has not been addressed by later modernist poets because many often want to assimilate and be part of the mainstream and, thus, do not question the mainstream's use of identity, how it fixes them with a narrow possibility. It's not being addressed by post-modernists because they say the author is dead. But why is the author dead at a point when demographics have changed such that all these people who were once marginalized and silenced can now talk?")

The form of my Gabriela Silang poems generally feature the subversion of narrative through my use of textual collage and seemingly non-related juxtapositions of narrative detail. I question narrative because of another component of the Philippines' colonial history. The United States succeeded Spain as the Philippines' next colonial master. In 1898, the United States claimed it owned the Philippines after buying it for $20 million dollars from Spain through the Treaty of Paris. The Filipinos -- who had won and declared their independence from Spain -- protested, and thus commenced the Philippine-American War, a war that has been called the United States' "First Vietnam." With their prowess on the military terrain, the United States defeated the Philippines to make the arkipelago its first and, to date, only colony. The United States solidified its colonial domination through the cultural and linguistic terrain with the popularization of English as the preferred language for education, administration, commerce and daily living. Thus, English is sometimes called by Filipinos to be "the borrowed tongue," though enforced tongue would be more accurate.

Faced with English's history in the Philippines, I -- a Filipina-American poet who writes poems in English -- choose to do so by attempting to subvert conventional narrative idioms. Such subversion is a deliberate strategy to talk back against the use of English as a communications (or narrative) tool for enforcing colonialism. What prevents the Gabriela Silang verses from becoming nonsense and makes them poems are (I hope) how I (successfully) weave the words based on rhythm and the text's poetic music.

Of course, the poems do incorporate references to Gabriela Silang's real life, for example, the incorporation of the words "Ilokano" or "Ilokos." Ilokano is the language of the members of the Ilokos tribe, of which Diego and Gabriela Silan were members. Certain poems also reference the Pacific ocean, the mountains where she and her rebels had fought and hid from Spanish soldiers, and "reluctant warriors" because the Filipinos were fighting a war in defense of their homeland rather than in an attempt to conquer someone else.

However, despite the occasional reference to elements from Gabriela's life, the poems's narratives are generally different from how her real life unfolded. As a poet, I am comfortable with this result because the underlying sensibility of these poems is one of sadness. It is the poem's combination of loss and desire that, for me, ultimately captures Gabriela's life. For one of the few things known about her is that she became a martyr, but that martyrdom was not her choice. Gabriela inherited a set of circumstances which perhaps she would not have wanted to be her fate.

Even the manner of Gabriela's death retained its moment of sad ironies. Because Gabriela's men were tough warriors, a special kind of death was planned for them. One by one, each soldier was hanged and lined along the coastal towns for the public to witness. The Spaniards wanted to use their executions as a disincentive for those who considered fighting the colonial regime. In addition, the Spaniards wanted Gabriela to see how each of her men would die. She had fought like a man. Thus, she also deserved a man's sentence, according to the Spaniards.

For her own execution, Gabriela was taken to a plaza in the town of Vigan. She was hanged before a crowd of Spaniards and Filipinos. Apparently, all in a holiday mood as the event was part of the celebration of a dreaded enemy of the government. Thus, among the last words reverberating in Gabriela's ears must have been the sound of her own countrymen proclaiming "Long live Spain!" These were the same people for whom she had fought and now faced death.

Nonetheless, it is said that Gabriela remained calm and courageous during her final moments - as she took the 13 steps that led to the scaffold. She exchanged her life for freedom on September 30, 1763.


Here are two poems (first published in Feminist Art Speaks) from my "Gabriela Silang" series. I recall now that the two "blondes" referenced in the first poem were wonderful poets Michelle Murphy (I highly recommend Michelle's book Jacknife and Light, Avec) and Rosemary Griggs with whom I once attended a poetry reading:

Treason’s Etymology
or, Gabriela Discusses A Poet

She lacks a reputation
for waking at quantum velocity

an absence of self-possession
masked by her ability

to guzzle Black Star beer
and note its “violet finish”

She was flanked by two blondes
beneath a red-globed street lamp

penetrating the concrete
of Mission Street

Slitting eyes, she applied
“wine speak” in a manner similar

to shoplifting oxygen
from children never to be born

when she engendered
the type of infidelity

that fails to solder
fragments of a marriage

She notes we have yet
to identify

whose bones
erupted mountains

in Peru and Guatemala--
she was attempting consolation

She would have compromised
for fortitude

She does not recall
a green stalk brimming

with white ylang-ylang orchids--
how the thin limb refused

to bend before the weight
of lush petals

and fertile stamen--
how this plant sat patiently

on her doorstep
as a gift

from someone she considers

for never inflicting pain
as if “to hurt is to feel”

She begins to agonize
over mountains sharing

the pallor of melted candles
vis a vis skeletal fragments--

an agony that denies
a type of knowledge

whose burden capsizes
streets into fog-sweatered nights

She keeps losing
the same lesson:

“white” does not signify
a bleached bone

and an orchid petal
share each other’s complexion

She keeps losing
this same lesson

No metaphors exist
for genocide


As Gabriela Reads Baudelaire (II)

I remember the rice fields
sometimes melancholy at dusk

sometimes a rippling mirror
of a sunset’s maidenly blush

In San Francisco and New York City
where the sky is a presence

witnessed “through a ventilation
or between two chimneys”

the visual compression offers a “more
profound idea of the infinite

than a great panorama
seen from a mountaintop” (1)

I could continue, but long poems--
“they’re the resource of those

who can’t write short ones” (1)
As one “who has so deeply loved

the perfume of woman,” (2) I sadly
observe, “You’re always armed

to stone me
along with the world” (3)

(1) from a 18 February 1860 letter from Charles Baudelaire to Armand Fraisse
(2) from a 24 January 1862 letter from Charles Baudelaire to Charles-Agustin Sainte-Beuve
(3) from a February or March 1861 letter from Charles Baudelaire to his mother Caroline Aupick



Leny Strobel (who wrote the quite visionary book about Filipino decolonialism, Coming Full Circle, Giraffe Books) chimes in about my posts on freeing the Filipino carabao from the tentacles of the U.S. military (see January 29, 2003 posts):

Eileen, Bravo!! I went to their website and tried to see if I could forward your letter but they have no 'contact us' address but found their snailmail: The Military Order of the Carabao, The Army and Navy Club, 901 17th NW, Farragut Square, Washington DC 9001-2503. Should we inundate them?

Leny also just returned from visiting the Philippines and she reports, "Today in the Philippines, the carabao is almost an endangered specie. Driving down countryroads I only saw emaciated imported white cows from Australia and New Zealand (I hear) languishing in the tropical sun. When I inquired as to the state of the carabao, I was told: well, they're eaten before they could breed!"

Well, Leny, this post's recommendation is the lambanog as I exhort you Pinoys to send your protests to the snailmail address offered by Leny for The Military Order of the Carabao.

I end by sharing my new title [hic], just bestowed on me by Jose "Joey" Ayala: Muse of the Carabao and the Lambanog River!

posted by EILEEN | 11:57 AM

OVER MY CEREBRALLY-BREWED COFFEE: "What idiot thought Sam Hamill would be a good candidate for Laura Bush's tea party?" and "Rice For Peace"

Anti-war poets force scrapping of White House symposium
By Sarah Left
Thursday January 30, 2003
The Guardian

The White House yesterday confirmed that it had cancelled a poetry symposium after a number of American poets threatened to turn the event into an anti-war protest.

The February 12 symposium on Poetry and the American Voice, which was meant to focus on the works of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman, was one of a number of literary gatherings organised by the first lady, Laura Bush.

When Washington-based poet Sam Hamill received an invitation to the event, he said he was "overcome by a kind of nausea" and refused to attend. Then he decided to email fellow poets, asking them to compose anti-war works and urging anyone attending the symposium to read works of protest.

Explaining the cancellation, Noelia Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for Mrs Bush, said: "While Mrs Bush respects the right of all Americans to express their opinions, she, too, has opinions, and believes it would be inappropriate to turn a literary event into a political forum."

A former librarian, the first lady has made teaching and early childhood development her signature issues. Her series of White House symposiums to salute America's authors have been lively affairs, featuring discussions about literature and its impact on society.

No future date for the poetry event has been announced.

Mr Hamill, the founder of Copper Canyon Press, set up a website in a bid to turn February 12 into Poetry Against the War day. He said that he had received poems or personal statements from more than 2,000 poets during the last week, and plans to present an anthology of the poems to the White House.

In an open letter on the site, Mr Hamill explained: "I believe the only legitimate response to such a morally bankrupt and unconscionable idea is to reconstitute a Poets Against the War movement like the one organised to speak out against the war in Vietnam."

Contributors have included WS Merwin, Galway Kinnell, Ursula K Le Guin, Adrienne Rich and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

"I'm putting in 18-hour days. I'm 60 and I'm tired, but it's pretty wonderful," said Mr Hamill.

Marilyn Nelson, Connecticut's poet laureate, said that she had accepted the White House invitation, and had planned to wear a specially-commissioned silk scarf with peace signs.

"I had decided to go because I felt my presence would promote peace," she said.

Mr Hamill's more forthright form of protest, however, may have tipped the balance for White House planners, however. He told the Seattle Times: "What idiot thought Sam Hamill would be a good candidate for Laura Bush's tea party? Someone's going to get fired over this."

His is not the only protest in verse. Canadian poet Todd Swift took only one week to compile an ebook, 100 Poets Against the War, which he released on Monday to mark the report by weapons inspectors to the UN security council.

"We're trying to create something that is like the Vietnam war protest," said Mr Swift, speaking from his home in Paris. He said he was amazed by how quickly the collection had spread around the world.

"About 25 of the poets in the collection are from the UK or Ireland, and we are adding John Kinsella and a few others this weekend to the revised version, which will be released next Monday to meet Mr Blair on his return from Bush's ranch," he added.

Contributors to the ebook include George Murray, Ethan Gilsdorf and Maggie Helwig.

State of the Union, 2003

I have not been to Jerusalem,
but Shirley talks about the bombs.
I have no god, but have seen the children praying
for it to stop. They pray to different gods.
The news is all old news again, repeated
like a bad habit, cheap tobacco, the social lie.

The children have seen so much death
that death means nothing to them now.
They wait in line for bread.
They wait in line for water.
Their eyes are black moons reflecting emptiness.
We've seen them a thousand times.

Soon, the president will speak.
He will have something to say about bombs
and freedom and our way of life.
I will turn the TV off. I always do.
Because I can't bear to look
at the monuments in his eyes.

--Sam Hamill


"Rice for Peace"

Decolonialism scholar Leny M. Strobel shares a forwarded suggestion from the National Assoc of Fil Am Methodists, noting, "Every protest counts."

Dear Friends:
There is a grassroots campaign underway to protest war in Iraq in a simple, but potentially powerful way.

Place 1/2 cup uncooked rice in a small plastic bag (a snack-size bag or sandwich bag work fine). Squeeze out excess air and seal the bag. Wrap it in a piece of paper on which you have written, "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. Romans 12:20. Please send this rice to the people of Iraq; do not attack them."

Place the paper and bag of rice in an envelope (either a letter-sized or padded mailing envelope--both are the same cost to mail) and address them to:

President George Bush
White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

Attach $1.06 in postage. (Three 37-cent stamps equal $1.11.) Please note that if your bag is in any way bulky, you must send it in a padded envelope. A fat regular envelope will not go through sorting machinery. In Eisenhower's time, all mail was hand sorted so this wasn't an issue. Hope Bush will be in some way touched by this effort. Drop this in the mail TODAY. It is important to act NOW so that President Bush gets the letters ASAP. In order for this protest to be effective, there must be hundreds of thousands of such rice deliveries to the White House. We can do this if you each forward this message to your friends and family.

There is a positive history of this protest! In the 1950s, Fellowship of Reconciliation began a similar protest, which is credited with influencing President Eisenhower against attacking China. Read on:

"In the mid-1950s, the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation, learning of famine in the Chinese mainland, launched a 'Feed Thine Enemy' campaign. Members and friends mailed thousands of little bags of rice to the White House with a tag quoting the Bible, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him."

As far as anyone knew for more than ten years, the campaign was an abject failure. The President did not acknowledge receipt of the bags publicly; certainly, no rice was ever sent to China. "What nonviolent activists only learned a decade later was that the campaign played a significant, perhaps even determining role in preventing nuclear war. Twice while the campaign was on, President Eisenhower met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to consider U.S. options in the conflict with China over two islands, Quemoy and Matsu. The generals twice recommended the use of nuclear weapons. President Eisenhower each time turned to his aide and asked how many little bags of rice had come in. When told they numbered in the tens of thousands, Eisenhower told the generals that as long as so many Americans were expressing active interest in having the U.S. feed the Chinese, he certainly wasn't going to consider using nuclear weapons against them."

People Power: Applying Nonviolence Theory by David H. Albert, p. 43, New Society, 19.


Consequently, the post recommends rice wine, tapey (see January 8, 2003 post, "Tapey").

posted by EILEEN | 9:10 AM

Wednesday, January 29, 2003  


one of you -- but speaking for more than one of you -- asks about the poet whose poetry initially instigated the formation of WinePoetics (see January 28, 2003 post on "Heavenly Hurt"). Who is this poet whom I've called one of the greatest secrets in contemporary poetry, and whose first book Meritage Press shall release this Fall?

Who is this poet whose name I will reveal soon, but not yet -- a poet about whom David Shapiro observes: "each page..., so compressed, so lenient, so observed, keeps to an erotic variety: the experiment, the experience is all"?

So observed. With that phrase, David Shapiro observed this poet well. For among the many qualities I appreciate about Mr. Mystery Poet is the acuteness of his seeings that allows him to distill so marvelously when he finally pens his verses. The open-minded experience of his vision is such that his poems offer a balance that I equate with both geometry and archetypes, e.g. the circle, triangle and square. Such acuity may be seen in this excerpt from one of his essays in which which he discusses a (1994) group exhibition of visual artists:

I began by considering a large group of disparate artists, trying to see what some of them might have in common. What this process of sifting led me to realize was that among the things I've learned to appreciate in art is a certain lightness of touch. But as I brooded [...], "light" as an adjective, the opposite of "heavy," began to be illuminated by its homonym, "light" the noun, contrary of "darkness." Just a pun perhaps, and yet this crossing of qualities started to look like a subject: mutually inflecting one another, "light" and "lightness" began to assume manifold forms: a critical disposition attuned to qualities rather than categories invites us to consider the projected radiance of a coloristically brilliant painting (Karsten Wittke's pictorial meditations on Goethe's theories of light) along with the hushed halo of light that, reflected onto a wall from the back of the work, subtly dilates the presence of a fragile paper sculpture by Siobhan Liddell, the material delicacy of works with only the most tenuous physical embodiment (certain sculptures by Ava Gerber, for instance, as well as those of Liddell) next to unwieldy objects whose lightness has to do instead with the effortless way they bear their cultural baggage, as in the frescos on styrofoam of James Hyde. I began to realize that while the works I wanted to see engage a variety of styles, media, and themes, they share a degree of modesty, wit, or obliquity in their approach to the viewer--taking pointed exception to the overly spectacular or monumentalized presence of much contemporary art--and that they use this indirection to seduce us (rather than exhort us) to see something differently, in a different light.

It is this "modesty, wit, or obliquity in their approach to the viewer"/reader which I often find in Mr. Mystery Poet's verses -- a charm evident in these two poems (the asterisked line below is supposed to be indented, but this blog doesn't allow indents):

From "Ecclesiasticus"

I'm glad to know that Paradise exists.
I don't care if it's a secret. The light
was cleaner there. Your desperate trust defined it
the day of our arrival.
I'd love to know the name*
of this statue. These knees
are splendid, living metal, but not
what counts as time. It's not the kind of hand
you can clap with. Remove those
sandals, please. Such beautiful heels...
Let's just say nobody was home.


Banging Around

Companionable daylight
shifting through rubble

upends certain brightness,
the mirror’s approach

to one who listens in us.
We may step on a snail because

it’s something less
than a life, more

the stolidity of stone
though cracking, and yet details

this flush debouch of human
evidence, the city’s works.


I can't resist. I must share one more poem -- a poem that also illustrates why David Shapiro noticed this Mystery Poet's "erotic variety":

A Crazy Toy

Beams collect. Laughter drips

from the can. The way she spars
with just one pillow suggests

sampling air as a form of "natural"
self. Here is no he; we've

never been less willful. I want you
to see me as they do, as lines

of traffic in which further weaving takes place.
Morning cottons remain dry. Another

green necklace in thought.


Today contained much intensity -- the prior two posts hint at the day's tumult. And, today, political protest required the engagement of exhortation...

So it's a relief to lean back against night with poems like these three. Mr. Mystery Poet's poetry collection spans 1981-2003; these three are among his earliest poems -- and he only gets better.

Tonight, my reading of his poems .... calm me with their meditative quality. Tonight, they are stilling the mind .... into that "hushed halo of light." Perhaps this is all to say, Mr. Mystery Poet also has achieved something I usually find in the poets I most admire: Compassion -- and specifically a compassion engendered by lucidity.


Reading his poems tonight evoke the yogic term "tapas," which I learned from my yoga teacher Liza Chapman to mean partly "an internal heat. It's a heat that can occur through the practice of austerities. It burns off negative karma...."

Am I being too fanciful to see a metaphor between Mr. Mystery Poet's linear "compressions" with "austerities"? It seems to me that this marvelous poet, on one level, also practices the abstraction that occurs through (poetic) distillation. Alchemy is in the air...! Whatever the explanation, I read through his poems now, such as the three above -- to result in me beginning to breathe more deeply. Inhale/Exhale. Deeper, deepening....

I exhale out the day's turmoil -- the repleteness of bad karma in the atmosphere that misshapes the ink on newspapers into DefCon charges. But, tonight, I anticipate an ease to my sleep, for sleep will have been introduced through an engagement with this poet's finely- or, as David Shapiro put it, "lenient"-ly (or as I also might call it, gently-) chosen words. Thus, do I lift my glass to you, Mr. Mystery Poet -- a toast with the 1993 Seavey Cabernet (Napa Valley).

posted by EILEEN | 10:43 PM

DECOLONIZE THE CARABAO! offers more information about the "Military Order of the Carabao," one of the subjects of my prior post. Here is a description from its site:

"The Military Order of the Carabao is one of the most unique organizations associated with our nation's military history. It was founded in 1900 to counter and satirize the very pompous Order of the Dragon, which was founded by those who had defeated the very short-lived Boxer uprising in China. This idea for a lampoon was conceived by several Army officers one night at the Army-Navy Club in Manila during the Philippine Insurrection. As with most jests, it contained a serious ingredient which gradually surfaced to eclipse the initial joke. While the original spoof was real enough, the Carabao Order came to epitomize the camaraderie that grows among members of the armed forces who face the dangers and privations of extensive military service far from home. By the way, the effete Order of the Dragon was disbanded many years ago."

I offer an OPEN LETTER to the organization's Executive Committee:

A carabao, as you know, is a water buffalo from the Philippines. The carabao is one of my most treasured memories from my childhood. As a young(er) poet, I even once wrote this poem which appears in my first book, Beyond Life Sentences (Anvil, Manila, 1998):


I shared him with tiny black flies
who sneered at my waving hands
before diving deeper
into the folds of his old, cracked skin.

Still, I relished my throne,
the back of my grandfather's water buffalo,
while the beast provided a lumbering tour
of my kingdom whose borders

my six-year-old-eyes could not see.


You also know that the reason your "Military Order" references my beloved "Carabao'" is because of a specific war that is one of the most ignominious ever fought by the U.S. military: the Philippine-American War through which you colonized the Philippines.

Thus, while there may be merit in your described desire to set up an organization "to epitomize the camaraderie that grows among members of the armed forces who face the dangers and privations of extensive military service far from home," please amend your organization's name.

Once, you renamed the Order of the Dragon which you describe as "very pompous" and "effete." Well, to describe your organization after the "Carabao" is worse by de facto instituting an homage to colonialism.

And, by the way, how has your Military Order worked on behalf of the disgraceful plight of Filipino war veterans who served the U.S. and yet have been denied such rights as the military pensions?

The carabaos have asked me, Babaylan, to speak on their behalf: Release the "Carabao" from your Military Order!

This Open Letter is directed to the White House, the U.S. Department of Defense, and last but not least, the Military Order's "Executive Committee" revealed on its site to be:

Grand Patriarch of the Herd (First Vice Cmdr.) - LTG MARVIN L. MCNICKLE USAF
Grand Concillior of the Herd (Second Vice Cmdr.) - LT. COL OLIVER GASCH USA
Grand Jefe de los Amigos (Third Vice Cmdr.) - LT. COL ROGER HB. DAVIS, USAF
Jefe de Vaqueros - HOMER C. SAUNDERS
Consejero General - COL. JAMES L. FOWLER, USMC
Grand Padre de los Carabaos - LT. COL. KARL A. CHIMIAK, USAF
Director de Artistes - SSGT. ROBERT L. GEORGE, USA
Grand Paramount Carabao - GEN. CHARLES G. BOYD, USAF
Grand Lead and Wheel Carabao - CAPT. WILLIAM W. HARRIS JR., USAF
Lead and Wheel Carabao - COL. JOHN S. ROOSMA, JR., USAF
Grand Lead and Swing - C.W.O. GORDON F. Heim, USM,
Lead and Swing - R. ADM. JOHN N. FAIGLE, USCG
Director del Banquets - CAPT. I.C. KIDD III, USN
Producer de Is Fiesta - COL. JOHN R. BOURGEOIS, USMC
Director de Musica - LT. COL. TIMOTHY W. FOLEY, USMC
Compositor Lirico - SGT. ALVIN SPIVAK, USAF


I know that deleting "carabao" from your Military Order's name will require you to delete such fanciful designations as "Grand Patriarch of the Herd," "Grand Paramount Carabao," "Winders of the Horn," or "Gamboling Carabaos." But if you change your name, I promise to offer my advice on similarly fanciful appellations -- an offer you should value (have I mentioned I am an award-winning poet?)

Let my carabaos go -- which is to say: Let My People Go!

Or the waters of the rivers shall turn into lambanog and the carabaos shall run amok...!
Eileen Tabios

P.S. Your site also notes that your "Grand Paramount" is "formally sworn in at the Annual Wallow, which is held each year on the Saturday closest to February 4, the date of the Philippine Insurrection."

Wallow in this: READ MY LIPS: It was NOT a Philippine "Insurrection." It was an appropriate Philippine defensive response to U.S. invasion! It was not an "insurrection" for that word implies that the U.S. armed forces then represented either civil authority or an established government against which the people were rebelling. No, sweethearts: the Americans were invading. Now Repeat After Me (And Amend Your Childrens' Schoolbooks): It was NOT a ….!

posted by EILEEN | 5:51 PM


I think compadre Vince Gotera, a poet and editor of Radical Visions: Poetry by Vietnam Veterans (University of Georgia Press, 1994) had a good idea when he replied to Sam Hamill's Open Letter (see January 28, 2003 post on "Poets and Baconauts Against War") with his own Open Letter containing the following suggestion (and sure: why let genre stand in the way of activism?):


This is indeed the proper response--as we saw with the Vietnam war, poems can accomplish much in opposing war (and the preparation for war, as Vonnegut puts it).

I hope you will pass along my additional suggestions:

First, let's ask all writers, not just poets. Each writer (whether fiction writer, Dramatist, screenwriter, essayist, even student) can send in something in verse or else a statement of conscience ... and the movement can still be called "Poets Against the War." Let's not let genre stand in the way of this activism.

Second, let's all hold readings against the war on 2/12. If we could get the national (and local) media to take notice, there will be even greater impact at all levels.

Those of you who are receiving this message, please pass this along to all writers you know. As Sam says below, there is not much time.

Vince Gotera
North American Review


Then, as what brilliant poet Jean Gier calls "Just the right chaser to go with Bush's State of the Nation address -- if you can swallow it...," here are some pinapaitan (a Filipino dish with a key ingredient of beef bile):

Ian Urbina, a journalist based at the Middle East Research and Information Project in Washington, D.C., wrote an article for the January 29 - February 4, 2003 Village Voice (which can be accessed at Here are excerpts:

The Tribal Rites of America's Military Leaders. No Wonder They're Bullish on War.
The Empire Strikes Back

This Saturday, more than a thousand of America's top military and government leaders and their guests are scheduled to gather at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., for a secretive tribal rite called the 103rd Annual Wallow of the Military Order of the Carabao. And they won't be singing "Kumbaya."

In fact, on what these days feels like the eve of war, nothing says "imperialism" better than the annual Wallow, which celebrates the bloody conquest of the nascent Philippine Republic a century ago in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. The exclusive Military Order of the Carabao (named after the mud-loving water buffalo) was founded in 1900 by American officers fighting in the Philippines, so naturally there will be a lot of singing and cigar smoking by the 99.9 percent male crowd. Recent guests have included Colin Powell and General Richard B. Myers, current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many of the country's top military leaders are listed as members. [...] Acting like a cluster of Klingons, the guys will toss around revered imperial slogans, such as "Civilize 'em with a Krag!" referring to the rifles used by Americans to kill thousands of Filipinos, who had fought Spain for their freedom and didn't want to be handed over to another colonial power.

[...]The Carabaos rarely rear their heads in public [...]. But a guest who had been attending the Wallow for several years was fully debriefed right after the 2002 bash last February and furnished the evening's seating chart, song lyrics, and other documents. As our mole reported, the mood of the Wallow varies from year to year, depending on how much military spending is going on. The February 2002 crowd, basking in the second year of Bush's rule, was enthusiastic. "This year was totally different," one attendee said at the time. "With the current White House and all the overseas activity, military confidence is way up. I can't tell you how many excited comments there were about the new budgetary reality."

This Saturday, after another year of even more frenzied military spending, the Carabaos ought to be friskier than the bulls in Pamplona. "This year is extremely packed," Rear Admiral Ralph Ghormley, a Carabao official, told the Voice last week. "In fact, we had to turn away over 100 people who wanted to attend." One thing that fires up the bulls never changes: the bellowing of the Carabao anthem, "The Soldier's Song." At the 2002 Wallow, the room was already thick with smoke—every place setting had been adorned with (forget that embargo) an authentic Cuban cigar—when a voice said, "Gentlemen, please turn to your songbooks," and the U.S. Marine Band, seated to the side, struck up a tune. The Carabaos, most of whom seemed to know the words by heart, lustily sang the first stanza's story of the dreaded "bolo" (the Filipino revolutionaries' machete—they had few guns) and deceitful "ladrones" ("thieves"):

In the days of dopey dreams—happy, peaceful Philippines,
when the bolomen were busy all night long.
When ladrones would steal and lie, and Americanos die,
Then you heard the soldiers sing this evening song:

And then the bulls and their guests rhythmically banged their fists on the tables during each rendition of the chorus:

Damn, damn, damn the insurrectos!
Cross-eyed kakiac ladrones!
Underneath the starry flag, civilize 'em with a Krag,
And return us to our own beloved homes.

The chorus originally began: Damn, damn, damn the Filipinos! The U.S. soldiers chanted the second line's surviving racial slur about Filipinos as "khaki-colored thieves" while marching through the jungle. Some accounts say that, as the Americans marched and sang, some of them carried ears they had lopped off the Filipinos' heads and kept as souvenirs. Bloody ears aren't part of the rites of a modern-day Wallow, but most of the Carabaos' other traditions have survived intact. And if this year's mud-fest holds true to form, the revelry will be even more enthusiastic than usual, and it will no longer simply feel like nostalgia. The drumbeats of war against Iraq will sound to this crowd like the rebirth of an American Empire.

[...] An aide to Secretary of State Powell said the general didn't make last year's Wallow but confirmed his presence at the 2000 bash and told the Voice that he has often attended them. Ancient Strom Thurmond was plunked down at the 2002 Wallow's head table, where he was assigned a cigar alongside those reserved for Schlesinger, General Myers, Pete Aldridge (the Pentagon's chief of acquisition, technology, and logistics), Dov Zakheim (the Pentagon's comptroller), Gordon England (top deputy to Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge), Sean O'Keefe (the NASA director), and other bigwigs. Marine General Peter Pace, the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs, and Air Force Secretary James Roche, both Carabaos, were assigned the roles of hosting tables of their own.

[...] Last year's Grand Paramount Carabao-Elect, presumably the bull who will lead the charge this Saturday, is Admiral James M. Loy, a former coast guard commandant who heads the Transportation Security Administration, the agency now responsible for U.S. airport security. His experience in making fun of Filipinos may come in handy when his security personnel run into dark-skinned travelers: Last August, Loy told The Boston Globe that the controversial practice of profiling "has the capacity to serve as one of the growth elements" of his brand-new agency.

[...]Sometimes it's difficult to tell who's working for the government and who's working for the defense contractors. Pentagon official Aldridge, who decides which defense contractors get the boodle, used to head a big defense contractor, the Aerospace Corporation. Schlesinger not only has ties to Wall Street, but is also chairman of the board of trustees of the Mitre Corporation, a huge quasi-public operation, registered as a nonprofit organization, which runs an array of research facilities working with both the government and defense contractors and which has received billions of dollars in government contracts.

The Carabao gatherings remain a good place for all these people to meet because, even though the Philippine war's combatants may have died out, the organization has relaxed its admission rules so it can always find high-flying hawks it can turn into bulls. [...] Saddam Hussein, of course, is likely to dominate this Saturday's sketches, skits, and songs. Last year's villain was an obvious choice, sparking such ditties as "Big Bad Bin Laden" and "An Afghan Lullaby." [...]


Journalist and poet Luis H. Francia (check out his e-chapbook "Selections From A Museum of Absences" at wrote a Sidebar to Urbina's article, which can be seen fully at Excerpts follow:

In 1896, Filipinos rose up against their Spanish overlords, in the first Asian revolution against a Western colonial power. They had largely succeeded in defeating the Spanish when the United States, eager to join the ranks of empire, declared war on Spain in 1898. [...]

What they are not taught about is its more vicious sequel, the 1899 Philippine-American War. Through the Treaty of Paris in December 1898, and for $20 million (or about $3 for each of the country's 7 million inhabitants), Spain had ceded the Philippines to the U.S. rather than to its brown-skinned inhabitants, who had, after all, proven ungrateful for their more than 300 years of colonial tutelage by establishing the Philippine Republic. The new nation, headed by Emilio Aguinaldo, refused to acquiesce to this early instance of U.S.-induced regime change. The resulting war officially ended in 1902 but dragged on in guerrilla skirmishes until 1910. The costs to the U.S. were much larger than those of the Spanish-American War: by 1902, 4234 American war dead and 2818 wounded; $600 million in military expenditures; and at least $8 billion disbursed in pensions. The burden on Filipinos was enormous: at least 250,000 to 1 million mostly civilian lives (a seventh of the population), indicative of the ferocity of the American campaign—the nature of which is celebrated in the songs of the Military Order of the Carabao, founded in 1900.

[...] Today, with American troops in their country once more, many Filipinos are uncomfortably reminded of a time when their aspirations to self-determination were hijacked by the U.S. in its self-proclaimed role as a champion of democracy.


As regards the concluding statement above about the U.S. hijacking of Philippine self-determination, it is useful to read Luis H. Francia's February 20 - 26, 2002 article for the Village Voice entitled "War on Terrorism or Retaking a Choice Outpost? / U.S. Troops in the Philippines." Excerpts from the article, fully available at, are as follows:

In the current hostage drama unfolding in the southern Philippine island of Basilan—involving two American missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham, and a Filipina nurse, Deborah Yap—the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has made no political or ideological demands.

[...]Founded by Ustadz Abdurajack Janjalani, a fundamentalist preacher who had trained as a mujahideen in Afghanistan and befriended Osama bin Laden, the ASG is thought to have ties to the Al Qaeda network through bin Laden's brother-in-law, Mustapha Jammal Khalifa, and a charity organization he set up in the 1980s, the International Islamic Relief Organization. This personal relationship is why the Abu Sayyaf, and the Philippines, have been targeted as the second front in the Bush administration's global war on terrorism, and why more than 600 U.S. troops are currently deployed in the Philippines. But since Janjalani's death in a 1998 firefight with the police, those links, tenuous at best, have most likely evaporated.

[...] While a prickly thorn in the side of the government, the Abu Sayyaf is clearly a domestic problem. However, the group serves as a Trojan horse, allowing both governments to pursue their own agendas. For the United States, helping to eliminate the ASG bolsters its claim of winning the war against terrorism. More importantly, it gives the U.S. once again a military presence, not only in its former colony but also in Southeast Asia—a regional presence that was crucial in, for instance, the Vietnam and Gulf wars.


So, Dear Fake Carabaos And Your Cohorts,
Please accept this poem dedicated to you (rumors of a machete hidden within its words are greatly exaggerated), and written by Nick Carbo:


with klieg lights illuminating his brown muscles.
His body is the subject of Sally’s new 16mm film—

20 minutes—brown nipple
20 minutes—brown butt cheeks
20 minutes—brown knee
20 minutes—brown penis—

he feels odd being the object of desire.

Sally splices the footage of his body
with images of American soldiers posing
during the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902.
She asks him to urinate on the strips of negative.
She asks him to masturbate with baby oil
twenty times and ejaculate on the negatives.
She records the sounds of his hand on his penis
to use in a loop as the sound-track for the film.
She projects the crusty but textured film on the wall,
asks him to pose nude in front of the image
and produce several cowering poses,
pretending the projector is a Krag-Jorgensen rifle.
She shoots 30 more minutes of this scene
with the earlier images playing over his brown body
and around the white background.
She also projects the texts of racist songs
sung by the American soldiers:

Damn, damn, damn the Filipinos!
Cut-throat khakiac ladrones!
Underneath the starry flag,
Civilize them with a Krag,
And return us to our beloved home.


They say I’ve got brown brothers here,
But still I draw the line.
He may be a brother of Big Bill Taft,
But he ain’t no brother of mine.

Sally edits the film down to 28 minutes,
she titles it Pissing On Our Past
and it wins a funding grant
from the National Endowment for the Arts.

("Ang Tunay Na Lalaki" means "The Real Man." Nick's poem is featured in his poetry collection, Secret Asian Man, Tia Chucha Press)


Many Filipinos prefer to conduct our various revolutions while eating (recall the Manila socialites and other peeps passing out lunches to the masses en massed for "People Power" demonstrations to oust Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada). Well, we all know that my cooking skills don't much exceed boiling water for my morning coffee (did I ever tell you that I cooked a teapot when I left it boiling and boiling....and boiling because I forgot I'd put a teapot on to boil?) So, someone else shall provide the foodie comment, to wit:

Barbara Jane Reyes SCOFFED (!!!!) at the idea of taking off the shrimp heads while preparing the dissonantly-named dish, "ukoy" (see January 27, 2003 post "Accenting the Kundiman"). The young un' proffers, "I'm sorry, 'remove the heads' of the shrimps? NO!"

BrilIiantly, I replied, "Huh?" Barbara explains, "the shrimp heads add texture (plus, all the gunk inside them is yummy)! keep them on!"

Hmmm: "all the gunk inside them" -- well, that was quite palatably put, dear. And what is it with you poets anyway who write me without capitalizing words. is that a trend i've missed like the word 'peeps'?"

Then, while I had her long-haired attention, I asked Barbara what she might bring to a revolution. She replied, "Laing!" Yum!! Here's her recipe, though she caveats it with "this is an imprecise, mom told me once and i have to call her every time i make it just to make sure kind of recipe. it's actually more of a use-yr-common-sense-eyeball-everything kind of recipe":

3 large handfuls of dried, chopped taro leaves, washed and drained.
2 cans of coconut milk
1/2 pound of bay shrimp
as many cloves of garlic as you like, chopped
as much ginger root as you like, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 or so teaspoons of bagoong (the purple-colored "alimango" is best)
2-3 jalapeno peppers (keep these intact otherwise your laing will be HOT)

Saute the garlic, onion, ginger in a little oil (i use olive oil, of course), and bagoong (add this last, after the onions appear glassy). add the coconut milk, jalapenos, and shrimp, and stir. when the coconut milk comes to a slow boil, add the taro leaves and make sure they are submerged in the coconut milk, but DO NOT STIR. cover the pot and let simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes. 1 hour is probably best.

Barbara adds, "this is really good with steamed rice (of course) and some fried rock cod filets. my mom used to make this with pork. and abe ignacio uses dried tinapa fish in his."

Salamat, Barbara! By the way, Barbara thinks a good Riesling would go well with laing. Fine, but for this post's recommendation: tuba (coconut wine)!

Incidentally, Salamat as well to Bino A. Realuyo for food consultancy services, including this note (since I know the non-Filipino readership is just dying of curiosity about tuba: Tuba is made through a process of extracting the sap of an unopened coconut bud. It has a stinging sweet and bittersweet taste. The tip of the bud is lopped and the pale juice allowed to trickle into bamboo containers. A sturdy tree yields about a gallon of liquid daily. From coconut water, comes a syrup concentrate for tuba. Tuba is a sweet, fresh or mildly fermented sap taken from tapping the young expanded flowers of the coconut. In certain barrios of Malolos, Bulacan, tuberculosis patients are advised to drink or even bathe in tuba as a cure. Nursing babies in Bantayan, Cebu is fed with this beverage. Tuba when distilled produces a 96 proof lambanog.


Now, the only problem with ending the post with Barbara's recipe is that laing is an extremely delicious dish. It's really too nice for the faux Carabaos. So, instead, here indeed is a recipe for a edgy dish whose yumminess relies on the bitter. Make sure to "SERVE HOT":

(From "Philippine Cooking in America" by Marilyn Ranada Donato, 1991 edition)

PINAPAITAN (Bitter-Flavored Meat)

1 lb. beef tripe, sliced fine or diced
1 lb. beef, boneless, sliced fine or diced
1/2 lb. beef liver, sliced fine or diced, soaked in 2 to 3 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 medium onion, sliced fine
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger root, sliced fine
1/4 tsp. beef bile

Prepare meats and sprinkle salt on them. Set aside.

In hot oil saute garlic until fragrant; add onion, saute a minute then add ginger root, sauteeing another 2 minutes. Keeping heat on high, add tripe and beef, constantly stirring until most of liquid evaporates.

Now, add about 4 cups water and let simmer, covered for 1 hour or until meats are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired. Add liver, soaked in vinegar, and simmer, covered, for another 7 minutes or until liver is tender. Stir in beef bile; boil 1 minute.

Serve hot.

Serves 4.

NOTE: This dish is popular in the Ilocos region - beef bile being the unique ingredient. Ask your butcher or friends who kill their own cattle to save the beef bile for you. Bile can be frozen.

Okay! Don't forget to freeze that bile! Sige na!

posted by EILEEN | 8:25 AM

Tuesday, January 28, 2003  


Dear Ones, I began this blog on January 4, 2003. I blogged and blogged and blogged: over 71,000 words to date. It's almost as if I didn't have any other life but this blog....when, of course, I have a life (Cough).

Moreover, in the process of volcanically erupting, I loosened words in such a way as to annihilate the very cool persona I'd built up over the years. Yes, it's hard to believe: certain people thought me cool -- or is it that I cooly thought certain people felt so? In any event, I am aware that as a result of this blog, people also now think me coolapsed. It was a sacrifice I was honored to make.

Why did I do it? To help fund the next book to be published by my fragile small press: Meritage Press (see January 25, 2003 post). But for whom was I fundraising, you ask? (Oh, yes: you ask!) Who is this poet I've described as "one of the greatest secrets in contemporary poetry"? A poet whose forthcoming book will encompass poems written during 22 years (1981-2003) of mostly private perseverance?

Well, I can tell you that David Shapiro calls him "a wonderful poet and a poet of wonders. His poetry is exactly as strange as the familiar may permit. His work, born of a strange encounter between American poetry and European masters such as Celan and Novalis, always surprises me by its exploratory investigations. He writes one of the most loving poetries today, filled with a sexual myth as strong as anyone's."

In a future post, I'll reveal the name of this poet -- also a marvelous intellect whose inspirations range from "anyone who wrote a sonnet in the 16th century" to New York and language poets ("esp Heijinian, Silliman and Scalapino") to the French (e.g. Rimbaud and Reverdy). About his poems, I might say something similar to what he once observed about certain artists in one of his numerous marvelous essays:

"Art is a poison. It administers a dose of disturbance, disorientation, of 'internal difference' -- and often deceptively in the guise of beauty and pleasure. You might not notice it for quite some times. Perhaps you won't notice it at all....Perhaps it would simply be better to speak of the sadness in the music of Mozart, and of how no one learns to love his music until they've learned to hear the melancholy in the elegance. But if you begin to see one of these artists in a certain slant of light, the one in which the work gives you that 'Heavenly Hurt,' then be forewarned: it can only be assuaged by more of the same. What the Viennese critic Karl Kraus once said of psychoanalysis might more properly be said of art: it is the affliction for which it claims to offer the remedy."


Okay, so I'm a bit of a tease. I won't share this poet's identity yet. But, for now, here is a poem he wrote, as partly inspired by the drawings of Italian artist Luisa Rabbia. One can correlate it to the 1990 Jaboulet Hermitage White (which Rena Rosenwasser revealed she recently enjoyed). The Hermitage is a finely-boned wine -- as elegant as the works of this poet whose book gives me much Heavenly Hurt to support....and to enjoy:

Drafts (of Water)

A drowning breath, Luisa,
begins the poem
of our making

and unmaking--night drifting
between two days. The sea
was calm, its music impossibly

translated. Flames
curl like waves, or was it
waves curl like flames?


Travel homeward
seemed to
dream, such
strange relationship
made no
grace of
misgiving. When
the door
with its
beautiful narrator
shook her head
then proceeded
selves, being similar
awake to
the sparks,”
united, then untied.


Hello again but in reverse
to the far-flung alarm
of stars through a window.

This sleep whose disheveled night
untunes your island, Luisa.

Silver eyes and hair and
the roaring heavens your definitions of water


Impossibly-translated water, Luisa:

Water impossibly-translated as “the path
that leads away from itself.” What the knight saw
could be implausibly translated as “I study,
I make out your face through my stare.”
Even the most imperfectly rendered water
flows downward, widening, wearing away its ground
in the void.


Unless patterns pursue themselves like waves, Luisa,
unless patterns…unless they
pursue themselves….unless
waves…but let me put it this way:
sea-light will not be cajoled, Luisa,

into sufficient confusion
except on condition you explain realism at the dinner table:
subscription to water
wilderness of water
rivers fluctuating in quarter tones
reservoir to be read as temporary relief from insomnia

and the same assuming your place in the book
of perpetually writhing liquid.


He eyes her eyes,


Sleeping ends by distracting
itself. Drunken eye-journeys
arouse a sealed lid.

comparing notes
on pleasure, passing birds
from hand to hand.


What one dreams
the other describes:
a drowned water,
unmade breath.

Mischievous weather
we’ve been having,
hey Luisa? Flooded distances

impossibly translated
on this drier tongue
as the capitol of mists.

posted by EILEEN | 11:04 AM