THE AWAKENING: A Long Poem Triptych & Poetics Fragment
The Awakening, with its titular gesture boldly troping on Kate Chopin, features Eileen Tabios’ ” The Erotic Life of Art: A Séance With William Carlos Williams,” one of the most powerfully feminist poems of her career.
I read Eileen Tabios’ latest book THE AWAKENING in 4 gulps. 4 gulps with breaks in between for thoughtful chewing and a little mental flossing. . . . As you may have guessed, The Awakening is comprised of 4 parts: 3 long poems and a brief fragment on Ms Tabios’ poetics. . . . Each piece of the book is substantial and deserving of sustained attention but I want to focus here on the lead-off piece, a twenty page poem called “The Erotic Life of Art: A Séance With William Carlos Williams.” . . . “The Erotic Life of Art” is a marvelous meditation on art, artists and sex. Its cast of characters is large and its range of reference is wide. Van Gogh, Gauguin, Michelangelo, Pope Julius II, Da Vinci, Cellini, Dr. Williams, Titian, Jose Garcia Villa, Rembrandt, Li-Young Lee, Goya, Rodin, Delacroix, Jackson Pollock, Rimbaud, Wayne Thiebaud, Renoir, Seurat, Madeleine Knobloch (Seurat’s mistress who was anonymous until after his death), Tabios’ husband, Degas, Ezra Pound, Gainsborough, John Ruskin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Modigliani, Eluard, Duchamp, the Baroness, Dali, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and others constellate in its pages. . . . “The Erotic Life of Art” is a long associative poem of quick shifts, but there is nothing gratuitous about it. It’s incisive, sometimes humorous, and it bristles with energy and intelligence. . . . “The Erotic Life of Art” is an extraordinary vortex of concerns, an impeccable “Pow-em.” I would encourage you to enter it and linger as long as you can.
—Tom Beckett, L’amour Fou
Eileen R. Tabios and the creation of communication: Anyone familiar with the rather enormous output of poetry and experimentation written communication and style will have an idea of what to expect in this newest publication THE AWAKENING. But then again, not necessarily, because every time Tabios sets her mind to a new project, something unique happens. This collection of works is a collection the three long poems—very long poems—yet their length does not seem in the least a testing format. The poetry here is almost stream of consciousness in style, so idly rambling are her thoughts yet at the same time so tightly cohesive that when you reach the end of one of these pomes the feeling of settling recognition of a thought occurs. // … overflows with ingenuity and brilliance of writing.
—Grady Harp, Goodreads (Full review here: “The Awakening by Eileen Tabios.“)
Want to get your socks knocked off, like to read an intellectual or an avant garde poet, pick up an Eileen Tabios selection of poetry. To quote Betty Davis, “Fasten your seatbelt you’re in for a bumpy ride.” Albeit one that is most illuminating and pleasing.
—Zvi A. Sesling, Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
In The Awakening, we get a little bit of lots of things, so if you’ve yet to read Eileen’s work, this is an excellent place to start. In less than 60 pages, she gives us a long poem on the sexual (mis)adventures of some of history’s best-known painters, as framed through the medical work of the poet and MD William Carlos Williams. We then move on to an offering of emails sent and received on September 11, 2001, that dark and obliterating day, interwoven with lyrics from “Moon Over Paris.” “The Awakening of A” is a hay(na)ku about colonialism throughout the world—a theme that Tabios has been de- and reconstructing throughout her many works. These three pieces, lest we think them intended to be seen as truly separate, are presented as a Triptych. Last is an excerpt from a Presentation she gave on the Filipino diaspora at a poetics conference in San Francisco just a few months ago. Each piece is so unique, and yet the overarching themes of the importance of poetry and the active role of the reader weave each of the four together.
—Joey Madia, New Mystics Reviews
Eileen Tabios’ gift as a poet is that she allows us space to perceive a myriad of human experiences: desire, loathing, horror, outrage, grief, love. It is this universality that awakens us—Always, always: to discern with compassion.
—Aileen Ibardaloza-Cassinetto, OurOwnVoice (Full review here: “A Very Avant-Garde Awakening“)
Four meditations: spoofing on and getting off the modernist obsession with erotic contagion; dispatches from 9/11 for the poem that refuses to be written; the kaleidoscopic universality of pain as it dejectedly finds representation; a consideration of artwork by Filipino-American artist jenifer k. wofford. All these seeding our inheritances. The syphilitic metonym for a sexually-driven modernism is mirthful in its moves between hard-line phallocentrism and a lyrically-loaded vocab: “When I wish to soar from / the surface of words, I do not think of ‘Ezra Pound,’ // ‘penis,’ or ‘anus.’ I think of azure, kimono, aprocito, / adobe, Angkor Wat, magenta, anvil, silver moth …” From here there is a concentrated shift from the literarily investigative to the poetry of witness. Emails from September 2001 (incidentally, the author’s birthday) cohere in an antipoetic missive of community, synthesizing pathos. Ultimately, the collection must look at that which does not easily bear witness, as the many atrocities of modern poverty configure a media that cannot be or will not be televised. The poem becomes that televisionary channel-surfing: “… American press don’t buy these kinds of pictures. / Other countries do.’)” bleeds stringently back into triadic line. “Who determines what / leaves us / speechless? // Who—there is / a Who!— / determines // what’s allowed?”
—Edric Mesmer, Yellow Field #7
The Awakening by Eileen Taboos [sic] is a joy. … What ‘gets’ me about her writing is just that bit of getting a reader like me into something as funny as “a séance with William Carlos Williams…” (the first of four sections in this book) knowing also that the twist and turn of the work as it unfolds will sometimes become upended until that poem crashes and bashes through some astounded stuff, some erotic stuff, some his (herstoric) (hersteric) stuff and finally, for me, seems like relief or just plain losing it…the poem ends with a manic repetition of the word “periwinkle”…and why not. Jeez.
—Jim McCrary, Babaylan Poetics (Full review HERE.)
THE AWAKENING‘s poem, “The Erotic Life of Art,” was translated into French by Samuel Rochery: “La vie érotique de l’art” (2012).
A Mini Book version of THE AWAKENING was crafted by Eileen R. Tabios. Entitled WAKE UP!, the book is “shelved” on a mini chair and may be seen as part of “BOOKS ON CHAIRS” at the Sit With Moi blog.