FROM THE AUTHOR’S AFTERWORD:
My recent work, “Murder, Death and Resurrection” (MDR), includes an MDR Poetry Generator that brings together much of my poetics and poet tics. The MDR Poetry Generator contains a data base of 1,146 lines which can be combined randomly to make a large number of poems; the shortest would be a couplet and the longest would be a poem of 1,146 lines. I FORGOT LIGHT BURNS is the second poetry collection to emanate from the MDR Poetry Generator; the first, 44 RESURRECTIONS, was e-published in 2014 by PostModernPoetry E- Ratio Editions.
The MDR Poetry Generator’s conceit is that any combination of its 1,146 lines succeed in creating a poem. Thus, I can create—generate—new poems unthinkingly from its database. For example, I created several of the poems in 44 RESURRECTIONS by blindly pointing at lines on a print-out to combine. While the poems cohere partly by the scaffolding of beginning each line with the phrase “I forgot,” … these poems reflect long- held interests in abstract and cubist language. Through my perceptions of abstraction and cubism, I’ve written poems whose lines are not fixed in order and, indeed, can be reordered (as a newbie poet, I was very interested in the prose poem form and in writing paragraphs that can be reordered within the poem).
Yet while the MDR Poetry Generator presents poems not generated through conscious personal preferences, the results are not distanced from the author: I created the 1,146 lines from reading through 27 previously-published poetry collections—the title’s references to murder, death and resurrection reflect the idea of putting to death the prior work, only to resurrect them into something new: sometimes, creation first requires destruction. But if randomness is the operating system for new poems (i.e. the lines can be combined at random to make new poems), these new poems nonetheless contain all the personal involvement—and love!—that went into the writing of its lines. The results dislocate without eliminating authorship.
In much the same way as some scientists are developing artificial intelligence, robots and the future, Eileen R. Tabios brings us to the future with her new book I Forgot Light Burns….. while some poets may find it easier, if they have the Tabios MDR Poetry Generator and take the time to enter 1,146 (or more or less?) lines, I am sure her efforts are not an overnight creation, but a long creative process culminating in this inspirational invention.
Here are some poems from this fascinating book, which only expand Ms. Tabios’s reputation as one of the most creative abstract poets in the country:
I forgot I was a connoisseur of alleys—
I forgot the glint from the fang of a wild boar as he lurked behind shadows in a land where it only takes one domino to fall—
I forgot how quickly civilization can disappear, as swiftly as the shoreline from an oil spill birthed from a twist of the wrist by a drunk vomiting over the helm—
I forgot grabbing at my fading dreams only to recall a vision of skyscrapers crumbling from the slaps of iron balls—
—Zvi A. Sesling, Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene, May 2015
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.
I FORGOT LIGHT BURNS is her 28th poetry collection and she has never repeated herself, thought wise, style wise, or aura wise. The words here are basically arranged in one line thoughts, but it is the pungency of those brief words that once again underlines how immensely creative Eileen is.
The first set of thoughts is “I FORGOT THE FLAMENCO RED” and rarely has the color red been so explored in words. Then she offers brief thoughts under the grouping “I FORGOT LIGHT BURNS” such as the few shared here:
I forgot how quickly civilization can disappear, as swiftly as the shoreline form an oil spill birthed from a twist of the wrist by a drunk vomiting over the helm—
I forgot I wanted to make memories, not simply press petals between pages of expendable books—
I forgot instructing saliva to wait—
I forgot a girl shrieking as her swing soared towards a boiling sky—
And those are just random treasures plucked from this bouquet. I never tire from discovering new works by Eileen R. Tabios. She makes my eyes more open, my brain more alert, my heart – richer.
—Grady Harp, Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer, May 2015
Tabios is not only a talented wordsmith, and visual artist of language—she truly is an innovator… // In her latest collection, I Forgot Light Burns, she is again using previous works by creating lines from reading through her first 27 poetry collections….Each line begins with the phrase “I forgot” which was inspired by a Tom Beckett poem that began in the same manner (this is the multi-level genius operating behind Tabios’s work: in this case, reconstituted poems from her work, with the framework re-purposed from someone else’s approach as well as hers. As regards the latter, the framework also reflects her interest in cubism where images are fractured and still retain validity).
The result of Tabios’s approach in I Forgot Light Burns is akin to a series of sutras—of gemlike word-meditations with endless facets, meditations on color and sound and humanity. Sometimes concrete, oftentimes abstract. The following have been chosen to show the variations in effect:
“I forgot Red of cantaor’s voice becoming rusty nail pulling out of old board.” (1)
“I forgot how quickly civilization can disappear, as swiftly as the shoreline from an oil spill birthed from a twist of the wrist by a drunk vomiting over the helm—” (7)
“I forgot how gemstones can gasp—” (8)
“I forgot the revolt of the minor key—” (30)
“I forgot the mother snapped the umbilical cord with her teeth, strapped the newborn to her back, then picked up the scythe—” (31)
“I forgot I wanted to make memories, not simply press petals between pages of expendable books—” (42)
I Forgot Light Burns creates the kind of feedback loop between author and audience that I have found to be one of the bedrocks of Tabios’s work. It invites numerous textual and visual readings, and a meditation on the nature of what it means to forget. And to remember.
—Joey Madia, New Mystics Reviews, May 2015
Eileen used a poetry generator to create this work. The generator randomly selects material from a database of 1146 lines. Each block of text begins with the words I forgot. Pages consist of one to many such blocks. Each block could be considered a sentence, simple or complex. In the first section the blocks end sans period, elsewhere with an em-dash (my favourite punctuation mark!). You could consider each block a poem, or each page, or each titled section, or the whole book. The door is kept open that way….
The first section (of three, not counting afterword) bears the title “I Forgot the Flamenco Red”. Inspired by if not an ode to red toilet paper that Eileen managed to discover in Spain and is pictured on the book cover. The lines here generated all begin with “I forgot Red”. Here are some random selections:
I forgot Red for the slithering snake freezing to S in Espana [from this I see this weird ass tp pulled sinuously from the roll]
I forgot Red of black heels stamping concrete
I forgot Red of Guernica
I forgot Red as the roses sacrificed to the spiders by the winemaker
This section strikes me as more thematic than the other two.
Many lines carry a sad, surreal quality. There’s an intimacy in these lines:
I forgot a child will crayon to form a heart—
I forgot instructing saliva to wait—
I forgot minarets growing within muddy pools—
—Allen Bramhall, Tributary, June 2, 2015
What it is to give light must endure burning.
—Victor E. Frankl
This is the quote Ms. Tabios uses to begin the section entitled, “I Forgot Light Burns.” I suppose if we could burn light we could perhaps reverse time? She writes, “I forgot one can use color to prevent encounters from degenerating into lies.” This is a very interesting statement. One that goes back to the quote by Victor E. Frankl… it reminds me of what cinematographers say about “writing with light”, photographers also. In the documentary Visions of Light, Ernest Dickerson who was the director of photographer for the film Do the Right Thing said that when he was watching a film at a young age he found out that he was reacting to light in the film he was watching. Yes, light burns.
—Chris Mansel, The Daily Art Source, May 2016
Eileen Tabios’s Afterword is reprinted in THE HALO-HALO REVIEW’s Mangozine #3, August 2016. You can go HERE to see it in its entirety, but here’s an excerpt:
“Yet while the MDR Poetry Generator presents poems not generated through conscious personal preferences, the results are not distanced from the author: I created the 1,146 lines from reading through 27 previously-published poetry collections—the title’s references to murder, death and resurrection reflect the idea of putting to death the prior work, only to resurrect them into something new: sometimes, creation first requires destruction. But if randomness is the operating system for new poems (i.e. the lines can be combined at random to make new poems), these new poems nonetheless contain all the personal involvement—and love!—that went into the writing of its lines. The results dislocate without eliminating authorship.”
SHELVED IN SWEDEN!
I Forgot Light Burns among other Eileen Tabios books in a bookshop in Malmö, Sweden: