Saturday, April 30, 2005


The latest working title of the shopping project:

COMMODITIES: Poem, Installation Art, Novel, Autobiography

Commodities -- the objectified Pinay, the commodification of art and poetry, the shopping lists themselves...y'all get the drift...

Still tinkering...

Meanwhile, here are some notes for an "Installment" that I plan to be juxtaposed with moi shopping lists:

# [3]: R

My first American summer. Heat-dusted in Bakersfield, California. While my father stayed in Los Angeles where he had a job, my mother, a teacher in the Philippines, picked oranges to make money. So did my two older brothers, F and R. Actually, we all would have worked as we needed the money but my parents thought I and my younger brother G were too young.

This was also the summer R learned to ride a two-wheel bicycle. Scoffing at the training wheels, he would pedal furiously round and round within our back yard. I saw him master the “adult” bicycle within a week of pedaling. It occurs to me now that he must also have enjoyed that time, taking place in the cool of evenings after days in sweltering orchards.

R is the same brother who, in the Philippines, once complained about one year’s Christmas present. He had unwrapped the festive holiday paper – scenes of a “White Christmas” in a Vermont-type setting if not Vermont itself. He had stared at the boxed set of Old Spice aftershave. Made “state-side.” It was one of many products coveted by Filipinos partly for having been Made in the U.S.A. Other such products:

Spam corned beef
Delmonte canned pineapples
Libby’s Vienna sausages
Welch’s grape juice
Colgate toothpaste
Kodak film
Frigidaire refrigerators
Gillette razors
Singer sewing machines
Alaska evaporated milk and condensed milk
Camay soap
Dial soap
Jergens lotion
Bic ball pens
Singer sewing machines
Polaroid film
Jockeys underwear

These products were so prized that, as poet-novelist Bino A. Realuyo pointed out to me, several were turned into verbs or the labels themselves became synonyms for the products. For instance, Kodak became “magkodakan” to mean “shoot a photograph.” Or jockeys, Frigidaire, singer and Jegens became stand-ins for, respectively, men and boys’ underwear, refrigerators, sewing machines and skin lotion.

But R looked at his state-side Old Spice and … did he cry? I know he complained. But maybe he even cried although he was supposed to be leaving his childhood, hence aftershave as a gift. I think he cried. I think that’s why my parents took him shopping later that week so that he could choose his own Christmas present. He chose one of the rarest commodities in the Philippines: a book.

R was the smartest of us four children. I.Q. of a genius. But when he was a high school senior, my parents didn’t let him go on to college. They couldn’t afford the tuition and other college-related costs. One high school career counselor begged my parents, to no avail. Nor did they understand what Mrs. S was talking about whenever she mentioned “GSL! GSL! No problem!” When they learned that GSL stood for the federal government’s low-rate Guaranteed Student Loans, my mother balked.

“I don’t want him to start a new life in debt,” she explained to the frustrated Mrs. S. This conversation is crystal clear in my memory, though I don’t recall ever overhearing such conversations.

So R worked as a bank teller after high school and lived at home. Two years after his high school graduation, he was killed in a car accident.

When I think of R, I think of two things:

1) He was so smart that when I heard of his death, I also felt relief that he was plucked out of a life that so diminished his intelligence.

2) He’s always riding a bicycle in my mind. Pedaling furiously so that the speed would prevent him from falling. In his new country, he pumped his legs and went round and round. In his new country, going absolutely nowhere fast

Friday, April 29, 2005


Next week, I'll be in New York, partly to officially kick off the Hampton's summer season. Pretty good for someone living 3,000 miles away. (Yeah, right: moi & the Hamptons -- Not!) Anyway, I'll be in New York next week for two gigs:

Thursday, May 4, 2005 at CUNY-La Guardia, 1 p.m., a poetry reading and panel. The latter to address "English as the Borrowed Tongue." Set up there by Prof. and artist Lawrence Waldron.

Southhampton College Twenty-eighth Annual MEET THE WRITERS Book Fair which will be held at Southampton College, 239 Montauk Highway, Southampton, NYFriday, May 6th, 20054:00 p. m. to 7:30 p. m.


Beyond next week, I'm also scheduled to read in San Francisco and Sacramento here:

Reading and Reception for ElevenEleven {1111},
the journal of literature and art
at California College of the Arts
Thursday, May 19, 2005
6:30 p.m.
Den (849 Valencia Street)
San Francisco

Third Tuesday Reading Series
7 p.m.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Headquarters for the Arts
1719 25th Street (25th and R Streets)
Eileen Tabios and Indigo Moor (aka Joel Grier).

Free to the public.

The series is curated by Arturo Mantecon (thanks for asking for my participation!). And, by the way, here's information on my co-reader Indigo Moor -- looking forward to meeting him:

Indigo Moor is a poet and lecturer who teaches workshops at colleges and universities across the country. He is a 2003 and 2004 recipient of Cave Canem's Writing fellowship in poetry. His manuscript Tap-Root was selected as a finalist for the T.S. Eliot prize in Poetry. Offered a 2005 scholarship to the Summer Literary Series in St. Petersburg Russia, his work has appeared in the Xavier Review, LA Review, Mochila Review, Boston University's The Comment, the Pushcart Prize nominated Out of the Blue Artists Unite, and the Cave Canem Ten Year Anthology.

Yadda. Do come y'all!

Thursday, April 28, 2005


A worthwhile read over at Brennen Lukas' April 24 post; here's an excerpt:

And to myself I pledge:
1. To make the praxis of poetry a more routine part of my life.


So in my prior post, I observed that, consistently in my work seems to crop up the inextricable twining of Loss and Desire. It'd be like "1969" below, which would be one of the Installments in what I think will be juxtaposed against my recent shopping lists in moi Shopping Project:

Notes for "1969": Installment No. ____

After hearing that our immigration visas were approved, my mother spent 1969 shopping in preparation for our departure from the Philippines. "I want to be sure," she said, "we don't forget where we came from." [list the items if they can be remembered] We were scheduled to leave for the United States in early 1970.

At the airport, we discovered the items exceeded the weight of free baggage allowed by the airline. My mother stiffened her spine, and began giving them away to the relatives who had come to see us off.

To my secret relief as I coveted it, she did manage to pack a purse made from shellacked coconut shells.

But at the other side of the plane trip, when we were met by my father and a few U.S.-based relatives we'd never met before, she took out the purse and gave it as a gift to Auntie C.

The fat auntie noticed my dismay but accepted it anyway. Later, she gave me a pink, fluffy sweater. But I hated it as I suspected it was a discard from her daughter's closet.

I was ten years old.


Went a long way in past 24 hours towards firming up some of the conceptual underpinnings to what the Shopping project ultimately may become. My latest thoughts include that it will become a book project with the (working) title


and will present juxtaposed against my shopping lists various Installments of memories. And that the all of it will end up addressing issues of class, migration, ancestry, diaspora, social vs aesthetic scenes, poverty, racism...as well as, consistently, something in my work: the inextricable twining of Loss and Desire.

[Anticipated black and white cover falling into sepia: a family photo of the five left behind when the father had to leave them to come to the U.S. for better economic opportunities...the beginning of a loss whose price would include a brother who would die in an alien land...]

Thanks to Richard Lopez for writing something I take to heart in this project's early days:

"I love knowing that poet X is a janitor, or poet Y works in an office. there are no careers, in life or in writing. there are jobs one does to pay the bills and allow us to have a life. and that writing and reading becomes, hopefully, a life.

all this is redundant I know. but as poetry must be lived and renewed in the working lives of writers, so then does the definitions of a working writer. which reminds me of Eileen Tabios's wonderful work as a human being and writer. for here both are the same, and are so intertwined to be indivisible. at least, that is how I take her poems and her presence.

and so it was with great delight to read Eileen's shopping blog. that is what I'm talking about! good stuff and the evidence of her lists are also part my working notes. not her lists, I mean, but when I found her shopping blog today, I noticed that what she is doing there is also what I'm after in my notes toward, hopefully, some poems."

Yes. Always. "Hopefully, some poems."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Thanks to Ernesto Priego over at "Never Neutral" for your comments and sharing your shopping list. Because what Ernesto says makes me preen, in typical Moi-fashion, Moi repeats it below. Oh, but before I do so -- yes, I took up Mark Young's suggestion to get published in New Zealand and now I see what a fabulous company I have at the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre's FUGACITY 05! And now, here's Ernesto on one of the poems that will make up my 2006 collection, The Secret Lives of Punctuations, Vol. I


The Chatelaine herself has made it again and she offers, indeed, "A Tenderness so Painful". What's a semi-colon, if not a pause and a stop, a rest and an end? Is not the semi-colon a challenge to "punctuation", but also its personification, its mask, its larvatus proteo, a wink meaning a breath and a sigh, a consciousness of finitude? And yet, of course, the poet begins her path with this sign, a signal of fire but also painful healing. It is, then, cruelty only to be kind. In her poem the pause of sleep becomes a space for cherishing, and the common-place of childhood becomes the announcement of an end. Here, what's soft slices what cannot be cut in half without becoming one again. Death by water: a tenderness so painful, the beholding while asleep. The heart is a puslating fruit.

From Fugacity 05:

; A Tenderness so Painful

; asleep, she beheld him then

; to discover perimeter by where your lips land

; personifying the impenetrability of knitting

; a child the remnant of a fading illusion

; a bed for slicing oceans

; the purse pulsing from persimmons

; persimmon

And a shopping list from Ernesto!
cup of coffee
bottle of water
mobile phone pay-as-you-go card
'Pure Protein' double-layer chocolate bar
another bottle of water]


This article will closely examine three literary anthologies which have recently hit the market and have been making their way into classrooms: Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images, and Pinoy Poetics. [...] each collection is grounded in a specific economic and logic and approaches the pedagological and political project of the anthology differently. Literary anthologies play a key role in canonical formation in that they not only reflect literary canons but are also constitutive of them, reflecting specific political and editorial sensibilities.
--from "A Survey of Recent Asian American Literary Anthologies" by Shin Yu Pai in the newly-released HYPHEN NO. 6

Which is to say, I wanna draw your attention to this article on the effect of Screaming Monkeys, sent over by La Evelina Galang. This kind of result -- its impact on students that's making them rethink their views and then act on their lessons -- is way more significant, to me, than using publications like anthologies to build up a literary resume.

It often takes years to see the effect of what one attempts. In anthologies, I saw that last week during a class at SFU re Babaylan. And now, this re Screaming Monkeys which had been, for me, the most difficult anthology project to put together. Well, the thing is activatin' out there, and I'm so happy I'm going to eat a HUGE breakfast!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


I was fascinated by shawn [walker]'s day to day costing. like the project aspect of it mainly. but the poems are excellent also.

i'm always trying to keep my budget and failing so it is interesting to see someone else's budget. and it feels, but i might be wrong, that it tells a lot about a life that way. like i've decided that shawn's life is more interesting than mine b/c she seems to eat more meals in the company of others. and she gets more indian food. (not hard; i get none.) but less sashimi and poke.

i guess what i mean is that the daily life suddenly seems interesting in the list of costed items. in a way that all those poems about daily life couldn't really make all that interesting. or can't often. i guess some do work.
- from Juliana Spahr, Saturday, November 25, 2000

Joe Massey notices moi Shopping Blog and points me to PURCHASE OF A DAY by Shawn Walker, published by what looks to be a nifty project and about which I was previously unaware: Handwritten Press edited by Kristen Gallagher. So Walker wrote poems inspired by her purchases! It's really delightful and here's Shawn's very interesting "Introduction" that describes her methodology:


If, as the poet laureate of Britain once pointed out to me, it is impossible to exist in a state of constant epiphany, let that impossibility be our only goal.

To record every purchase is documentary, confessional, and self-examining, and I did so with that spirit over a period of a few years. These poems use the numbers in those daily purchases and a six-sided dice to determine lengths of individual lines.

The other determining structure is the wheel in the front of this book. Each day corresponds to a segment of the wheel, according to where that day falls in my menstrual cycle. (There are 28 days on the wheel.) I wanted something contemplative -- within -- to meet something practical -- without -- in the space of the poem. All layers of the wheel participate as formal constraints focusing each poem as well as daily habits such as the color of my clothes or where I meditate in the morning.

These distinctions may not matter, but the intention -- a more conscious existence -- always does.


And here is a lovely poem that took off from Walker's Jan. 6, 1988 purchases of Marlboro lights and matches, coffee, tomato soup, orange, groceries, broccoli & grapefruit and Orangina:

every step a lightened one

not asked of grace of being
nor which odd joy descends us now

nor which sun-day
we turned

from learning under arms abound
nor which broad-glassed

               takes epiphany with tea

nor which winsome waters bless this glee
nor which hot hands we hold to feel
ourselves in always burning here

nor which dream upon an unearthed porch
maps these lokes thorugh some metropolis

nor for quickest brights unfolding there
nor for calamity's sweet fall in

               undulatory living

nor for constant lightedness in place
nor for queerest body-touch that
comes down of up uncrying one

nor for accent
of revel-mouth undone to lead

nor for
kinder here this

more weave kind tree of mine kindling
nor for grace-joy a more to


Lovely poem, isn't it? I can't wait to see what happens with me re this shopping project. I know I'm writing occasional poems as inspired by my real life shopping lists, but I also know that I'm reaching, too, for something else.

I await thee, Something Else!

Meanwhile, thanks Joe for pointing me to Shawn Walker's project whose poems already make worthwhile that initial inexplicable urge I had to blog my shopping lists. As I'm ordering today your chap EUREKA SLOUGH, I guess you'll be on later on today's shopping list! Look forward to reading your poems.

Monday, April 25, 2005


So today was a momentous day. Yep, she says as she wipes off her lovely brow with a metaphorical bandana. I lost a peach tree this past growing season, but I still had my first harvest of something planted by the Chatelaine. To wit:

Today, I harvested ... six strawberries!!!!

Washed them, et them, and afterwards burped as I rubbed moi belly.

Galatea's first harvest! I tell you, it's enough to make me go do some insider trading.


Well whatta hoot. Some peeps have started to post shopping lists over at moi Shopping Blog. And this latest, by Jim, inadvertently creates a poem with an ooomph of an ending:

1 pound Pete's french roast coffee
5 yoplait yogurts
1/2 gallon of orange juice
1 pound of chicken thighs
Parmesian cheese
white wine
4 carrots
1 shallot
1 ball point pen
1 chain saw

Chain saw, Jim? What's in your closet, dude?

The Chatelaine welcomes your shopping lists du jour...feel free to post them via the Shopping Blog's Comments anytime. Those lists should be as revealing as horoscope readings!

(This is the first time this luddite is keeping open a Comments blog so spam and nastiness will be deleted...)

Sunday, April 24, 2005



THE VINEYARD, memoir by Louisa Thomas Hargrave


FOOD FOR HUMANS, poems by Ivy Alvarez (enchanting!)


GNOSSIENES, poem by Ray DiPalma

HEADING HOME, poems by Lory Medina

DOWN HERE, novel by Andrew Vacchs

A manuscript of a novel that I'm editing by this lawyer-novelist (no, not this lawyer-novelist). The last novel I edited for someone, it got a prize. Let's see what happens with this one...

1991 Ravenswood Pickberry
1992 Ravenswood Pickberry
2002 Merseault Les Clous Richard Pere et Fils


Oh I know those shopping list poems are, uh, sorta fluff! But Moi am having fun with 'em! Besides, they've already spawned a much better "American" poem by Jean, to wit:

gas un

chicken santa fe fajita pita with salsa and onion rings


Love that ending Jean!

As well, of course, as moi guest appearance in your dream poem -- Hah! Moi haunts your dreams! Could be nightmarish, eh?



It seems useless to me to dispute someone else's avowed poetics. It's like telling someone else how to write.

And, maybe, if you actually read that person's poems and found something you like, then you'd also realize that it doesn't matter whether that poet's avowed poetics seem silly or dumb. That strategy, whether during its intention or subsequently its processing, obviously became effective.

And if you didn't like any of the poems by that person, still same conclusion. Coz whatever has worked for you in your experience as a poet doesn't mean it'll work for anyone else. So uncurl that lip -- it'd also better for your complexion. Said with much compassion, of course...

Saturday, April 23, 2005


I'm lazy on many levels. But on one level, I've decided to become more disciplined. To wit:

I've decided to stop using the phrase "poetry world." Because (at least in its contemporary context), the phrase only facilitates the notion that there is a difference between "poetry world" and "world."

It's all poetry. It's all world. It's just that because poetry can be or be about everything, that includes the negative.

For me, anyway, I don't wish to practice a poetry of other-ness.


Apparently, Moi shopping lists do!

That's right. Peeps are sharing what I'm discovering via Moi Shopping Blog. Though my shopping lists can contain the most mundane elements (though perhaps the mundanity offers its own pleasure), there is a ... deep satisfaction in making lists. Perhaps list-ing creates a semblance of order in one's (chaotic) days. Or, that list-ing is a form of articulation, of naming, of pausing...

And it's true that reading between the lines of the list can be revealing. Veronica, who's blogged one of her own lists a la imitation being the highest form of flattery (thankee Peep) asks as regards this week's lists: "I can't figure it out. Why must you pay Felix and his Grass Cutting Service on a daily basis?"

To which I replied: "I'm on a mountain. And partly to cut down on forest fire risk, one's gotta be sure the grass is cut. In fact, I think there's a regulation in the area where the grass within certain areas of structures need to be cut. Daily basis? Coz he's paid hourly and I like to remind myself how I'm sure he's stretching out the hours so as to cost me more money....bwahahaha cough. Rather, sigh." What I omitted was that the mountain grows mucho foxtails and I would want to cut them down before they mature, thus dry up and get into moi dawgs' furs (not to mention noses which would mean a major veterinarian bill!).

Anyway, Felix. Yep. That is to say: I, the transplanted New Yorker, also often live the life of a city slicker taken advantaged off by long-time locals. (I really should write the Napa version of Tuscany or Provence....to think I once turned down a major publisher's offer for such because I'd rather focus on poems! Hah! Dear Publisher, or any publisher -- do make me that offer again!)

Then Jean joins in with her own post that begins:

You ever do that thing where you're standing in line to pay for your groceries, and there's nothing to do except watch the person in front of you pull stuff out of their cart, and place it on the counter -- and then you start guessing about what that person is like, given what they've bought, you know -- the quantities (pint of ice cream, or more? (single or married), amount of alcohol, pet food (dog, cat or bird?), mostly vegetables, or meat, skim milk or whole, Oprah magazine, or the Star? etc. Well, now you can make all kinds of assumptions about the Chatelaine, because she's actually got a shopping blog.

It makes me think about what I bought today:

parking ($11)
gasoline (@$16)
Apple Cloud
Milk in styrofoam cup
"Baby Burrito" al pastor

Which generated these from her Comments Box:

The fabuloso musician Ben Makinen: Yes, I like to watch... at the market, I try to guess the amount of t.v. the buyer watches based on what kinds of food they buy. Then I wonder what items they may be buying for someone else: What are those organic baby carrots doing amidst all those chips and frozen pizza?

Moi: It gets worse. I am becoming fascinated with what I buy. Which means the experiment might become tainted. Like, having the thought yesterday to buy that extra book just to make the shopping list more "impressive"? Hah! I gotta watch that tendency. I'm really trying to keep that shopping list project "pure" in terms of that this is all I would normally buy in my "normal" days. Well, fickety-fick. I never knew that navel-gazing had that kind of vacuum-sucking-into-a-void effect...

Veronica: Ooooh...Apple Cloud? What's an Apple Cloud? I go to the bakery twice a week and eat an Apple Pocket, but I think now that I'd prefer an Apple Cloud. Whatever it is.

Jean: [Eileen,] Sounds like you are ripe for a lesson from Ren and Stimpy, specifically, the episode in which, although warned by Ren of the dangers of auto-navel-eroticism, Stimpy (the cat) becomes obsessed with his belly button lint, until he finally gets sucked into his belly button, only to discover a subterranean world of hyper-psychedelia, music by Masters of Reality, and ruled by the crazed belly-button elf, Jerry (voice by Gilbert Gottfried). Fortunately, Ren, the faithful chihuahua, saves his friend.

To Ver: Apple clouds are the most wonderful feeling-sorry-for-myself-comfort-food. You can get them at the Free Speech Cafe on the Berkeley campus. It consists of a layer of pastry, covered with a layer of lightly whipped cream cheese, covered with a layer of apples, covered with a layer of whipped cream cheese, covered with a layer of braided pastry. yum yum.

I share all this, of course, as an example of the deftness with which Pinoys form "community," a topic oft late in blogland. World, you really should allow us to "Filipinize" y'all.

Well, of course, community-making always has its dark side. As in, if one wants to be sure to be honest, one -- that would be Moi -- can't edit my shopping lists. So that if I had to feel humiliated at revealing that I had to buy a file for my ugly feet's calluses, so be it. What's art without risk, eh? ("Risk" being another topic bandied oft late in blogland -- something related to my calluses...)

Another dark side element was introduced by Jim Ryals who noted the too high fat content of my lists (hmfph! I was shopping for guests with those ice creams, okay?!). And Jean also commenting on the high carb contents. Well, really! And please to note for future reference that I buy a lot of potatoes -- and they're all for Achilles, okay? The dawg eats the equivalent of two turkeys, 21 potatoes, and one and a half pounds of pasta a week.

Jean redeems herself, though, by getting all poeti-philosophical. She says:

Conceptually, it really is an interesting project, kind of like LangPo, only the "word game" is the language of commodities, and the objects carry both linguistic and material...uh, weight. // I mean, in a way, it's a more risky undertaking than LangPo, because it engages the actual physical stuff that goes on between bouts of verbal play.

Okay, so Jean self-caveats...uh, herself, by adding, "or maybe what I'm saying here is total bullshit..." But it still was enough to make me attempt a paradox(?)-poem I shall subtitle "Moi Embodied Langpo Poem" (I first thought "Moi Apolitical Langpo Poem"), based on yesterday's (Friday's) a shopping list. To wit:

(Moi Embodied Langpo Poem)

Felix cutting grass--
"Not the red gladiolus!"

Synchronicity defined by a tortilla fold
-ing around honey ham, tomatoes, onions

               Swiss cheese and green chili

Four egg rolls
Bag of crostini

The SF Chronicle
going bananas

For the dawg, a turkey breast
and two packets of turkey meat patties

An iced chai tea
to prepare for post office run

The inevitable glass of charbono
this evening with mushroom soup

A seared grouper on a bed formed by peas,
wild mushrooms and artichokes

               in a Nicoise sauce a la capers

Then mint and chamomile tea
cutting the cream from creme brulee

I feel this all with brand new eyeglasses
complete with detachable shades!


All very satisfying to do this project -- as satisfying as reading novels I only buy at airport shops. The joy of no stress.

And it is Proustian (the synchronicity of that first shopping list poem being based on Proust's Madeleines!). It's the pleasure of eye-latching onto the red gladioli at Sunshine Market....then picking them up, one stem at a time, from the kitchen counter to put into a vase of sugared water....then to look at the finished flower arrangement....then to name them on a blog....then to put them in a poem....

That drawing out of the pleasure...!

Friday, April 22, 2005


Fr. Dennis Recio, 33, from Manila, Philippines, has degrees in English and psychology from UC Santa Cruz and taught at St. Ignatius College Prep in San Francisco and Verbum Dei High in Los Angeles. In Chicago he served at Genesis House, a rehab facility for prostitutes. He’s also done retreat work and served in convalescent homes and at the Jesuit Urban Center in Boston. He plans on continuing literature studies. (California Province)
--from 2004 Ordination of Jesuit Priests

Ron Silliman's posts today, and comments thereof, on the implications of Foetry are a worthwhile read. The topic also resonates with me given yesterday's experience with Jesuit Father Dennis Recio over at SFU. The good father took me to lunch after his class. We discussed what felt like a hundred different topics, much of which are problematic and multilayered. Not a single easy answer for some conversational surcease even. It was a miracle I didn't have indigestion -- which has to do with, how to put it, such serene grace Fr. Dennis possesses.

Matter of fact, it's a good thing he's chock full of grace. He's a boon for students as his mega-calm demeanor facilitates discussions of things that are muy difficult to unpack -- racism, patriarchy, class, colonialism's legacies, identity, masculinity, feminism, immigration, post-Marcos economic development (or lack thereof), etc. I've seen people shut down in frustration in dealing with such complexities. Not while Fr. Dennis is guiding along the discussion.

In fact, I came to meet briefly the president of SFU during lunch and he said about Fr. Dennis, "He is good, isn't he?"

Yep, he is -- and one to meet if you can (I am thinking of you, Leny and Jean, among others). Do welcome him to the Bay Area! This is his first year at SFU...and he epitomizes the best of Jesuit training including, in this context, that activism can begin in the classroom. I can see how those students benefiting from his guidance will learn to navigate their way through the world by not just criticizing but also trying to figure out ways to improve the systems that spawn problems.

How it relates to Ron's post? Well, I think many poetry critics (and teachers) look at the object of production (e.g. a book or a gig) without analyzing the process of production. Why not? Would that, perhaps, have to do with how some of those who serve as critics (and teachers) are invested in the system that accommodates their criticisms? And, geez, that statistic Ron offers about the 400 creative writing programs chewing out candidates for, what, the 15 or 20 tenured spots that exist....Does this occur in a vacuum with the teachers themselves being silent on this issue because they are part of the system? If a teacher says on this issue something like, That's not my job cause the vicissitudes of the job market are not part of my curriculum, is that teaching?

In Fr. Dennis' class, when I discussed BABAYLAN which was the first U.S. anthology of Filipino women writers, it was inevitable that I discussed what the pages could not encapsulate -- the histories of silencing and disenfranchisements, not just within the modes of literary publishing but within the "community" of Filipinos themselves, and how those factors affected the choice of material to elevate the standard beyond so-called literary merit. It's a type of anthology-making whose requirements are too much, really, for me to encapsulate in a single blog post.

Relatedly, I welcome Fr. Dennis to the world of comparative literature AND as inextricably tied with cultural activism. For Filipino literature, the line between the two is often non-existent -- perhaps a model that other parts of academia (as in poetry) should consider?

On Ron's post, it does occur to me that poetry blogland can be -- and is, in many ways -- one of the rare exceptions to the problematic poetry production process.

Anyway. And, Happy Birthday, Fr. Dennis. Thank you for telling me something so basic, but that no one else has ever ever told me; when I heard your words, I both suddenly felt less lonely as well as was struck by realizing that in many of the things I try to do, I have felt alone for a loooooong time. You said, you see: "Keep writing. You are writing the ____________..."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

from "The Achilles and Gabriela" series

Oh maaaan! The household is all AGOG!

The fire alarm went off inexplicably. Whoooo dooop doooop doooop through the mountain with just me here with the aminals!

Achilles and Gabriela were in the house and immediately went on GUARD DAWG DUTY. These dogs who are oblivious to the cats coming around to chew on their tailtips were suddenly REAL GUARD DOGS. It was both impressive and horrifying to watch. After I confirmed that it was a false alarm, three hours later, Achilles is still sniffing all over every inch of the house.

Then I brought the dawgs into living room and we all sat on the couches and cuddled as Mommy Moi tried to calm them down. I was able to do that with Gabriela, food hound that she is, by giving her some puppy treats. But Achilles was all over me as if to say, "I'll protect you, Mama, I'll protect you!"

Of course Achilles would. I grew him from when he was the size of his head to the 82-pound bruiser he now is (though, were it not for his aggravated bowel syndrome, he'd be nearer to 100 pounds).

And now, even as I write this, Achilles is barking at anything and everything -- so skittish is he from his first fire alarm experience. Right now, he's growling coz he senses a leaf falling outside the door. Helllo? Achilles -- we're on a mountain, Honey! Sigh. Well, if you'll excuse me, Moi's gotta go protect said leaf.


Well Preeeeen. We all know that an easy way to get onto Moi links is to compliment Moi. Hence, my latest link: Martha Schwer who describes herself as a "a big, soft, warm, middle-aged blonde with too much education and a soft spot for the written word. I'm an online English instructor, art lover, poet, and avid filmgoer."

Love that description...almost as much as what she wrote about Moi which, since it's complimentary, I shall naturally replicate below:

I've loved discovering Eileen Tabios' poetry recently, and was quite excited when she was interviewed on E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E V-A-L-U-E-S. And it's an excellent interview. For those people who distrust the context of poetics, her interview is a wonderful contradiction.[...]

In that interview, Tabios mentions her blog--which I'd never read before. It's wonderful, wonderful stuff. I'd never have the guts to publish an entry like this one about buying condoms [Moi April 15 post] for the first time at 44, because I teach & dislike being the subject of the rumour mill, but it had me rolling on the floor. And I can totally relate, if you know what I mean.

In addition to the poetics blog, she has a first draft poetry blog, and a blog of everything she buys. I'm so happy she's in the world!


But seriously, thanks Martha! Look forward to reading your blog which I've already found to be chock full of interesting stuff, even beyond the high level of acuity displayed above (grin and ... preen again).

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


So I left the mountain and am in San Francisco tonight, coz tomorrow I'll be doing my last classroom visiting lecture this semester -- at San Francisco University where a priest(?), Fr. Recio, is teaching Fil-Am literature. One of their texts is BABAYLAN (2000) which I'd coedited with Nick. I just finished doing some notes for what I'll say tomorrow, and realized for the first time that my own "short story" in BABAYLAN had been a harbinger for the linguistic explorations I'd done in my last * three * books.

Here's an excerpt from that short story entitled "Excerpts From An Aborted Honest Autobiography." Of course I lied in order to write:


January February March April April April May June

I forced open a god's forehead. I slipped through, though lost a toe. My blouse was torn, revealing French lace embroidered with pale pink lilies. I panted through parted lips, face locked between bruised knees. Between the runs in my pantyhose I saw ants shouldering bits of bread and trudging up steep slopes slippery with the latest drink I spilled. I hoped fervently that happiness would last.

July August September October November

Amidst despair in Santa Fe, a poet found time to be kind to me. I began listening to what wakes me when ebony stuns my windows. Then i received a $15 check for a poem, a bonus no investment banker can ever top.

In December, Christmas.


Some brief notes I have as regards the above that I cutnpaste here:

In my Editor’s essay, I speak of wanting to write poems and stories that transcend the authority of an author dictating a specific narrative. I think you can see that most clearly in the last section titled “From Next Year’s Diary.” The litany of months show that time passes and imply that events are occurring, but the specifics of those events are based on your imagination -- how you respond to earlier sections.

I do insert two paragraphs of narratives -- to give you (readers) some sort of scaffolding upon which your imaginations can respond.

And the last line -- rather than spoonfeeding you the conclusion of A HAPPY ENDING, I say "Christmas".

Except, the notion of Christmas being a symbol for joy is not necessarily correct, is it? I mean, it’s supposed to be a happy time. But what if your family is poor and can’t afford to give or receive gifts. What if you’re not even Christian and, as a young un, grow up watching your classmates and neighbors celebrating Christmas and feeling left out?

So that the word “Christmas” there becomes a metaphor for how the same word can mean different things to many people.


I may or may not blog about tomorrow's classroom experience. What I'm thinking of tonight, looking now at my short story which I haven't read in, oh, four years? is how it had been a bit of a challenge to an editor over at the publisher Aunt Lute Press. By that excerpt alone, one can tell that my short story was not a linear narrative with which they may have had more experience (as a multicultural women's press). I remember the struggle that editor and I had as we went through my story -- and I am even more grateful now that she persevered in trying to understand what I was trying to do and being open-minded. Auntie Lutie -- I love you!


Thought of, began, but then discarded today two ideas for poetry collections, with working titles


Actually, I think there's something in both those ideas -- but I'm not ready for them.

Let's see if my next idea survives. Its working title is


And get your minds out of the gutter -- it ain't about what I know you're thinking!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Faith. For me, having Faith was what made me learn how to write poems and make art. That is, faith through the part of the process (which can be 99% of the process) that seems ridiculous or failing. Faith so that you persevere.

I found/find faith necessary for going through unknown territory without knowing why I'm bothering to stroll through that mapless space. I still remember the eyebrows I raised as a newbie poet when I'd (try to) explain to some folks that, with poems, I was trying to meld abstract expressionism with a post-colonial perspective...and, truthfully, it really only made sense years after I passed that period of work.

Without faith, I'm not sure I'd also have managed to engage in projects like Six Directions or the Counting Project that eventually spawned the Hay(na)ku. I'm reminded of these now because a peep who's apparently been keeping close watch on Moi (grin), Emmy Catedral, wrote me a letter. Her letter (see below) testifies, I think, to the complexities of art-making which can become larger than us, unless we allow ourselves paradoxically to be overcome by the process.

I'm also reminded of Six Directions because one of its elements had been to make drawings from paper bags, something that Emmy's use of "cheap" legal pads evoke for me. (Dang! Ain't there a curator out there interested in putting together an exhibition entitled "Re-Drawing Drawing"? Emmy and I are soooo there!)

And I'm further reminded of the hay(na)ku because it began by monitoring what is countable through my days (a process inspired by Richard Brautigan). Well, rather than monitoring what I can count, I've newly begun to monitor what I buy -- the steel spine to my new project which you can see at this new blog of Moi: THE CHATELAINE SHOPS. Counting spawned the hay(na)ku; I wonder what shopping will spawn -- hopefully something more, hmm, how to put it, multi-layered maybe ... than shopping list-inspired poems like the one I wrote yesterday. (Wonder why I keep using that word "spawn".) Time will tell; for Emmy, it looks like her "margins" project has been at least three years in the making now...

Meanwhile, here's Emmy's letter written in response to my praise for what she's trying to do re margins. I'll be writing more later about her art work and her forthcoming exhibit at Pancake Studio, New York. It's also heartening to see that part of her process included assimilating the results of a 2002 panel I'd moderated in New York; I do these readings and panels and mostly never know who's in the audience and how they respond -- so it's nice to see this from Emmy:

Dear Eileen,

Glad you found your way to emmywerks and even more so that you like my latest project! I have been thinking of a way to introduce my work to you, and I realize that the legal pad series, which I've titled variations of resistance, is probably the best project to start with. It's inception, or at least the moment I began thinking about the lined page as more than a writing surface was during a panel that you were moderating! It was at AAWW's Intimacy & Geography conference, held at CUNY Grad Center, which must have been sometime in 2002. Asked about her writing process, and before she even got into talking about the pieces of paper that she lays out on her table, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge replied by calling the page a "plane of consciousness" -- thus preferring it to the computer screen. I found it true for myself, that lined or otherwise, the piece of paper allows me small discoveries that would be difficult to come forth on the screen. I can cross things out on paper, connect a word to another, erase, create evidences of thought and response -- in effect: palimpsests. With lined paper, however, I can demonstrate even more this control: I can defy the lines, obliterate them as I traverse the plane.

I began thinking about the lined paper as readymade landscapes -- that on these leaves of 99 cent store, utilitarian legal pads, I can question designated space lines in the more immediate sense of geography: political subdivisions of land, borderlands, territories, separation walls, and after reading Arundhati Roy, even the big dams. These factory produced yellow planes are not unlike the borders in the world: visible or invisible, they are unnatural, man-made.

And so it came to be that I began to manually alter pages of legal pads: moving the magins, writing against the lines, even cutting out the lines, or filling the page with margin lines. I cannot describe each one in this letter but I thought I could try giving you examples of the ones that you cannot see in the pictures -- the instances in which I use language:

Writing against the lines from inside the margin towards the center, I transcribed the following words by Edward Said:

Every direct route to the interior and consequently the interior itself is either blocked or preempted. The most you can hope for is to find margins, normally neglected surfaces and relatively isolated irregularly placed spots on which to put yourself. You can only do so through much perseverance and repetition. So many have already done this ahead of you and in the knowledge that their distinction may well appear at the end and after much effort as a small nick, a barely perceptible variation, a small jolt irony, an imposition, odd decorum.

The placement of my legal pads on the wall corresponds to this quote. I have several repeated alterations, even writing this quote four times until one went over the margin that I created on the floor out of red electrical tape. There is one piece of paper that I hung from the ceiling in the center of the room -- the one that made its way into the interior...

The work requires close inspection, and I liked the idea of the viewer having to enter the margin in order to see the work. I am developing this into a series of installations wherein the viewers themselves have to physically defy or resist designated space in order to get to my discrete object at the far end of a room (I am thinking short cinder block walls for the next one, or putting blackboards with erasure marks in people's way). Just in writing this letter, I came to a realization that my use of the margin as a subject is possibly even influenced by your bringing attention to the "footnote."

I went over one of the margins with red ink and placed it just on top of where the red electrical tape starts, as though the margin from the paper bled onto a bigger line on the floor. I labeled this "La Frontera" to referrence Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands -- in which she calls the Mexico-US border "una herida abierta" or open wound...

I have an upcoming group show in SoHo next month where I will be showing a second version of this installation...I am still developing it, still investigating...and am very happy that I have this opportunity to tell you about it, as I look to poetry and language for inspiration in a way that is like the reverse of your ekphrastic process. I suppose I read about poetry in the same way you once blogged about reading Artforum: as an outsider, though I think "parasite" for me would be more appropriate. Rilke's advice to Kappus, the poets' advice to young writers in your Black Lightning...I've been stealing inspiration meant for young writers and applying it to myself!

...I didn't know why poetry kept insisting itself, for I still cannot write a poem if my life depended on it, but I have been making visual responses since I was in high school. I did not know there was a name for it until I stumbled upon Winepoetics, so I thank you!

ut pictura poesis

Monday, April 18, 2005


Moi was going to retitle that prior post "navel-gazing poetics" but then drew moiself up short coz...don't all poetics involve the gaze and the navel?


The ENGLISH brick is my 7th poetry collection, and I'll release my 8th next year. In looking back at these 8 books, I've noticed something that, I think, pleases me. That is, one rereads the poetry books right after they're released. And in the earlier books, I had a sense of "I wrote this and this..." -- and I retained that sense much longer for them than I do for my more recent books.

In contrast to these earlier poetry books, I remember noticing that almost as soon as I opened the first copy of ENGLISH straight from the printer's, I felt a sense of distance from it. For Reproductions, I've told many students that I am in a different "space" from where I wrote those poems and often feel in class lectures that I may as well be talking about someone else's poems.

For The Secret Lives of Punctuations, Vol. I, it's not even out yet but I'm doing some copyediting and manuscript formatting as we speak. And I already feel distanced from it. By "distance", I mean that I don't have that strong sense of being its author. Even though, at the time of writing the poem, I am (I feel) as deeply into said poem as one can be.

This result may seem dysfunctional. But I don't think so. I think I'm improving as a poet.

Because what I've just described is one half of a circle. The other half is me returning to those poems and "owning" them as reader, not author.


Maybe...if I don't manage to invest myself as a reader in my poems, those poems weren't really that effective (for me) anyway?

For the record, many of my published poems -- and that includes some that others tell me they love -- have yet to pass that threshhold.

Well, well. Moithinks Moi needs that first cuppa coffee for the day. Like, right now.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Of perhaps ten families on the mountain, I suspect we're the only household lacking guns. Our neighbors, winemakers and farmers, all have guns. Not just for defensive purposes but to hunt wild animals who love to feast on grapes, particularly the deer and wild turkey. Until one of our immediate next door neighbors started hunting, said deer and turkey were responsible for eating through as much as 30% of his harvest -- that's a high percentage, obviously.

The animals have figured out, though, that Galatea's land is a safe haven -- no one shoots at them here. So you can pass by clumps of tall grasses and see a few antlers, as I saw earlier this week; closer perusal revealed a doe and fawn. It's not unusual to drive up and have your drive be interrupted by herds -- as much as 15 at one sighting -- of deer crossing across the road.

And yesterday morning, the entire household (me, two dawgs and two cats) were woken up by the slow, languid stroll of one big fat turkey across the courtyard, complete with click click click -ing sounds.


But that many want to be ensconsed in Galatea showed its dark side this week. Two swallows kept flitting through a covered area in front of the front door, no doubt looking for potential nest locales. Sadly, one of the swallows got trapped against a trap intended for bats. It's body got stuck on a sticky rod. By the time we noticed, it was half-dead, but not quite yet.

I told Tom, Make her death swift (how did I know it was a her) while I leave. I can't bear to be near this.

I entered the house, but then had to leave again to check something in the garage. That's when I stumbled across the image of Tom putting the rod in a bucket of water. Swift death by drowning.

Meanwhile, the other swallow kept circling the courtyard, looking for his mate. Kept circling and circling.

So when Galatea's face manifests itself (see prior post), it's not clear what her expression will be. The country is natural because, notwithstanding the Iron Gate, there occasionally will be negative energy. Then hard decisions must be made.

On Galatea's face must also be featured the toll of such hard decisions -- though it is hoped wrinkles, pockmarks and brow furrows will serve only to highlight the joy shining from within her eyes.


I'm just the Chatelaine. So, today, I conferred with the Decision-Maker on my idea to commission a sculpture of a big head. It's a go!! [Sip from a diet coke.] And what this is: for the longest time, I'd thought of this idea of having some big head sprouting up from somewhere on Galatea's mountain. Like, a visitor may be cheerfully meandering about a path, then round a bend and suddenly be taken up short by a BIG-EYED GAZE FROM A BIG HEAD SPROUTED FROM THE GROUND! I'd always assumed the head would be a Buddha head. But it never seemed quite to jell that way, conceptual-wise. Today, I realized whose head that should be. It should, of course, be Galatea's head! Because the mountain is Galatea. So one of the hills will be a shoulder....Now, how to determine the sculptor...


Octopus #5, fabulously edited by Zachary Schomburg. Enjoyed the new poems of Meritage Press author Barry Schwabsky, among many.

I've also been relishing the art projects or "werks" over at my newest link Emmy Catedral's (love what you did with those margins).

Also enjoyed these:

COMING AFTER: Essays on Poetry by Alice Notley

OPEN ME CAREFULLY: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntingdon Dickinson, ed. by Ellen louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith

APPETITE, poems by Jean-Mark Sens

JACKPOT, novel by Tsipi Keller

the invisible city, a 2001 anthology edited by Marcella Durand which I got for renewing my membership to the St. Marks Poetry Project

MAYOR OF THE ROSES, short stories by Marianne Villanueva

The manuscript for A BOOK OF HER OWN: WORDS AND IMAGES TO HONOR THE BABAYLAN, a multigenre "memorist" collection by Leny M. Strobel, which I also note to show the brand new cover -- isn't it booooooootiful!!! -- by Perla Daly.

Last but not least, for moi oenophile stalkers, relished these this weekend:

1996 Chevalier Montrachet Domaine Jean Chartron Clos des Chevaliers
1990 Chateauneauf de Pape Domaine du Pegau Cuvee Reserve
1990 Angelus
-- the first Angelus for me and Moi am hooked!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

(a belated post for Robert Creeley who..."kept company")

I so love these Finnish names. Kari Kokko. Jukka-Pekka. It's all very .... Pinoy, you know what I mean? (See Kari's cheer-inducing face on Mark's blog!)

Thanks Anny for the kind words re Tom's interview. And, yah, moi prior post below was a "long, long story"? Tee-hee to you, Peep.

And thanks Michelle for noting, on same prior post, that at least the peep behind the cash register hadnn't been one of the college students I'd been lecturing who would look up from the box of condoms to my face and then ask


But, actually, that really did happen back in moi college days. My freshman roommate worked behind the cash register, at one point, at Furnald Grocery over at Columbia University (does that grocery still exist?). Some responsible safe-sex practicing dude bought condoms. She picked it up and held it up to the air to ask her manager in the back of the store -- screaming the question since said manager was at back of store --


The bad thing about all these sex discussions (and why, btw, are others' book result quizzes so innocent relative to mine?) is how they make me think:


Over the last two days, I have consumed eight Entenmann's donuts -- a staple from college freshman days -- ah Barnard! That's another thing about sex-talks -- makes me think of college; I guess that's what happens when you've been with the same guy for too long, I mean, for 20 years. Thankfully, the chocolate donut I had for breakfast today emptied out that box. "Kari Kokko," by the way, sounds very chocolatey.

Okay, 'nuff of this...

Friday, April 15, 2005


Well, yadda. I do believe that Poetry should introduce one to new experiences. But who'dda thought that would include Moi learning, as one of my peeps noted about my story below, what it'd feel like to be a 16-year-old boy? Such is moi bloody expanse, eh? To wit:

Yesterday, I de-virginized moiself from yet another experience to do something I've never done before. It's something I had to do to create my next Vizpo sculpture in that series I'm doing with Nick. That is, I went to the local pharmacy and bought condoms.

Yah, yah. I know it's the 21st century and that I'm 44 years old. But I'd never bought condoms before so cease that laughtrack already. After all, I've been with the same dude for 20 years and before that....uh, and before that, just to keep consistent with what I'd told the hubby, mind you, I was a virgin. (You were my first, Honey! she cackles at the long-suffering hubby!)
Which is all to say, I'd never had the need to buy condoms before.

Well, so, I go on insouciantly down the aisle and then cease my unthinkingness as I approach the various, myriad boxes of condoms. My, my. I mean, Moi, moi. Such variety? How to choose?

And then, yep, male adolescence hit me. Suddenly, I felt self-conscious and, cough, looked about to see if anyone was witnessing me in front of these arrays of condoms. No one seemed to be paying attention. Okay. So I keep looking. I know I need seven, which means, my cheapskate self grumbled, I gotta go for the box of twelve versus the box of six.

But, lookit. Some are lubricated and some are not. Uh, huh. Well, I chose the unlubricated coz I didn't want that lubricant, whatever that was, getting onto my Vizpo sculpture, you know what I mean? I could have kept mulling but it was hard to mull over the display when my eyes kept shifting to make sure no one I knew was shopping nearby.

Anyway, I delicately released one box from where it was hanging (hmmm. where it was hanging -- well, that makes me think...anyway). And just as I am about to head over to the cashier, I realize, Well, Shitski -- I don't really want to go up to that cashier and nudge her out of her boredom by just giving her the condoms to ring up. So I look around to see what else I can buy.

So I started to spend time in front of the Greeting Card racks since Mother's Day inevitably will come. (Come, ...). But then I had to move away when I realized that the other tourists milling about had started to notice that as one hand kept flicking through various card alternatives, the other hand (that would be my hand) was clutching a box of condoms.

Fortunately, I realized I needed some rubber bands for the same Vizpo sculpture. Went over to aisle of office supplies and got a packet. Started to head on to the cashier again, but paused as I realized: Wait a minute -- got rubbers and rubber bands. I can't do it.

So I looked about once more to see what else I could buy. There was absolutely nothing else I needed to buy.

My eyes then latched onto refrigerator magnets. There were a whole bunch of them in the wine country theme. Sighed. Picked one up, walked on over to the cashier and got moiself out of there.

Later, I realized that rather than picking, say, a magnet with a picture of vineyards or vines or whatever, I'd chosen the image of a wine bottle. Yep -- all very phallic.

So I told that story to a peep...when he picked his ass back from offa the floor and got back on the phone, he said that I got out lucky. That when he first bought condoms (he was 16), he bought a lot of things to camouflage that purchase and rang up a $27 tab....what with candies and, much to his surprise when he got to the cash register, one of those eggs containing pantyhose. How'd that get there, he asked himself, but, yep, bought it, too, since he wasn't about to draw attention to himself when he was buying condoms.

But the thing is, not only did the cashier not care but the cashier probably was thinking, "Oh good. A practitioner of safe sex!" Or, more likely, "Look at this dufus buying all this shit that he doesn't want. As if I don't notice those condoms -- helllloooooooo??!!!!"

Pause. The Chatty One beams at her 6.5 billion peeps. And, what, this is why you get on over here to read me? And, by the way, I do know the times have changed -- the ladies, not just lads, are buying condoms nowadays (as ladies should). And probably this younger generation bought condoms younger than at age 16. I'm not that clueless...it's moi peep, not moiself, dating himself!

Anyway. So let me try to recover by saying something that's actually literary. I took this quiz and check out this result below. But of course this would be my result. Moi apparently is consistently about SEX! Not with the underaged, per below (that's the fiction part), but still definitely the deviant type.

How deviant can one be with condoms? I know some of youse peeps are laughing at that question. Just remember -- that question is like any of my poems: not about me but about (how you implicate) yourself.

You're Lolita!

by Vladimir Nabokov

Considered by most to be depraved and immoral, you are obsessed with sex. What really tantalizes you is that which deviates from societal standards in every way, though you admit that this probably isn't the best and you're not sure what causes this desire. Nonetheless, you've done some pretty nefarious things in your life, and probably gotten caught for them. The names have been changed, but the problems are real. Please stay away from children.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


Jacob, the best T.V. critic ever, continues re American Idol. Here's an excerpt:

Scott keeps stabbing his finger at himself and then up at God, who's totally like his special friend. His voice sounds completely shot and his vibrato goes painfully sharp at the end; we've been blessed with another tasteless Scott Savol performance, completely lacking in subtlety or work ethic. I'm so completely grateful.


As some of you know, but to remind others who don't know or have forgotten, I do free classroom visits anywhere to Bay Area schools where my books are assigned as texts. I recently brought my blather to Jean's class over at Berkeley. The timing of Tom's interview was really useful for the whole experience as Jean's class is in the midst of reading Reproductions. And now, Jean writes:

"We've been reading narratives about migrant laborers, diaspora, and shifting identities in Filipino youth. In truth, the students seem mostly bored with what are now getting to be the narrative cliches of identity politics. (It's not that issues of identity, race, and domination are not relevant --they are, even increasingly so. It's just that it seems as if the banality of this Administration's spin is infecting our language, our approach to reading texts)."

Yep -- that's most def another thing to blame on this Administration: banal language, banal culture, banal banality...banal, banana, ban!

But as well: okay you professors of multicultural, Filipino, Filipino-American, Asian American and other courses who have dissed (dismissed!) my work in the past as not relevant to your ethnic-ally oriented courses, lissen to Jean. (And when one dismisses personhood from an Asian American author whose works don't fit your paradigm, consider: didn't you just make "tokens" out of those writers you do approve of?). Then, Jean continues:

"Then the students are confronted with the 'Kritios Boy,' and an insistent subjectivity that twines beauty and desire and emotion with a consciousness of the hard surfaces, shapes and 'harmonious forms' inflicted (or gifted) by culture on the body over the centuries. The writing is elusive, even restless. You must make of it what you will, must bring to it your own subjective experience, which in this "civilized" world is never free of a consciousness of applied rules, standards, forced mobility, the gaze, or maybe just a feeling of subtle pressure, pain or tiredness. Honestly, I don't know of any good way to teach this kind of text, except to have students write back to it, with it."

But Jean took the step. She taught it (and thanks for continuing to make Reproductions an SPD classroom text bestseller). And was Professor Jean effective? Well, I've read the prose poems that these students, "most of whom are in the sciences or economics," have written as inspired presumably by Reproductions. I found their comments about their process as illuminating as their poems -- you can see their lovely (really lovely!) poems by clicking on the students' names on the class blog of Abilidad & Advocacy.

From the mouth (and eyes and hands) of babes: many students wrote some fabuloso lines.

Like Valerie Angeli Tengco:
Awaken from the deep slumber only to never know the cause.

Like Kristin Berry:
Tears transfer to the weight of the world.

Like Lara Estrada:
It's too late for the ice cream man, but too early to waste away our youth. Admire the stars because you can--because in Astronomy class you always fall asleep.

Like Eryk Escobar:
The sunset paralyzes life.

Like Adam Malinowski:
My dear brothers. Spooners, all for love.

So far, I've found something moving or affecting in every single poem written by these students. But what I appreciate most is that though many students admitted to struggling with or being bemused by the process of writing poems, they remained open-minded and persevered....and then came up with some wonderful work! (Was it Barbara who said that students should be challenged while in school? The students clearly felt challenged, yet rose to the occasion!) One student admitted to feeling self-conscious. One said (making me smile), "Yes, poetry, I have such a love/hate relationship with it.... Okay, let me post this sucker before I chicken out…" One just called it "the hardest blog assignment ever".

Now, check out this poem by Kenneth Ronquillo who self-deprecatingly writes "i don't think i really achieved an 'eileen tabios' style of writing, but i gave it my best, coach!" More importantly, Kenneth, you achieved your own style of writing. Kudos for this (after you get consistent on whether you capitalize or not :-) ):

So i called the Mom today. it's been a while since i've heard her voice. it's the same voice that welcomed me into existence. it's the same voice that beckoned me out from clothing racks where i hid. it's the same voice that tells me, "i'm doing okay. i can afford your schooling." it's the same voice. it's just older. when she speaks, the timbre of her voice is cracked and brittle and wise, like sentimental memories scrawled on parchment. She said, "I love you, anak." She walks to Albertson's in a bamboo hat, the rolling cadence of the wind across her Nikes. She's as blind as i am ugly. i forgot how old she was.

So the Dad text messaged me. He uses email, texts the aunties and uncles, has the dvd player on lockdown--declares himself tech savvy. He wrote: "U got a parcel n da mail. miss u son. come home. peace." He stands sideways and holds his belly and jokes that he's pregnant. i forgot how old he was.

i take pictures of the Mom and Dad on my camera. digital. the one they got me for Jesus' Birthday. Snap. They look at the pictures.
The Dad: "Ay nako! That's not my good side. How do i delete?"
The Mom chortles and jabs the Dad in the shoulder. She has to push her glasses up and wipe her eyes--she still cries when she laughs.

i forgot that they were young once.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


I'm recalling a post I once sent to some Listserve (can't recall which one) where I'd noted that Regie Cabico's poems were often contextualized within the U.S. spoken word movement, which may be true but it also hearkens back to the Filipino balagtasan oral poetry tradition. Relatedly, during the Southeast Asian Writing panel at AWP, I'd discussed writing open-ended poems and I'd noted how the notion of the audience being the ones to complete a poem is not an idea that originated with me. Nor did I concoct the related idea of how meaning is unstable. Instead, I said, my primary impetus had more to do with trying to avoid English as a communications tool with its reliance on specific narratives (due to its colonial history in the Philippines).

So, as regards Tom Beckett's interview of Moi, I wanna do a follow-up on that concluding point about how I want to write poems that always do that poetic form in a new way. This has nothing to do with, say, Pound's "make it new" dictum or any other Western construct, as per above. My intention has to do with transcolonialism.

As in? First, a talk I'll be delivering during a panel at CUNY-La Guardia next month. Second, my 2006 poetry book The Secret Lives of Punctuations, Vol. I. Which is to say, it's all about unmasking costumbrismo by someone (that would be Moi) writing in a language used to colonize one's ancestors (and maybe even contemporaries). Ekphrasis (as in poems inspired by visual arts) is, synchronistically, an ideal strategy for transcending costumbrismo.

More details later, she whispers with a wink...

But, meanwhile, thank you to Mark (try 300-hour days as you were off by a decimal point), Rebecca, Ivy, Jean (whose follow up remarks I can't wait to read), Jim, Tom Fink (I mention last names for those without blogs), Crag, Ernesto, Clayton, Sheila Murphy, Nick, Michael and others for your wonderful comments or mentions. Yes, indeed, that Tom Beckett is a wonderful interviewer.


Just read nearly 1,000 pages on a poet whose work I'd not previously considered. Chose said poet due to international reputation that's elicited much admiration. So I wanted to know what the hoo-haa is all about. I read poems, poetics statements and listened to a CD.

Nope. I don't buy it. Sloppy lines masquerading as poems. Trying to push the masquerade through performance renditionS of said lines.

After reading the poet's poetics statements (which I read after the poems), I found logic in my resistance to the work. Pompous, pretentious, self-aggrandizing b.s. woven with mucho references to much Eastern religion.

This poet is another example of false prophets getting followers because of "powerful" -- read: influential -- positions in poetry infrastructure. And because of cultural capital from associations with other famous names. And because of confusing a political(ly correct) sensitivity with poetry.

This is an old story. But always disheartening to witness, thus live, anew.

Sometimes, it's most helpful to (one's) poetry to be sure the pedestals are empty. Gently take off (or, even more violently push off) what "teachers" placed there. Be the one, oh Poet, to put something there...on that suddenly pure page revealed by the suddenly emptied rectangle of blank marble.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Tom: We've spoken a bit of your body of work, what about the body in your work? Sexuality figures importantly in what you have written. How do sex and text play out for you?

Eileen: To the relationship between body and my poems, the short answer is A VERY BAD BACK. Very bad.
--from "Will To Exchange" Blog

I may be shy -- really! -- but I still made Tom pause the interview to take a cold shower! Thanks for the conversation, Tom. Now, towel off!

Monday, April 11, 2005


I'll bite. This survey's going round the Flip literati. Here's Moi result:

Lechon Baboy: Roasted to a crisp. The main act on
a Filipino buffet repertoire.

Which Filipino Food Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


1993 Ravenswood Woodroad Belloni Zinfandel
1993 Grands-Echezeaux Grand Cru Mongeard-Mugneret
1994 Elderton Barossa Valley Command Shiraz
1998 Ch. Rabaud-Promis
and from a visit to my favorite local winery: 2002 vintages of the Dutch Henry chardonnay, Argos (their Meritage blend) and zinfandel.

My stack of To-Read books continue to be high. But I did manage to catch up with various poetry collections, and if they're listed here, that means Moi automatically recommends them:

ARTIFICIAL LURE by Clayton A. Couch: I'm lost. The world comes square like his fold, and yelling geese say spring's too narrow for veins. Hear, here,...

HALO HALO MEANS MIX MIX by Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor. Bec calls this a "hypertext short story.' Its format -- the pages are shuffle-able cards -- is the most effective hypertext printed form I've seen, and I list it here because I think the sections also work as prose poetry.

SALINE by Kimberly Lyons, to which I see from my notes on its margins that I'd responded by writing in response to the poems: "The world seems still under the light emanating from the fingertips of the poet's hand. Where light rays pause, a feeling or image is plucked to become line for the poem. When the lines finish forming a poem, a new world begins its childhood thorugh a play with the receptive reader."

LOCKET by Catherine Daly. Here's an excerpt from the fabulous "The Mugho Pine" that reminds me of my puppy Gabriela: Drenched, animals come / to the foot of the bed, to forge an aisle / through legs and flannel. / It's no secret the heart's an altar.

O TO SPEAK BELIEF LOVE O by Catherine Daly. Check out this ooooomph of a line: what is a disease? management of sensitivity


TREBLE by Evelyn Lau


KNUCKLE UP BUTTERFLY by Anthem Salgado. Love the combined visual art and prose / poems. More and more, I see books manifesting the multidisciplinary approach and I think that's GREAT!

THE OPENING QUESTION by Prageeta Sharma. One of my favorites is the deceptive "A Most Feeling Girl" that begins: A most feeling girl is a wireless / spy, trapped in a hearth, / dropped in a drum, / carpeted and strung. // A most feeling girl fell / from trees, one last time, / harnessed with nothing / but the embankement invented. // Where does the path break?



WORD GROUP by Marjorie Welish

MAPMAKER OF ABSENCES by Maria M. Benet (this collection "sold" itself to me initially for its fabulous design...fortunately, the poems are lovely, too)

and then not a poetry collection but poetry-related, LETTERS TO JANE by Hayden Carruth about his correspondence with Jane Kenyon. All very moving.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


As a result of the "experimental novel" section in my BRICK, I've just been asked about my interest in participating in a panel entitled "The Formlessness of Form in Fiction."

I'm amused...

Friday, April 08, 2005


It's also ONE BIG FUCKING DISGRACE that the San Francisco Chronicle has not paid any attention to this groundbreaking exhibit POETRY AND ITS ARTS: POETRY and its ARTS: Bay Area interactions 1954-2004. It only spans 50 years -- helllooooooo!

It's up until April 16 -- check it out and don't buy the Chronicle all week next week for its absolutely CRAPPY support of poetry.

(P.S. I adoooore how David Larsen sneaked in drawings into the exhibit!)


Is it that it's Friday (that is, end of roughly intense week) that I can now admit to being primarily discombobulated much of the week? Began with decompression with AWP which was a, um, conflicted experience....and then (except for a wonderful meet with Jean's class) generally went downhill from there.

Then, there's this June launch of my brick here in the Bay Area. A posh affair where ENGLISH will be featured along with the fine wines of Napa Valley's greatest secret Dutch Henry and the stellar cooking of former Rubicon Executive chef Dennis Leary at his new restaurant, Canteen. From Galatea's cellar, the hubby is donating bottles of the 1990 Chateaux Leoville Barton and 1988 Rabaud Promis. I plan to enjoy that "launch," in part because I find poetry book launches always to be, um, another conflicted type of event. Book launches are supposed to be celebrations -- and, yes, I put on the game face and really look to feeeeeel that celebration. But, somehow, my launches (in more typical literary type settings) in the past couple of years also paradoxically and consistently affirmed to me how marginalized Poetry is ... well, 'nuff said on that -- as I said, I have been discombobulated this week and am discombobulated as I write this post (and now am also on a phase of using that word, which I actually think is a great word: "discombobulated"). I'll just eat and drink well in June.

Let me discombobulately end with a Shout out from a Japan-based peep who suggests that my German Shepherds might be interested in new doggie outfits. NINJA outfits since Achilles and Gabriela are named after warriors. Complete with a katana. Huh. Well, not if it makes them look like this model -- oh Japan!

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I'ma busybee. So my only T.V. are when "American Idols" get to the finals. So that's my token T.V. Which leads me to why I'ma fan of


I've ever read: Jacob over at www.televisionwithoutpity.com who regales us weekly with his thoughts on each AI show. Check his latest out at this link, and here's an excerpt:

"Bo made up all the words of his song and the whole thing was a terrible effing idea, Carrie sang some kind of tempo-less freak-out, Vonzell was Vonzell all of a sudden and dimpled her gruntled self through a divalicious Vonzell experience, and Nikko was fantastic. Scott and Anthony were terrible, terrible, terrible, Anwar yelled his ass off, and Constantine was fucking filthy.

"You know what freaks me out? Like, the only negative thing you can really say about Carrie Underwood is that she's unemotional and a scary robot. But if you said that to her, it wouldn't bother her? Because she wouldn't know what you mean.

"The winning Tsunami Tsingle was 'When You Tell Me That You Love Me.' The other songs on the CD will be…the other Tsunami Tsingles. So this whole thing has been an exercise in futility, not to mention that they're singing the song again next week, which makes me sad. Philanthropy's nice and all, but this kind of thing is why I hate charity: the experience personally has been mostly hearing horrible songs sung with fake cheer and a hand sticking up in the air and now I have to hear it again. I'm implicated.

"Then Fantasia's spaceship lands and she squats out of it in pants of such tightness as to make her scream her ass off and prowling and prancing and bobbing up and down like she needs to go to the bathroom or like she's going to lay an egg. Which is kind of what she does. And inside that egg? Is not 'Baby Mama' like I was promised, but one or more songs about dreams coming true or something. I think she sings six songs because the song keeps changing instead of ending. I don't ever want it to.

"There are parts where she just plants herself and shrieks. Just screams. Then she rambles at the Idols about how they need to act ugly. It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen."


And don't forget to check on Jacob's previous posts. Here's a goody from those archives -- like many good critics, he gets in the poetic reference here and there....:

"Up next is Jessica "Let's Hear it For the Boys" Sierra (tm ld1), singing "On The Side Of Angels" by LeAnn Rimes, after telling a story about how in the nineties she got to go to a Dixie Chicks concert and freaked out about how she wanted to be a rock star. How will she go about bringing this to reality? By singing the most boring song I've ever heard. I checked out the lyrics, and it's very like…you know "More Than Words"? And how that song basically amounts to "Shut the hell up and do me"? That's kind of how this song goes, only instead of love, what this song wants you to shut up about is, I think, the Lord. Which is very John Donne, in a way. Like "From a Passionate Shepherd to His Youth Group Leader." So if you read the lyrics and think about God v. Love v. Sex stuff, I guess it's interesting, but going in your ear? Not as interesting as any of those things. "


I personally am not a fan of poetry contests, but I am still happy to spread the word on Marsh Hawk Press' annual poetry contest, whose deadline is April 30, 2005. One reason is my publisher's "transparency" as regards the contest -- i.e., their post today on their blog describing how the contest is conducted. If you're going to bother with contests, here's one worth your while.


Congratulations to Andrew Lundwall whose forthcoming collection, KLANG, will be released this summer by the admirable Deep Cleveland Press. I saw KLANG in manuscript form and immediately thought

How might machines sing?
Read Andrew Lundwall's KLANG
to know that waltz with a knife's edge.

So, in anticipation and celebration, Andrew is this blog's latest FEATURED POET, with three poems below from KLANG, as well as some bio details about him and his press:


as pillows
in love
to worm
a way
that window
this window
to seek dreams
in faulted folds
this window
are sharper
than the triangles
that pursue you
or that tongue
the physical pulse
fast from
its dwelling
well-oiled nostrils
light up another
to swallow
this pollen
so pollen
prolonged in
a suspended
to what rest
dread a thing
less imaginable
make a u-turn
on not what lay
but where
know discretion
which is not
even a solution
to something
so riddled
as within

[from the 1st cycle 'The Riddled Within']



draping sea tall the wall of suddenly
deeper said glowing come closer
down words after tidal fountains boxes
and ships against the sky stretched this pause
of the jets unmanned the chicken awaits
the machine transparent lips kiss through
the wires dreaming in shades of memories
to reach old spine radiant running a scheme
lips staring an ebb of gems armed with lute
sing a last evocation in drops that lift the dusk
as the dark dog breathes someday somberly

[from the 2nd cycle 'Without: A Guide to the Anatomy']



over the river and through the distant shelter
of diamonds dying away one can smell
the signs run amok under peasant steps
yes love the workers have gone AWOL
to the steel yard recital the mystery square
the brims of their bowlers are primordial
and they grunt in the far-away grass
enough free melodies make you want to spit
under the sun brushing against humanity

[from the 3rd cycle 'Formation: The Solution']

Andrew Lundwall, a managing editor and cofounder of Poetic Inhalation, was born and lived for many years in southern Wisconsin. Currently he is a resident of the Washington, DC metropolitan region.

His work has appeared in numerous print and electronic literary journals internationally, including Aesthetica, Lost & Found Times, Big Bridge, Eratio, Shoestring, The Muse Apprentice Guild, Shampoo, Moria, Deep Cleveland, Sidereality, Retort Magazine, SpaceBreather, Aught, xStream, Ink Magazine, Dream People, Dead Drunk Dublin, Oracular Tree, Blackbox, Score, James River Poetry Review, Zygote in My Coffee, Subterranean Quarterly, Near South, Picklebird, Miami Sun Post's Mad Love, 88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry, Unlikely Stories, poeticdiversity, and Blazevox.

deep cleveland press is a small-press publishing venture formed to serve the literary and cultural community of greater cleveland as a publisher of local and regional poetry books and chapbooks and nonfiction special-interest books. deep cleveland press will also publish themed poetry anthologies with national scope and interest.

this venture operates using a 'partners-in-profit' good-karma business model. A portion of the profits from books sold will be donated to select organizations, including WCPN 90.3 FM; The Cleveland Foodbank; and the Poets & Writers League of Greater Cleveland.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


So I watched "American Idol" tonight which featured a performance by last year's winner, Fantasia Barrino. After her very energetic performance, she was asked what advice she'd give to the contestants. She said something that's a core part of Moi poetics:


No, make that:


To wit: don't play it safe.

E.g, my recent repetition of the word "cock" and "dick" on the blog. Initially, I was tentative (so to speak) about using such words in public. A few posts and, ha, now I'm not tentative as regards them. Moi can even be insouciant.

As a poet, you see, I don't want to rely on words that feel safe to me. How YAWN-some would that be, eh?

All together now:


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