SUN STIGMATA (Sculpture Poems)
Marsh Hawk Press, New York
ISBN (hardcover): 978-0-9882356-6-3
Release Date: November 2014
Publisher’s Book Page
Distributors: Small Press Distribution, Selected Bookstores, Amazon, among others.
Sometimes I pray
Love is always haggled
before it becomes
Certain thoughts occur only to those
entranced by the layered auras of decay
Eileen Tabios’s poems twist like silk scarves caught in the wind, offering ardent calligraphies and sly subversions of the passions, so many ways of naming lucidity.
In her new collection, Sun Stigmata, Eileen Tabios has sculpted poems of light and shadow by using the blade of time to cut through stone. What is revealed as “through a ripped hole in space,” is rendered “as unforgiving as a sniper’s eye…” With lapidary precision, Tabios links the personal to the eternal while deepening what is essentially human: “…did the Greeks attain/ Purity? / Did I earn the moments/I made my mother cry…’ Whether she is probing Rimbaud in the act of assigning colors to vowels, or recalling a lost generation of women in Manila “hugging ashed corners of hopeless streets,” the voice is urgent and oracular, riding the radar between orders, implicit and explicit, in time and space. “The most implacable border/ can be the invisible/so that nothing is hidden from sight.” Sun Stigmata reminds us of what art can do when it rises to the level of Mystery in which the initiates are transformed: the stigmata incarnated on these pages bleed spirit and awaken soul.
From Author’s Preface:
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
What if the block of stone was a block of prose?
These poems were written-sculpted out of the poems of similar titles in the first two sections of my first U.S.-published book and 2002 prose poem collection, Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole.
While sculpting the poems, I was also inspired by an observation—something I’ve discovered to be a truism even as remains a mystery:
“Art: … The prayer that leads to stigmata …”
She’s not beholden to genre or format.
—St. Helena Star
Always pushing boundaries, Tabios, after 12 years, took the prose poems from Reproductions [of the Empty Flagpole] and reworked them as “written-sculpted” poems, likening the process in her Preface to a sculptor releasing the image from a block of stone….Sun Stigmata is laid out much like its parent, with similar sections and the use of quotes from various types of artists. And the condition of the artist and one’s Identity (geographically, sexually, psychologically) are key subjects in the considerable volume of work Tabios has created. In “(Come Knocking” she asks, “What is the surface of reality?/With what are we grappling/when we are dreaming?”
—Joey Madia, New Mystics Review and Book Masons
She is out there, where Hemingway spoke of, Sun Stigmata is like applying perfume to the pulse on your wrist and neck. The constant vibration of these words will radiate,and burst from the palms of your hands. This is a volume that is necessary. The sun gives life and so does good writing.
—Chris Mansel, The Daily Art Source
…calls to mind the work of Michael Nyman who has experimented with reinventing his scores so that no two performances are ever exactly alike. It makes for a fresh experience every time. Despite the abstraction, recurring imagery helps to anchor the work, to set down specific themes (insofar as the reader is permitted to discover such themes in what is essentially an abstract piece of writing). For the most part, these are images that speak of exile, uncertainty and loss; of finding one s identity, and of the fragility of the world in which we live. The images are expressed in terms of empty flagpoles, reflections in glass, straight backs (learning to walk tall in the world), and dying roses.
—Neil Leadbeater, Our Own Voice
…her poetry is reminiscent of Joseph Conrad who learned English around the age of twenty-nine and then wrote some of the great stories of the English language. I dare say there are few poets who can use the English language as well, as mysteriously, as excitingly as Tabios does in all her books and especially in this one.
—Zvi Sesling, Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
When David Bromige was assembling Desire, his selected poems, he made it his project to rewrite every poem. This angered some of his longtime readers. I admired the decision. The previous versions still existed in other collections; but David reimagined them, telescoping past decisions into new ones. Sometimes one is not done with a poem. Sometimes a poem is not done with you.
Something similar is going on in Sun Stigmata (Sculpture Poems) by Eileen R. Tabios. // …The roots of Sun Stigmata are in Reproductions… but there is something completely different happening–something spare and lyrical. This new book is as good or better than its predecessor. I prefer it because it has more concentrated energy.
—Tom Beckett, L’AMOUR FOU
“…well-lit wounds….Tabios is a poet who needn’t reinvent herself; rather the span of her expression is wide, and this booked enfold takes on a more narrative aspect than other collections, often sensuous in its rend: “I’d give you / the ripest plum, ready to split / apart from a thought. I still / would be folded about your tongue” (61); other times, anguished: “familiar with departures / the loosening of embraces / the forfeiture of birth places” (60); and once more, philosophically political: “the unanswered question / will be, “Might Justice / be colored white?” (84).
—Edric Mesmer, YELLOW FIELD
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…
In her Preface she offers the following introduction to this body of work: after quoting Michelangelo’s famous statement – `Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it’, Tabios offers `What if the block of stone was a block of prose? These poems were written-sculpted out of poems of similar titles in the first two sections of my first U.S. published book and 2002 prose poem collection, `Reproductions of my Empty Flagpole‘….While sculpting these poems, I was also inspired by an observation – something I’ve discovered to be a truism even as remains a mystery: `Art: …The prayer that leads to stigmata…’ Eric Gamalinda’. And so once again we enter yet another inimitable thought process form the gifted Eileen R. Tabios.
Tabios is a poet always pushing boundaries of her art, but always in her inimitable way, making sure she has our hand in hers as she treads new territory.
—Grady Harp, Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer
SUN STIGMATA(Sculpture Poems) is wonderful. A long time ago my brother said to me, the weirder your work gets (meaning the less driven by me and the more by processes and “algorithms”) the more it sounds like you. He meant it as a compliment. Not as in “ego-driven lyric” but as in Charles Olson’s “we only stand more revealed”. Since this seems to apply to Eileen’s work as well, it’s a compliment / observation which I will pass on. It doesn’t matter whether Eileen is making poems from her [Murder, Death, Resurrection] generator or hacking them out of previous work or … : they sound so “Eileen” — which means crazy great and fascinating. No comma between crazy and great.
—John Bloomberg-Rissman, The Halo-Halo Review Mangozine Issue #2, February 2016
There is plenty to marvel at in this seminal work. Scenes will stay with you long after you have read them and you will be all the more enriched for having made their acquaintance.
—Neil Leadbeater, Sleeve Notes / Adnotari (Bibliotheca Universalis, Romania, 2016)
Publication of this book was supported by a generous grant from the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses via the New York State Council on the Arts.
The poem “(Secret of Her Happiness” from Sun Stigmata, 66-7) was taught at CUNY-LaGuardia’s “Writing through Literature (English 102).”
The poem “Nobility” was translated into Romanian by Gabriela Apetrei and Teodor Panait and appeared in Contemporary Literary Horizon, Nov.-Dec. 2016 (Bucharest).
Coverage in Wine Country, California
SUN STIGMATA was launched at the fabulous community library, The Sitting Room, founded by Virginia Woolf scholar J.J. Wilson, in Sonoma, CA. More information about the BOOK LAUNCH is HERE.
Sonoma State University student Erin and The Sitting Room founder J.J. Wilson at the book table.
Noted in The St. Helena Star (March 19, 2015), Napa, CA: