Sunday, December 04, 2005

On Eileen Tabios

Several months ago, poet Eileen Tabios sent me a couple poems to post and comment for this blog. Unfortunately, she failed to take into account my technological ineptitude -- one of the poems had crossouts, and I tried a couple times, but I was unable to get the formatting quite right, so I put it off. And now the boat seems to have passed in terms of my phase of commenting on individual poems, as I had done a few months ago.

Fortunately, I have read enough of Tabios' poetry in general to be able to comment generally on it. (I should have thought of this mode of commenting earlier, but I didn't. What can I say? I'm like Wile E. Coyote in one of those Looney Tunes cartoons where he doesn't realize that he's rushed over the cliff till he's already gone half way over the Grand Canyon.)

For me, Tabios' poetry has always been at the forefront of the Asian-American poetic avant-garde. Her poems have been continuously innovative and ground-breaking, in terms of style and content, and they have paved the way for the work of other Asian-American, especially Filipina/o-American, poets whose poems reflect her intelligent experimentation with language and identity.

Her poetry embodies the negotiation between form and content in a way that is important to Asian-American poets and others -- especially important for critics who do not believe that experimentation with language and lyricism and narrative/history/identity may be reconciled. In Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole and other poems, she dares to attempt both at the same time, which is no easy task.

Though Tabios is not often mentioned as a central figure in "Asian-American poetry" -- in the sense of Marilyn Chin, Garrett Hongo, Li-Young Lee, Cathy Song, and Nellie Wong -- I think that she should be discussed in these terms. All these poets write different types of poems, and her own poetry is different from the work of these poets, charting out a new direction that Asian-American poets have consciously, or subconsciously, attempted to emulate. In addition, she was the editor of one of the most innovative anthologies in Asian-American poetry -- Black Lightning -- which showcases various Asian American poets' describing their own individual poems in progress. Her own poetry should definitely be sought out.


Post a Comment

<< Home