Friday, November 03, 2006


Thanks very much to harry k. stammer for the lovely vizpo interpretation of the concept of "Dredging for Atlantis" as well as the overall cover design:

Dredging for gold ... for light!


The Author During The Golden Age of Atlantis

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


The Philippine Star, February 11, 2008

Eileen Tabios, Dredging for Atlantis (Otoliths, 2006)

KRIPOTKIN By Alfred A. Yuson

To all the friends and wannabes who sent their latest titles in the year just past, my sincere apologies. Been so busy over the past months that I couldn't find time to conduct any literary reviews. But since my extra-galactic powers allow me to trilocate sometime around Valentine's Day and adopt various life forms, such as an amoeba, a paramecium, and a Jarjar Binks-type of mutant, these manifestations managed to go through every single, letter-perfect page in your wonderful additions to Filipiniana, let alone my shelves.

Why, my holy synergy even found the gravy time to render the following report. Not an omnibus review; no, let's not call it that. But a report, plain and simple, glowing as it must be, for good Happy Lunar New Year measure.

The books are cited in the order received by this visiting Neptunian. But I'll initially confine this first part of a series to books of verse, that is, human poetry, which is close to my extraterrestrial heart.

Early last year, Eileen Tabios sent her 11th poetry book from California, where she tends a vinery while still writing poetry and occasionally publishing other poets' books.

Dredging for Atlantis is published by Otoliths of Australia. It's a slim chapbook of 56 pages, but rather delightful, not only for the continuing experimentation in poetic form and provenance, but also for the brief works' aphoristic value.

Most of the poems are of the ekphrasis variety, which means they're inspired by or based on works in other art forms, such as paintings. Here, too, they utilize the painterly technique of scumbling — that is, softening lines or colors by rubbing or coating opaquely. Thus she creates poems from other poets' works.

Whichever the technique, her deceptively simple lines radiate memorably in various directions, as in the poem "Burning Pulpit": "Could our two miseries/ copulate/ into one opulent being?// Men simplify/ then slink back/ to antediluvian burrows// Baby priests/ turn away/ to cast profiles forsworn to Donatello// But she is clutching lilac print/ within a shadow burning/ away/ salvation's seedlings."

The two-line poem "Futurism" is Villaesque: "The truants of heaven/ possess a startling velocity"; so is "Winged Victory": "Defile/ that Carrara// A nude woman stands for the universe// All of her names end/ with 'A'// Then her eyes..."

Also from other writers' texts, she extracts sequences of the "hay(na)ku" — a poetic form she introduced in 2003, and managed to have international poets try their hand at it. It involves tercets with a stepladder progression from one word to three words in each of the three lines in a stanza, or in reverse hay(na)ku, the other way around. As in "Windfalls": "The olives' oil/ contents grow/ substantially// from October to/ December. It's/ risky,// however, to leave/ them too/ long// on trees because/ if they/ become// 'windfalls' they cannot/ be considered/ for/ virgin pressings."

[more at http://goodchatty.blogspot.com/2008/02/alfred.html]

The Brooklyn Rail Review

The Brooklyn Rail, September 2007

Eileen Tabios, Dredging for Atlantis (Otoliths, 2006)

By Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

Imagine the poet as a diver exploring oceans of ancient texts, extracting gems, polishing and resetting them. In her 11th book, Eileen Tabios refers to ekphrasis, or speaking out in a dramatic way about a work of art. She chose “The Last Lunar Baedekar” by Mina Loy, to scumble and work over to create her own startling and original poems. Sleek and economic, they glitter with unexpected imagery and musicality in an atmosphere charged by crinoline and cufflinks, grace and salvation.

“Minor Riddle” (an apposite title) is avant and high-toned and flirts with academe. Yet the ensuing freedom and consequent surprises are compelling and reveal an interior logic unbeholden to straight-up narrative. Embedded in the backdrop of Florence is this joyous one-line stanza: “Minarets growing within muddy whirlpools.”

In “White as Grecian Marble” the poet creates a shiny column of couplets, a classic pastoral. “A trolley loaded/with ivory busts//glides against air/overtaken by snow//beyond this crocheted lace of white dandelions//and one orchid// recalling its youthful orgies.”

Wow! Sappho meets the Objectivisits! Ivory, snow, crocheted lace and white dandelions line up perfectly. And echoing orchid with orgies—the last line is all punch.

Jack Kerouac wrote, “Vision is deception.” Eileen Tabios’ version goes like this: “Go forth and prettily miscalculate.”


The Feminist Review, June 10, 2007

Dredging for Atlantis by Eileen Tabios
Review by Vita Foster

Writing is in the eye of beholder, especially when it comes to poetry. This slim book is Tabios' fourteenth collection of poems. It is divided into three parts. Section I, "Dredging for Atlantis," consists of ekphrastic poems "utilizing the painterly technique of scumbling." Although ekphrastic poetry is usually a poetic response to a piece of visual art, in this case all but one is a "textually scumbled" poem of Mina Loy. Since I have not read the originals, it's hard to tell what, precisely, that entails.

Section II's poems "scumble from Kinta Beevor's memoir, A Tuscan Childhood." Section III's poems "scumble from John Banville's novel, Athena." The two sections are written in reverse hay(na)ku form, consisting of tercets of three, two and one word lines. The form was invented by Tabios herself and inaugurated in 2003 on Philippine Independence Day.

Most of the poems are short and in many cases did not grab my attention right away. Yet, many contained a startling turn of phrase that invited deeper contemplation, an effect I crave and the reason why I read poetry. Others just made me wonder what Tabios was smoking.

As a writer who is not fond of editing, my favorite has to be the last one, "*****," that starts with:
Edit it down.
Edit it

Midwest Book Review

Midwest Book Review, January 2007
by Laurel Johnson

Dredging for Atlantis
by Eileen Tabios
ISBN 978-0-9775-6044-8
56 pages at 14.95 paperback
8 Kennedy Street
Rockhampton Qld 4700

Award winning poet Eileen Tabios is a true renaissance woman. She's a budding vintner, manages Meritage Press, coordinates several popular poetry blogs, and effectively pursues human rights activities. Dredging for Atlantis is her 11th print poetry collection. Every book by Tabios has a different cause and effect, extraordinary poetic techniques, and exceptional messages for readers. In this book, for example, readers will learn about the artistic technique of scumbling as Ms. Tabios creates new poems from the words of other poets. She also skillfully uses ekphrasis and hay(na)ku, the latter of which is a poetic form she introduced in 2003.

All but one of the poems in Part One are textually scumbled by Ms. Tabios from The Lost Lunar Baedeker by Mina Loy. I chose two examples to quote in their entirety. The first is "Your:"

indisputably male voice
roared through my veins

and brain,
you pugilist of intellect

Where is my coffin –
its succoring bed?

The second example from Part One is "Religion (Poe Meets Brancusi):

When nightingales reign
over all clowns

scythes shall melt before mystics

as God reveals himself
thin-ankled but
a peasant

Parts Two and Three are scumbled poems and also written in the hay (na) ku form. Part Two is scumbled from A Tuscan Childhood by Kinta Beevor and Part Three from Athena, a novel by John Banville. "Windfalls" is the poem I selected from Part Two. Pay attention to the simple three-line structure to understand hay(na)ku:

The olives' oil
contents grow

from October to
December. It's

however, to leave
them too

on trees because
if they

"windfalls" they cannot
be considered

virgin pressings.

From Part Three I chose this excerpt from "Athena." Despite the brevity of line structure, Tabios crafts a powerful message:

The poem cannot
be pure.

never travels unimpeded
by anonymous

Writing it down
merely freezes
flight --

* * * * * *

Once, it flew
with non-imaginary

Any work by Eileen Tabios is interesting, intriguing, thought provoking and enlightening. These are poetic and artistic mysteries begging for exploration. Joy comes with the sense of adventure and discovery sparked as these poems are read and reread. Highly recommended.

review by Laurel Johnson for Midwest Book Review

Ahadada Books Review

Ahadada Books, Dec. 23, 2006

Dredging For Atlantis. Some Close-Up Magic From Eileen Tabios 
By Jesse Glass

Just in time for your New Year’s Eve celebration for 2007, a little close-up magic from Eileen Tabios, who leaves the stage and circulates among the tables where the Muses lean on their elbows and stare dreamily into space. Dredging For Atlantis (Ootoliths, 2006), is a slim, perfect-bound volume of erasure and found poems, which she calls her “scumblings.” I was immediately struck in the first part of this book by the lovely fragments she dredges up from the “body” of Mina Loy and arranges in powerful stabiles:


I am climbing a distorted mountain

…………………………………….the summit
s into anticipation of

“which never comes”

Or this fractured, yet still-working syllogism like a rusted Model-T engine that kicks into life in the middle of the Gobi desert:


A breakfast of rain

……………………oil-silk umbrella

“Count stars for me”

Or this one, worth the price of admission alone:


The truants of heaven
possess a startling velocity

All of which reminds me of that lovely song from The Tempest:

“…nothing of [Her] that doth change,
but doth suffer a sea change
into something rich and strange…”
where the Her, of course, is Mina Loy, and the agent of change is the delicate “scumbler” Tabios.

The second and third sections of the book–”Somehwhat of a Childhood” and “Athena’s Diptych,” respectively,– present longer scumblings, and these draw from a wide range of sources. All of which indicates to me that Eileen Tabios has been ranging through the Western Canon with a magpie’s eye and a most refined set of tools.

The final goal of Tabios’ scumblings is possessing the past in the present, though it is a past that falls into fragments even as it rises up from the murk. Still, these fragments have a glittering life and fascination of their own.

Highly recommended!


SOLUBLE CENSUS, Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dredging for Atlantis by Eileen Tabios
(Otoliths, 2006)

Dredging for Atlantis is organized as three sections: I. Dredging for Atlantis, II. Excerpts from "Somewhat of a Childhood" and III. Athena's Diptych. Each section has, the author tells us, been "scumbled" or skimmed into existence from already existing texts.Section I. derives from the Lost Lunar Baedeker of Mina Loy, Section II. from A Tuscan Childhood by Kintor Beevor, and Section III. from John Banville's Athena. There is, of course, one exception and that is "Scumble-d" (the poem which begins the first section of the book)which "sources its underlying inspiration as Derek Walcott's The Bounty" (per the author's "Notes On Dredging for Atlantis"). Let's look at that poem, why don't we:


I cannot remember the name of that seacoast city,
but it trembled

.................it is near XYZ
a town with hyphens

Now, so many deaths

.................the only art left--
the preparation of grace

Appropriation in writing and the arts can be controversial. Where is the line to be drawn between taking inspiration from another's text and plagiarizing--stealing from it? For me, it's a boring conversation. I don't obsess about property rights. Art doesn't result from observing proprieties. Art results from learning to magnetize oneself, art results from becoming an attractive nuisance. Eileen Tabios is just such a force field. As my Kansan friend, Jim McCrary, has recently noted on his blog Smelt Money, she's a trouble maker. A trouble maker intent upon preparing the way for grace.

Section I., Dredging for Atlantis, consists of 31 short vibrant poems, plus an author's note on method. One of my favorite poems from this section is "Funny Brass":

Funny Brass

(like my puppy)
penetrates eyelash drapes

Man becomes
by losing aloofness

"Monotone" transforms to "moonstone"

Go forth and prettily miscalculate

A very lucid poem, don't you think. Transformation is the name of its game and the engine which drives this section in general. Here's another example:

Impish Music

Adolescent eros
a consistent source
for radium
of the Word

Section II., Excerpts from "Somewhat of a Childhood," consists of 4 poems written as reverse hay(na)ku sequences. These poems are in a different register altogether from Section I. They're anecdotal, atmospheric, even aromatic, evocations of Italy. I enjoyed reading them but have little to say about them, except that there was one little dissonance in the 1st poem ("The Bread of Florence")which proceeds from what I believe to be a rather wonderful typo. Allow me to quote the relevant section:

Then to save
a long

a basket on
a chord

fall, the bread
placed in

and be hauled
up, hand


It's that chord, in place of "cord", that sticks with me from this section. It manages to evoke a lingering sound from a basket's descent where no sound in all probability would be. I guess it helps me to visualize a crisp snap of the rope as the basket brakes in the air. I'm not sure why that's so affecting, but it is. Perhaps it's because it's the only aspect of the poem which is not totally transparent.

Athena's Diptych, the volume's final section, is also written in reverse hay(na)kus. Its final poem, "Athena", speaks to its author's method. Here are its opening stanzas:

What's deemed necessary
changes. Hear

listening in another
decade, editing

and first lines.
A different

croons from behind
an impassive

I listen, cross
out more

The poem cannot
be pure.

never travels unimpeded
by anonymous

Writing it down
merely freezes

Well, that was a quick run through of first impressions of this fine little book. What unites its three sections is the methodology of scumbling, which seems to have been practiced somewhat differently from section to section. For me, the first, title section, is the most exciting because it has more formal variety and more aphoristic punch than the sections which follow. Interesting to contemplate the variety of outcomes a method may embrace.

Note: The most direct way to obtain a copy of this and other fine Otoliths titles is through the lulu storefront, here.