THE BLIND CHATELAINE’S KEYS: Her Autobiography Through Your Poetics
BlazeVOX Books (New York)
Release Date: 2008 / Now Out-of-Print
The Blind Chatelaine’s Keys takes its impetus from three impossibilities: (i) biography (and autobiography)—something is always left out, (ii) artistic criticism—the critic’s subjectivity inevitably comes to play, and (iii) pure persona in poems—the poet’s self remains a presence no matter how much a poet may wish to disrupt the “I”.
Eileen R. Tabios, known as “Chatelaine” in poetry blogland, uses others’ criticisms and engagements of her writings to create a narrative arc that serves as a biography. Since the biography is based (mostly) on her poems, it conceptually pushes the idea summed up by Ted Berrigan: “there is a self inside almost all of the poems”.
The Blind Chatelaine’s Keys is also a poetics, but laid out by others based on Tabios’ poems. Not only is this ideal as one doesn’t want to apply proscriptive paradigms on art, but, according to Tabios, it reflects the way of “Kapwa”—a Filipino cultural concept of interconnectedness whereby other people are not “others” but part of what one is. The featured critical engagements were also chosen for what the reviews say about their authors. The results address the Chatelaine’s core poetics: while Rimbaud says, “I is Another,” the Chatelaine cheerfully notes, “Moi is all about Toi.”
Respondents to Tabios’ poems include Juaniyo Arcellana, Andrea Baker, Anny Ballardini, Tom Beckett, John Bloomberg-Rissman, Allen Bramhall, Ric Carfagna, Clayton Couch, Garin Cycholl, Thomas Fink, Allen Gaborro, Jesse Glass, Aileen Ibardaloza, Laurel Johnson, Burt Kimmelman, Leza Lowitz, Nicholas Manning, Chris Murray, Murat Nemet-Nejat, Roger Pao, Guillermo Parra, Jonah Raskin, Sam Rasnake, Barbara Jane Reyes, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Ron Silliman, k. terumi shorb, Leny M. Strobel, Annabelle Udo, Jean Vengua, Benito “Sunny” Vergara, Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, and Alfred A. Yuson.
When Tabios finally speaks for herself—it is to inaugurate a new poetic form: the “haybun.” While this form is inspired by the “haibun” associated with Basho, the “haybun” relies on the “hay(na)ku”. The “hay(na)ku” is an earlier invention by Tabios which has become a popular 21 st century form, undertaken by numerous poets worldwide. Through the haybun, Tabios offers a memoir of a failed adoption attempt, “Looking for M.”, which has been praised by adoption professionals, including:
“‘Looking for M.’ is not just deeply moving but also educational about one of the most complicated difficulties in adoption attempts: reactive attachment disorder. Eileen Tabios reveals her psychic wounds to educate the public about the potentially dire consequences of orphanhood. M.’s story is the story of so many orphans whose interior lives are often invisible. Ms. Tabios gives them a voice through poems I read over and over, saddened that the emotions I feel become physical.”
—Sherrell J. Goolsby, Executive Director of World Child International
… if you’re into the sci-fi/fantasy type realms, feel free to peruse the pages of The Blind Chatelaine’s Keys because you will feel like you’re in some other universe. As with people without sight, it is not the words on the page, but feeling the space in between. Reminds me of 2nd grade when the teacher pointed to a row of trees and asked us not to draw the trees, but the sky above it, which forced us to see the space between leaves and branches and how the sky permeated into the ground. Somewhere between the otherness the biography of someone appears, of someone there and not there, fiction and real.
—Michelle Bautista, Gura’s Blog
—Jean Vengua reads “Before Attention Turned to You” c/o YOUTUBE