Wednesday, November 01, 2006

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


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