SILENCES: The Autobiography of Loss
Blue Lion Books, Espoo, Finland / West Hartford, Conn.
Release Date: 2007 / Now Out-of-Print
Experimental poetry, visual poetry, and fiction…. Books over 250 pages long, believing that an idea, if expressed, should be expressed in its fullest manner.
Eileen R. Tabios’ I Take Thee, English, for My Beloved (2005) and The Light Sang as It Left Your Eyes (2007) are massive books (classified as poetry and also containing various other features) that include numerous sections and that surround the poems and prose-poems with blog posts, essays of cultural criticism that shed light indirectly or directly on the poetry, and photos with commentary. The nine-section Silences: the Autobiography of Loss is a fresh, powerful example of the trend of heterogeneous inclusivity in Tabios’ work. After a whimsical “Preface,” we find a long prose-poem, “The Artist Looks at the Model,” followed by a nine-chapter “Excerpts from an Aborted Honest Autobiography,” which places “honest” surreal musing over factual reportage. Other sections include a series of prose-poems called “Spell,” a catalog of garbage, and a selection of nine of Tabios’ essays on visual art. “The Silent Sonnets: A Conclusion,” bizarre fourteen liners with evocative one-word titles like “Diamond” and “Nutmeg,” consist of almost identical opening lines, very similar closing phrases and, in between, recurrent patterns of random typing with only slight differences from poem to poem. “Silence” here becomes the impenetrability of the center—one perhaps even more severe than Steve McCaffery’s decompositions of words—but the poems also raise a question of utility: are they merely “garbage”?
The Oedipal pull of the poet’s tropes is in some sense “ridiculous,” too, and the strain it evinces dramatizes the difficulties of displacing social hierarchies with a new, better configuration. But perhaps the most important assertion, not far from the end of the series, involves precise political resonances: ”I am Babaylan. I have never been mastered by three centuries of invading colonizers or their religion” (70). The spirit of Filipina women has survived colonizations, and the spell-maker invites others to experience the restorative energy of its voice and scent: “Breathe in the sampaguita breeze known by warrior cultures as jasmine. Inhale my breath// into your veins to linger there, healing your ears now to hear me sing. . . .” The “autobiography of loss” moves from “silences” to articulation, and it also includes the autobiography of future gain.
—Thomas Fink, Otoliths (Full review HERE)
Of particular fascination is the speaker’s 34-day comprehensive description of her waste debris, the subject suggesting that “refuse reflects truth,” that is, what we say and do are dichotomous (105). She is a serious writer, earnestly seeking literary representation, publication, distribution and review, as evidenced by reused backs of old manuscripts, cardboard book mailers, mailing labels, postal receipts, sheets of stamps, paper backing to sheets of labels, used masking tape and a host of other stationery appurtenances. She is devoted to her pets, providing them with treats, toys and fresh food, sharing her own meals and fastidiously securing them a healthy and hygienic domestic surrounding, evidenced by regularly discarded pet litter, groomed hairs and waste deposits. Chocolates, cookies and Greek desserts reveal a sweet tooth, dietetically and nutritionally compensated by salads, sugar substitutes and diet sodas, her allergenic sensitivity likely attributed to her dietary choices (106+).
—Nicholas T. Spatafora, Litter Magazine (Full review HERE)