Because I Love You, I Become War
Poems and Uncollected Poetics Prose by Eileen R. Tabios
Publisher: Marsh Hawk Press
Release Date: 2023
Library of Congress Control Number: 2022052614
Distributors: Small Press Distribution, Marsh Hawk Press, Amazon, among others
BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, I BECOME WAR is Eileen R. Tabios’ book-length love poem to a world in turmoil. She dedicates it to “those who are fighting against the planet’s current great ailments: environmental damage and economic/political oligarchism.” Poems address war, environmental havoc, women and their concerns throughout history, poetics, political science, immigration and diaspora, oligarchism, dictatorships, the limits of language, among others. The prose, culled from the past two decades, presents essays, speeches, reviews, and letters that address the author’s poetic concerns as well as a daily writing prompt, expanding the form of the novel, Methodism, homages to literary figures, and the author’s “First Book.” Its treasures include an adobo poem as never before conceptualized, as well as a letter of recommendation for a visual artist for the year 2021 when the Philippines refused to designate a National Artist for Visual Arts. The book ends with a postscript of poems on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a whole, the book (re)presents a polymathic perspective on how love faces injustice, as contextualized by the Filipino indigenous trait of “kapwa” which posits that everything is interconnected.
Since her first works, Eileen Tabios’ performances—in prose, poetic artifices, and mixed constructions or inventions—have always sharpened the cutting-edge of contemporary global cultural events. Art has morphed into a dazzling multiverse of sensuous happenings. Undoing the conceptual habit of reframing and parodic mimicry, she has created a new form of montage in texts such as “Because I Love you, I Become War” and “President Duterte Socializes Media,” etc.—witty humor jostling with sharp critique and graceful Spieltrieb. Enjoy in this volume the exercise of a rare intelligence that weaves the semiotic subtleties of icon, index, and symbol into epiphanies and discoveries that are, indeed, new additions to our world as we know it so far.
—E. San Juan, Jr., author of Sisa’s Vengeance and Maelstrom over the Killing Fields
Raw[ness] exudes from this collection of poems and poetics prose about love and war, both corporal and terrestrial. Whether speaking of “rose petals yawning like little girls, like the daughters I never bore,” or a California wildfire’s “yellowed skies” and “smoke taint,” even color is narrative in Eileen Tabios’ dexterous hands. Prose serves as the underpainting, outlining recurring themes that emerge in Tabios’ writings of women and women’s bodies as loci of war and of creation; of poetry and teaching as social and political activism. In the section “Political Science,” Tabios’ Motherland, the Philippines, is a battlefield where the personas of journalist Maria Ressa and presidential contender Leni [Robredo] are pitted in a balagtasan against the persona of macho-fascist [Rodrigo Roa] Duterte. “The Great Grief” section rises from the battlefield of Mother Earth with elegies on a world on fire; a cactus’ “Interior as dry / As the cracked sod surrounding / You, for whom no one sheds tears”; songbirds’ “corpses hitting ground.” Eileen Tabios is a poet with a finger on the pulse of humanity, and her poems are proof of its resilience even in these grave times.
—Vina Orden, Writer, Editor, co-host of The Lift Up podcast, and Immigrants’ and Human Rights Advocate
Near the beginning of “Water as Poetics as Identity”, one of the prose pieces in this book, are the assertions “The best poems, for me, are not about something. They become/are that something.” This book does something better; it transcends the dichotomy implied by those sentences. Each piece in it is definitely about something, and each definitely issomething. The same can be said about prose in the second half of the book. This, for me, is when Eileen-the-maker-of language-things is at her best. Because you know where she’s at, and she is down to the bone (tip of the cap for that phraseology to the great East Bay Grease band, Cold Blood. Before your time, Eileen …). Just like the world. When it’s down to the bone the only art that matters is art that can look it all in the face and say, “I measure up.” And be dead on about that. Art that matters can be found on nearly every page of BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, I BECOME WAR. This book is by a mature artist at the height of her power—a book that is a gift.
—author/curator of the Zeitgeist Spam series, associate editor of Poetry of the Americas: A Transnational Anthology (eds. Jerome Rothenberg & Javier Taboada), and editor of Collected Poems of Anselm Hollo with Yasamin Ghiasi and Barbaric Vast & Wild: A Gathering of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present from the “Poems for the Millenium” series with Jerome Rothenberg
The title poem, “Because I Love You, I Become War,” is a poem of feminist genius, deserving to be in the pantheon of all-time brilliant poems!
—Sascha A. Akhtar, Poetry Lecturer at Greenwich University and author of #LoveLikeBlood, Of Necessity and Wanting, and 199 Japanese Names for Japanese Trees
“Freeing the Poem from the Poet,” a crafts essay on titling poems with a focus on poetry in BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, I BECOME WAR. Featured in Marsh Hawk Press’ “Chapter One” series online, April 2023.
Akshay Maheshwari, a high school student at Fulton Science Academy High School, created this illustrated version of one of the book’s poems for NAYA, a “passion project” focused on Asian American artists.