AMNESIA: Somebody’s Memoir
Black Radish Press
Publisher’s Book Page
Release Date: Fall 2016
Distributors: SPD (Small Press Distribution), Amazon, Among Others
Forgetfulness and remembering are two sides of the same coin—and that coin is anybody! Reading Eileen Tabios, we are reminded about the extent to which we are, after all, the sum of our experiences, and the extent to which my experiences may just as well be yours, or yours or yours or yours! The impressions and remembrances we hold as unique to ourselves may just as well belong to somebody else. Tabios demonstrates their interchangeableness, their downright universality! One might ask, whose memoir is this anyway? AMNESIA: Somebody’s Memoir is everybody’s memoir!
—Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino, Editor, E-ratio Poetry Journal
Strange things happen when I engage the poetry of Eileen Tabios. Each line in Amnesia… begins with “I forgot.” I see this line repeatedly and soon I am seeing “Igorot.” Such is secondary reality: those things often relegated to the periphery of our vision calling now for our attention. Dig deeper, it seems to say. “Igorot.” I forgot that Eileen Tabios is also from Baguio where, today, tourists still line up to have pictures taken with the Igorot in indigenous attire. I am reminded of the 1906 St Louis Worlds Fair where white spectators had their photos taken next to “primitive” Philippine natives. Certain scholars say the modern self is masterful but emptied of connections to ancestors, myths, nature, place, history, storytelling, faith and spirituality, community, and dreams. In Amnesia: Somebody’s Memoir, I am reminded of all that is Beautiful, Good, and True – but often forgotten: “Waves rolling away from Asia to storm even the Americas”.
—Leny M. Strobel, Editor, Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous
There are many veins to Tabios’ work, but one of the most fruitful has been the list poem, and of those, we have grown especially fond of the sort of poem she collects here in Amnesia—a reversal of the famous “I remember” form of Joe Brainard. In this form the forgetful poet tells us, line by line, of all the things she has forgotten. And not just “I forgot where I left my car keys,” but forgettings which, by the very nature of her recalling them, prove that there’s as much recovery work as expressions of loss. They’re dynamic for that reason, and each page crackles with alchemical energy—somewhere John Dee is opening a gold compact and the makeup mirror inside is staring at him to scry to him of legends present and of old.
The “forgets” are often tender as well as candid, and it would take a hard heart not to be moved by Tabios’ vision of life as a pageant of feeling and vision, unrolling before us on crystalline rods oiled perfectly with WD40. Has anything happened to anyone anywhere that this book does not prophesy forgetting? I doubt it.
—Kevin Killian, Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer (Full review HERE)
Amnesia: Somebody’s Memoir by Eileen R. Tabios (Black Radish Books, 2016) is a very bold poetic achievement by a poet and writer whose work I have come to admire and who constantly surprises with her adventurous experiments with new forms.
Amnesia is a major accomplishment—a single poem of 1,146 lines written in response as the poet read through her many previous works, using a computer program-inspired but actually manually-generated process (which is explained at the back of the book). I first became aware of this process when reading the poet’s previous collection—The Connoisseur of Alleys (Marsh Hawk Press, 2016). As a British poet schooled in traditional forms I realize how restricting they can be unless you are prepared to experiment in the broadest possible sense without losing the imagery and musicality that for me is “poetry.”
In this extraordinary work Eileen Tabios has brilliantly achieved such a result…
—Valerie Morton, E-Ratio 23, 2017 (Full review HERE)
There is interplay between personal, earthly, and political; between who is ‘you’ and who is ‘me’ as one remembers and forgets. She coyly states: “I forgot the logic of amnesia.” For the reader, presented with language repetition, learning moves rapidly into forgotten facticity. The book, at first reading, is already a second reading.
AMNESIA: Somebody’s Memoir is equally about content and form and their possibilities of convergence: how language decries and rejuvenates what it observes, exposing an x-ray of has-beens and to-be’s.
—Dina Paulson-McEwen, WALK THE LINE (Full review HERE)
By turning the idea of forgetting things on its head, the book is actually an extraordinary testament to the power of memory and what it stands for. As Tabios says in Chapter 20: Memory is more than just pressed petals between the pages of expendable books. The impact of this book-length, incantatory poem is considerable and it reads like a litany.
—Neil Leadbeater, Otoliths, Nov. 1, 2017 (Full review HERE)
On “I Forgot the Song Inside the Stone” (a poem in AMNESIA):
Eileen Tabios’ masterful litany of all that could never again be forgotten, once she “composed this song that would turn you into ice, so that you will know with my next note what it means to shatter into tiny pieces the universe will ignore”
—Susan Lewis and Bernd Sauermann, Editors, Posit: a journal of literature and art
Eileen R. Tabios is one of the more adventuresome and truly creative poets before the public today. She is absolutely able to write poems in the usual styles and make her works resonate with every reader. But she always is searching for ways to push the use of words into formats or situation that challenge the brain as well as heart. She makes us think: she makes us work. And she is able in this book to entertain….
Eileen’s new book suggests the commonality of all people, those aspect of life that disturb us all and those that we celebrate – memories or imagination, they connect us all.
—Grady Harp, Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer (Full review HERE)
Poetry soothes my ravaged soul when the rest of the world snips and snarls like a pack of junkyard dogs. … I highly recommend the cure of absorbing poetry (both in and out of the Bible) if you ever find yourself in that valley. Start by browsing in book stores to see who speaks your language: Mary Oliver always calls me over and Eileen Tabios is a local poet whose latest book, Amnesia: Somebody’s Memoir, has the power to release the pressure from a day.
—Rev. Audrey Ward, “Thursday Pulpit,” Napa Valley Register, Jan. 3, 2017
Anne Gorrick presents fabulous responses to two of AMNESIA‘s poems, “I Forgot A Gorilla Could Be Fingerprinted” and “I Remember the Language of Scars.” For the former, Anne wrote a poem of the same title but remixed in her wonderfully wide-ranging way — you can see the poem HERE at Quail Bell Magazine, Dec. 5, 2017. For the latter, you can it HERE at Always Crashing, 2018.
NAPA BOOKMINE “STAFF PICK” in October 2016
during its California Writer’s Week Celebration of Local Authors, Napa, CA:
Presented at The Sitting Room, Santa Rosa, CA for Filipino American History Month