Thursday, June 28, 2007


Tatartie 3 A 4
02620 Espoo, Finland

Poems by Eileen R. Tabios
Release Date: 2006
No. of Pages: 176
Price: $14.95
ISBN:  952-99702-0-X
Distributors: Small Press Distribution,
Contact: Jukka-Pekka Kervinen,

With a courtly nod to Jose Garcia Villa's comma poems, Eileen Tabios's poetry challenges at every turn.
--42 Word Review

xPress(ed) is pleased to announce the release of Eileen R. Tabios' tenth poetry collection, THE SECRET LIVES OF PUNCTUATIONS, VOL. I, which reveals for the first time the secret lives of those gestures so small that they are often taken for granted or overlooked: punctuations.

Volume I of PUNCTUATIONS reveals the resonant -- and quirky -- lives of the semi-colon, colon, ellipsis, parenthesis, strike-throughs, question mark, and the blank line.

The book also offers a decolonialism scholar's perspective on punctuations by Leny M. Strobel, as well as a visual art relationship with punctuations through the paintings of Eve Aschheim. Finally, the book offers postcard-art and a performance project entitled "The Secret Lives of Blank Lines" by the author who is not just a poet but also a conceptual/performance and visual artist.

EILEEN R. TABIOS has written 10 poetry collections, a collection of art essays and a short story book. She also edited or co-edited five anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays. Recent books include the multi-genre collection I Take Thee, English, For My Beloved (Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2005) which features poems, an experimental novel, an art monograph, play, and poetics prose; and POST BLING BLING (Moria Poetry, Chicago, 2006). In 2007, she will release her 11th poetry collection, THE LIGHT THAT LEFT HIS BODY ENTERED THINE EYES (Marsh Hawk Press). She writes the poetics blog, "The Chatelaine's Poker Poetics", while steering Meritage Press. Editor of GALATEA RESURRECTS (A Poetry Engagement), Ms. Tabios is also the Poet Laureate for Dutch Henry Winery in St. Helena, CA where, as a budding vintner, she is arduously and long-sufferingly researching the poetry of wine.

Eileen R. Tabios' THE SECRET LIVES OF PUNCTUATIONS, VOL. I, is available through Small Press Distribution, and selected bookstores. For more information, For review copies,



Ahadada Books: "...wide range of forms that we’ve come to expect from this dazzling writer....gems.... beautifully designed"

Blue Fifth Review (Winter 2007): Jeannine Hall Gailey reviews A SLICE OF CHERRY PIE anthology, Ed. by Ivy Alvarez, which contains Punctuations' poem "The Collapse of the Last Log" -- "enigmatic, swaying collection of phrases"

FEMINIST REVIEW (March 14, 2007): "...these poems could also be seen as another illustration of the conflict between nature and the constraints of civilization..."

JACKET Magazine (October 2006): "In Derridean deconstruction, the parergon or periphery often becomes the center, the parenthesis the main focus, and in the work of poets like David Shapiro, original and translation swap places. Tabios in her 'Notes' demonstrates how her brief 'Parentheticals' are the product of a double displacement... A critique of presumptions of transparent referentiality and unproblematic narrative—coupled with the aesthetic pleasure of stretching the imagination with formal innovations—has been an important feature of all of Tabios’s poetry."

OurOwnVoice, Summer 2006: "scholarly in nature, yet enlightening and understandable once the reader's mind is opened to it."

Raindancer's Map of Memories, May 9, 2006: "peruse lovingly: the words, the lines, all these which seem to invite the reader to respond, and engage in conversation with the poet... What a beautiful new book. It's absolutely scrumptious."

Soluble Census, July 9, 2006: "Eileen Tabios, in her Secret Lives..., has progressed from start[l]ingly regular brilliance to everyday genius with this fricking wonderful book. [One of]... three books [that] link up for me because they innovate fearlessly, and do so with crazy, persistent--and very rare--kinds of love.

Texfiles, May 1, 2006: "If being memorable is one essential element of strong poetry, then the following is certainly powerful. Here's another witty, highly musical poem resonant with not only intimacy and memorability in the interrelations between writer and readerly audience, but also 'punctuated' by bringing us into the severest of political realities"

Tributary, June 1, 2006: Re. "a process that makes me think of Olson's sense of archive. genre distinctions are muted. there are poems, collaboration, and reflection in this book. I like how that works, all tied together. her thesis, to call it that, is a use of punctuation, a conscious controlling of the poem's space. I think this is a useful consideration, or what I mean, that punctuation isn't often seen in its larger meaning, or meaningfulness."

MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW, July 1, 2006: Full Review replicated below:

The Secret Lives of Punctuations, Vol. I

Eileen R. Tabios has too many qualifications to mention them all here. Notably, ten books of personal poetry have been published to date; she has edited or co-edited five books of poetry, fiction, and essays; her internationally recognized blog can be found at [now]; and she oversees Meritage Press, a multidisciplinary arts and literary project. In this book she's applied her skills as poet, conceptual/performance and visual artist as she contemplates punctuation. Her thought processes here are cubist, not linear. That is, the song is what we think it to be and reality is a concept as varied as the beholders.

Tabios follows a less-traveled path here as she investigates the effects of semi-colons, colons, parentheses, ellipses, strikethroughs, and question marks on words and readers. She brings punctuation marks out of near-invisibility by bringing them into the foreground. Like Eve Ascheim's powerful, understated cover art, Tabios' work here is a mirror that both hides and reveals.

Think about the following examples. Open your mind and let your imagination refocus.

; The Second Last Chance

; rough skin a map
; allowing entry for what a lover represents
; the glue of ifs
; on edge through a silver lash
; overhearing the language shared by a toddler and a stuffed animal
; unfurling an antique wedding veil
; bone

: Wild

: the all-consuming business of prehistoric histrionics
: refusing to believe math is synonymous with description
: place becomes person
: sodden tissue balled up into a small, dead bird
: fleshing out the ghosts of unicorns
: a complexion formed from miles and miles of bad and bad roads
: "dreadlocks"

In a section titled "The Masvikiru Quatrains," Tabios addresses implied meanings and forms. These revelations of the mind's eye were inspired by Finnish poet and composer Jukka-Pekka Kervinen's computer generated soundscapes, based more on word sound than meaning. In these quatrains comprised of seemingly unrelated words, the blending and cadence of sound is meaningful when read aloud. Incredibly, The Masvikiru Quatrains are ekphrasis, inspired by studying Shona sculpture.

Ms. Tabios' work in this book is scholarly in nature, yet enlightening and understandable once the reader's mind is opened to it. At the end of the book is a space for each reader to write their thoughts in the form of a blurb as feedback for the author and publisher. You've just read mine.

review by Laurel Johnson (MBR Bookwatch)


PHILIPPINE NEWS, March 28, 2007: Full Review replicated below:

Paean to colons and commas
By Allen Gaborro

Little attention is paid to the application of punctuation marks in a text. Yet, with the simple shift of a semicolon or a comma, how a sentence or paragraph is interpreted can change. In the first volume of her “The Secret Lives Of Punctuations” poetry collection, Eileen Tabios invests her idiosyncratic verses with an emphasis not only on imaginative thinking and on a “weakness” for departing from the norms of the English language, but also on the taken-for-granted practice of punctuation.

Tabios shares this passion for creative punctuation with Barbara Jane Reyes, Paolo Javier, Eric Gamalinda and other published FilAm poets. This unconventional, even esoteric, form has been passed down to them by a revered Filipino prophet of the art of innovative punctuation, José Garcia Villa. His nonconformist spirit is alive and well in Tabios’s poetry.

Such deconstructionist poetry as Tabios’s has the ability to either inspire wonderfully limitless layers of meaning among the open-minded or downright contempt among old school poetry enthusiasts. Traditionalists are sure to bemoan the glaring absence of clear-cut continuity and linearity in her work, which must be a far cry from anything they have grown accustomed to reading. But the highly subjective ground on which Tabios’s poetry stands in “The Secret Lives Of Punctuations” is the bread and butter of her poeticism. It is where the anomalous magnetism of her works lie, tradition be damned.

Tabios’s devotion to an individualistic-centered strategy of poetic interpretation can be encapsulated in what she calls a “long-held poetic interest of mine.” That interest involves, as she puts it, “writing poems that can be read forward, backward, left to right or right to left.” Tabios’s poetry can be transmuted into the notion that beginnings are ends and that ends are really beginnings, to borrow loosely from T.S. Eliot. In the hands of an unabashed rule-breaker like Tabios, Eliot’s universal idea of ends and beginnings tears apart coherent narrative patterns. Indeed, to understand Tabios’s poetry means having to do away with easily-discernable signifier-to-signified interactions between words, phrases, and sentences, and thus between poems and their essences if it can be said there is such a thing. Perhaps this is a reach, but if one had to find comparisons in her unregimented verses to the productions of a particular visual artist, Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock and his disorderly, nonrepresentational “drip” paintings would seem to fit the bill.

Tabios meant for “The Secret Lives Of Punctuations” to be a sort of homage to the family of English punctuation marks: the comma, the question mark, colons and semi-colons, the ellipsis, and strikethroughs are all given special mention by the author. She utilizes each mark to subvert the standard forms of the King’s English, or in the postmodern context of Tabios’s poetry, the Americanized version of His Majesty’s English. What is alluded to here is Tabios’s attempt, however circuitously, to delineate a trajectory between her poetry and the historical narrative of America’s colonial relationship with the Philippines.

As if acting as Tabios’s postcolonial spokeswoman, Sonoma State University Professor Leny Mendoza Strobel asserts that Tabios’s poems are a response to how the grammatical rules that administer the English language have been usurped in the service of American colonial domination. This contention appears in Strobel’s essay, also titled “The Secret Lives of Punctuations,” which is incorporated into Tabios’s book. Referring to herself as a “postcolonial subject,” Strobel writes that “the rules of English usage didn’t come in a vacuum. They came nicely packaged as a ‘gift’ from the empire to its colonial outposts.” For Strobel, Tabios’s verses “de-familiarize” English punctuation in order to “avoid recycling the narratives of an imperial past that has become useless to the present.”

If we were to coalesce the totality of Tabios’s poems into a single commentary, we would probably be compelled to step beyond the thematic content of her works and recognize that they hang on the perspective of the noble individual who lives experientially in the world and who meditates spiritually above it. With all the subtlety of a kamikaze pilot, Tabios explains that “I, robustly believing in subjectivity, fling myself naked, hair matted and blood rushing into the poetry-writing.”

Tabios gives readers every opportunity to gaze out on the far side of their existence and see that “reality,” poetic or otherwise, is contingent upon the dynamic energies that run throughout their unique human imaginations. That said, hard work and great patience will be required on the part of readers if they are to understand and appreciate Tabios’s poetry. But that will only make the interpretive chase that much more sweeter.


YELLOW FIELD (Spring 2011): Rife with the stuff of Language Poetry, disseminated here in the investigatory practices of a secular grammarian, Tabios takes for her organizing principle the diacritically punctual gesture....Supporting such columnar effects rids us of the indices of affectation; serials, editorial drafts, and asides open and flex here in the full catalog of our representational enquiring.


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