INCULPATORY EVIDENCE: The Covid-19 Poems
Publishers: Laughing/Ouch/Cube/Productions (California) and i.e. press (New York)
Release Date: Summer 2020
Distributors: Amazon.com or Laughing Ouch Cube Productions (johnkathybr at gmail dot com) and its Lulu Account
Inculpatory Evidence is an English/Thai bilingual book with Eileen R. Tabios’ English poems translated into Thai by Natthaya Hamdee. The book is also educational for presenting a discussion on translation and untranslatability, as experienced with Natthaya’s Thai translations and an Oulipian “N+7” translation of one poem by Susan M. Schultz. Finally, the book presents an Afterword by poet-cultural critic John Bloomberg-Rissman which contextualizes the poems as multivalent work.
As the world becomes wreathed in a virus, what do our reactions indicate about us humans as a species? Eileen R. Tabios considers the question and deems us guilty. For proof, the poems in INCULPATORY EVIDENCE provide just the tip of the melting iceberg. The last poem points the way to possible redemption, but only “IF.”
About the Poet:
Eileen R. Tabios has released over 60 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in ten countries and cyberspace. Her 2020 books include a short story collection, PAGPAG: The Dictator’s Aftermath in the Diaspora; a poetry collection, The In(ter)vention of the Hay(na)ku: Selected Tercets 1996-2019; and her third bilingual edition (English/Thai), INCULPATORY EVIDENCE: Covid-19 Poems. Her award-winning body of work includes invention of the hay(na)ku, a 21st century diasporic poetic form, and the MDR Poetry Generator that can create poems totaling theoretical infinity, as well as a first poetry book, Beyond Life Sentences, which received the Philippines’ National Book Award for Poetry. Translated into 11 languages, she also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 15 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays.Her writing and editing works have received recognition through awards, grants and residencies.
About the Translator
Natthaya Thamdee has been working as a freelance translator since 2011 when she began her master’s study, majoring in translation studies, at Mahidol University. Her first job was to translate subtitles of movies and TV programs from English into Thai. She then focused her master’s thesis on translating Thai folk songs into English which contained prosodies, rhymes, and cultural senses. Currently, she works as a lecturer at Vongchavalitkul University, in its Languages department, while continuing to work as a freelance translator for jobs that match her interest, such as translating Inculpatory Evidence.
“I know I am not alone with my fears, and in my exhaustion. Among many other signs, Eileen’s poems reveal that. Among many other signs, the fact that someone wants to translate her words reveals that. It’s not particularly important to me that the translation is into Thai, though that’s lovely. It could be into any language. It could be into a number of languages simultaneously, like a polyglot bible. Perhaps it should be. Translation, at its root, is an act of “carrying across.” From one, place, or language, or person, to another. Translation, like poetry, like music, is a shared activity. Did you know that the eight musicians who played for the passengers of the Titanic as the ship went down were from two separate groups? I didn’t. That night, they played together. That’s enough. ‘Let there be songs / to fill the air.’”
—from “Afterword” by John Bloomberg-Rissman
A Barnard College “Must Read Books” Selection for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, May 2021
“… this is not just about Covid–19 and poetry. Inculpatory Evidence is also about translation in a language and script many have seen, but do not understand – the Thai script…
In poetry, understanding metaphors and nuances is important especially to a translator whose second language is not English and the script is not even Latin alphabet. The two had several exchanges of emails that were included in the book. This part of the book is an excellent source for those who are planning to engage in translation.”
—from “Fil-Am’s poetry in the time of Covid gets Thai translation” by Eunice Barbara C. Novio, Inquirer.net, September 1, 2020
The subject matter in this volume goes wider than Covid 19: ‘Regret’ focusses on the environment, ‘Triggered’ on hunger, ‘Not My First Mask’ on xenophobia and racism and ‘What I Normally Would Not Buy’ on panic buying, consumerism and survival. This is not just physical survival but also survival from domestic abuse.
Tabios uses food in this collection as a metaphor for survival. Food, in its various forms, appears in at least seven of the ten poems. We cannot survive without it. Witness the panic buying that took place as soon as news of the outbreak spread. Maslow was right when he included it within his hierarchy of basic human needs (although he seems to have overlooked toilet paper altogether).
—Neil Leadbeater, North of Oxford, 2020
Ecopoetics is useless unless one is actually doing something about it in addition (perhaps) to writing about it. One recycles, one minimizes one’s footprint on earth, one supports initiatives that diminish our (ab)use of natural resources, one educates, and so on. As regards the latter, my poem “Regret” is an example by raising how, out of concern of viral transmission, the use of plastic bags has risen during the coronavirus and “plastic bags// adrift in the ocean require/ up to 20 years to decompose.”
—With Rosalinda Ruiz Scarfuto, Otoliths, 2020
“We are enjoying reading through it!”
—from Redneck Resale Instagram and with a reading of “IF” at Redneck Resale YouTube Channel (0:54)