BEYOND LIFE SENTENCES
Anvil Publishing, Pasig City, Philippines
Release Date: 1998
Distributors: OUT OF PRINT, but with copies still available through Amazon and randomly elsewhere
Price: Up to $16.95 (Amazon)
Recipient of Philippines’ National Book Award for Poetry (Manila Critics Circle)
Chosen by The Cultural Center of the Philippines as representative of “the historic and artistic points in the LITERARY volume” of the CCP’s Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Vol. 2.
A remarkable collection of poetry by the New York-based poet, Beyond Life Sentences received the 1998 National Book Award for Poetry. The author, according to writer Nick Carbo, “incorporates the American precision of Marianne Moore, the language of Angela Manalang-Gloria’s blood, and the emotive power of Gabriela Mistral in this astounding collection of poems. [This book is] a world-class literary debut.”
It is always striking to witness the birth of a poet; but with Eileen Tabios, there is this haunting sense, that although she has only taken poetry seriously for the past few years, she has always been a poet: her voice possesses an absolute command of the seasoned, her diction an intersection of the emotional falling and rising, and her language an echo of precision and unpredictability. Much can be said for someone who is born a poet—I am glad that Eileen Tabios has found herself. Here is a poet to be deciphered for years to come.
—Bino A. Realuyo
Eileen Tabios incorporates the American precision of Marianne Moore, the language of Angela Manalang-Gloria’s blood, and the emotive power of Gabriela Mistral in this astounding collection of poems. A world-class literary debut. Bravo!
PREMIUM CHAMPAGNE: My initial surprise and delight at first encountering Eileen Tabios’ poetry (and fiction) have turned into high admiration as I continue to read more of her recent work. Her achievements are remarkable, revealing innate gifts and well-sharpened skills. Among other advantages, Eileen Tabios’ poems exhibit two qualities which are not often pared in the work of writers of her generation—an assured, clearly-pitched poetic diction which serves as a compelling vehicle for a mature vision. Her voice stands alone in its effervescent illuminations.
In my need to learn about what might come after one has decolonized, I felt the urgent desire to connect with Eileen’s poetry. She claims that her poetics are inspired by visual arts, partly postmodern and yet also postcolonial because of her political intent to subvert the (English) language that has been used as a colonizing tool, i.e. English was introduced 100 years ago to the Philippines when it became an American colony. In particular, Eileen is inspired by abstract art because she considers abstraction to be synergistic with her desire to offer a space for the reader to engage emotionally with the poem without relying on narrative. By avoiding narrative, Eileen considers abstraction a way to obviate the historical use of the English narrative as the means for defining power and privilege during the U.S.-Philippine colonial period.
Consistent with her thoughts on abstraction, Eileen also uses surrealism and “found words” from other texts as ways to negate authorial intent. As a Filipino English-language poet, she says it was inevitable that she question how to express her-SELF through language. When the results of her search are abstract works, the result leaps over categories and boundaries of what has been labeled ethnic literature through its reliance on subject matter.
—from “A New Twist to Filipino American Decolonization: Eileen Tabios’s Poetry” by Leny M. Strobel, TOMAS (University of Santo Tomas for Creative Writing and Studies) and README