Saturday, May 16, 2015

I Forgot Light Burns By Eileen R. Tabios

Poet Eileen R. Tabios

I Forgot Light Burns
By Eileen R. Tabios
Copyright 2015 by Eileen R. Tabios
Moria Books
Munster, NY
ISBN-13: 978-0-96473912121-3-2
Softbound, 56 pages, $16

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

In much the same way as some scientists are developing artificial intelligence, robots and the future, Eileen R. Tabios brings us to the future with her new book I Forgot Light Burns.

In the publicity piece enclosed with the book there are quotes from her Afterword in which Ms. Tabios states, “My recent work, ‘Murder, Death and Resurrection’ (MDR) includes an MDR Poetry Generator that brings together much of my poetics and poet tics.  The MDR Poetry Generator contains a data base of 1,146 lines which can be combined randomly to make a large number of poems; the shortest would be a couplet and longest would be a poem of 1,146 lines…”

“The MDR Poetry Generator’s conceit is that any combination of its 1,146 lines succeed in creating a poem.  Thus, I can create—generate—new poems unthinkingly from its database.”

Create poetry unthinkingly?  Is that poetry?  I had always thought one must think in order to write (create) poetry.  Cogito Ergo Sum.   However, she notes, “Yet while the MDR Poetry Generator presents poems not generated through conscious personal preferences, the results are not distanced from the author:  I created the 1,1146 lines from reading through 27 previously-published poetry collections…these new poems nonetheless contain all the personal involvement—and love!—that went into the writing of its lines.  The results dislocate without eliminating authorship.”

So, while some poets may find it easier, if they have the Tabios MDR Poetry Generator and take the time to enter 1,146 (or more or less?) lines, I am sure her efforts are not an overnight creation, but a long creative process culminating in this inspirational invention.

Here are some poems from this fascinating book, which only expand Ms. Tabios’s reputation as one of the most creative abstract poets in the country:

I forgot I was a connoisseur of alleys—

I forgot the glint from the fang of a wild boar as
he lurked behind shadows in a land where it
only takes one domino to fall—

I forgot how quickly civilization can disappear,
as swiftly as the shoreline from an oil spill
birthed from a twist of the wrist by a drunk
vomiting over the helm—

I forgot grabbing at my fading dreams only to
recall a vision of skyscrapers crumbling from
the slaps of iron balls—

However it works, the Poetry Generator generated an exciting poem that made me want to read on.  The next one that “grabbed” me was:

I forgot the light burned and we never shared
our eyes—

This simple poem I read three or four times to fully absorb it from different perspectives and ended up wishing I had thought of that line.

I don’t remember any titles on these interesting  poems. However, many of the poems are worth remembering. Take for example the following poem, or is three separate poems?

I forgot memory contains an underbrush—

I forgot the inevitability of ashes—

I forgot sentences like veins—

The final example in this book I will use is one that while it takes place in her native Philippines, could be in any city on any continent and holds truths to which many of us a blind.

I forgot I saw a city bleeding beyond the
window and felt Manila’s infamously red sunset
staining street children whose hopes
concerned absolutely no one—

After reading the publicity piece which is extracted from the Afterword, I find myself enthralled with the poetic creations in this volume of poetry.  The result I am sure is that this is poetry – all of it worth reading. It would be interesting to see the next volume created by the MDR Poetry Generator.  Yet I hope Ms. Tabios, who is light years ahead of 99.99% of poets, does not share her auto-generating poetic system and allows us mere mortals to continue serving up our own poetry.  At the same time we are seeing the poetry of the 21st century and beyond; for once begun, it can only move forward, which  makes this book a must for the creative mind.


Zvi A. Sesling is author of King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street, 2010), Across Stones of  Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011) and the soon to be published Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva). He is Editor of Muddy River Poetry Review, Publishes Muddy River Books and edited Bagel Bards Anthologies #7 and #8.

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