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

Friday, October 31, 2003  


Spending an hour with Schwabsky's poems is like spending an hour in a postmodern art gallery. You come away confused and provoked by the coded musings--with their mystifying private and public references and words that scan like machine-gun fire. The book's most intriguing feature is the poetic voice that coos and argues, wheedles and slaps, slipping from turgid stream-of-consciousness to breezy colloquialisms.
--Roberta Fallon

I'm having Halloween candy -- chocolates! -- for breakfast! YaY! I'm about 5 hours away from hopping on a plane to New York but, basically, will be flirting with the moon whilst Halloween escapades unfold across North America tonight.

Actually -- and this is a HUGE WOUND -- I've never experienced "Trick or Treating." When I came to this country, my brothers of course were allowed to go out in the neighborhood (coz they're guys) while Moi, the only girl, had to stay at home (safely) with my parents. This also meant that I doled out the tricks as the Trick or Treaters went by....can you imagine the trauma everytime I saw a dressed up girl with her full bag pass by the front door.....

....if my parents had my way, I'd be cocoooned forever within a box lined with soft blue velvet. Yah: doesn't that sound like a coffin?

Corpse thinks...It's so difficult to parent or be parented....

Huh: Anyway, when Barry was in town and I was talking about blogs and whether that was publishing or not, he said it seemed to him that one HUGE difference between a blog or a journal is that the latter has an editor that would ask at appropos moments: ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO SAY THAT?

But those lapses, of course, are what generate so much of the charm in blogland! Well, and other things besides charm but....munch: much of which can be addressed by chocolate?

Blather. But really, now, what I really came online to post is FABULOUS NEWS! Lookit this review from Roberta Fallon of the Philadelphia Weekly (Oct. 22, 2003) on Barry Schwabsky's recent visit there:

I'm not a fan of art that appropriates poetry for its raison d'etre, like the work of Lesley Dill, for example, which uses the poems of Emily Dickinson as its base. But when I heard about poet, art critic and curator Barry Schwabsky's poem-and-art collaborations with artists Jessica Stockholder and Luisa Rabbia, I was intrigued. Maybe when art and poems are produced in collaboration, the result is a stronger product.

Schwabsky, a New Jersey-born, London-based author widely known for his books and magazine pieces on art, is in town for two events. Tonight (Wed., Oct. 22) he'll lecture at the Institute of Contemporary Art about the video art of Gillian Wearing, and tomorrow he'll read from his new book of poems Opera: Poems 1981-2002 at the Penn Bookstore. You may remember Schwabsky from a show he curated at Locks Gallery earlier this year, "Post Flat: New Art from London."

Spending an hour with Schwabsky's poems is like spending an hour in a postmodern art gallery. You come away confused and provoked by the coded musings--with their mystifying private and public references and words that scan like machine-gun fire. The book's most intriguing feature is the poetic voice that coos and argues, wheedles and slaps, slipping from turgid stream-of-consciousness to breezy colloquialisms.

As for the art-collaboration poems, it's not fair to judge them without the art (not included in this volume). But like the other poems in Opera, they are earnestly romantic--which, come to think of it, is something you can also find in art galleries these days.


Now, I like the above article for many reasons. The first is that this is a reviewer who wasn't predisposed to say anything positive (in fact, do I sense a bit of caution in terms of preconception?) .... and yet found a means to engage with Barry's poems. Now, I imagine that the way Ms. Fallon phrases it (e.g. the excerpt with which I begin this post) doesn't necessarily make the poems attractive to some for pursuit. But if you see some of the prior coverage of Barry's poems (many of which are in prior posts), I suggest that what you see is the wide-ranging nature of the response to his poems. I think there is something positive in the diversity with which people react to Barry's writings. These are clearly not one-note poems.

By the way, I've seen Barry's collaboration with Luisa Rabbia. It is gorgeous -- prints using my favorite type of blue; you can sense the beauty from the images here. I'm glad to have their collaboration in my library.

(And, for the record, I disagree with Ms. Fallon: I think Lesley Dill makes some beautiful works. It's so tough to see works without bringing preconceptions to art, isn't it? I mean, why should the strategy itself -- in this case using poems as a base -- be an almost paradigmatic constraint to how one sees the results of the strategy?)

Both the poems Barry wrote with Luisa Rabbia and Jessica Stockholder are in OPERA. I'ma tellin' you: get this book for something unexpected in contemporary poetry!

posted by EILEEN | 8:56 AM

Thursday, October 30, 2003  


I'm flying (pun intended) to New York for two events over the next few days. The first is AAWW's Intimacy & Geography, a national conference on Asian American poetry, in which I participate on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2003; click on the link for full conference schedule while here are my panels:

11:30AM - 1PM / $7 / @ CUNY
Lightning Strikes
In this panel, poets trace the editing process for one of their poems, from first draft to published version. Eileen Tabios (moderator), editor of Black Lightning: Poetry in Progress. Participants include Mei-mei Bersenbrugge, Arthur Sze. and Timothy Liu.

2 - 3PM / $7 / @ AAWW
Poet Squared (a conversation): Arthur Sze & Eileen Tabios

Asian American Writers' Workshop (AAWW)
16 West 32nd Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues
10th floor
New York, New York 10001

CUNY Graduate Center (CUNY)
East 34th Street, at 5th Avenue
New York, New York 10001


My second event is on Monday evening, Nov. 3, 2003:

Bold Girls: authors from the great new Filipina anthology, GOING HOME TO A LANDSCAPE
in an Evening of Poetry, Prose and Music
Monday, November 3, 2003
7:00PM to 9:00 PM
$2 Admission

Galapagos Art Space
70 North 6th St.

Authors Reading and Signing their work on Nov. 3:
Melissa Aranzamendez
Luisa Igloria
Isabelita Reyes
Elda Rotor
Eileen Tabios
Marianne Villanueva

Musical Accompaniment
Michael Dadap—Classical Guitar (check out his website:

For those taking the subway, take the "L" train to Bedford, exit towards the rear of the train. You should find yourself on North 7th and Bedford. Turn left, walk one block to North 6th. Turn right on North 6th, walk two or three blocks (towards Manhattan). Galapagos should be on your left-hand side; there is a reflecting pool in front of the building.

posted by EILEEN | 6:10 PM


back again
the form of persuasion based on emotion
extremely important in the effectiveness of a speech
the appeal most likely to get the audience to do something
not inherently wrong
based on character

not limited only to cellular tissue changes as it also includes the pathogen

like a sports car while you are more like a dodge mini van or a yugo
the part of an argument that appeals to the reader's emotions
a testament to that

is in the first place of all of us
a series of works which i will be pursuing all of my life
ruled over by a giant sentient tree
from gothenburg

a greek word that derives from pathein
meaning "suffering" and becomes a major movement in later hellenistic styles

the rise of aggressive dilettantism in philosophical matters

a group of extremely talented musicians from tucson

is zeal

is always thoughtfully beaten down with the cugel of slapstick

not a bad thing

posted by EILEEN | 6:03 PM


it might make sense to speak to how a growing hunger for spiritual fulfillment in a spiritually degraded society is leading people to feminist art (or, I could add, any other idealistic art practice).
--Dan Cameron

I appreciated reading this today from Artforum which presents its IN PRINT section with:



So I posted the link above but it seems you may not be able to access it unless you're an Artforum subscriber. But since I'd already typed out the excerpts below, I'll post it anyway and you can pick up Artforum directly if enough intrigues you to do so and you don't necessarily read it (okay, I'm a subscriber but I don't necessarily read it either; I like looking at the pictures). There are bio notes about the contributors at the end of post:

LINDA NOCHLIN: Today, it seems to me that the fundamental differences within feminism exist between those artists and critics who think of "woman" as a fixed category and those who think of it as something more fluid, constructed, and variable. There is also a difference between those who think of feminist art and art history as critical practices and those who think that pure, "positive" images of woman are possible—that there is some essence of femininity out there to be captured. Perhaps '70s feminism, powerful and necessary though it was, is now outmoded; feminism has transformed and is itself transformed in contemporary practice. Feminist politics today is far more multivalent and self-aware; the battle lines are less clearly drawn. The binaries—oppressor/victim, good woman/bad man, pure/impure, beautiful/ugly, active/passive—are not the point of feminist art anymore. Ambiguity, androgyny, and self-consciousness, both formal and psychic, are de rigueur in challenging thought and practice.

ANDREA FRASER: my conception of institutional critique as an ethical rather than a political practice—a practice, that is, concerned not with the condition of being dominated so much as the condition of being dominant—also seemed to lead me away from explicitly feminist engagements. While that notion of an ethical practice was also deeply rooted in feminism—particularly in feminist critiques of expertise and mastery—it led me away from work through which I might engage my own experiences of gender-based domination or even determination. So while I continued to consider myself a feminist, it become more difficult for me to consider my work feminist. // Recently, however, that began to change .... Returning to performance also meant returning to my own body as a primary site, to my own subjectivity, and also, reflexively, to my own (institutionally constituted) fantasies as objects of critique.

AMELIA JONES: Today, I think feminisms need to address and theorize gendered identity so as to accommodate the intersectionality (per Kimberlé Crenshaw's valuable theorization in her essay on the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings) of how we position ourselves in the world and how we are understood by others. Women, if there is such a discrete category—Sandy Stone and others might argue otherwise—are never perceived simply or exclusively as women: Our feminine identity is always already imbricated in other aspects of our perceived and experienced identity. Every woman of color and every queer woman knows this because she has to. She has no choice. // I see the most interesting artists instinctively or explicitly working through intersectional identifications, producing work that navigates the complexities of identity in the contemporary world of highly technologized global capitalism. All we have to do is think about the difference between how "American" (as an identity category) was understood on September 10, 2001, and how it is now understood today (after 9/11, in the midst of the Bush presidency) to understand why conceptions of gendered identity from the '70s, '80s, and even '90s (with its "Bad Girls" shows) must be rethought. A woman wearing a veil on a Manhattan subway reads very differently today from how she would have read before 9/11 (and before the current US administration suddenly noticed the misogyny of the Taliban). Given this situation, I find myself admiring and learning from Shirin Neshat, Mona Hatoum, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Kara Walker, Renée Cox, Susan Smith-Pinelo, and Laura Aguilar—artists whose work presses a feminist critique into, and along with, a critique of racial and ethnic identity, as these inflect sexual identifications of all kinds—and from artists such as Susan Silton, Mira Schor, and Catherine Opie who explore gendered experience through aspects of pleasure and sexual orientation or self-identified sexual positionalities.

DAN CAMERON: In discussing feminism within the art world today, I have to confess to feeling somewhat estranged by a discourse that often seems distant from my experience of contemporary art and theory. Perhaps that is compounded by the fact that I am writing this from Turkey, where so many issues associated with the "heroic" phase of '70s feminism are at the forefront of current popular debate—precisely because the women's movement of the past is very much a phenomenon of the present here and in other less-industrialized countries. (My research over the past several years has taken me to countries like Brazil, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey, where achievements that we take for granted—birth control, antirape laws, no-fault divorce—are sometimes a matter of women's life and death.) The women's movement has triggered broad cultural changes with extraordinary social and political repercussions, and therefore I believe that addressing contemporary feminism from a global perspective is of particular importance. Granted, no feminist has yet been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize or offered a retrospective by MoMA, but I would rather focus on the movement's ongoing accomplishments than on its underrecognition (or underestimation) within mainstream culture. I have always believed that it is semidelusional to seek reward from the very system you have set out to reform.

COLLIER SCHORR: As excited as I was by late-'80s and early-'90s postfeminism and French theory, as applied to the work of Barbara Kruger and Laurie Simmons and others, these arguments were situated in a dialogue with men. At that point, you began to see a schism between the goals of a more homogeneous feminism and the ideologies of queer theory. In fact, queer theory, which includes the possibility of changing one's gender through grammar (i.e., a woman sees herself as a man, so she calls herself a man, a "he"), could hardly be seen as celebratory of femininity when it offers a clear desire for masculine privilege. In that sense, contemporary queer theory actually almost becomes reactive conservatism: The same woman—who may sleep with other women—adopts a different gender and simultaneously opts out of homosexuality. The advent of this nonsurgical sex change has all the uncomfortable baggage of racial "passing" and creates, in its most political sense, an erasure of early feminism. But then we must ask: Is feminism a celebration of the "feminine" or of freedom and optimal choice? Clearly, the two are not always the same.

JAN AVGIKOS: I'm thinking about a lecture I gave last year on Roni Horn's work during her exhibition at Dia. Looking at a wide range of her art, from the first trip to Iceland to the clowns, and working directly with her drawings, photographs, sculptures, and book works, I explored many subjectivities in her art—personal, psychological, sexual, and, I posited, lesbian. Several of her collectors attended the lecture, and one called the artist the next day, joking that she didn't know she was a collector of "lesbian art." (Yuk, yuk.) The connotation was that any such content in Horn's work was put there by (my own) whimsy and could easily be erased, as one would remove dust from the surface of a sculpture. Meanwhile, Horn's market is well established and can easily tolerate such "aberrant" readings of the art. No one loses, and everybody has a nice day. Feminism in art is something that interests scholars and artists but that dealers, museums, and most other people often politely tolerate or assiduously avoid.

CATHERINE DE ZEGHER: I am hopeful that it will be possible to "degender" and "deracialize" difference and to think of it in positive, nonreifying terms. If modernism's radical and inventive strategies were dependent on alienation, separation, negativity, violence, and de(con)struction, the twenty-first century may well develop an aesthetics of relation and reciprocity defined by reconstruction, inclusion, connectivity, binding impulses, and even by healing attitudes.

ADRIAN PIPER: After reading all of this stimulating talk I find I have nothing to contribute after all.

PEGGY PHELAN: The zigzagging successes and failures of feminism throughout the world today—women are routinely prime ministers in some places, and routinely maimed or killed for alleged sexual infidelity in those and other places—are symptoms of the ambivalence that still haunts feminism as an intellectual revolution. Yet that ambivalent zigzag is one of the most radical consequences of feminism as thought practice and, I believe, anticipates the likely trajectory of the next great intellectual revolution, the biogenetic one. Uneven distribution, economic access, and the larger forces of what we might call medical capital will similarly compromise it.


Linda Nochlin is Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts.

Andrea Fraser's midcareer retrospective is on view at the Hamburger Kunstverein through November 9.

Amelia Jones is Pilkington Chair and Professor in the History of Art at the University of Manchester, England.

Dan Cameron is senior curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, and curator of the 2003 Istanbul Biennial, which remains on view through November 16.

Collier Schorr will have simultaneous shows of new work at 303 Gallery, New York, and Modern Art, London, in January 2004.

Jan Avgikos is a contributing editor of Artforum.

Catherine de Zegher is director of the Drawing Center, New York.

"Adrian Piper Since 1965: Meta-art and Art Criticism" travels this month to the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona.

Peggy Phelan is Ann O'Day Maples Professor in the Arts at Stanford University.

posted by EILEEN | 11:24 AM


When I quote someone, I do it as an act of homage. (Who was it who said he'd love it if people used or even stole lines from his poems as he'd view that as a huge compliment?)

So, this morning, I'm trying to recover from someone whom I'd sometimes quoted as claiming I am quoting "to compete" -- i.e., that by quoting said quote within my own work I am attempting to "improve" the quoted text.

I care about this person. Equally significant, this person cares about me. I think the paranoia underlying this person's statement implies something about his experiences -- and I am saddened to think about how this person must have been so hurt in the past to have become sufficiently cynical to make this charge.

Wounds can make for great poets -- but I'm tired of that poetics program. I long for its post-________ that is not stuck at compassion.

P.S. I don't know that I know what I'm saying here; mostly, I'm unnerved.

posted by EILEEN | 9:45 AM

Wednesday, October 29, 2003  


Per blog moderator Andrew Lundwall's gracious invitation, I joined the As/Is Group Blog. I just go on, ya know...

Which reminds me to speculate, I'm not sure "blogger fatigue" reflects the constraints of the (blog) form, as some have posited. I wonder whether the fatigue mostly reflects the blogging individuals (whether it's time constraints or something deeper within their psyche about the particulars of their blogging experiences to date) versus reflecting something about the form itself. As regards form, it's not like mere *pen on paper* hasn't produced enough volumes to decimate rain forests, ya know what I mean? I'm sure the (potential) interactivity of the medium -- as well as the immediacy of such -- may surface a source of tension; but I mean, isn't that more linked to the individual than the blog form?

Please note that I'ma just chewing the cud generally here as opposed to having any particular ex-blogger or potential ex-blogger in mind.

Anyway, I joined As/Is because kewl poet-peeps are on it and because I like the idea of it being a space for spontaneity: that firstness in the gasp. I just posted my first post there! As you might glean, I don't necessarily agree with the (temporally *hip*) assessment by Ennio Flaiano that "the verses of a poet in love don't count."

I love Love.

posted by EILEEN | 6:32 PM


Someone recently called me "innocent." It occurs to me: said innocence is my only defense against the fact that Poetry consistently betrays.

posted by EILEEN | 12:12 PM



So let me tell ya of my Mommy Glo. She is Gloria Rodriguez, recipient of a "Life-time Achievement Award" from the Philippines's Manila Critics Circle for her work as a publisher. For years, she directed New Day Publishers, a leading publisher in the Philippines. When she "retired," she began Giraffe Books. Since 1993, Giraffe Books -- named after her own unique distillation of her name into that long-legged animal -- has published over 160 titles. But it's a one-person operation; as Mommy Glo puts it, "Giraffe has four employees--me, myself and I, and Gloria Rodriguez!"

Now, Mommy Glo probably would be the first to admit she's not the most technically-savvy person about. When I sent her my manuscripts, I could have e-mailed them to her. But she wants them in hard copy, and she typesets them individually -- which, I believe, facilitates her own reading and editing of the manuscripts. She also finances Giraffe Books out of what I've always imagined to be her household budget. The results are decidedly low-tech: e.g., books with a giraffe on the cover with the cook cover design being basically what she puts together (no separate book designer here, peeps).

But what also results is a perversely charming outcome. It is so easy nowadays to come out with glossy production given advances in technology that the more homespun quality of Giraffe Books -- which Mommy Glo operates out of her living room -- just leave me....enchanted.

And Mommy Glo is on my mind as I just received the page proofs for the third book she will publish for me -- and my first short story collection -- BEHIND THE BLUE CANVAS. The book cover will be in pale blue, and there will be a small rectangle of darker blue in the middle of the front cover. Title above, and author's name below, said dark blue rectangle. Then the ubiquitous giraffe beneath the author's name. Low tech, but more than does the job. Thank you, Mommy Glo.


All of the stories in BEHIND THE BLUE CANVAS are related to the visual arts world -- the characters are artists, collectors, art dealers and so on. Thanks to poet-scholar Jean Vengua for the Introduction; here's an excerpt from her essay:

"My immediate reaction to the 'aesthetic affairs' in this book is both attraction and repulsion. This is not negative criticism. Both exist, and are crucial to any work of art. And I find here a certain repulsion to the world inhabited by these artists. That is, one is attracted by the promise of eros, but to see artists as they exist within the economy and spin of the art world, and to read this as a narrative of sexual desire, is also to be repulsed. For sex itself, and sexual desire is narrative. To paint, to construct, sculpt, conceive (as in conceptual art, as in artistic creation) is, after all, to make oneself, or the extensions of oneself, interesting and desirable. In one sense, it is to love. Even that which appears repulsive wants to please someone.

"At the same time, there is the lie. That is, the nostalgic and very western vision we have of the artist's seemingly autonomous, or at least democratically independent, purity of vision. But the valorization of independence and autonomy obscures the relations of economy beneath the surface. We have here a counter-narrative that runs against the grain of the romantic notion of the artist, the genius in his garret, or in her expensive loft studio, working on some 'pure' or original vision or concept. The New York City art world in these stories is itself stripped and exposed. You, the reader, are a voyeur into its intricate social and material network, not unlike that in the mansion from the Story of O by Dominique Aury (using the pseudonym Pauline Reage). The galleries of New York City provide the context. They are the mansion, the community, and city. But none of them, no matter how tasteful or avant garde, transcend the marketplace."


BEHIND THE BLUE CANVAS will be out by year's end, or shortly thereafter. Though published in the Philippines, the book will be available internationally (e.g. through Amazon).

This project is dedicated to Dominique Aury. Her lover Jean Paulhan had made the chauvinistic remark that no female was capable of writing an erotic novel. To prove him wrong, she wrote the graphic Histoire d'O (The Story of O) under the pseudonym “Pauline Reage.” For the longest time, no one suspected that a woman -- let alone the demure, intellectual and almost prudish Dominique Aury -- authored the book.

Flap in wings.....the Mischievous One looks at her nine million peeps. Surely you all know that, despite my hair and lashes, I'm actually....prudish? She bats her lashes and a wingtip flicks her uncut hair tips into a mini ebony wave briefly painting air...

posted by EILEEN | 7:46 AM

Tuesday, October 28, 2003  


From "it's that thing again" by kari edwards in her newest book, iduna (O Books, 2003):

that stonewalled wreck keeping out the bits -
those fly-by night landings on the street -
worse could be saying something out of or -
maybe the big one or the little one -
yelling fire in a mirror -
where did it say I could say what I say -
and what does it mean I mean maybe -
maybe it was wrong -
words without a body -
maybe I don't know which way back from where I came from -


Tonight, I'm living out one of the two epigraphs to the poem I'd read Sunday at kari's home:

Vivo sin vivir en mi
“I live without inhabiting myself”
--St. John of the Cross

posted by EILEEN | 8:57 PM


In chauffering Barry Schwabsky about town, I've back-ended parallel-parked perhaps nearly 10 times in the past 48 hours. That is more times than I've back-ended parallel-parked in the past two decades. But it's tough to find parking in San Francisco and would have been difficult to explain to Mr. Schwabsky why I should keep driving miles away from any one particular destination because Moi here tries to avoid parallel parking unless there is enough room to do front-entry parallel parking. It would have been even more difficult to explain to same Mr. Schwabsky that I hear a flock of fallen angels pontificating their irritating dos centavos about my driving skills -- specifically, lack thereof -- whenever I conduct 12-point turns into a parking space. Certainly, it would have been most convenient for Moi if I'da just strapped Mr. Schwabsky on my back and then flown him across the city -- but that would have even been more difficult to explain. Still, the trials have been good for my soul, no doubt. Soul -- can you hear moi?


In case you didn't have the stamina to read to the end of my prior post, here's a heads-up: Barry Schwabsky and I will read at Halcyon in Brooklyn on February 8, 2004 -- a 1 p.m. reading that Sunday afternoon. I am mostly relieved that said event won't involve me driving him around New York City. In 20 years of living in NYC, I'd successfully avoided driving within its cityscape. Wings have such an advantage....

posted by EILEEN | 9:19 AM


Since Meritage Press published Barry Schwabsky's OPERA, which is my first project as a publisher that involves a book-length poetry collection, y'all are just going to have to deal with moi maternal side as I lovingly gather the reports on Sunday night into a neat packet here for Barry's reading pleasure when he gets back to his London home and, thus, online. I mostly want to record the Barry-related coverage but I'll have to include references to moi-self to faciliate articulating the whole of the experience for him.... though, I do include said references to moi-self unrepentingly since I was there not being a potted plant and because said references to moi are complimentary and...what is this blog but not an OPERA ABOUT MOI-SELF?!

Sip. Morning coffee that is desperately needed....

So, first, Michelle Bautista wrote:

Monday, October 27, 2003
A night at the Opera

Capped off a wonderful weekend with, but of course, a night at the Opera. No, no, not at Davies Symphony Hall, but at the abode of Kari Edwards and Fran in a live/work space that was an old Sears building 30 years ago.

Good to see the Well-Nourished Moon, Stephanie Young again. We only seem to run into each other when Eileen is around. Stephanie flipped through the pages of Kari's new book "iduna" just out from O Books. Can I tell you? It's a feast for the eyes with an aspect of mystery novel to boot. The text literally bounces around the page forcing you to flip and turn the pages up, down, upside down and around. There is text literally everywhere as if she's hidden messages and clues throughout the book.

Soon the crowd settled down as Kari took the podium and introduced Eileen who did a 15 minute piece, which was breathtaking, both for her and for us about entering one's skin. The speed and repetitiveness felt like a rollercoaster ride on the downslope. It left everyone dizzy, in that good, let's ride it again way. Or maybe it was the wine. It caused one attendee, a painter from Atlanta who was with one of the Chris' (I obviously painstakingly can't recall her name), to say, "Eileen's writing is like ballet, we fall in line accordingly."

Next up, debuting his new book from Meritage Press was Barry Schwabsky. Rhett would comment later it was like getting hit by cannon fire, til he realized he should just sit back and relax to let the words enter him.

Afterwards we chatted a bit more over the ube bread (which you can get at Valerio's bakery in Union City, Vallejo, and Daly City) and the heavenly brie, while Barry signed his wonderful collection.

We drove home still humming its melodic arias.
posted by Gura on 10:36 AM

Thanks Michelle (and the Sweetie "kari edwards" doesn't capitalize her name). That poem I read was 167 tercets and the longest I'd ever read -- I learned, for one, that if I'ma gonna do that kind of long poem reading, I shouldn't imbibe a glass, let alone three glasses, of wine beforehand. Anyway, I had some folo-up backchannels with Gura Michelle about Rhett's "canon fire" reference and, yes, apparently Rhett felt "like there were so many images and emotions that it came like canon fire, [but] then he just let it wash over him."

Isn't that sweet? The Long-Lashed One Sniffles....

Then Stephanie Young followed up with:

October 27, 2003
Michelle reports on last night's reading, also where to get that delicious bread.

Eileen's reading ended with a breathtaking repetition of vowels, what became a trancelike call and response of I I I O O O U U U.
Posted by Stephanie at 01:44 PM

James teased me for uttering several sighs during Barry Schwabsky's reading last night. I immediately reprimanded myself with Invective Verse ("Let us heave no more sighs unless we are falling in love") until I realized that duh, I was heaving exactly the sort of sighs Moxley's writing urges us toward. I'm guessing that I was falling in love with Barry Schwabsky, or his poetry, or something. Schwabsky is a love poet. I don't have my little red notebook with me at work, but I'll tell you one thing I remember: he read from a new series of poems titled something very much like The verses written by a poet in love don't count. I have it on record that James himself sighed quite heavily upon hearing this title, clearly the kind of sigh one heaves when falling in love with something they wish to have written themselves, and isn't that the whole problem of desire? Do we really want the object of our wish craft, or would we like to *be* them? Landing - or sleeping, in their skin, territory covered / shared by both Tabios and Schwabsky last night.
Posted by Stephanie at 01:55 PM

Ah, indeed. James and Stephanie are referring to the epigraph to Barry's post-OPERA poem (or poetic series) entitled "For Despair." The epigraph is as follows:

I versi del poeta innamorato non contano.
--Ennio Flaiano

which does translate to "The verses of a poet in love do not count."

Barry does have a knack for choosing epigraphs well. (Recall that Kevin Killian once marveled in a post to the Poetics List that he'd never seen a poem boast an epigraph by A.A. Fair until one of Barry's poems in OPERA.)

Rhett himself would end up posting about last night:

Monday, October 27, 2003

Sunday night was a book launch for Barry Schwabsky's OPERA. Barry's reading was like a series of cannonballs being fired into your face. Boom! Boom! Boom! Wait! I need a rest, damn it! Now that I have the book in my hands, it is absolutely a pleasure to read his words with my spacings/timing.

Eileen Tabios is the publisher for Meritage Press and Eileen graced us with a reading of her "20 minute" poem. The title escapes me at the moment, but I bring up the poem because once again, Eileen managed to teach me something.

The poem is inspired/derived from various poems that Eileen wrote. The repeating theme is about "you falling into my skin." The amazing part of the reading is that the poem was essentially a representation of making love. Now, how Eileen accomplished to describe/show/discuss lovemaking without making it seem like porn (from a Republican Moral Majority point of view) is amazing. The poem will be coming out in her next book which will be published by a Finnish publishing company.
posted by TatangRetong at 6:49 PM

Thank you Tatang Rhett. Yes, that poem will be published in Menage A Trois With The 21st Century and, cough, you got it -- there is a reason why moi blurber Kevin Killian calls it a "half diary of dildo desire" (such a good blurber you are, Senor Killian.) But, shoot, there should be enough romance to even soften a Republican, I hope.

Then Michelle posts again, to my relief as she helps address my lax in forgetting the "Atlanta painter"'s name with whom I had a very enjoyable conversation (Welcome to the Bay Area, Miriam! I look forward to seeing you at Chris's concerts someday!):

Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Ay, pala! The Atlanta Painter Revealed!

So the painter from the Opera book launching has revealed herself to be Miriam Jacobson, who will soon be a SF Bay Area convert. She's here scoping out the place to find a place to move to in a few months. Take it from Stephanie and me, the east side of the bay is better! But then again, we're rather smitten over Oakland.

The multi-talented Miriam is not only a painter but also a singer and song writer and hopes to pen some operatic tones to Barry's Opera. Can't wait to hear it!

She leaves the email with a P.S., inspired words from Barry's poems:

Your words are like a sword
That call us to a horde.

posted by Gura on 12:00 AM

WELL. So doesn't all that make you all salivate to hear more? Fortunately for you East Coasters, Barry Schwabsky and I will be reading in your territory. Watch for us coming your way to Halcyon in Brooklyn on February 8, 2004 -- a 1 p.m. reading that Sunday afternoon reading for eros that should, uh, ... uplift your Sunday evening?

And off the Mischievous One goes cackling to play with the rest of the day!

posted by EILEEN | 7:55 AM

Monday, October 27, 2003  


I'm flying to New York this Friday for two events. The first is AAWW's Intimacy & Geography, a national conference on Asian American poetry, in which I'm participating Saturday, Nov. 1.

I'm posting more information about this second event as my prior post on it apparently contained incorrect travel instructions. This is the correct information:

Bold Girls: authors from the great new Filipina anthology, GOING HOME TO A LANDSCAPE
in an Evening of Poetry, Prose and Music
Monday, November 3, 2003
7:00PM to 9:00 PM
$2 Admission

Galapagos Art Space
70 North 6th St.

Authors Reading and Signing their work on Nov. 3:
Melissa Aranzamendez
Luisa Igloria
Isabelita Reyes
Elda Rotor
Eileen Tabios
Marianne Villanueva

Musical Accompaniment
Michael Dadap—Classical Guitar (check out his website:

For those taking the subway, take the "L" train to Bedford, exit towards the rear of the train. You should find yourself on North 7th and Bedford. Turn left, walk one block to North 6th. Turn right on North 6th, walk two or three blocks (towards Manhattan). Galapagos should be on your left-hand side; there is a reflecting pool in front of the building.


An event I'll miss as I'll be in transit back from NY to CA is the following, which is an event I wish I wouldn't have to miss -- from Kundiman organizer Joseph O. Legaspi:

Kundiman is co-sponsoring a visual poetry exhibit at Verlaine, a funky bar in the lower east side, serving excellent drinks. (lychee martini, anyone?) poems are blown-up and hung on the walls: a visual rather than oral representation, you dig.

this event is FREE and includes 1 hour of OPEN BAR.
what's not to love?

Kundiman & Verlaine - a Visual Poetry Exhibit

Poems by:

Paolo Javier
Joseph O. Legaspi
Tan Lin
Sanjana Nair
Prageeta Sharma
and more....

Opening Reception
Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Open Bar 6 - 7 pm
Sponsored by
Happy Hour until 10 pm

110 Rivington Street
(Between Essex & Ludlow)
F Train to Second Ave

posted by EILEEN | 11:02 PM


Thank you poets, artists and friends for your warm welcome last night to Barry Schwabsky -- to both the Bay Area as well as back into the *poetry world.* I couldn't have imagined a nicer group to shepherd him back to the Way as those attending his launch for OPERA, courtesy of the HOUSE READING SERIES put together by cheese expert kari edwards, Stephanie Young and Taylor Brady. Attendees included said sponsors, as well as co-host (and wonderful colorist) Fran, Chris Stroffolino, Chris Nealon, James Meetze (thanks, too, for the INVOLUNTARY VISION: after Akira Kurosawa's Dreams!), Sean Finney, Joseph Lease, Donna de la Perriere, David Larsen, Rodney Koeneke (I do appreciate the thought-flower! thanx Rodney), Michelle Bautista (whose ube-filled pastries were a clear hit with the crowd!), Rhett Pascual, Liz Oliveria, Chris Oliveria, Stella Lai, Laura Y. and others whose names I am stupidly forgetting here. But, HEART'S GRATITUDE to you all. Namaste.

For those who want more of Barry, he is delivering a lecture this Tuesday evening, as noted in this CCA notice:

Graduate Studies/Wattis Institute Public Lecture Series
7 PM, Timken Lecture Hall, San Francisco campus
Info: 415.551.9251

Coeditor of the international review section of Artforum, Barry Schwabsky is the author of The Widening Circle: Consequences of Modernism in Contemporary Art (Cambridge University Press, 1997) and Opera: Poems 1981–2002 (Meritage Press, 2003). Schwabsky also wrote the main text for Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting (Phaidon Press, 2002). Schwabsky has taught at Goldsmiths College, Yale University, and New York University; he currently resides in London.

posted by EILEEN | 9:23 AM

Sunday, October 26, 2003  


Recently saw the movie "Sylvia" and read the novel about Sylvia Plath, Wintering by Kate Moses. Neither the good acting and lighting in the former or the attractive language in the latter can hide how both projects lack any urgency for their beings.

posted by EILEEN | 9:06 AM


Oh! So, yah: I guessed it right! kari edwards had been the one who wrote the e-mail that began the prior post. I can seeeeee youuuuuuuuu.

Anyway, so I heard kari read Friday at Small Press Traffic with Gail Scott. Together, both made me so so pleased to have flown down from moi mountain. Gail Scott was first introduced -- and lovingly so -- by Robert Gluck who noted that Gail's novel MY PARIS had been cited as one of the top ten novels of the year in Canada when it was first released (sorry, can't recall the organization that cited it as such). Gail read then to celebrate the novel's re-release from Dalkey Archive. My notes offer a "word cloud" below, which may give a sense of the evocative and refreshing approach taken by MY PARIS; the book refers to Paris in the 1990s, with the war in Bosnia raging in the background (again, a caveat that my note-taking is not ... scientific):

" in the margins ..... not a real history, rather a vast collection of 19th century anecdotes ..... languor ultimately not resisting capitalistic market ..... "a person could wander here for months" .... my reflection in concave mirrors [...] still, looking pretty good ..... (as regards Collette) an old hedonist knowing how to take the pleasures of the body without ruining her skin ..... you are among the old fossilized remnants of the old regime ..... I open my knees so he can ssee the spot -- Why? ..... my women of the Left Bank; raining in Sarajevo ..... ennui covering a tear in the surface ....."

Gail had an enjoyable reading style, at times seeming to read the whole as if it were a single paragraph. Gail Scott's Paris is clearly worth exploring.

posted by EILEEN | 9:05 AM


revolutionary living is an act of living in a rolling thunder of questions; poetic language can be an act of revolution; there is no act but acting that is repetitive and preformatted, a repeatable act is a conmodification of the body; there is a living revolution in poetic language that is a continuum...their is a question that questions the question and folds in on itself... there is veggie dogs and a bun for 2.98 at Sam dogs at 28th and Broadway....

p. or both,

So someone sent me the above missive in response to my post on "There's More Than One Way [in Poetry]" (Oct. 23). Was that you, kari?

Or maybe kari edwards is much on my mind, not just because kari is kindly hosting my reading with Barry Schwabsky tonight (maraming salamat!) but because I saw hir read with Gail Scott Friday night at Small Press Traffic. (I'll post later on Gail Scott's reading.) kari was reading partly to celebrate the launch of hir new book, iduna (O Books, 2003). I AM AWED, EXCITED, FLABBERGASTED AND SO SO SO SO PLEASED TO SEE iduna CREATED THAT I'M EVEN TEARY WITH EXCITEMENT AND INSPIRATION!!!

So many wonderful poetry books have come out of late and iduna is just the latest testament to the supremely healthy state of poetry (those who bemoan what's coming out of "new poets" clearly are not looking in the right places....or simply not looking).

Kevin Killian introduced kari and here are some of my notes from his introduction (my notes are scattered and my handwriting bathetic so assume such caveats):

...iduna extends kari's range -- of gender confusion....gut-splittingly funny when it wants to be; mystical when it wants to be....[challenges preconceived] ideas on heroism, kindness and lucidity...

I don't have much notes from kari's reading, but I think Kevin's notion of how kari's work challenges preconceived ideas on heroism, kindness and lucidity is as fabulous a summation as said summation can be.

And the reason I don't have much notes is that I got lost, at one point, into the rhythm of hir words (kari is also a great reader), my eyes noting (with much appreciation) the occasional rolling of her shoulders as hir words affected hir body....and in that voluntary loss to rhythm, I mentally returned to one of my own poems and ended up rewriting -- and improving -- its ending. For me, the most elemental proof of another writer inspiring me is when hir work moves me back to my own words with fresh eyes.

I allowed myself the brief distraction from kari's reading because in the 15 or so minutes of sitting there at the SPT auditorium waiting for the event to start, I'd already inhaled (so effortlessly!) iduna which I'd just bought. It is not just a revolutionary poetic text but a revolutionary way of presenting the book.

When I first saw Kevin that evening, he joked with much affection, "Have you read iduna? I can't even see it; it makes me dizzy."

The book is indeed dizzying...but with a center of calm so that one ends up, as a result of reading it, more learned -- which is to say, more lucid. How many authors can lead you into their works and release you as a much less blinded being?

In iduna, each page transforms itself before your eyes into skin -- specifically, tattooed flesh. The verses were presented, but each page was no longer a one-dimensional field. It became a layered space through a backdrop of other text printed in lighter tones; the result strips out layers to create depth from what is usually the flat page.

But the space is not "white space" -- it is the mussed up space of flesh that's shown a lot of living: wrinkles, scars, bruises, love marks, orgasmic stains, lost teeth, calluses and so on. Visually dizzy, such that as one continues entering this *book* it was absolutely LOGICAL that the verses sometimes would be presented on their sides or upside down, rather than top to bottom. That, too, is a smart strategy -- by compelling the reader to manipulate the book (to reverse it or turn it sideways), the book provides a reason for physical engagement (as with touching flesh) instead of just reading words.

But the visual is not privileged -- read the damn words and they are still masterful in ways that text is (conventionally) judged. Not only do several of her poems out-Flarf Flarf but, like, how's this for upending, while paying homage to, lyricism:

the hand that commits the most

I sit in those that would swim past a nobody morse code

there is harm dropping against the wall and blue screams
surround arithmetic beforehands

it is worth noting (not in any order): turquoise manners, deafen glass, and those tiny humming condolence(s) regulate tropical pastels between stilled yellows and mechanical joy

it's vowel time now and my opponents arrive -- we form exploding tongue ruts
               a contortionist shifts red, the light backs up, an engine glares --
               the sea crumbles dawn --
               hard known tips labor in consequence --

I notice a tumbling down, a tumbling down -- at half mast, as when one is indecisive in the advances of lawn care.

upon approaching the sea I think carefully and then as before --

off-color sights arrive in their appointed side lock feelings,
the margin sits and I sit in the margin.

we envelop blank falls, out of an amassing cache of unassigned sins, sodomy lights my cathode-ray tube, the jury sweeps by in a cause and effect maneuver --

"what we have . . . is . . . . . form . . ."


I knew I was witnessing something special and unique when I read kari's prior book, a day in the life of p. (subpress collective, 2002). iduna exceeded my expectations....and makes me salivate with eagerness to see where next this poet will go. (Oooops: sorry -- and the Wet But Long-Lashed One reaches forth a wingtip into nine million screens to wipe saliva of the readership's grimacing cheeks.)

The revolution. What I also appreciate about kari is how hir activities as a gender activist becomes integrated into her words. This writing may or may not be fiction. But it is truth because, first, something was lived before it showed up in the telling. I am not up to speed on kari's activities as a gender activist so won't go into that much here. Let me just say that kari signed hir books partly by crossing out the title to replace it with the phrase "No Gender." (I think the interview in Rain Taxi, though, helps shed some light on kari's thinking here.)

As one who aspires to be a poet, I am inspired to see and read and feel iduna. As a practitioner, I saw the horizon of my imagination recede, which is to say, the field has become ever more wide in which I can play with Poetry. Thank you, kari -- you have birthed nothing less than a gift!

Here's one more from kari, a poem whose fabulous title is from Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Enjoy!:

have you ever retired a human

take a deep breath

turn the sky into a bite sized ball


imagine all the filth of time

the screams from war

blood shed particles

lost memories of genocide

exhaust, fumes, vapors and particles
from every motor, coal furnace, and nuclear reactor

the bones that have been crushed in machines by machines or become machines

all the hate and violence caused by fear times 1 million and fifty-five

isolation and madness in the upper atmostphere

each and every cry from the last of a kind each and every ten billion

greed and the road paved with good intentions

take a deep breath


posted by EILEEN | 7:20 AM

Saturday, October 25, 2003  


Thanks to Ron Henry for having been most supportive of my series "Epilogue Poems." His wonderful journal AUGHT has printed a generous selection. Thus, I dedicate the last poem in this 21-poem series to Ron:



And ________________________________

And ________________________________

--from “White, Throbbing”


posted by EILEEN | 3:41 PM

Friday, October 24, 2003  


to Ms. Positive Energy Herself: Chris Murray!

posted by EILEEN | 8:43 AM


Thank you Taylor Brady, Stephanie Young, and kari edwards for:


> Reading by:
> Barry Schwabsky
> &
> Eileen Tabios
> Sunday, Oct. 26 7:00 p.m.
> 3435 Cesar Chavez
> #327
> San Francisco, CA
Barry Schwabsky was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and now lives in London. He is a curator, an editor for several leading art magazines including Artforum, an art/literary critic who writes regularly for the London Review of Books, and lecturer at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is the author of several monographs on contemporary artists, The Widening Circle: Consequences of Modernism in Contemporary Art (Cambridge University Press), and the critically-praised Introduction to Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting_ (Phaidon). Information about his book OPERA: Poems 1981-2002 is available at

Eileen Tabios is ... MOI.
> DIRECTIONS: to 3435 Cesar Chavez #327
> between Valencia and Mission, on the South side of Cesar Chavez is a parking lot entrance; which when you first enter from Cesar Chavez will be (some) guest parking. Parking in the area (on the street) is not to bad. Once you have entered the parking lot go to your left past a small printing company and directly behind that (to the west) will be double glass doors. @ left of the Doors is a "buzzer system" press the number 043. Someone will pick up the phone and buzz you in.

> Mass transit.
> Bart - get off at 24th go south on Mission, (the numbers will get higher) walk 3 blocks, cross Cesar Chavez (there will be a stop light) go right 3/4 of a block, turn left in to parking lot.
> MUNI- get off @ 27th walk north (the opposite direction the muni would be going from down town) walk one block turn right on Cesar chavez, Cross Delores, Guerrero and then cross valencia, turn right into first parking lot.
> Buses- on Mission take (going southish)- 14. 14L, 49 (get off at 26th - 1/2 block from cesar chavez - walk south - cross Cesar Chavez turn right; Valencia - 26 get off just past Cesar Chavez, cross Valencia on Cesar Chavez, turn right into parking lot..
> This is another home reading brought to you by Taylor Brady, Stephanie Young, and kari edwards.

posted by EILEEN | 8:39 AM

Thursday, October 23, 2003  


It is as though the thought of angels fell
Ejaculating from a cloud
--from "Snow"

I can tell from reading Daniel Hoffman's poems that he got to a certain space my favorite poets attain. Here's a timely poem:

The Way It Is

They were waiting here to say
This is the way it is

This is the way

I came bawling into their domain
Of harsher light
Remembering a place
Of purer light and messages
Passed across a darkened transom
From that place

They said this is the way it is
In this light this dust
This scuffle for the scraps, bad blood
Between unequals............You'll get wise
You can break
your heart against stones here

Counsellors, betake your
Covenants of convenience
To a place of stones,

Must lift the shadow of each shadow
To find the dooryard
To that place.


The "space" I refer to above is one where, among other things, irony is transcended. I mention "irony" again because I don't wish anything I said in a prior post to be (mis)construed as a diss against the wonderful blog -- and my newest link -- called "Ironic Cinema." (Thanks for the note, Lisa.) I actually am in deep empathy with Ironic Cinema's approaches -- akin, I think, to (my) annotating others' texts in an attempt to chisel out the hidden song from a boulder of prose... And, after all, how can one not drool over such lines from Ironic Cinema as this (ironically lyrical and) supremely evocative "found poem #29":

A red sofa in the living room
David eats raisins reading
science fiction.
Ghostly gazing towards April

posted by EILEEN | 10:06 PM


Poetry can be affected by anything and everything. How one chooses to live one's life very much can affect what is written. The action affecting the word and, in turn, the word affecting the action.

There is also more than one way to approach how a poet may change his/her approach to the Poetry practice. The approach of de-emphasizing "action" is unnecessary. I know several poets who are "cultural activists" -- dare I say their activism *improved* the literary merits of their poems? There's no automatic causal relationship of course -- Poetry doesn't work that way.

To write Poetry is an act.

For me, the writing is secondary to the primacy of living Poetry. I don't think I'm the only one who believes this way, either -- it's just that when one takes this approach, one inevitably is more likely not to be encapsulated by a canon-making framework that relies primarily on...words.


The above words skirt a more basic issue, though: there are no canons within Poetry.

posted by EILEEN | 10:09 AM

Wednesday, October 22, 2003  


Opposition without content.

posted by EILEEN | 8:37 PM


Advice to a Young Poet: "do not believe your own press"

"Let the Master/ of Fine Arts require building/ of roads or houses"
--Indran Amirthanayagam

I know I said earlier I'd post the advice to young poets given by Luis Cabalquinto, Jessica Hagedorn, Marilyn Chin, Garrett Hongo, David Mura and John Yau through my book Black Lightning. I changed my mind (get the book yourself; you won't be sorry). Instead, I'm moved by certain developments to post an excerpt from the article on poet-diplomat Indran Amirthanayagam (who, I believe, is currently representing the U.S. in Belgium). The article began with an epigraph quoting Pablo Neruda:

I want poems stained
by hands and everydayness...

I long for eatable sonnets,
poems of honey and flour,...

Brother poets from here
and there, from earth and sky,
from Medellin, from Veracruz,
Abyssinia, Antofagasta,
do you know the recipe for honeycombs?
--from "Sweetness, always" by Pablo Neruda

For the Sri Lankan-born poet Indran Amirthanayagam, 1993 should have been a good year. It was the year Hanging Loose Press published his first book, Elephants of Reckoning. But in May 1993, a young man, bombs strapped to his chest, crashed his bicycle into then President Ranasinghe Premadasa. The explosion killed both bomber and president mere days after a leader of the opposition, Lalith Athulathmudalli, was gunned down during a campaign rally. Even in a country that had become accustomed to high levels of violence in recent years, the two assassinations were extraordinarily shocking and brutal.

Thus, in May 1993 when Amirthanayagam should have been happily celebrating his book's publication, his attention was focused on calling for an end to the violence in his birthland. In the same month his book was officially released, The New York Times published an Op-Ed piece by Amirthanayagam bemoaning "the latest public violations by villains, bogeymen, crazed boys, rogue elephants. Violations. Rape. Murder."

[...]"It was a bittersweet time. Why did this paradise become bloody? I was in pain. Part of my goal as a poet was to tell the Sri Lankan conflict to the world. When I lived there, it was called Ceylon and it was multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. What was this Sri Lankan conflict? Did I support it? Can I support it? Does it matter if I support it? Who am I?" Amirthanayagam says, recalling some of the questions he faced. "I didn't have a gun in hand, but I did have a pen. Though I had the frustration of not being able to fight physically for either the independent Eelam, or Sri Lanka directly, as I have avoided both choices, I had an emotional anger that I channeled through my poems."

[...]As Amirthanayagam watched the violence escalate in his birthland, other factors exacerbated the tumultous emotions he was feeling in 1993. Earlier that year he received an acceptance into the American Foreign Service and, thus, knew his days in New York City -- just when he felt he had achieved a certain literary success in what he considered a leading center of American poetry -- were numbered. But before leaving for Washington D.C. and the rest of the world, he had one last poetry reading scheduled at St. Marks Poetry Project to mark the release of Elephants of Reckoning.

Thus, Amirthanayagam wrote the poem, "WORDS FOR THE ENTERPRISE," both to introduce his book during the reading and to reflect on the events then affecting his life. "When I say in the poem that 'Spain is New York', I was trying to evoke the sense of idelaism that inspired the world's artists to fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Franco won. Fascism took over. But it was a noble fight and Federico Garcia Lorca was one of its victims," he says. "Though it was 1993 and not 1935, I was trying to evoke that sense of bravado. That, as we look towards the Millenium, we should gather ourselves and assume the heroics and idelaism that infused earlier generations.

"Because I wrote the poem as an introduction to my book, I was acting as a cheerleader to the audience," he continues. "I wanted to rouse the audience to get the elephants out. Elephants are a symbol for many things in my book, including the best of ourselves -- the best of human potential. That, too, is the role of the poet: to enter the hearts and minds of people and ask them to realize their own potentials."

Tellingly, Amirthanayagam adds that he concocted the poem's title partly in reference to the popular television and movie series, "Star Trek." He explains, "I was actually thinking of the U.S.S. Enterprise because that starship had all of the world's races represented as they went out there to boldly go where no man has gone before."

Finally, Amirthanayagam says, he considered "WORDS FOR THE ENTERPRISE" a response to what he found disappointing in contemporary poetry.

[...]"I wanted to say to the M.F.A.-ers to go out there and build roads and houses," he recalls. Or, as the poem states: '...let the Master/ of Fine Arts require building/ of roads or houses, breaking/ eggs for sweet cakes and meats,/ watching eggs break/ and chicks blind-hungry/ jump for worms, fly oceans."

For Amirthanayagam, part of the "ENTERPRISE" is what he calls "the literary tradition of being political and social, wher ehte social is equal to caring" -- a tradition practiced by such admired poets as Garcia Lorca and Pablo Neruda. For him, it translated into a new career: diplomacy....

"It was a tortured decision. I was comfortable in New York, but felt I needed a new challenge to grow further as a poet...I had this romantic idea that through diplomacy I could do this (social role) on a planetary scale, as Neruda did in Mexico when he squired away David Siqueiros who had been accused of trying to kill Trotsky."

*end of excerpt*


For more on Amirthanayagam and his poem "WORDS FOR THE ENTERPRISE," you got it: get Black Lightning. Meanwhile, the issue I'm considering is -- there is a point when irony becomes an escape. Don't get me wrong: I'm not dissing anyone here (after all, I'm a Romantic and romanticism also can be escapist). But perhaps it's time to see irony (and romanticism) as it's become in this very problematic age: a poetic period of adolescence that's time to outgrow. [UPDATE AFTER A NIGHT'S SLEEP: BUT PERHAPS NOT....]

posted by EILEEN | 8:16 PM


Poets should learn to compliment other poets without, in the process, dismissing other poets. Poetry is not a fixed closed pie, contrary to peeps getting masturbatory pleasure and/or financial compensation from forming (de facto) canons.

It's more insidious than you think, too. These judgments can form cracks through which less benign factors like racism, objectification, sexism, and other biases can poke their ugly weenie heads.

posted by EILEEN | 6:41 PM


I miss David Hess. So I pressed my soft cheek against the soft t-shirt he gave me, the one with the fading words "I Lack Lacan"....and had an epiphany.


So many idiots who've been spouting that and why have I been an idiot believing said idiots?

Sip. Morning coffee.

Anyway, interesting reading this morning from two new additions to my links, except I don't know who's experiencing behind dawn over couch(?).

Amy Bernier

posted by EILEEN | 10:25 AM


So I've been leafing through my first book BLACK LIGHTNING in preparation for my "Lightning Strikes" panel during the upcoming AAWW national conference on Asian American poetry.

I'd forgotten the pretty nifty (if I do say so moiself) feature I'd incorporated -- I'd asked the 15 subject poets to end each of their "Bios" by answering the question:

What advice would you give to a young poet?

Here are some of the answers:

Arthur Sze: Read the chapter "Reflections and Aphorisms" contained in The Art of Rosanjin by Sidney Cardozo and Msaaki Hirano (Kodansha, Tokyo, Japan, 1987).

Kimiko Hahn: Take risks. Leave the map at home.

Timothy Liu: Read all the poets (living and dead) you can so that you can then get in on the great conversation that poetry is, a conversation that exists both in time and in eternity. And during times when you're not reading or writing, fill your life with as much beauty as you can afford: great food, great art, great music, great sex. To apprehend what is great is to fill oneself with awe and gratitude as armor agains thte vile and the ugly and the small which is also life, a life that seeks to negotiate the abyss between what is imagined and what is real.

Li-Young Lee: The writing of poetry is a sacred endeavor and to never forget that. So that even if the world doesn't find it marketable or translatable into coarse values, keep in mind that the writing of poetry creates soulful values, subtle values. And remember, never lose heart; realize how important your work is. It occurs to me that everything valuable is invisible, like love. The creation of art is invisible and subtle.

Mei-mei Berssenbruge: Advice: finding or creating a peer group; wide experience; wide reading.

Indran Amirthanayagam wrote a long poem entitled "Advice to Young Poets." Here are excerpts: Read The Republic, if only to make yourself angry....[F]ollow all advice offered by Allen Ginsberg except the hallucinogenics....As I've said to the mirror, do not believe your own press....Finally, first, last, at least on paper, at least in life, love-make....And if you prefer holy orders, let them batter / your heart like Donne's three-personed god.

Meena Alexander: Whatever you do, do not lose heart. Remember that the lines you work with, work through, need the quietness that only you can give so that the act of composition might fulfill itself. Once I heard Joseph Brodsky speaking. It was at Columbia University just after he got the Nobel Prize. And this is what I recall him saying: "I'm a poet. I send something out and it comes back to me. I send it out again and again. There is no certitude here." To which I would like to add, this is the palimpsest of time through which we make ourselves as poets. Going the long road. There are no shortcuts. Remember that the poem on the page is only the tip of the iceberg. Most of what endures, turning into the soil of the poem, is carried within, unseen, even worldless. An act of meditation without cease. Poetry is a small scale art, an art of exquisite detail and this is its power. It can be recited, shared, sung. It need not be bought and sold.

Sesshu Foster: In a corollary of the dictum, "Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will," patiently endure your frustrations and try to write as much as you can; save as much time as you can for writing -- give readings whenever asked: they're instant, free workshops. A lot of people are looking for happiness in life, but why bother to do that in poetry? Go for revenge. It has to taste sweeter when you're young.

I'll post the rest later; coming up are advice from Luis Cabalquinto, Jessica Hagedorn, Marilyn Chin, Garrett Hongo, David Mura and John Yau.

This feature is just one of the many reasons why I've always considered Black Lightning a *poet's poetry book* (though it's also been helpful to many laypeople, according to feedback I've received). Do please check this out (and support my nonprofit publisher AAWW), if you haven't already! Among other things, you can witness moi fumble since I began this project just three months after I started paying attention to poetry (in this particular lifetime).

posted by EILEEN | 12:44 AM

Tuesday, October 21, 2003  

Barry Schwabsky Reminders: Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco

-- to celebrate the release of his book OPERA: Poems 1981-2002

Penn Bookstore
3601 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Thursday, October 23
Noon-1 PM

Friday, October 24
6-7:30 PM
303 Gallery
525 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011

Poetry Readings by Barry Schwabsky and Eileen Tabios
at the residence of kari edwards at
3435 Cesar Chavez, #327
San Francisco, CA
7 p.m., Sunday, October 26, 2003

I should note for you art lovers that Barry -- also a highly respected art critic -- is also doing visual arts-related lectures in Philadelphia and San Francisco:

Wednesday, October 22, 2003
7:00pm - 9:00pm
Whenever Wednesday: Lecture
Lecture: Barry Schwabsky

Schwabsky will discuss Gillian Wearing’s work in its art historical context. He is the author of The Widening Circle: Consequences of Modernism in Contemporary Art, coeditor of international reviews for Artforum, and a professor at Goldsmiths College, University of London. ICA Tuttleman Auditorium

Graduate Studies/Wattis Institute Public Lecture Series
7 PM, Timken Lecture Hall, San Francisco campus
Info: 415.551.9251

Coeditor of the international review section of Artforum, Barry Schwabsky is the author of The Widening Circle: Consequences of Modernism in Contemporary Art (Cambridge University Press, 1997) and Opera: Poems 1981–2002 (Meritage Press, 2003). Schwabsky also wrote the main text for Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting (Phaidon Press, 2002). Schwabsky has taught at Goldsmiths College, Yale University, and New York University; he currently resides in London.


Putting 20 years of work into one intensely wrought luminously gripping book, Artforum critic Barry Schwabsky here stages his Opera: Poems 1981-2002. His approach to the eponymous form -- colloquial, lived-in, forking the vulgar tongue, mixing in trailer park trash talk, throwing out references to Wittgenstein, Larbaud and Traherne -- rises to the other-worldly.
Meritage Press, Small Press Distribution, 104 pages, ISBN 0970917929.

The word "song" resonates over and over and the poems here will often suddenly burst into an intricate, complicated melody.
--Juliana Spahr

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.
--David Shapiro

These might be choruses and arias from some lost Venetian music drama of the early 1600s--an allegory of the nature of light and of desire, set on one of those abandoned islands where every imaginable encounter becomes possible--transmuted over the intervening centuries of silence into a software program for a new species of lyrical electronica.
--Geoffrey O'Brien

Imagine poems written by Sir Walter Raleigh after he has read Wittgenstein and Lorine Neidecker, listened to bands whose names weren't in the air but whose one song was on the airwaves, and learned more about contemporary art than anyone thought possible, and you might get a sense of the compactness of these poems, an airy abstract density unlike anyone else's.
--John Yau

posted by EILEEN | 7:45 PM


I'm dying to comment on one of the hot issues currently floating about on poetry blogland but it would only serve up more "cultural capital" fodder for a certain peep and it's not like anything I would say would change said peep's mind. Cultural capital, I keep reminding myself, is not necessarily based on agreement. It's based on attention.

Too bad, too, as my comment would have been brilliant.

posted by EILEEN | 5:14 PM


I love the animals on the mountain. Just now, I heard a tapping against the window. When I went over to investigate, a huge -- must have been nearly three feet high -- crow was on the windowsill, flapping its wings against the glass. As I neared the window, it languidly spread its huge wings to fly away. Beautiful. BLUE-BLACK WINGS. Such glossy feathers -- such sheen! And I could hear the bird's message: This is how you must fly -- with grace, no effort showing, expansively....

Good lesson -- I'm still a newbie with my wings...

posted by EILEEN | 8:22 AM


Scholar and newly-out-of-the-closet-poet Leny Strobel had given me this gift, a charming piece of bamboo etched with decorative patterns. I'd been using it as a bookmark. For some reason, I didn't think until this morning to read the description of it that was on its packaging. Said description states:

This precisely formed and decorated item of buho bamboo is a louse pick. T'boli tribeswomen of South Cotabato, Mindanao, find it a socially rewarding time for exchange of local news whiile assisting one another in the search and destruction of such vermin from each other's scalps.

Uh. Okay. Girlfriends -- if any of youse ever want to sit around in a circle swapping gossip and picking lice of each other's heads, I got a louse pick. Please, uh, bring your own...

More seriously, check out this beautiful site for more information on the T'Boli:

"Women must continue to weave, to make jewelry, baskets,to sing and tell stories," she stated. Her daughter brought out her tribal clothing: necklaces, bracelets, earrings, the 13-pound brass belt adorned with T'Boli bells and carved metal, an embroidered shirt, eight thick brass anklets and six wrist bracelets, the beaded wooden hairpiece and a pair of earrings which extended from the earlobe and wrapped around the neck like a collar. He put them on with the daughter's help. Transforming herself into a veritable temple, she became a visible map of her ancestors, her culture, and nature. She smiled proudly. Then she lifted her skirt and showed her tattooed calves, which would make her recognizable at death to the ancestors in the other world."

posted by EILEEN | 7:58 AM

Monday, October 20, 2003  


One of the most interesting (and pleasure-inducing) painters today of "white-on-white" works is Eve Aschheim. Eve just alerted me to a group show, "White," now ongoing through November 15 at Bill Maynes Gallery in Chelsea, New York. I plan to see it later this month, and would have seen it just for Eve's works which I've admired for years. But other artists in the show are respectable and probably worth seeing: Noriko Ambe, Lois Dodd, Chie Fueki, Walter Martin and Paloma Munoz, Suzanne McClelland, William Pope L., Dorothea Rockburne, and Gil Shani.

Before my trip to New York, though, I'll be seeing the Diane Arbus exhibit at SFMoma which opens this Saturday. I am thinking of writing on this exhibit, though not from a pure review standpoint. If you edit a literary/arts journal and are interested in an essay about this show, e-mail me and I'll give more details about the perspective I'm considering.

posted by EILEEN | 9:02 PM


So, some posts back, I spoke about reintroducing moiself to the art of gardening. After nearly two decades in New York City and thoughlessly plonking plants atop radiators, I'd had this assumption I had a Brown Thumb. But now that I live "in the (wine) country" of Napa, I figured I'd try again since I had this mud patch in front of the house. So I hoisted my lovely ass on over to Walmart's and got plants for said mud patch. Well, now, they are presenting a veritable riot of supremely lovely colors. It's not Giverny but it's something.

So, this weekend, very self-consciously but also quite quite cheerfully, I took my lovely ass on over to my former mud patch whilst my right hand brandished a brand new pair of gardening clippers. I have this lovely white rose bush just spilling forth flowers -- and what better way to enjoy fresh roses than to have them actually come from your garden!! The crystal vase was waiting in the kitchen! With much graceful swinging of moi biceps, I clipped and clipped and took into the kitchen a huge gathering of fresh white roses.

So I'ma trimming them here and there and plunking them into the waiting crystal vase. Every so often, I'd feel a nip on moi fingers but assumed they came from a stray thorn....until Tom enters the kitchen, looks at humming me, and observes:


I looked more closely at the pile of branches before me. They were CRAWLING with huge brown bugs, some of which were feasting on my fingers! We had to throw out all the branches and roses...and now Tom won't stop talking about how I've infested the house!

Well, crap. That just about made me miss my former view on Amsterdam Avenue -- staring at the backside of a brick building.

Slap! Excuuuse me! Had to get a bug that was hiding over there in the corner.

It drove me to drink, I tell you (1999 Noon Winery Reserve Cabernet from Southern Australia).

Martha Stewart never mentioned this! I'd sue her but ... isn't it already a long line?

Here I am with a glorious flower garden and I'm still skulking about Safeway for their specials on Guatemalan-bred roses.

Ah well. Anything to help out the Guatemalan economy -- after all, I am internationalist in thinking....

posted by EILEEN | 8:47 PM


As I have just joined the Board of Small Press Traffic, do allow moi to do Board duty by suggesting: save the date for the following event spotlighted in an open message from SPT Director Elizabeth Treadwell Jackson:

Nine Lives--Small Press Traffic's 9th Annual Literary Soiree & Auction
Saturday, November 8, 2003, from 3-8 p.m.
California College of Arts (CCA)
1111 Eighth Street, San Francisco (just off the intersection of 16th &

Over the past years our auctions have been enlivened by the appearance of all kinds of extraordinary one of a kind items. Zadie Smith, the UK author of WHITE TEETH, autographed a tube of toothpaste for us. Gore Vidal sent us his proof copy of his New Yorker article on Monica Lewinsky, while Don DeLillo sent a manuscript page from MAO II. Anonymous art activists raided Michael Ondaatje's waste paper basket, and we sold his trash--an action that got us dubious press in the New York Times. Last year reclusive wunderkind JT Leroy let us auction off his corrected version of METEORS,--and on and on. This year, Pulitzer Prize winning writer Michael Cunningham pried the face off a travel alarm, and signed it with THE HOURS, while Irish novelist Jamie O'Neill (AT SWIM, TWO BOYS) made a St Patrick's Day T-shirt that will bring tears to your eyes--all to help us raise money for San Francisco's premier avant-garde poetry showcase.

$10 admission for a full day of


It's our ninth annual soiree event and what better trope to employ in the copy than the nine lives of the cat? We're an organization that lives like a cat, on kindness, dexterity and dumb luck, but we reward you with so much affection!

Food * Music * Cash Bar--featuring the Meow Mix cocktail! * Celebrity Appearances * Raffle for Fabulous Prizes * Poet's Theater * Presentation of SPT's 2nd annual Book Awards, the best books of poetry published all of last year . . . and our 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Barbara Guest

You'll claw your way to the front. Highlights of this year's CAT-alogue include:

* Michael Cunningham, alarm clock, yes, alarm clock signed by the author of THE HOURS for our auction

*Gertrude Stein HOW TO WRITE, Allen Ginsberg's copy annotated by him

*1963 San Francisco Poetry Festival broadsides MINT (Helen Adam, Blaser, Duncan, Lew Welch, Ferlinghetti, LaVigne, Jess, and many more) thanks to Donald Allen's generosity

*Early US modernists Lola Ridge, Waldo Frank, Marianne Moore, the whole Cary Nelson crowd!

*Robert Creeley, unpublished poem

*Barbara Walters ALS to Ann Landers

*Rare double display manuscripts by Karl Shapiro AND David Shapiro

*Manuscript material, signed books et cetera, graphic works by--Anne Rice, Anne Carson, Ted Berrigan, Josephine Miles, Barbara Guest, Terry Eagleton, Andre Maurois, William Plomer, Jamaica Kincaid, Ian McEwan, Jamie O'Neill, William Meredith, Isabel Allende, Christopher Fry, Leslie Scalapino, Philip Whalen, Rosmarie Waldrop, too many in fact to mention! Come and gawk, come and bid, it's all for a good cause.

A tornado's heading toward Fort Smith, Arkansas, where the Smith family is hosting their annual reunion. Barometer's falling, pressure's mounting, Jack Smith is up on the roof filming "Flaming Creatures," Wayne Smith torn between his devotion to his wife Liz Smith and her sister, former Angel Jaclyn Smith. Patti Smith conducts a secret Romeo and Juliet affair with one of the Jones family (Tommy Lee), while Anna Nicole Smith struggles with demons of her own. Kiki Smith has made a 500-ton vagina for the Venice Biennale, while Will Smith ponders his floundering career. Meanwhile an interloper's moving on in, and the ghost of tall, elegant Alexis Smith prowls the plantation with her spectral dog. Susan Smith looks at her two kids in the back seat and then looks at the lake and then--As Morrissey (from the Smiths) croons in the background, Heaven knows we're miserable now. When you've got a big family, who's to blame for all the problems of the world? With Taylor Brady, Anne Collier, Gerald Corbin, Margaret Crane, Kota Ezawa, Tanya Hollis, Kevin Killian, John Koch, Karla Milosevich, Yedda Morrison, Rex Ray, Laurie Reid, Jocelyn Saidenberg and Wayne Smith (as himself).

Soiree opens 3:00 p.m.
Auction Preview 3:30--5:30 p.m.
Presentation of Book Awards 5:00 p.m.
Auction 5:30 p.m.
Raffle drawing 7:00 p.m.
Play 7:00 p.m.
Continuous food, drink, entertainment and stupid pet tricks, it's the 9 Lives of the Cat at Small Press Traffic!

Small Press Traffic Literary Arts Center promotes and supports writers from all over the globe--particularly those who push the limits of how we speak and think about the world. Since 1974 SPT has been at the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area innovative writing scenes, bringing together independent readers, writers, and presses through publications, conferences, and our influential reading series.

For more information about Small Press Traffic, check out our website at:

posted by EILEEN | 12:13 AM

Sunday, October 19, 2003  


It's boring to see poets scramble with such a lack of subtlety for public recognition and validation. But let's talk about me. I once thought said scrambling to be interesting. Now: yawn. This afternoon, I saw three pretty bluebirds flash blue wings as they soared past the windshield. Their color allowed them to mate with the blue sky. A lovely fusion because color did not privilege.

posted by EILEEN | 10:55 PM


I sent a chokin' prose poem over to Timothy Yu. He sez:

Thanks--for revealing the as yet unexplored lyricism of choking...duly posted.

You're welcome! Check me -- and other poets -- choking over at Timothy's Tympan Blog!

posted by EILEEN | 4:30 PM


There is a god that separates mother and child.
--W.B. Keckler

Since I'm hanging out in wine country, I usually get my snailmail once a week as said mail is usually delivered to my San Francisco address (which is how I prefer it as, in the country, I have one of those country road post office boxes with zero security).

Among the voluminous pile were the twin (east coast and west coast) issues of ambit (thank you west coast editor kari edwards for including me). I haven't finished reading through the issues but I am savoring a new discovery for me: W.B. Keckler. From his poem "For Sonia Balassanian":

Substance pours into resemblance.

The world awakens inside a murderer
dividing and replicating
like a god, an amoeba.

And later:

"You may stumble onto the sleepless universe,"
she whispered to the guard
as he stepped on the bus home.

But of course she wasn't there.

Neither was he.

The god is that which divides

time from place
or soul from face.

This often happens in basements.
Under the earth. Windowless.

It is a mythic place that stops.

That stops energy like the color black
or a blackhole bending light

hence time.

So compelling. Thank you W.B. Keckler, whoever you are, for writing and writing....


Also among the pile was a shimmering gem: Nick Piombino's Theoretical Objects. It warrants more than what I can offer right now. But I already know from my first pass-through that I am impressed by both this collection's underlying concept (which I reduce into saying: theory turned tangible) and the way it is manifested with a marvelous sensibility of lightness even as it retains complexity -- not easy to pull of and which speaks to the deftness of this poet: Here's an excerpt from Nick's "Missing":

I've known what you looked like and have followed you without having certainty, without an image. Your tracks were felt with my feet, your face a visage without signs, your name a way of holding, your thoughts a strumming instrument. Please don't let precision take away the in-between. Don't let them classify the kind of jokes that stumbled in front of us, as we heard them passing on the street. Even this is closer than that. Even this protects the surface from too much grazing.

"Your name a way of holding" -- beautiful. Thank you Nick -- and, yes, I am blinking in the shadows...trying not to become addicted to ... blinking in the shadows because, after all, the sun awaits.


Also among the voluminous pile from this week was an order for Barry Schwabsky's OPERA through a Publisher's Discount of 25% off of the $14 retail price and free shipping (the latter at least a $3 value). Since OPERA probably won't be available through Amazon for at least two more weeks, I'm extending the Publisher's Special (which expired on Oct. 15) through to the rest of the month (e-mail me if you wish info). Thus, for $10.20, you can get a copy of Barry's book -- probably the lowest price you can get it for now. Barry's book is also available through Small Press Distribution.

posted by EILEEN | 1:08 AM