AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A Life in Poetry (2015-1995)

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BlazeVOX [books] (New York)
ISBN: 978-1-60964-207-5
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015932213
Release Date: 2015

Pages: 172
Publisher’s Book Page
Distributors: BlazeVOX [books] and Amazon
Price: $16

Book Summary:

2015 marks the 20th year anniversary of Eileen R. Tabios’ “career switch” from banking to poetry. AGAINST MISANTHROPY presents her life as a self-educated poet—from, as a newbie poet, reading through all of the poetry books of her local Barnes and Noble as she scratched her head over what poetry is supposed to be … to more recently creating a poetry generator capable of making poems without additional authorial intervention. Along her journey, she also released about 30 poetry collections, two fiction books and four prose collections with the help of publishers in eight countries. Ultimately, however, her so far 20-year poetry journey has taught her that poetry’s greatest gift is the means by which to forge a new life as a better person. As one of her Facebook friends Maxwell Clark told her, and she agrees, “The best person is the best poet.”


 Excerpts from AGAINST MISANTHROPY:

I think the human race is on a suicide path.…where are the moments of joy, of beauty, of grace within this doomsday path humans are on? From where or how do we come up with reasons that make it worthwhile to continue living? To rush out of our beds to greet the day? To smile? To laugh? Well, for me, these moments would occur through the positive interactions made possible by love and respect for other people, creatures and the environment….I look at these moments, and if I bear in mind my own apocalyptic forecast for the human race, I view these moments—the stubbornness of their continued existence against all odds—as poetry in the sense that poetry’s task is not to affirm the (unjust) status quo but to disrupt it.
—from ARDUITY’s Interview of Eileen R. Tabios

…the moment, the space, from which I attempt to create poems. In the indigenous myth, the human, by being rooted onto the planet but also touching the sky, is connected to everything in the universe and across all time, including that the human is rooted to the past and future—indeed, there is no unfolding of time. In that moment, all of existence—past, present and future—has coalesced into a singular moment, a single gem with an infinite expanse. In that moment, were I that human, I am connected to everything so that there is nothing or no one I do not know. I am everyone and everything, and everything and everyone is me. In that moment, to paraphrase something I once I heard from some Buddhist, German or French philosopher, or Star Trek character, “No one or nothing is alien to me.”
—from Eileen R. Tabios’ “Babaylan Poetics”


BlazeVox Interview

about Against Misanthropy is available HERE. Here’s an excerpt:

When did you realize you we’re a writer?
I’ve long loved words. In the beginning, though, I thought I was a writer as a journalist and journalism indeed was my first profession. I didn’t begin poetry until my mid-thirties. My mother, though, apparently knew otherwise. She wrote an essay about me—the last prose piece in AGAINST MISANTHROPY—that said I, as a young child, was already interested in creating books. She said I made my first book at age five—a visual narrative with the help of Crayola and generous use of stick figures. I discovered this essay among her papers two years after her death. You can imagine my astonishment…


Reviews:

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. She makes us think: she makes us work.

…This is her poetic poetry journey as both biography and autobiography (who else would test that line?).

And so we amble through this book of recollections, references, challenges, and some challenging ideas – but we willingly take the journey because we are following the footprints of Eileen R. Tabios, who remains one of our more important verbal artists.
—Grady Harp, Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer

Eileen is much thoughtful on the process of writing. Writing seems too delimiting a term to enclose the artistic, political, cultural, aesthetic, and humanistic concerns of this author. This book offers an engaging sampling of her thoughts and concerns. Eileen Tabios engages and supports poetry with unusual zest. That zest shows in every page of this book.

I was about to get wordy but the three words I just used, engages, supports, and zest pretty well map the territory. Lively statements and lively replies about poetry, people, and world. Do drop in.
—Allen Bramhall, Tributary, 2015

… though it is generously laced with poetry of all sorts, Against Misanthropy: A Life in Poetry is in fact a collection of Tabios’ prose, including essays, introductions, interviews and a selection of blurbs she has written on other poets. Not that prose can’t be abstract and probing in its articulating. With Tabios it definitely is. Tabios prose in this collection is wide-ranging and intensely tied to the subject matter with which it deals. Often what she ends up writing and speaking about, in highly charged intricate imaginative improvised “breaths” and paragraphs, is her ties to the Philippine Islands where she was born and the circumstances of the people living there now or in the past. Sometimes these ties involve the historical, for the most part imperialist relationship between the Philippines and the United States. …

In the two poems in this collection that pay homage to the American Surrealist poet Philip Lamantia, Tabios reiterates her journey of abstraction—which is among other things a Surrealist journey—into the undiscovered cracks and coral of reality at large …Some of the terms used by Tabios are familiar from Structuralism and Existential philosophy. The idea of “engagement,” following Jean-Paul Sartre’s term “engage,” has to do with the forthright heroic search for the unknown “Other,” that is, the strangely divine materiality of the infinite. Especially in Emmanuel Levinas’ writings this engagement with the Other is closely observed as being periodically problematized in its temporal movement that tends toward being hijacked and subverted. The Other, rather than being Other, that is, continually revised, continually rediscovered, continually different from “The Same,” instead is transformed into a fixed “totality” that humanity has many times in the past, most notably during the time of World War II, turned into a lifeless propagandized idol or “statue,” the absolute prompting of exclusion and tyrannical authority, utterly undermining and removing the reality of fruitful social interaction. This is the importance of “abstraction” and articulation in ever maintaining the life quality of the perpetual Other.

The point of saying this is that, in Against Misanthropy, it becomes apparent, or seems to, that, without this constant battle against tyranny and the threat of tyranny, the general context, under which abstraction is subject, carries no purpose and becomes pointless and uninteresting. Tabios herself says as much… The abstractness that constitutes her poetry and her prose really has no purpose or relevance as pure abstraction. It needs to relate to some holistic context or significant mode of perception. Here is where poetry gets lively, because, in its probing and its mysterious connections, it discovers holistic contexts and significant modes of perception. Inevitably poetry becomes political. Inevitably we discover that language itself is political, that abstraction is political.
—Tom Hibbard, The Halo-Halo Review / Mangozine, September 2015 

Eileen Tabios is a writer who cares about the reader. Against Misanthropy is really in my opinion, and that is all this is after all, a gift to those who buy her books.
—Chris Mansel, The Daily Art Source, Oct. 29, 2015

Her work exceeds the boundaries of limning poems in the moody moonlight, adjectives and dotted i’s. It stands as a decalcification, if you will.

I write about this book because it brims with useful tabiosity. The relatable aspect of how Eileen places her work within the interests and imperatives of her life delivers a good and useful impact. In terms of any work, the message says, accept who you are, where you have been, listen, and trust that your engagement can touch something beyond you. That’s simple enough, even for an educated person.

I know that the word poetry will set a barrier for some people, but this gallimaufry of direct resonance from Eileen’s working machine seems to offer many pastures. It would be the reader of choice who read this book and did the central whatever of their life. As a final notion, always take note of balloons in hallways.
—Allen Bramhall, Mandala Web, June 2015


A Reader Responds:

i opened Against Misanthropy and there was an epigraph by danish poet paul lafleur, ‘to be a poet is not writing a poem, it is finding a new way to live.’ a beautiful reminder that being a good person is not antithetical to being a good poet. i like to think so. we all live in this crazy world together. poetry for me is a way of participating in our world. you don’t have to be an asshole to participate. you can create a new way of living based on generosity and kindness. eileen’s books are emblems of generosity and kindness.
—Richard Lopez, Really Bad Movies Blog


Harris Memorial College

Against Misanthropy is now part of the Library at Harris Memorial College (Philippines):

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Book Participant in Fundraiser to Save A School:

Event information HERE!

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 A Note on Form:

This is Eileen R. Tabios’ fifth book that tinkers with, if not subverts, the form of autobiography and biography.* In this book, she uses disparate elements like blurbs, interviews, essays, poems as well as a paper on her written by her mother that she discovered two years after she passed. If a reader ever chose to read this book straight-through from beginning to end, a profile surfaces and that could be “Eileen R. Tabios.” To explain her interest in subverting the auto-biographical form, here’s an excerpt from an interview-in-progress:

“Disrupting the (traditional) form and genre of autobiography and biography is one of my interests, primarily because it amuses me. But there’s certainly many reasons why one (or I) desires to disrupt auto/biography—from the general factors of how one may or may not ever know the true story, how one elides the true story, and how I believe identity is both constrained by inherited circumstances as well as fluctuates such that any life story narrative is at best a snapshot narrative rather than something that can hold true over time. I call these “general” factors because they can apply to everybody, thus how *knowing one’s self* is one of the most difficult goals to achieve.

“But then when, in my case, one is forced to grapple with immigration, diaspora, minority/POC positionings in the land where the migratory transplant ends, then the memoir, by being a genre that posits it can present an accurate life story, becomes a landscape fertile for disruption.”

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*The other four books are I TAKE THEE, ENGLISH, FOR MY BELOVED (2005), THE LIGHT SANG AS IT LEFT YOUR EYES: OUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2007); SILENCES: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LOSS (2007); and THE BLIND CHATELAINE’S KEYS (2008).