Monday, September 18, 2017
Manhattan, An Archaeology by Eileen R. Tabios
by Eileen R. Tabios
Copyright 2017 by Eileen R. Tabios
Softbound, 111 pages + notes & acknowledgements $40 (before discount)
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
Since the 1990s-- when I first encountered Eileen poetry , she has continually taken readers on a different journey of creativity with each book. Ms. is one of the Philippines' great gifts to the United States. Her poetry is innovative, definitely creative and never repetitive.
Manhattan: An Archaeology is in six parts: The Artifacts, Post-Nostalgia, Big City Cante Intermedio, Winter on Wall Street (A Novella-in-Verse), Vacation: Skiing Away From Manhattan, Clyfford Still Studies and 2016 Diptych. For our edification she adds Selected Notes to Poems.
My personal favorite is Chapter Nine in the Novella called “The Firm”
Bellowing like a bull in heat
But certain things just weren’t done –
we learned them in our first year:
Do not dress better than your boss
Do not get drunker than your boss
Come to work neat and pressed
like a fine pair of sheets
But if your tie was not undone
sleeves rolled up
shirt tail hanging out of your pants
by 9 a.m.
you weren’t working hard enough
Never wear Hermes ties
leave those to lawyers and golfers
Never wear cheap shoes
When you get a new pair
polish them 20 times
before debuting them
Your shoes should not look bought
but like you inherited them
from a rich uncle
Never get a cheap haircut
A bad apartment at a good address
is greater than
a fabulous apartment at a bad address
If your boss gives you a Mont Blanc pen
at the end of a salary negotiation
you were taken to the cleaners
Never insult a client – no matter
how stupid or rude, they have
the required $20 million to open
an account at The Firm
If one of your colleagues is fired
never speak to him again:
failure is transmittable
Never show excessive zeal
Never never never
Always always always
A wealthy father
A wealthy uncle? Never
The wealthy never
One feels compelled to read Ms. Tabios not only for the humor, the entertainment, and the talent, but for the lessons. And there are usually many from which you can pick .In “The Firm” there are lessons like the one I taught myself-- when my first public relations boss said: To be a good PR man you need to have three straight martinis and not feel a thing.
To which I replied: If I had three straight martinis I wouldn’t feel a thing.
But as Tabios often writes, I digress. Back to the review.
With the reader is always headed to new ground, new a certain joy, an enlightenment, if you will, that free the readers from the dullness they have read before. Here are some examples:
On Conceiving Silent Pleas(e)
--after PH-635, Only on canvas (1967)
I believe I am reminding you that no one owns space, though you can cup it
within a folded palm and feel the same power that ignites a short, fat man
looking at his thin, tall wife—diamonds studding the platinum manacles around
her scented neck and wrists—
Park City, Utah Tabios unleashes these six lines to open a five page poem:
Together, we have only imagined the sky
a trapdoor with a lost key bow seducing eagles
whose darting eyes never reveal affection—
Once, yours did (the setting the back seat of a cab)
which made me gather fallen petals
from roses gifted by an unnamed chambermaid—
Finally this one:
Letter From Paris to New York
When offered Versailles
I shook my head
Once was enough for me
No need to gorge
on Foie gras, etcetera
though many do
There are many other lines in Tabios’s poetry that intrigue – there always are. Her language is light years ahead of many poets from countries around the world, yet remains accessible and exciting.
This book is well worth the time you spend reading it.
Zvi A. Sesling
Author: The Lynching of Leo Frank (Big Table Co., 2017), Love Poems From Hell (Flutter Press, 2017), Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva, 2016), Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011), King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street, 2010).
Editor of Muddy River Poetry Review, Bagel Bards Anthologies Nos. 7, 8 and #12.
Publisher, Muddy River Books