MENAGE A TROIS WITH THE 21ST CENTURY

MenageATroisMENAGE A TROIS WITH THE 21ST CENTURY

xPress(ed), Finland
ISBN: 9519198903
Release Date: 2004
Pages: 128
Distributors: Small Press Distribution, Selected Bookstores and Amazon.com
Price: $13.95

 

 

Recipient of a 2005 Calatagan Award from the Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc.

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Publisher’s Description:

xPress(ed) is pleased to announce the release of Eileen R. Tabios’ poetry collection, MENAGE A TROIS WITH THE 21ST CENTURY (“MAT21”). Her first book to follow on her critically acclaimed Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole (Marsh Hawk, New York, 2002), MAT21 includes two series which resuscitate 21st century lives for Enheduanna (2285-2250 B.C.), the Mesopotamian poet-priestess, and Gabriela Silang (1731-1763), the Philippines’ first woman general.


Advance Words:

“Half diary of dildo desire, half rhapsodic insurgent mediation between art and life, Tabios’ book moves from melting prose poetry to a fully lineated, musical demand for action. You, the reader, fully implicated in this intercontinental love triangle, shall find yourself asking, ‘Where is the world that is waiting to happen?’ The question that haunted Enheduanna and Gabriela plunges out of the book, ferocious, tongue dipped in fire, dragon with sapphire eyes and no conscience.”
—Kevin Killian


A Reading Report:

This poem, more than anything else, is about brilliance, whether the décor of clothing, the ripeness of melons, the sensuality of language or ultimately the inner glow of ocean fish. In fact, the poem turns on the description of a flannel nightgown with its ersatz image of island life. Up close real-time, fish scatter & coral crumbles, a dynamic the poem itself replicates, moving between the plainest of rhetorics and a sentence that hinges on the verb keening. Or between the flattest social romanticism of what might be read as the politically correct and the complete opacity of identifying a poet just by his initials (and knowing that a certain percentage of readers will recognize the reference from the initials alone). Like the best work, say, of Judy Grahn or Simon Ortiz, Tabios’ poem uses a lot of its energy seeming artless, which [Forrest Gander] would be right to note is an especially hard thing to accomplish. At the same time, this poem divulges its own secrets, discusses its own devices, that same kind of referential/metacomment border blur we might think of as uniquely the New York School’s contribution to literary form, tho Whitman contradicted himself much earlier still.

Tabios did not read either all of “Gabriela,” nor did she read the poems in the sequence they appear in the book. With just 20 minutes allotted per reader, it made me realize yet again that the best readings are those that last at least an hour, tho the ambient noise of the bar upstairs might make that particularly challenging in a place like the Bubble House. As I head back to Chester County afterwards, what I wanted most was to hear more.
—Ron Silliman (Full reading report HERE)


Selected Reviews:

Here is a line from a 16th century Turkish folk poem:

“I’m an honest bee, my beautiful one an honest bee.”

There are few poets or poems I read where I say this is a poem of the future, a poem with the courage of its own poetic convictions, written in the way people truly feel and think (a sunlit synthesis of its truth) and not an imaginary knee-jerk way poetry is supposed to be written.  “Menage a Trois…” to me is such a poem.
—Murat Nemet-Nejat, OurOwnVoice

 

There are times I am reminded of Olson: how he took Maximus of Tyre as his spiritual-poetic mentor, placing him in the Gloucester of the 20th century. Eileen’s circumstance is not too dissimilar a situation. Where the two differ is in the messages they both ‘receive’ from their respective muse, and then ‘translate’ that message to us the reader. Olson sought to bring forth a historical account rooted in empirical facts. His ‘message’, entangled within his infamous lists of ‘stuff’, his profiles and accounts of the Gloucester’s place and personalities currently and throughout its history, this colored by his attempt to expound “The Tale of The Tribe”, to quote the title of Michael Bernstein’s book. Eileen differs in her approach. We come to know her mind in a more intimate, compassionate way. She probes with depth and questions her surroundings, relating them back to her ancient muse, thereby placing Enheduanna in the present day. She seems at times to be entranced, totally absorbed in ‘otherness’. This ‘experience’ reaches beyond the mere cognition of facts and figures, it assumes the nature of a mystical/transcendent phenomenon. We come to know that all occurrence emanates from the reality the mind manifests; and this is a ‘true’ reality to the eyes and emotions of the author, and vicariously, to the reader.

There is a curious note in “Enheduanna #20,” which also happens to be the longest section in the poem. It begins with an epigraph from St. John of the Cross:

“I live without inhabiting myself”

Eileen has surrendered a part of her identity to bring to life her ancient poetic counterpart. She has resurrected this kindred spirit through her will and through Eileen’s eyes Enheduanna sees again and probes all that transpires in her new surroundings. There is the questioning, the quest and the longing to understand the driving force behind desire, behind anguish, their outward manifestations and the inner facets, how they intimately shape who we are. And though time and distance might seem to separate one from another, ultimately it is a common ontological/metaphysical inheritance that is shared, This is one of the mysteries the self seeks to unravel in the relatively short amount of time allotted to this physical existence. Eileen puts it so perfectly:

I have memorized this girl’s tale
for its location in a city
you once shared with me

in the same time zone,
a period both our memories failed
to grasp so that I may write

this Poem
whose reality is the Ideal
for you in me

In the third of the poems, “Gabriela Silang Couple(t)s With The 21st Century,” Eileen once more ‘entangles’ herself with a historical personage. This time it is Gabriela Silang, the wife of the slain Philippine revolutionary Filipino Diego Silang. The setting is the 18th century Philippines and the revolt against forced colonization by the Spanish authorities. Gabriela, was more a revolutionary than her husband, leading, in Eileen words, “one the longest (possibly the longest) local rebellion against the Spaniards.” Although historically significant, the revolt was short lived. Gabriela and her followers were captured and hanged; Gabriela was thirty two years old. The poem is an extensive testament continuing sixty pages. In her treatment of an ‘unsung’ heroine, I am reminded of Susan Howe’s work on similar themes. The design of the poem does stay true to the title: couplets; also the play on couple(t)s shouldn’t go unnoticed. As in the previous poem, Eileen transforms the past to present, this time via someone not so far removed from current day. Eileen states in the intro “I wrote these poems to create a new life for Gabriela Silang in the 21st century.” This Eileen accomplishes in her of structure of ‘coupling’ with Gabriela. The style and approach is different than it was for Enheduanna. In Gabriela Eileen states that she has “inserted details from my life because I sensed that I could best speak for/about Gabriela by not denying who was then speaking on her behalf.” These personal inserted details augment our understanding of both Eileen and Gabriela. They show us the mind of Eileen at work, her imagination, compassion and sincerity. These and other qualities fuse with the historical personage of Gabriella, creating for the reader an ongoing conversation, an anamnesis and a revelatory experience:

She keeps losing
this ancient lesson:

“white” does not signify
a bleached bone

and an orchid petal
share each other’s complexion—

she keeps losing
this same lesson

No metaphors exist
for genocide—

—Ric Carfagna, Poetic Inhalation (Full review HERE)

 

In Menage a Trois with the 21st Century, Eileen Tabios’ poetry literally seduces: “You gladly shall fall for another poem I shall lick against your skin. Within its text shall be the occasional word necessarily bitten into the most tender parts of your flesh” (31). While the project aims to capture the inherent “instantaneousness” of the information-filled world of the 21st century, it also highlights absence: the lack of physical intimacy between increasingly isolated bodies.
—Katie Trostel, Octopus Magazine (Full review HERE)

 

Forty-three centuries ago, Enheduanna, a Mesopotamian poet-priestess, wrote hymns to the love goddess Inanna or ishtar. In 1763, after the assassination of Diego Silang, who started the Ilokano Revolt against the Spanish, his wife Gabriela Silang, who continued the rebellion, was captured and subsequently hanged.

In Menage a Trois with the 21st Century, Eileen R. Tabios voluptuously resurrects these two women an doffers them to the reader to form a ménage. It’s a scholarly affair with a bounty of historical details, a romp in the upside-down meadows of Dada, an da fantastic romance between the present, past, and future.

It’s also an honest self-portrayal of the poet who not only channels historical figures but leaves her own psyche exposed and vulnerable to the reader’s eye.

The result is a brilliant juggle of realtime and innerspace that reminds me of poet Sharon Doubiago’s matchmaking when she brought Marilyn Monroe and Jack Kerouac together on a sandy beach in southern Oregon, and Ray Brandbury’s ephemeral encounter with Pablo Picasso on yet another shore in France.

Tabios’ style is elegiac and breezy. In “Italics: As Gabriela Continues to Stand,” Tabios ponders the use of commas as well as …

We can never anticipate
what shall make corners

of a room stretch instead of crouch –

I, do, not, wish, to, ovulate,
for, mystery’s, overrated, charms –

I wish to enter a room,
see rose petals yawning

like girls
(like the daughters I may never loosen)

and flick my finger at
the macrodactylus suspinosus:

set the peasant beetles soaring
over the windowsill

Tabios left a career in economics and international business to write, edit, and publish poetry. Inspired by the visual arts, she has explored ways to create poetry using multi-dimensional space. This pursuit has led to performance art, “happenings,” and mixed-media installations. Well-known for her controversial poetics blog, …she lives in St. Helena, California
—Dave Johnson, THE ASIAN REPORTER

 

As a reviewer, writer, and poet, I enjoy words and their combinations. Occasionally, a writer or poet stuns me to silence and Ms. Tabios accomplished that with ease. Her work is voluptuous, sensual, incredible impressionist brush strokes of words, colors, tastes and scents. She believes poetry must burn, and burn it does in every possible way.
—Laurel Johnson, Midwest Book Review

 

“Tabios composes her words with the rumbling drama of a symphony while retaining the demeanor of a peaceful etude.”
—Annabelle Udo, Listen & Be Heard

 

“not only an incarnation of passions but a poetics mantra…words croon with a beat amplif[ying] strength and grace.”
—Michael Wells, Forum Asia Magazine and Our Own Voice

 

On Menage A Trois With the 21st Century: “(really muscular stuff—she wrestles with female historical figures (semi-mythical?) & plays their voices off against her own, in the 21st century”
—Derek Motion, Derek Motion’s Blog


Selected Papers:

Five contemporary American poets, three men and two women, have boldly utilized an unusual device: they have written poems entirely (or in two cases, almost entirely) composed of fragments and/or sentences readable as questions. The pioneering “question poet,” Ron Silliman, wrote his interrogative text in 1975-1976 and published it several years later, whereas the four other poets—Tom Beckett, Steve Benson, Brenda Iijima and Eileen Tabios—published theirs between 1997 and 2004. We will explore whether the opportunities and constraints of this format encourage particular kinds of thematic material and speculative activity and whether, in other respects, the poets have been able to develop significantly different effects with this odd resource.
—from “The Poetry of Questions” by Thomas Fink, JACKET

The poetry of Joi Barrios and Eileen Tabios offer a formulation of self-creation through radical love of self, interpersonal love of others and love of humanity that elevates subaltern individuals to a place of personal power in their struggle against the oppression they face in their daily existences. This is achieved through the externalizing, both through poetry and direct action, of internal worlds free from the power of oppressive forces. The poetry of both Barrios and Tabios argues for the existence of such an internal space, contradicting the notion present in some imperial conceptualizations of power that oppression consumes the subaltern utterly and permanently in an inescapable dialectic.
—from “The Self Revolution of Radical Love—Externalizing Internal Worlds of Freedom in Filipina Poetry” by Michaela Spangenburg


A Composition and A Sweatshirt!

Timo Tuhkanen is a Finnish composer, artist, translator and poet. Timo created a composition related to the Enheduanna and Gabriela Silang poems in MENAGE A TROIS WITH THE 21ST CENTURY. About his composition, Timo explains:

“Much of my composing is related to a mixed media and conceptual art approach, I make films and write as well as compose and all of these elements are for me a singular output; in them materialise specific types of ideas, some of which create combinatory and layered meanings.

I have been reading these poems intensively when working on the pieces, in the case of Enheduanna I even found the name of my composition from your text. I feel that though it is not necessary to read them to understand the music, they are integrally linked to what I have written and I would like this information to be available for anyone interested in reading or playing my music.

The compositions are ‘a body unable to hold’ for 6 stringed instrument and voice, the name taken from Enheduanna. This piece has been performed on microtonal electric guitar.”

“CUT” for electric guitar and contrabass duet with chamber ensemble is available here. This is the text written on the first page:

“The composition CUT is the second composition in a series of compositions dealing with the works, poems and prose, of Eileen R Tabios. Explicitly CUT looks at “Gabriela couple(t)s with the 21st century”, a poem about Gabriela Silang, a female rebel leader during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines in the 18th century.

It is in the poetics of the missing, the illogical, that form becomes incomplete, and it is this that the allegory, my composition, aim at, and towards which all the musical material gears up towards. It is an expression of The cut, an allegory through the absence of material: through a corporeal Musica Povera.

This piece was composed between the 18th – 22nd.11.2013.”

“CUT” also was exhibited at the Railway Gallery in Valencia, Spain. Here is a photo of one of the pages of his composition, and installation shots at the gallery exhibit. Photos by Toni Calderon. More information at Timo Tuhkanen’s website.

CUT 1

CUT 2

CUT 3

Timo also would come to create a sweatshirt featuring his CUT imagery:

CUT 4

The sweatshirt is commercially available for ordering here.